Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pit Bull is his co-pilot

Pit Bull Pilot Design 2 Ringer TSome of you may have seen this pit bull t-shirt on the Bad Rap shop.

We love vintage photos of pit bulls, and this particular photo is from Horatio Nelson Jackson's famous 1903 cross-country journey - the first cross-country journey taken via automobile. Bud the pit bull was his co-pilot, as was Sewall K. Crocker, a young mechanic. Bud became more than a travel companion for these two; he was the true gentleman of the bunch, for, as his owner noted, Bud was "the one member of our trio who used no profanity on the entire trip."

I was reminded of this journey when I ran across a blog written by another pit bull owner with serious wanderlust. Ara is traveling the country via motorcyle, and his pit bull Spirit - traveling via sidecar - is his co-pilot. They've been on the road for about 3 months now.

Spirit's blissed-out look in this pic sums up their ongoing trip - open road, open skies, and nothing but adventure ahead.

That's one lucky dog.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Chickie Sue bags a younger man

It was a cloudy Saturday morning.

The perky girl had spent the morning flirting with all her Pit Ed pals, and was relaxing with her human buddy Steve.

In trotted the dark handsome young man, fresh from a crack performance in CGC class.

Their eyes met... their tails wagged...

It was love at first sight.

Though Chester is at least 6 months younger than the worldly Chickie Sue, we felt it wasn't our place to judge.

And so, a chance meeting turned into the ever-important First Playdate.

These two spent the entire afternoon wrestling, chasing, tugging, pulling, running, resting and doing it all over again. The series was captured by the requisite chaperone, who was exhausted just from watching all the rambunction.

Both dogs ended the day with baths - after all, there's nothing that kills a good First Playdate faster than some after-play funk. It may have dampened their fur, but it didn't dampen their spirits.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tank's first snow

Folks have been asking about our wee orphan. Tank is doing just fine and has been moved to an experienced Momma dog, and also has an older sister and a 14-year-old Jack Russel to teach him some ropes. Thanks to Stephanie of Kadillac Kennels for taking in this wayward pup so that Betty can give him some Mom lessons.

We took some photos last weekend of Tank's first snow experience... which may or may not lend credence to his foster Mom's initial observation that "He also *cough* seems a bit spoiled about being held/carried."


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tank takes a bath

One advantage to 6-week-olds: they're too wee to escape the tub.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Project Puppy

Whoever said "ignorance is bliss" must have been in animal rescue.

Last week, we received an e-mail from a low-income family that had found an abandoned 5-week old pit bull puppy, begging us for help:

"the pup is now living here in my apartment with me and my family but here we cant have dogs because the manager won't let us. also we live under low-income so we can't afford his shots, we are just helping the pup with whatever we can but sooner or later.. we will run out. i have asked people if they want him, but they all say that they have a bad reputation so i cant give him off to adoption. please i REALLY need your help, i don't know what to do with the puppy, he is only 5 weeks old."

Some of the Steering Committee members were fortunate enough that the photo attachment didn't come through on the e-mail. These lucky few were the blissfully ignorant in the group. Oh, how I envy them...

The rest of us however did open the e-mail, and as much as we hate the developmental risks involved with underage pups away from Mom, this puppy was alive and out there and in the hands of a kind-hearted family in desperate need of help, and turning away wasn't going to make the situation disappear.

It drives us absolutely crazy to see breeders peddling off 5-and-6-week-olds without a care in the world, and here we were confronted with one of these underage victims of the backyard breeding craze. What to do?

The risk factors:
  • You never know what dog is going to grow out of that cute pup
  • We don't know who Mom and Dad are or what their temperaments are like
  • The pup was separated too early from his Mom and littermates and missed out on some really important socialization
  • Though he looks like a pit bull puppy in the pic we received, we hadn't seen him in person
The risk that bothered us the most, of course, is that puppies that are separated from Mom and littermates too soon can develop temperament issues. That would mean that we'd have to take the pup, put him with an experienced Momma dog ASAP, socialize the holy heck out of him, and watch him like a hawk for several months to make sure he develops correctly.

We tossed around a variety of ideas for this young tyke, assuming that he was in fact 5 weeks old. We did discuss immediate euthanasia as an option, because after all, who's willing to take the risk of spending several months raising a puppy only to find that early separation or crappy genetics (or both) have created an unstable dog, and have to perform a heartbreaking euthanasia in that circumstance?


Again, this pup was alive and not a theoretical "Is this a good idea?" And he was in the hands of a teenage Good Samaritan that was apparently skipping meals to keep the puppy fed.

