Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fools rush in. Happy 10th birthday to us.

Ever notice how crazy ideas always seem a little less crazy after a couple of margaritas? We can blame a good bottle of tequila for inspiring a small group of people to start BR, way back ten years ago today, under the BART tracks in a funky part of West Oakland. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We pretended not to be unnerved by the fact that our decision to kick start a mini-movement to help pit bulls was born on April Fool's Day. It's now the official start date on our government docs.

'The Fool represents the "every person" - the essence of us all embarking on the journey of life, self-discovery and mastery. He is the innocent, the whimsical, the "inner child" mixed with the "inner sage" that lives down deep inside of us all. He faces life and his journey unafraid, trusting, the perfect example of total and utter faith that all will be well, that every experience has a deep essential meaning. He trapses along the crags of life, regardless of any hidden peril or disappointment, his eyes are turned to the heavens and he knows that he will be kept safe and whole along his travels.' - June Kaminski

And how about that little dog that always shows up by the Fool's side?

We had a pretty cool April party lined up to celebrate, but postponed it to make the bust-dog meeting in Vegas instead. So we're re-designing the grand party and will be announcing details here.

To all the fools out there that are silly enough to believe what your heart tells you is true - Happy April Fool's Day. We love being on this journey with you and look forward to many more years of dancing on the cliff's edge, on behalf of all the lovable blockheads that first lured us into this big adventure.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fighting dog defined!

In our studious pursuit of a genetic marker that separates true fighting dogs from wimpy wanna-be fighting dogs, we submit: Exhibit A - the unique behavior of tongue curling, as demonstrated by a bust dog with a 'fighting crop' who lived on a chain with 100+ other dogs. Fighting dog defined!

Clearly the result of a dominant gene, this trait is thought to be passed down from generations of dogs selectively bred for their tongue curling abilities. This suggests that authorities everywhere can begin identifying fighting dogs based on whether they can curl their tongue.

But alas, we let ourselves get too excited too soon. Studies have shown that tongue rolling is not a simple genetic character, and extensive twin studies demonstrate that it is influenced by both genetics and the environment.

Damn. And we thought we were onto something. For more info on the trait that had us hoodwinked: No evidence for a genetic basis of tongue rolling.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When is a bust dog just a shelter dog? and does it really matter?

There is a lovely article in the Santa Barbara Independent this week about a beautiful shelter dog turned therapy dog diva (Daisy!) who came from one of our partners, the Berkeley Animal Care Services. This is the same BACS that recently opened its doors to two bust dogs we plucked out of Oklahoma.

I hate to quibble with such a winning piece, but the myth buster in me has to iron out a couple of items: Contrary to the article's provocative headline, there was no evidence that Daisy came from a fighting ring, much less that she was a bait dog. Really, no nuthin.' Daisy may have shown up with old battle wounds - marks that are common enough with unhappy misadventures, but are not a true sign of organized dog fighting - in the SF east bay especially.
'S.B. Therapy Dog Survives Fighting Ring, but Blood Sport Remains Active. Hell to Heaven' - Article

The hype (we don't see much organized dog fighting in CA) is annoying because it steals away from the truer story of a shelter dog who dun good. But, hey. Either way, the cover photo and story of Daisy's therapy work is fabulous and worth any well-intended speculation about her past. Kudos to her adopter for making her a super star.

This all leads to a burning question. What does it matter where your dog comes from as long as it's a good dog that fits your lifestyle?

Vick dog Hector doesn't care about his chest full of fight scars, so - really - why should we? His attributes are his temperament, stellar behavior and committed owners - not his appearance or former address. The only reason his scars are note worthy is because they remind us that generalizations once applied to bust dogs were way, way wrong.

We're hoping that animal welfare minds are getting ready to drop the useless hamster wheel "Should they or shouldn't they be saved?" banter and zero in on better questions after any given bust, especially: 1) How many of the dogs have what it takes to mainstream back into the real world? and 2) What kind of shelter/rescue resources are available to help those lucky few? And when I say resources, I don't mean the 900K+ dollars set aside to help the Vick dogs. 
From the SB Article: Humane Society officials are wary of all the publicity generated by the Michael Vick pit bull matter. Yes, many of the dogs were turned around to live happy, normal lives, but the effort cost a lot of money.

