Thursday, November 01, 2007

Motor City Mojo

Detroit. Scrappy, messy, unrelenting, unapologetic. I love it as much as I hate it: It's where I was born and raised until my early twenties and a big part of my heart is still there. We just returned from a visit as part of a trip to the MPAW Conference in Lansing - a gathering of bright animal welfare minds hosted by the Michigan Humane Society (think: Animal Cops).

MHS wants to re-visit their policies that now ban pit bull adoptions. Right now, their pit bulls don't leave their Detroit shelter alive and the shortest coats you'll see in their surburban shelters belong to beagles. We were greeted with smiles after our morning presentation on lessons learned in BAD RAP. Many of those smiles were wearing suits; a good sign. We told the audience that Oakland is a lot like Detroit. Same gritty spirit...maybe a little less messy. If Oakland can make things better for pit bulls that need help, so can greater Detroit. After all, adoptable dogs are counting on us.

Later, we left the sweetness of the MSU conference grounds to take a peek at two of their three shelters. The newer facility in Westland was impressive, although a very lonely place for a pit bull nerd...None to be found in their cheerful kennels. We couldn't wait to hop in the car and take off to our old stomping grounds in da ghetto of their downtown facility. This shelter looks like a building from modern day Baghdad. But the people inside are warm and ... real. I always think of Detroiters as the ultimate urban pioneers. We got the hec out of that city years ago, but the people that stay somehow make it work.

You'd imagine that the dogs from Detroit would reflect their surroundings - beaten down and edgy. But just the opposite: We were greeted again and again by beautiful tail-wagging bullies, pressing into their kennel bars, smiling and ever-hopeful. Amazing. It was too hard to walk away knowing all were lost, so we asked if we could take home a lovely chocolate brown female. A tiny gesture in the middle of an enormous problem. They said yes!

It turns out the chocolate girl was a staff favorite. (I love that they even have staff favorites, since opening your heart means you're going to be disappointed in the end.) We just got word today that she passed her health check, so is ready to fly. Stay tuned for news and photos as our Detroit Lady gets her muscley butt on a plane and heads to Oakland to start her new life. We can't wait.

In case any of the Detroiters we met are reading: Thank you for not giving up. We so admire your cautious optimism for better days. You're a lot like your dogs -- and I mean that in the very best way.

Thank you to Dina for sponsoring our Detroit Girl in Gary's name. You've got some heart, girl.


Anonymous said...

That's so awesome! Thank you for taking her and thank you to Detroit for letting her go!

I wish there was a group like yours near me. I'd so love to be a part of your crusade.

Anonymous said...


Curious about Ms. Hershey long had she been at the shelter? How long do they normally keep them before putting them down? She looks like an older girl...muzzle is grey.

Glad you will have a 'Detroit' pal out there in Oakland!


Donna said...

Hi Dina

We don't have photos of our girl yet, but she's about 2 years old.

I believe they hold pit bulls for 3-5 days mandatory stray hold before pts.


Anonymous said...

I would like to make a contribution for your new gal in memory of Gary.. Please inform those of us who have been touched by Gary's story the best way we can help.-------

Donna said...

THANK YOU for donating in Gary's honor. We don't have a name for the new girl yet (we need to get her here and stare at her for a while first) but your gift will help pay for her transport and, when she gets here, her spay. The good news is that she's heartworm negative, the bad news is she may be pregnant. So she'll be spay/aborted as soon as she has a chance to settle in and catch up on some sleep.

Donations route through our SF P.O. box, where Susi picks them up and designates the funds to our various projects. Please write "For Detroit Girl" on your check.

BAD RAP P.O.Box 320776
San Francisco, CA 94132

If you don't mind using PayPal, that works for us too.

Thank you again for your kindness and your support. It means so much to all of us that you care about these wayward dogs.

Anonymous said...


Your incredible energy and dedication to our wonderful bullies is truly an inspiration. I'm so glad your Detroit girl will get a chance at a new life, makes endings like Gary's a tiny bit easier to bear. I would also like to make a contribution in Gary's name, use if for the new gal or wherever you need it most.
Trudy and Niko

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that you are helping my home state reevaluate their current practices. Let's hope this turns into a victory for all the loving pitties

Jackelyn said...

I'm thrilled you guys are 'taking your show on the road'! Your group has so much to offer, so much to teach.

I wish I lived in the bay area so I could take part in your group. You guys are awesome.

Cant wait to see some pictures of the Detroit Gal!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Dearborn MI just outside of Detroit. We have a shelter here that adopts out pitties. Is the MHS re-thinking their pitbull adoption policy? I would be so happy? On a different note, I am so thrilled at the chance Sophie has been given and I often look to check her progress. She is amazing. I, too, wish we had a group like yours near.

oh, rebecca. said...

Just learned about your site from another... I live in Hazel Park (formerly lived in Dtown), and my bully was a stray found near my friend's house down there. I was tentatively looking for a dog and she essentially gave him to me, knowing that he would stand no chance at many of the local shelters, even though he's just a wiggly sweetie. I couldn't be happier with him, I'm glad I could give him a chance. On the other side, my mom and I rescued a starving, bone-thin mutt last year and brought her to MHS-Detroit, letting them know that one of us would adopt her if she wasn't claimed by an owner. They tagged her in the system as a Shepherd mix; a week later we called and learned that she'd been euthanized because someone decided she was really a pit bull. Pit or not, I would have lovingly taken her into my home, she was a really nice (scared at first) puppy. That broke my heart, and even though my mom's dogs go to the vet at MHS, I still can't get over the fact that they put down that puppy even though she had a family that would have taken her (us). It pains me to this day.

Sorry for ranting. I think what you're doing is amazing though. I'd love to help out if I can.

Good luck with your Detroit Lady!