And, as it turns out, we do actually have a few foster spots that have experienced Momma dogs, and are available specifically for puppy projects. (We call them "Crazy People.")

And so, that is how Project Puppy has begun this time around.

The teenager who rescued him did ask me one favor, and that was to name the puppy "Tank."

That favor has been granted. And we did answer a few questions after meeting him:
  • He does appear to be 6 weeks old
  • He does appear to be a purebred pit bull (this has been seconded by a breeder)
  • He does have the requisite skunky puppy breath, needle-sharp teeth sure to make you squeal, and walleyed pit bull puppy gaze
Stay tuned for frequent updates on Tank's progress. For now, rest assured that he spent a delightful weekend with me. (Well, maybe not delightful the whole time, from his point of view...)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pit Ed Class is Hard Work

Just a few dogs from class today taking a break...





Friday, January 19, 2007


As a BADRAP outsider, I had always heard rumors about how crazy the BADRAP contact@ inbox was. You see, is where the general public can send questions, comments, and concerns to BADRAP. The steering committee, a group of pit bull loving volunteers, answers them. From time to time, they would share a sweet letter or interesting situation with the other volunteers in BADRAP. They were usually heartwarming or showed some cute pit bull. They gave a little taste of what the steering committee handled on a daily basis.

It is only now, that I am helping answer these emails, that I truly understand the nature and frequency of them. They come fast and often. The range of questions and comments is as broad as they are deep. They break your heart, touch your soul and drive you crazy. They are desperate, generous, and sometimes entertaining.

You can't understand unless you receive them, but I thought I would share some with you. Here are the subject lines of some from the last week. This is, indeed, a small sample of what is received:

Small Rescue Needs Advice
Leash Laws
Two Dogs Need Help
Craigslist pit bull breeding
Adoption Agreement and Contract?
If my pit was stollen...
Bully Help
East Coast Seminar?
Help for BADRAP
Interest in Jolee
Dog in Need in Santa Cruz
Any pits?
Pit Bull in Desperate Need
Ortho Surgery Suggestions
Please help me Save my 2 loving pit bulls
Pit needs a home

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Don't judge a Booker by his colors

Though we don't generally like to draw attention to the color of our dogs, what with the consumerism that surrounds the breed leading folks to focus far too heavily on coat color as a selling or buying point (no reputable breeder uses coat color as a marketing tactic), we have had the interesting fortune to have two chocolate tricolors in the program in the past year.

Tricolor means: three colors. Pit bulls also come in "tanpoint," which means the dog has the tan eyebrows, etc but doesn't have white splashes as the third color. Tanpoint/tricolor is a coat pattern, and pit bulls come in black, chocolate and red tri, and all the dilutions therein (blue, etc).

I'd never seen a tricolor pit bull in person before this year. In addition to the two in our program, I also met a nice older black tri gentleman at the East Bay SPCA, and another chocolate tri at one of our shots fairs.

In any case, what's interesting about the tricolor pattern (over and above the genetics that cause it), and the reason this post is being written, is the reactions from folks in and out of the breed.

Booker, for example, is routinely mistaken for a Rottweiler mix. In fact, a trainer at a local shelter mentioned that he was a Rottie mix in front of his owner, who in turn explained that he's purebred.

This trainer snorted at that, turned away and rolled her eyes at this suggestion, letting everyone in earshot know that he was clearly a Rottweiler mix, but that she was vaguely humoring his new naive owner.

This breed mis-ID happens routinely on walks, with strangers voicing their opinions as to his heritage. Never mind that Booker is much smaller than a Rott and not remotely shaped like one, or that he doesn't have any behaviors consistent with a Rottweiler - everybody else knows best.

Sidenote: Booker actually came to us via an e-mail that was entitled "Red Rottie?" from a very confused shelter staff trying to figure out what the heck their favorite dog was. Fortunately for Booker, we confirmed that he is in fact a purebred pit bull, and we had space to take him.

The second dog to show up was Gus, who with a bodyfull o' puppyfat and incorrect houndy ears, gets mistaken for a Lab/Rott mix quite often. We all think Gus is quite handsome, and he's a big hit in public, but nobody outside the breed seems to think he's a pit bull.

Here's the rub: because Joe Q. Public doesn't think Gus is a pit bull, he seems to carry zero of the stigma normally associated with walking our pets down the avenue. Mothers don't shepherd their children out of the way (which is nice for Gus, who adores them), there are no snide comments about the breed, and people are inexorably drawn to him because he's so handsome. In short, Gus is a serious babe magnet.

Gus' public popularity would be great for him, were Joe Q. Public looking to adopt him. Unfortunately (and here's the rub I mentioned), the look that makes the average pedestrian stop and pet him is also preventing pit-loving potential homes from applying for him.