...And BAD RAP officials are really wary of the droning on about the restitution money awarded to the Vick dogs. Let's make this perfectly clear, the TRUE resources needed to help cruelty case victims are human resources. Specifically, the hearts & minds of the underpaid but savvy shelter workers and rescuers who do the daily work of selecting the right dogs for their programs and then acclimating them to real life - always on a shoestring and quite often, with the support of their donors. The labor of love that we see with rescue work gives new meaning to the term spinning straw into gold.

At one time, we were all dealing with straw with the Vick dogs. Despite reports of a million dollar purse, groups that signed on to help were forewarned by the feds that Vick might go belly up bankrupt before paying his debt to the dogs. I don't know of one group that pulled out when faced with the possibility of going out of pocket for the dogs ... That would be, so very un-rescue like. Instead, each group signed a contract with the OIG that included this stipulation:
Agreement Between _Group Name_ and Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Signed 12/13/07

1. The Organization understands the following:
b. It is possible that there will be no funds available for the care of the dogs. Additionally, it is likely that even if funds are available for the care of the dogs, there will be a gap between the date that an Organization takes custody of a dog and the date any such funds are released to the Organization.
2. In the event that such a stipend is ordered by the Court and made to the Organization, the Organization shall keep stipend funds for the care of the dogs in a segregated account at the Organization. The Organization must use such funds for the humane treatment and care for the dogs -- [Humane care, as in, fixing Hector's teeth and rebuilding Audie's knees and beating back Uba's parasite load. And all those things we don't have to bug our donors for.]

It's a rub to read multi-million-dollar-budget animal welfare groups cite cost as an obstacle to saving lives from cruelty busts, especially while small non-profits faithfully piecemeal successful rescues together on peanut budgets as a matter of course.

A truly humane society has to move beyond the glass-half-empty rhetoric and ask the Big Kid questions: How do we best meet the needs of abuse victims that are depending on all of us? .... And on those occasions when our collective efforts fall short, how do we give the dogs a compassionate and dignified end without blaming breed, bloodline or - dog forbid - their address for their circumstance? While I'm at it, it sure would be nice to see more support and less second guessing so seasoned rescues can just do their friggin' job.

Kinzie here is an example of us 'doing our job' to save a few lives with the support of county authorities. She was one of the few survivors of the infamous 2008 raid outside Tucson, Arizona - the Pat Patrick bust, to be exact. The raid raised it's own monster controversy on the Net, as the dogs' owners were later acquitted of all dog fighting charges, but not before they signed their dogs over to the county to be rescued or destroyed. Controversy be damned - the dogs were set to die through no fault of their own, so a handful of rescuers responded to the county's request for assistance, and about 15% were able to get a second chance.

So we have myth-buster Kinzie - a dog from the renowned Patrick bloodline - who's now a socially mature, dog-friendly imp mowing spring grass in a SF backyard alongside her new 'brother' chihuahua. Her success isn't an accident by any means, but started way back at the shelter and involved a couple of days of sifting through all the personalities from the bust, selecting the dogs that best fit the waiting adoption program(s), then getting to know them better as they healed and decompressed in foster care. Then finally, their adoption placements came about after sifting through inquiries and deciding on the right home for each dog .... All common sense stuff that seems rather mainstream and even a little pedestrian to those who can walk though the process in their sleep.
Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius.”              - An Wang
The funny thing is, had Patrick been convicted of dog fighting, Kinzie would be considered a true fight bust dog. But since he wasn't, she's just another owner surrendered pit bull who faced certain death in an overcrowded shelter. Huh.

In essence, bust dogs are, really, shelter dogs. And shelter dogs - like Daisy and Kinzie - may or may not be dog fighters' dogs. And dog fighters' dogs like Hector may or may not be true fighters. And seasoned fighters like Georgia may just be the perfect pet in a smart and committed home. Hairsplitting definitions could fill a thousand blogs, but the bottom line is, IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER where a dog comes from. All that matters is that, when a good dog needs help, a good rescue (or shelter) should be supported for bringing them the right kind of help.

