Friday, December 31, 2010

news year's eve message a la video

wishing everyone a warm and wonderful 2011 with many happy endings for the dogs!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the Ins and Outs of language for 2011

“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.” - Benjamin Lee Whorf

Various catch phrases of every kind have been used over the years to shape how society views - and ultimately treats - pit bull type dogs. In the interest of evolving ourselves so our dogs can escape the generalizations, stereotypes, and myths that bring them harm, here are some outdated terms and ideas that need to be kicked to the curb. In the new year, we encourage better, cleaner language to help listeners gain a better understanding of the breed, and a more practical and compassionate view of dogs in general. Here's hoping that 2011 represents a period of fast growth and that even these new-and-improved terms will be replaced once again.

OUT - "Bully Breed"

What the hec IS a bully breed, anyway? We have no idea. This catch-all phrase has been used to stereotype more than help by causing some to apply over generalized traits and behaviors to several different breeds of dogs and breed mixes, including boxers, boston terriers, mastiffs. Aye! It gets so messy. Seriously, let's help the dogs and phase this term out.

IN - "Pit bull type dog"

We aren't terribly fond of this term either, but it matches 'our' dogs more than any we've found yet. Let's hope a new and better term emerges in the new year to describe dogs that appear to be pit bulls. With that in mind, remember that we've already learned from the scholars of the world that properly identifying breed type based on physical appearance alone is virtually impossible. Here's why.

OUT- Temperament test
IN - "BEVAL" (short for behavior evaluation)

We now know that you really can't see a dog's true temperament through any given 'test.' At best, we can get a snapshot of personality type by observing behaviors during assessments. On that note, the word 'temperament' has been dropped altogether in some circles and replaced with the more generous word, 'personality,' to reflect an animal's flexible nature, given his environment and handling.

OUT - "Fighting dog"
IN - Victim of cruelty

Needs no explanation. Lots of cruelty victims are ready to see the term 'fighting dog' go far, far away.

OUT - "Bait dog"
IN - Victim of cruelty

Like nails on a chalkboard, 'bait dog' is one of the most over-used and irresponsibly applied terms used to describe dogs with scars and unknown histories. Drop this one like a hot potato, please.

OUT - "Bred to fight"
IN - Born to be a companion animal

Since when are dogs born ready to be abused? Stop saying pit bulls were 'bred to fight,' or we'll have to cyber-smack you.

OUT- Mandatory spay/neuter.
IN - Dog owner support programs.

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) including mandatory spay/neuter laws are always out. Teach a man to fish and change the world. (For a less cryptic example of owner support, visit our webpage on outreach programs, and watch us power it up in 2011.)

OUT - "Trained to fight"
IN - Abused ... Victimized ... Encouraged to be anti-social.

Seriously. You don't need to train a dog to defend himself or to scrap with other dogs. You simply set him up to fail in several different ways. The Vick dogs taught us well; when dogs fight, people are always to blame.

OUT - "It's all about how they are raised."
IN - "It's all about how they are managed."

(Thank you Andie of Espanola Valley Humane, NM). Last we checked, dogs are still animals with behaviors that need to be managed by responsible owners no matter what kind of upbringing they have had. This definitely applies to all breeds, however some of the most abused and mistreated pit bulls out there are leading the way with reminding us all that dogs are a reflection of their owners.

OUT - Using images of pit bulls you haven't actually helped to fundraise for your cause.
IN - Actually helping pit bulls.

OUT, OUT, OUT - Celebrity dog abusers and their political allies.
IN - Compassionate, kick ass, boots on the ground advocates who work tirelessly to help the dogs.

OUT - "Pittie"
IN - Anything but pittie.

I have to admit that last one is a personal pet peeve (pit peeve?) and not necessarily a needs-to-go-away term, but if you must use it to describe your dog, recognize that it sounds like pity to some ears - aka pitiful. And our dogs are anything BUT pitiful. But I promise not to wince too hard if you use it in front of me, since clearly, it's a term of endearment - and what's sweeter than that?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Zoomies

Barn puppy Pepper, now re-named Elektra, is spending her very first holiday with her pack ... a group of huskies that make up the Hertel's family home and Idaho based rescue. The little pit mix has loved herself some huskies since "Uncle Elliot" took over the work of raising her and her litter this past summer. (Video) We love a good happy ending, and a happy holiday to boot.

Wishing many happy romps in winter weather to you and yours this season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

pack aggression & the media microscope

This isn't a happy blog post to write, but two recent incidents in our home towns demand attention.

Troubled dogs are in headlines after loose dogs attacked women in two separate incidents this month - in Marin County and just recently, in San Jose. Luckily, both incidents attracted good samaritans who intervened to stop the attacks, and each victim is home now and healing from their injuries.

The San Jose incident is still hot news (82 news stories and counting, including a nationally distributed piece in the AP), as one of the dogs is still missing. The captured dog appeared to be a very nervous and altogether unsocialized pit bull type dog in a KTVU television report. The body language of this animal helps piece together the 'whys' of frightening stories like this and moves us beyond the formula media hype and hand wringing over breed type.

Pack Aggression - where two or more dogs gang up and attack a victim - is not a breed specific behavior. While the National Canine Research Council reminds us that dog bites are on a steady decline in this country, dog attacks involving unsocialized packs of dogs still factor into many of the recorded incidents each year and they can include any breed type of dog. Even small dogs weighing less than 27 pounds have participated in packing together and harming people, according to a 1983 study "Attacks by Packs of Dogs Involving Predation On Human Beings," by Borchelt et al., published in the journal "Public Health Reports." It's not happy reading, but worth the understanding.