I most recently was asked to provide "proof" to a potential home that Gus could be purebred. While, again, I ask that folks be much more concerned about temperament than beauty, I nonetheless decided to be a good sport and forwarded on a lengthy article about tricolor genetics, sure to entertain anyone who actually finds discussions of coat patterns and genes to be interesting. (That may or may not be you, so don't feel pressure to read the article.)

Unfortunately, the article was not enough to convince the potential home that Gus might be purebred, and the adoption was not pursued. Ironically, this home was much more interested in Gulliver, who had in fact just decided to grow into a probable pit mix right before our very eyes. (We think some American Bulldog may have snuck its way in, and Gulliver's new owner is doing research on AB's just in case. Gulliver's new dad, however, couldn't care less what his new buddy is or is not mixed with, and is just ecstatic to have his new best friend home.)

The biggest indicator that Gus is a pit bull, of course, is that Gus acts like a pit bull. In fact, Gus is a sublime example of the breed - he has a rock solid pit bull temperament, and will require an owner who isn't a pushover. He's a rough and tumble play buddy who nonetheless is ruled mercilessly by a terrorist Chihuahua bitch in his foster home. If Gus were human, he'd be captain of the football team and the Prom King.

Now, here's the thing: it really shouldn't matter what color the dog is, or what may or may not be mixed in at some point in his/her lines, as long as the dog's behavior and temperament is consistent with the breed label applied to that dog.

So: does Gus have another breed down the lines somewhere? At the end of the day, nobody knows. We know he came from a pit bull breeder, and we know that pit bulls come in chocolate tricolor, and we know a little about coat pattern/color genetics. Most importantly, though, we know what his temperament and behaviors are - and those are aaaallllllll pit bull. So, if a Lab did in fact sneak its way into great-grandma's dog house, do we really care?

Unfortunately for Gus, as evidenced by his experience thus far it would seem that he is being judged by his colors. Ah well - I'm sure his people will show up. In the meantime, he'll just have to settle for being fawned over at public appearances by folks who may or may not even like his breed. But Gus can handle it - and maybe change a few minds here and there.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We are a FAMILY

My husband and I had our first child this summer. A sweet little girl named Piper. Like all families we decided that we needed a family photo; and what better time than Christmas.

One Saturday morning in early December, we packed up the whole family and headed into San Francisco for our appointment with the photographer. There were toys, treats and games. We spent a few hours there and had a great time. Doesn’t sound like a typical photo shoot to you? It seemed perfectly logical to me – family photos with me, my husband, my infant daughter and our pit bull. Yet when people see the pictures, they often have a strong response.

I expect the occasional comments about how strange it is to have a dog in the family photo; usually from non-dog owners. I smile and explain that we are a FAMILY, Spencer included.

Non-dog owners are often outraged and explain to me that it isn’t safe to have ‘that’ kind of dog around children. I gently explain that Spencer is a stable and temperamentally correct pit bull which makes him the perfect dog to have with a child. While no dog should be left unattended with children, because he is a pit bull, not in spite of it, I do not worry about Spencer hurting our daughter. He is patient, gentle and very tolerant of her occasional pull at his ears (kids are so fast!). The same cannot be said for my mother’s Bichon’s. These cute, fluffy dogs need to be kept away from Piper as they are not as patient with any pulling and they don’t like to share their toys. After telling them all of that I add, we are a FAMILY, Spencer included.

I must say, the times that I am most surprised are when ‘dog people’ tell me that while I have a beautiful dog I really need to re-home him for the safety of our baby. These people are often the most adamant. They ‘know’ about dogs. They have never owned a pit bull, they don’t know the breed’s history as the all American family pet, they’ve never heard the of the breed’s nickname ‘nanny dog’ for their excellence with children and they definitely don’t understand that dog – dog aggression is different from aggression towards people. Sometimes they are interested in learning these things, other times they are not. The conversation always ends with me saying “we are a FAMILY, Spencer included”.

After each of these interactions, I walk away angry and hurt. Then I think of Piper and her ‘brother’ Spencer, of the fun we had getting our pictures taken, of the way she now smiles whenever she sees him, the way that she giggles as he licks her toes and the way that he likes to rest his head up against her while we sit on the couch. I think of the joy that she will know growing up with such a wonderful dog and the tolerance she’ll develop for people’s negative comments. It makes me proud and makes me smile. We are a FAMILY – me, Chris, Piper and Spencer.

Bambi @BR

Special thanks to Pat Boyd for being extra excited when I told her that I was also bringing my pit bull for our family photos.