From the article: “You don’t hear so much about the abused and neglected dogs that get euthanized. Not all dogs are able to recover from traumatic circumstances." - Adam Goldfarb, HSUS

Indeed, Adam. And while the shelters are rockin' full of abused & neglected dogs - some of them beyond our ability to help - bust yards are equally full of steady, resilient dogs that shine on despite their past. The only difference we find when sifting through a large grouping of homeless dogs-in-need continues to be their address.

Welcome Home to Kinzie and Daisy both, you controversial little rebel rousers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Genesis Award for Sports Illustrated Article

Congratulations to Jim Gorant for winning a 2009 Genesis Award for his Sports Illustrated story, "The Good News Out of the Bad Newz Kennels."

Ironically, the awards are hosted by the HSUS altho the judges cast their votes independently of HSUS' position and policy.

From their webpage: "In large part, animal abuse and exploitation have only received mainstream media attention in recent years. What happened to animals in the past invariably occurred in the dark, behind closed doors .... Every year, the Genesis Awards pays tribute to the major news and entertainment media for producing outstanding works such as these, which raise public understanding of animal issues. As much as film, television, print and the arts reflect societal attitudes, they also help shape and change those attitudes. The mass media have the power to spotlight animal issues to vast audiences—literally at the speed of light.

Genesis Awards entries have been submitted by the public as well as by media professionals. Categories span television, film, print, radio, music, and the arts. The Genesis Awards Committee—via a process of submission, nomination, candidate selection, debate, and secret ballot—makes all final decisions regarding the winners .... The 13 committee members have been selected because of their personal histories in working for the animals, averaging more than 15 years "in the trenches." The members include people from various animal-protection organizations and diverse walks of life, who all share a demonstrated commitment to animals."

As you can imagine, we're thrilled that the story of the Vick dogs' survival and resurrection has been recognized once again for the important story that it is. * WOOT! * Thank you Jim - We hope you're having a good time at the party tonight!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This post isn't related to pit bulls in any direct way, but we just can't ignore the vigil that honored the four slain OPD officers and redefined our community in such important ways today. Our work has been drawing us deeper and deeper into East Oakland .. Like moths to a flame, maybe. Our shelter is here, and so are 'our' dogs and their people and the pressures that affect them. Where else would we fit?

Just when things seem at their worst - foreclosures on every block, displaced families and abandoned pets, escalating shelter numbers, and the horror of shootings just up the road that rattled residents to the core - Despite all that, in the two hours it took to hold this vigil, we fell in love with our city all over again. Like, the "I get it" kind of love.

The city leaders called on the crowd to commit to making this town a better place, and everyone there seemed to stand a little taller and look around at each other the way you do when you want to remember the occasion. But this was what got me: A pastor asked us to raise our hands high and signal a victory for the four police officers who died. Why? because from here on out, their deaths will mark a collective decision to move forward with renewed hope. Victory, indeed.

Suddenly our group's little role in creating a better Oakland takes on a new tone that I hadn't considered before. We left the vigil feeling more at home in our adopted city then we ever did before the shootings. Thank you, Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Officer John Hege, Sgt. Dan Sakai and Sgt. Ervin Romans - and thank you Oakland.

PHOTOS: Vigil for OPD Officers

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Facing Peta and Talking (Shelter) Shop - New England in April!

Like any good pit bull centric activist, I can't look at the civil rights movement without drawing direct parallels between these historic struggles and those faced by the pit bull owners and BSL fighters of today. I really needed a little shot of SF-style activism last week and watching 'Milk' offered up the best boost in awhile. Harvey reminds everyone who struggles that "Hope is never silent," making a bigger statement is more important than winning smaller battles, and counting yourself as a proud member of your community is the best way to demystify a perceived threat in our all-too-often paranoid society.

Harvey also had Anita Bryant, who was so very helpful in galvanizing the LGBT rights movement back in the 70's and in illustrating just how freaky-deeky fear mongers can be. God bless Anita for being such a hateful little bee-yotch. We love ya, hon.
"If gays are granted rights, next we'll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters." -Anita Bryant

...and pit bull owners! don't forget rights for people who sleep with pit bulls!

