Tuesday, November 20, 2012

five years' worth of happy: highlights from the hoedown

Thanksgiving shoppers will get a treat if they dare pick up this week's National Enquirer during their wait in long grocery store lines. If they can brave their way past the celeb trash talk and photo eye sores, they'll find a photo-heavy spread that celebrates the five year reunion of the Vick dogs' homecoming to California. We all had a good giggle about the dogs' saucy new claim to fame, but the reunion on October 27 was so sweet and memorable that we couldn't help but be happy about sharing the occasion with millions in Safeway check out lines. Why not!

The dogs' various accomplishments are as important a story as their rescue, if not more -- So a really good, foot stompin' hoedown was a must. The event melted five years of work, fun and 'Vick dog' media fascination into one of the sweetest of gatherings we could've hoped for.

125 friends and supporters gathered at the Rescue Barn under a nearly-full moon to nosh, dance, take photos, gather autographs and enjoy. It was an unseasonably warm evening, and everyone was relaxed and downright giddy. Which meant photographer Mark Rogers had his work cut out for himself when he had to wrangle this group of giggling dog owners and their spazz-happy dogs into this now-famous photo.

Even more fun - This behind the scenes (behind the photographer's back!) video went viral on the Net with over 77K people peeking in to see what the dogs are all about. It's a must-see if you need a mood brightener. VIDEO

It was a thrill for all of us to be reunited with Hector again (top photo), over four years after he boarded a plane to his new home in Minnesota. His adopters Roo and Clara Yori drove cross country to attend. They brought their dog Wallace with them too, and an armload of books: 'Wallace The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage and Championed Pit Bulls - One Flying Disc at a Time.' Unfortunately Jim Gorant, the author of Wallace as well as the Lost Dogs, was grounded by Hurricane Sandy and had to cancel, but author Ken Foster attended the event to greet fans of his new book, I'm A Good Dog - although his main focus at the hoedown seemed to be kissing the dogs and laughing at their antics. And yes, he did get on the dance floor - at least once.

This slideshow highlights some of the fun. A news piece by ABC News detailed the event and faithfully told the story of a rag-tag group of pit bulls who arrived five years ago to teach the world a thing or two about dogs.


Many thanks to event sponsors Jim and Patty DiSienna and Sheriff Boris, Folio Wines, Tito's vodka, Boulder Beer Company, and our awesome crew of volunteers for putting a shine on this fantastic celebration.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Re-homing a dog: A survey offers insight, and adoption strategies

Much has been written to help improve adoption rates, and those shelters that have been putting in the effort have been enjoying the relief and the joy that comes from increased adoptions. (Linked: Animal Farm Foundation's smart 'Turbo Charging Pit Bull Adoptions' info)

A sour economy and ongoing housing challenges are harder to solve, and as the pressures they bring wreck havoc on under-resourced pet owners, the need for shelter kennels and rescue spots stays steady. Inquiries from Good Samaritans who pluck strays from the streets and stressed families with dogs they're unable to keep bring a daily pile-up in rescuers' mailboxes, and a daily heartbreak, too.

Right: This mixed breed dog was living under a truck when a Good Samaritan got involved. She told us,"I'm trying my darnedest to find him a home (facebook, contacting rescues, talking to friends) to figure it out." Her story repeats itself thousands of times a day across the country, in every mailbox in every rescue group.

To help those Good Sams and desperate families navigate the frustrations of re-homing a dog (any kind of dog, actually) we asked 2000 pit bull adopters to tell us how they came to find their dog(s), and we wove what we learned into a new webpage called Adoption Strategies. It's not for shelters - although some will certainly find it useful.  It's for the Average Joe who can't understand why rescues aren't returning his emails, and how the hec is he ever going to find his dog a decent home?

99 out of 2006 people who answered our survey have had to give up a dog. Reasons included: Landlord rejection, family problems, regional laws (BSL), unable to find pet-friendly housing (after pressures such as foreclosure and military deployment), unable to manage some of the dog's behaviors, illness/death in the family, life changes.

Some of what we learned about adoption trends...

Shelters Take the Lead

An overwhelming majority of participants reported that they fell in love with their pit bull at a city or county run shelter. This would not have been true ten years ago, when pit bulls were MIA from many shelter adoption programs. That lack of adoptables, combined with unfounded myths about the 'defective' nature of shelter dogs sucked dog lovers like a big vacuum straight to backyard breeders for unaltered pets. How times have changed.

Social Media to the Rescue

While popular spots like Petfinder.org are helping draw a majority of shelter and rescue adopters to their new pets, Petfinder no longer allows Good Samaritans and desperate families to post dog-in-need ads. Facebook and Craigslist seem to be filling that void though, and both now serve as the onine go-to places to find a new dog, ranking just behind the adoption pages of shelters and rescue groups in our survey.

Our new question: How can we match more dog-shoppers up with homeless dogs so our communities can rely less on overcrowded shelters? Miles to go before we sleep!

Link to the SURVEY
Link to Adoption Strategies PAGE

Where to go to get homeless dogs noticed is only half the battle. Families and Good Sams have to brush up fast on marketing must-knows so their dogs stand out from the crowd ... Easier said than done when English is not your first language and feeding the kids and working more than one job gets in the way of shooting cute dog photos.

Feel free to share this info-page with your favorite non-profits who, like us, get a dizzying amount of mail from very good people asking very good questions about best ways to re-home very good pets.

Let's Discuss. BADRAP will be presenting on ways to curb the flow of incoming dogs at The Animal Care Conference in Sacramento on Monday, February 25. Please join us if you work in the animal welfare world and, like us, are ready to look at ways to prevent dogs from coming in the door.