According to the Borchelt study, "The past history of the social interactions of dogs with people in a variety of circumstances is probably an adequate predictor of whether these dogs are inclined to bite someone." In other words, if dogs aren't socialized to people properly (ie, they're kept as resident dogs in garages or yards instead of as family pets) they're more inclined to revert to unruly and sometimes dangerous pack behavior when the situation presents itself.

After a horrible fatal attack involving a pack of dogs in GA last year, Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert in pack behavior, explained that when pack mentality takes over "they do insane things that they would not do" under normal circumstances. This news link shows two of the dogs involved in the GA incident. CNN

Meanwhile, the second bay area dog attack victim is safe and healing in Marin County after a good samaritan came to her aid. She and her dog both needed emergency care after two loose dogs tore up her jack russell terrier and bit up her face, arm and legs. The Novato Patch said that an "employee with the North Marin Water District is to thank for preventing worse injury or even death to the woman and dog."

The loose dogs in her situation were rounded up by authorities and are being held at the Marin Humane Society. You won't hear much about that incident outside of this singular news report, however. Why? The attacking dogs were identified as "chocolate labrador retrievers" so apparently didn't interest our local news cameras. And so it goes.

Hang tight all, as San Jose jaws at the topic of breed specific regulations again. They won't help reckless dog owners learn how to be more responsible, but they make for exciting headlines.

Friday, December 17, 2010

it feels good to laugh

We're all loving Anderson Cooper today for putting Michael Vick on his 'RidicuList' and coming up with the perfect solution to his hope for a new doggy ... the kackel dackel.

Dog bless you, silver fox.

In other news, we wanted to report that "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" sent a generous donation to BR for Christmas this year. Jay got into trouble when he set Chris Rock up for a really bad joke late last year, letting MV off the hook since "a pit bull ain't even a real dog." The world was as mad at Leno as they were at Rock. Rock even lost a role as Richard Pryor for pissing Pryor's widow off with that comment.

My mother-in-law Margaret phoned me last night to laugh about a new joke that aired on the Leno show last night. Apparently they put together some clips of dogs running for their lives after news anchor Brian Williams announced Vick's hope to get a new dog. (If anyone can find that clip, please share.)

It feels good to laugh. And even better that Leno's gift to BR will become our emergency vetcare fund for our dogs in 2011.

Never thought I'd say this, but "thank you Jay."

Hat tips to Samantha Laine for the kackel dackel news. LOL

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

file this one in your "Have you been SMOKING CRACK?!" category...

From the book "The Lost Dogs" written by Jim Gorant, the senior editor of Sports Illustrated.....

As that dog lay on the ground, fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its back legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn't kill it. So, Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground until, at last, the little red dog was dead.*

From today's Atlantic Journal Constitution.....

"I would love to get another dog in the future," Vick told a Website called theGrio in an article published Wednesday. "I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love, and my passion for animals."

Vick has critics who believe the ban (on owning a dog) should be permanent, but others say he can be a responsible pet owner.

"I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner," Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, told the AJC Wednesday.

* By the way, I gave away one of the very worst moments in the book "The Lost Dogs" with that paragraph. (Sorry, Jim) If you can get through that, you're ready to read the whole book. Here's our review and link to order.

The Lost Dogs was nominated by goodreads as one of the 15 most important non-fiction books of 2010. If you agree, head here to cast your VOTE.

The little red dog that is no more has a mighty roar.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miss Natty has left the building.

From our 2005 Happy Ending story of the most wonderful Madeline:

Lady Madeline was found running stray on an Oakland street. She could've easily been dropped here from another century: With old world looks and casual, devil-may-care confidence, she seems to embody decades worth of wisdom and street smarts.

Her finder grabbed her up and filed lost dog reports in hopes of finding her family. No luck. So she was spayed, vetted and kept safe until a spot could open up in our program.

We took one look at this girl's big intelligent eyes and knew we had just met a very special little bulldog. She didn't disappoint: Natty is a friend to all and even maintains her ladylike composure around pushy dogs, despite the peppering of old bite scars on her face that serve as a reminder of a colorful past.

Her back legs are weak and don’t always work right, but in true Natty fashion, she pushes on through and shoulders her body weight on her powerful and motivated front end. That seems to be her m.o. - "When the going gets rough, chin up and carry on." Such a bulldog!

Her perfect match showed up in a woman named Stella, who was hoping for a gal just like Natty. They enjoyed a sweet friendship full of fun adventures. For many weeks after her adoption, Stella sent letters outlining their newest discoveries and simple pleasures together.

Natty died last week, and the news sucked a bit of wind out of us. Thank you for blessing us all with your friendship, little Natty. Warm condolences to her grieving human, Stella Winslow.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

sign of the times

A recent email:

Hi there,
I had the sad task of surrendering my Pitt bull mix Prada Jane to the Pinole Animal Shelter. I recently lost my home to foreclosure. I advertised on Craisglist, Facebook, and friends and family but could not find a home for Prada Jane. I am now concerned that she will be assessed as unsuitable for adoption because when I brought her in, she was shaking with fear. It was heartbreaking to have to do this.

Prada is by far the sweetest dog ever. Even my friends who are not fans of dogs, find themselves falling in love with her.

Prada's profile: Black and White Pitt Bull mix (not sure of the mix), 2+ years old, 65 pounds, Spayed in 2009
Responds to commands "sit", "lay down", wipe your feet, (stops at the mat on her way into the house), "pillow" (she goes to her pillow)

Thanks in advance for your time.

.... Yes, she's in our barn tonight. Although our hearts are still breaking for both the dog and her human .....