For our own inspiration, pit bull people have any number of vocal haters to bounce off of in this new century.  Like, Ohio's Punish-the-breed Tom Skeldon (Skeldon update from KC Dog Blog) and Denver's own Kill-em-All Kory Nelson. But my favorite hater is PeTA. Their stance against pit bull shelter adoptions works through my veins like a triple-shot latte on an empty stomach and it's helped fuel up some of our best efforts to make things better for the pit bulls in our corners. I still owe PeTA a personal thank you.

I set out to 'debate' PeTA's shelter policy with Ingrid Newkirk back in 2006 at the HSUS expo general session, but she begged out the very last minute and I was left to banter with a pre-recorded DVD, which was essentially a large talking head of Ingrid waxing on about chickens among other not-so relevant talking points. I was seriously confused by that fast hour+, and so were the 900-some people in the audience.

Tim and Leslie met up with her later during this infamous book signing in a scruffy Berkeley bookstore. Nice - but not quite the audience we were looking for.  Now! we can look forward to another opp to discuss our favorite topic with PeTA, this time in New Hampshire at an upcoming animal welfare conference. I'll be part of a panel discussion that looks at pb issues, including shelter adoptions and rescuing bust victims, and am fortunate to be joining Barbara Haysis, director of the Thomas J. O’Connor AC and Adoption Center and - Yay! - PETA spokesperson Daphna Nachminovitch.

"But it is important to bear in mind that nice families rarely come to a shelter seeking pit bulls. The vast majority of people who want pit bulls are attracted to the “macho” image of the breed as a living weapon and seek to play up this image by putting the animals in heavy chains; kicking, beating, and otherwise abusing them into aggression; and leaving them outside in all weather extremes in order to “toughen” them up." from PeTA's website

Another session will be devoted to - solutions! - on the topic of creating  'Successful Sheltering for Pit Bulls.' 

I'll be outlining lessons learned from our work with various shelters including our new focus at open intake Oakland Animal Services. Marianne Gasbarrohas of the ever-progressive Animal Rescue League of Boston will take the reins next and discuss their methods for matching pit bulls to new homes.

The topic will unfold even further with a segment from the cool-as-a cucumber Berenice Clifford of Animal Farm Foundation, who will be detailing tips for kennel enrichment and keeping high energy dogs happy during their wait. 

Good stuff. I sure hope some of our east coast rescue and shelter friends can join us for all or part..

2009 New England Federation Humane Society Annual Conference:
April 27-29 in Manchester, NH

Above: Pure thuggery. Chuy and gal pal Alex not only came to the Oakland Animal Shelter to adopt a pit bull (the ever macho red-caped Bob, to be exact), but ... They. Won't. Go. Away. Both have signed on to be volunteers and are frequently spotted walking dogs, educating the public, socializing rabbits and - gasp! - loving up on all kinds of shelter pit bulls as part of our Bully Crew Team. THUGS, I tellya!

Dark Day in Oakland

A distressing day for Oaklanders as the city mourns the shooting deaths of three officers and a fourth in critical condition. NYT Article.

Oakland Animal Services, where BR has recently dug in our roots, is a division of the Oakland Police Department. Just three weeks ago, we were saluting the OPD for the large scale cock fight bust. The East Oakland neighborhood where the shootings took place is where BR has been doing much of its public outreach for dog owners, and has been one of the more troubled spots in the city.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and comrades of the slain officers: Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Officer John Hege, Sgt. Dan Sakai and Sgt. Ervin Romans.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grand Opening!

Our favorite shop for dog fashion is back in the East Bay. Paco Collars has moved to a great little shop in Berkeley and is geared up for showing off their new storefront window this Saturday the 21st. If you aren't familiar with their custom leather work you either don't have pets, or you aren't from around here!
Paco Collars has always been a great supporter of BAD RAP and has donated plenty of collars and leashes to our foster dog program over the years. Founder Ana Poe raised $600 for our Lolo's double TPLO surgery in honor of her dog Paco's recent untimely death and in their continuing generosity are also donating 10% of the day's sales to BR. For those of you who are out of the area - order online.
If dog bling is your thing, doncha dare miss it!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nelly's surgery

We call her No Nose Nelly around here cuz we can’t help it – We just like the way it rolls off the tongue to begin another Nelly song. Hey – it’s better than Dragon Lady.

She went in for surgery last month to see if we could open up her nasal passages enough to help her be able to breathe better since she was born sans nose. Two pin-prick holes was all she had. But her blood work said 'not now.' Her white cell count was too high and it wasn’t a big surprise since she had recently gotten over the pneumonia that she contracted while out in the yard of that freezing Oklahoma death pit called home.

We put her on antibiotics for two more weeks, sent her back to San Francisco with foster mom Reagan, and hoped she would heal. Then brought her back to the vet for another attempt at surgery, a procedure similar to what the genetically maligned Pugs and Frenchies go through to open up the airways to their nasal cavities. But once again, her white blood cell count was just as high as before, even though her energy level was better than ever.

So, to operate or not ? Not to be morbid, but seven dogs dropped dead from that yard before rescue efforts were completed. But not Nelly. Born without a nose and bred who knows how many times; starvation, freezing cold, and pneumonia couldn’t kill ‘er. I thought there is no way she won’t make it through surgery at Creature Comfort Vet Hospital where they practice holistic medicine and do acupuncture before they even pull out the scalpel. So let’s just get it over with, and while she’s under, check to see if she can breath fire and have her spayed too.

Well, our Nelly’s doin’ well. She’s healing fine, her energy level is good and she’s not part dragon after all. But unfortunately, not a lot could be done to help out her nasal passages - They were too narrow all the way to the sinus cavity and cutting away bone would have been too radical, even for our tuffy. The pin-prick holes are now longer and we hope that will at least give her a little relief once the swelling is all the way down.

Thanks for the emails from everyone who has a soft spot for our special little 34 pounder. Her tail’s waggin’ harder than ever!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

At home with a bust dog

"Eeny meeny miny moe, Catch a bust dog by the toe."

One of these dogs spent the first part of her life on a chain in Oklahoma. Whoever picks the right dog gets to bring her home for keeps (!). Kudos to foster mom Sara Scott for wrangling the beasts.

"If she hollers let her go,
My mother told me to pick the very best one,
And you are it!"
(Goji, third dog from the left)

Unintended Consequences

We've learned a lot over the years about language, messaging and the often unintended consequences. One of the things that we've learned is that breed specific policies tell the public that the entire breed in question is different than other dogs - and not in a good way. Larger examples include shelters that still won't adopt out pit bulls; sending the message to the community that there are no safe, or worthy, pit bulls. But even shelters that we see as breed friendly, can often do better.

As a parent of a 2 1/2 year old, with another on the way, I know first hand how great solid pit bulls are with children. Some of the best moments of my day are watching my dog and toddler interact. My child's life is richer and she is a more caring person already for having shared space with her pit bull. So it should come as no surprise that one of my personal missions has been to try to eliminate shelter policies that prohibit pit bull adoptions to families with small (or sometimes any) kids.

Let me add that I take parenting very seriously. I devote time, energy and focus to it in a way that I never expected. I work part time now by choice so that I can more fully participate in my child's development. I hold a graduate degree in Maternal Child Health and am a pediatric nurse practitioner. I tell you all of this by way of making it clear that I am not cavalier about safety, health or my child. Matter of fact, I'm not cavalier about much. So I would never, ever advocate putting my child or anyone else's in harms way.

Adopting a temperamentally correct pit bull to a family with any age children is a good thing. Assuming the family is prepared and responsible and the dog is temperamentally sound (as will all breeds!), pit bulls make fabulous family dogs. Are they larger than some mall toddlers? Yup. Are they sometimes exuberant and high energy? Yup. Are they likely to occasionally knock over a small child? Yup. Is that really 'dangerous' or unsafe? I think not.

My daughter has toppled over a few times as a result of the dog. She's cried occasionally when the dog was moving at higher velocity. But she's never been seriously injured and they've both learned better how to avoid collisions. And though I'll never be able to prove it because I'll never own another breed, my guess is an 80 pound Labrador would occasionally knock her over as well, maybe even more often give that it'd be 25 pounds heavier. She loves her dog and continues to want to play with him in the yard despite occasionally getting, in her words, 'nailed by Spence-ote'.

Back to the point (you can see why I don't blog often). Blanket breed based policies often send messages to the community that shelters may not be aware of. For example, an exchange recently took place on a large parenting group list I belong to. Someone asked about the safety of Chow Chows with children and for the name of a responsible breeder. The first handful of replies recounted negative childhood experiences with the Chow Chows, including bites. Then things shifted direction:

  • Just wanted to add... my dad has been a mailman for 33 years and has only ever been attacked by pit bulls and chows!!

  • I volunteered at an animal shelter for several years and they would not allow families with young children to adopt Chows (also Pitbulls & Rotties).

  • XXX Local Shelter (name removed) doesn't let anyone with kids adopt pit bulls but they can adopt Chows; so Chows are probably OK.

I responded with an explanation that broad shelter policies are not a great representation of whether or not it is a good idea to have a particular breed of dog with children. That there is great variety of dog personality within each breed and I provided a link to a few good sites with Chow Chow breed descriptions as well as a link to a Chow Chow forum with what seemed like knowledgeable rescuers and owners. I also suggested they find a rescue or shelter with an adult Chow Chow who's specific personality is known. The replies were all along the lines of this:

  • While shelter policies may not be one's overriding concern in selecting a dog, those policies are there for a reason (hence why I relayed the information) and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
So, now we have a pretty clear example that a well intentioned shelter can do some damage in their efforts to be extra cautious. Not only did this policy, and maybe that of the other unnamed shelters, convince a group of parents that pit bulls are not safe with any children but that any breed that isn't entirely off limits for adoption to families is by default to be considered safe with children. I'm happy to say that the local shelter named has removed this blanket policy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

doggies in the window

For one quick day, the smallest male in our program (34lb TugTug) commiserated with the largest male in our program (68lb Howie) on the bummer of being a foster dog, left to sit at the back door and watch the resident dogs enjoy their real lives.

Little do they know, both boys are being courted by hopeful new homes.

Now if only we could teach them to do windows while they wait.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Full moon

Full moon shelter madness ... A 50lb stray is found dragging a 45lb dumbbell on a 5lb chain by her collar. Ghetto weight pull anyone? ... Peek inside the night drop box: ALL pit bulls. They blink in the day's light when we take them out. "Show me who you are, lil darlin" ... Time to evaluate. Megan counts and recounts the roster: 22 new pit bulls to suss and only 5 kennel runs open. That crushing feeling that tells us we won't sleep well tonite ... Female, blue. Drivey Dream - A blast to play with, but dammit - she sparks hard & heavy at the cute tan/white female. Yes, she's trainable. No, we've already got a coupla sparky blues. We sign off, heartsick. ... Cute tan/white, heavy with dragging teats, just shrugs in her face. You've made the cut, sweetie. We send silent thanks to her former owner who saw fit to socialize her. ... We find a box waiting for us. Yes! Barking dogs get bully sticks (thank you Bermuda Pam!), quieting the cacophany down to a happy hum ... Oversized red cropped boy cries YIPE! when we pinch his toes. Big baby. Sad eyes beg for reassurance. He's clumsy, but connected. We give him a spot and pretend not to notice that there are still 13 dogs vying for 3 kennels. Think about it later ... The flow is interrupted by an owner surrender. An American Bully. He's falling like Bambi on ice on legs that don't work - both knees blown. His breeder saw fit to put a huge head and heavy bulk on shaky joints. He limps to the e-room where he'll meet his end. I'm so sorry, buddy ... Down the hall, a wide eyed black dog gives a low, almost inaudible growl. Her kennel will open as soon as her stray hold is up, but still not enough room ... Two more females that may be pregant. Yes? No? ... Frustration is derailed by a smiling visitor: It's time to sign Bob the Dog's final adoption papers. Congrats Bob - you made it! ... American Bulldog impresses. "Let's get a movie. Maybe rescue will take her." ... Tim holds a pregnant blue cropped girl during euthanasia, takes a phone call about Nelly's surgery. ... Staff is locking up, it's time to hustle. Lower the guillotine in the newly opened kennel so dogs don't have to sleep in the night drop box again ... Sal poops in his kennel as we're saying goodnight. Turn lights back on. Clean. ... Frida is grateful for her quick walk. Man, does she look good. I sing the praises of Grizzly Salmon Oil ... "Let's bring Howie home tonight; get him outta here." He's scared of the car - we'll have to pick him up ... We talk about dinner on the way out, stare at the huge moon peeking over the hills. Howie smiling in the backseat.
"F-k you, Death. You didn't get this boy." A bottle of wine tonight for sure, some tug with Sally and Simon ... Answer a few emails, collapse into solid sleep ...

Support Friends of Oakland Animal Shelter (FOAS)

FOAS is a non-profit that raises funds for the medical needs of abused and injured animals that come into Oakland Animal Services. They'll be hosting their 2009 “FUN”-Raiser for Oakland’s Animals THIS Saturday, March 14, 2009 from 7 - 10 p.m. at Uptown Center - 401 26th Street - in downtown Oakland. Join them for live music by Juke Joint, drinks & desserts, a silent auction, and other fun activities for party-goers. Special appearances by some of the animals helped by FOAS. $25 suggested donation. 18 & over. Please give'em some love! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

living life between the details

A baker's dozen. See the latest Canine Good Citizen stars here: CGC Gold

Special thanks to Animal Farm Foundation for supporting this program with your AKC CGC incentive program. Shelters and rescues, check it out. This is a great way to support pit bull owners in your community and earn money for your org. Left: Two BR alum housemate dogs, Albert and Fiona, earned their CGCs together this past weekend.

More News: ... Bob the Dog and Otter both go full adoption this week ... Howie has a potential home ... Emmett is being courted ... New dog Fly Girl joins our Ambassadog program ... Nelly's surgery is today! ... Check back for her updates.

Monday, March 09, 2009

the fun of living under a microscope

Media interest in our Vick dogs has not stopped. A reporter asked me recently about placing Vick dogs in new homes -- Like, "is everyone and their brother scrambling to adopt one of these famous dogs?" I choked on my coffee. "No way, man. Most people want nothing to do with living under the media's microscope."

Imagine, as gratifying as it is to show off these wonderful dogs, you may as well paint a big red X on your forehead and on your dog, too. People recognize these dogs, and while most are more than supportive, the world is still sprinkled with haters who expect the worst, including some who would salivate over news of a bust dog who - dog forbid - commits a very dog-like act, like a loud public snarf at an offensive dog or an argument with housemate dog.

Above, a scene from Pit Ed class two weeks ago. Stay tuned for updates on this latest news magazine story.

Our bust dog adopters and foster homes have thick hides and backbones made of steel, but to be honest, plenty-o adoption candidates have been scared off by what could be a lifetime of scrutiny focused on this particular group of dogs. Who can blame them? Would you be able to deal? A recent applicant for our orphan girl, Zippy, did some soul searching and decided to withdraw his application:
After careful thought and deliberations over the weekend I have come to the conclusion that I am unable to adopt Zippy. The pressure of being her owner is just going to be too much for me to deal with at this time. I am still breaking in my new house and have plenty to deal with right now and to try and take on a dog as important as Zippy is, would not be fair for her or me. I will always support and admire the work your organization does for the breed. I am going to try and get settled in my new house and when I feel I am ready to take on the resposibilty of dog ownership I will address it at that time. I am sorry I cannot be of help to you at this time and wish you and all of your dogs and owners nothing but the best.

Thank you for your consideration,
GOOD LUCK ZIPPY ( I am rooting for you)

We don't blame Rich, btw. In fact, we were really proud of him for staying true to himself with his decision.

Grace - our latest Canine Good Citizen recipient! - is tapping her toenails along with Zippy while waiting for her strong backbone owner to appear. They will, and the wait will be worth it. If you haven't seen this new post on the Vick Dog Blog, watch how she's biding her time with Jonny while she waits. I just love this post: Friday Funnies (And no, Jonny can't keep her...altho we're sure he's asked.)

Friday, March 06, 2009


In case you haven't wandered over to BR's Adoption page yet this week, here's a lil movie of the tomboy queen who reigns over all our hearts. Fa-Fa-Fa-Frida....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Compassion for cocks - and other good news.

The day before our shots fair in East Oakland, Oakland PD busted a cockfighting operation in a warehouse in the same neighborhood, arresting 69 people. After a heavy weekend of wrangling birds, shuffling loads of office furniture around to re-tile shelter floors, dealing with heavy rains & pent up, muddy dogs, and the details of a busy Shots Fair, everyone at Oakland Animal Services was more than exhausted and ready for a power nap Sunday night.

Bravo to OPD for getting this bust. I love that OAS staff selected eight hens from the bust for its adoption program. Fighting birds - like "fighting dogs" - deserve to be treated as individuals too!
When animal control officers arrived, they found two roosters, one dead and one dying, in the constructed “fight pit,” 28 recently dead birds in a hole in the yard, 10 dead birds inside, and 80 live birds. Approximately half of the live birds were moderately to severely injured. These injuries consisted of lacerations from fighting with “gaffs,” extremely sharp knifes that are attached to their feet. As the birds fight, these knives slice and cut, until one bird is killed and the other is declared the “winner.”
Camp Fire

Eight out-of-towners returned home from BR's winter Pit Ed Camp session this week. A big crew! Campers came from New Orleans LA-SPCA, the Illinois Humane, PAWS Chicago, ASPCA Spay/Neuter Mobile Clinic, Indianapolis ACC, Humane Society of Indianapolis and Indy Pit Crew! We had a blast with this group of diehards and look forward to working together on future projects. Woof!

BIG PRIDE for alum campers from Hillsborough County Animal Services (Tampa) Florida today. Not only are they spitting back at talk of a breed ban in Florida, they spun the media interest around to support the breed and promote their pit bull adoption program instead. Ha! Now that's style.

Their current pit-mix ambassadog Jazzy (left) got her two minutes of fame in the news broadcast.

We know that Kelly Bigsby and her crew can pick a great dog, so if any Florida readers are considering a new pet for your family, go check this program out. 

    See the news video.

"You're going to take my family pet? Come try it' And I think that would be my nightmare as an animal control officer trying to enforce it [a breed ban]." - Bill Armstrong Director Hillsborough County Animal Services

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Even now and then, we meet an orphan so special that we have to name him after one of our own...

To see his cute mug in high quality, go here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

What rain? Shots Fair in East Oakland.

So here's the deal: You decide to do a 'pit bulls only' owner support event in a low income neighborhood, altho' 1) you have hardly any lead time to plan and 2) getting word-of-mouth advertising accomplished is squashed by weeks of rainy, stay-inside weather. You manage to convince eight dedicated diehards to leaflet homes during a downpour in a select, pit bull heavy, foreclosure saturated neighborhood with only (gulp) one week's advance notice. The event date arrives and it's STILL raining.
Well, crap.

Will people show up with their dogs or should we (can we please?) go back to bed? Oh hell no. Not only are clients willing to brave the rain with their dogs, they're already waiting for us when we get there to set up.

Our free shots fair - aka 'Celebrate Your Pit Bull' - event in East Oakland today was planned in an area that's known for its pit bull numbers. Dog trainers don't venture into this neighborhood and there's no such thing as low cost vet care here. But there are lots and lots of dogs. With only a week's notice, the fair attracted a long line of rain-soaked pit bull owners and 50+ dogs for the usual: Free shots, free collars/leashes, free microchips (popular), free spay/neuter vouchers (also popular) and lots and lots of training/handling/behavior advice (very very popular).

The more fairs we do, the more dog owners look forward to them, and the more we learn how to be a better help the next time. A highlight is always meeting the families who adore their beautiful pets and who love to show them off. A good number went home with spay/neuter vouchers. The low point was helping one client recognize that her stranger aggressive dog was deeply troubled. Her young daughter stood next to her and wept while we talked. She seemed to already know what we were ever so gently suggesting.

What keeps us coming back is knowing that pit bull owners will show up to get help for their dogs, even in the pouring rain. If they can get out of bed for this, so can we.

Big thanks to Kim Ramirez & Christine Allen for organizing, Natalie and her Grrrls for vet-teching (you kicked ass!), Dr. Dianne Sequoia for your TLC, our out of town Campers and Oakland Animal Services for assisting, the wonderful BR crew for rolling up your sleeves without a squeak about the weather and our fab donors who continue to support this kind of outreach work.