Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thanks for the Shouts!

Thanks to everyone who gave up shouts for our dogs that marched down Market Street in the SF Pride Parade yesterday. We're all peeling ourselves and our deliciously tired dogs off the floor today after a great weekend celebrating diversity in SF.

Until we dust off our brains and download the fun into a slideshow, here's a little teaser of the day ... Our fearless organizer Donyale Hoye and playgirl Muggy -- down at the T & A Market, natch!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Road Pup

We received one of the nicest-ever applications from someone whose beloved pit bull had just passed at a ripe old age. Mary Jo has a lot of dog smarts and laid out a very specific wish list for her next companion: She was looking for a dog that could handle a certain amount of confinement, and who was resilient and accepting of change and big adventure. She should be a committed sofa surfer, but spunky enough to gobble up a good dose of exercise when the time was right. She couldn't be the least bit shy with people because she was going to meet a LOT of them, and she had to tolerate other dogs well enough to enjoy a good play session with friends' dogs, but ignore dumb dog manners of strange dogs. Mary Jo knew pit bulls well enough to know there were lots of dogs out there that fit the bill, and she had decided that she wanted to adopt a dog from Oakland. No problem!

The home visit was going to be easy because she was willing to drive her house up to us -- all the way from New Mexico in her RV. How cool is that? Now retired, she's living right by spending her days traveling around the country. We were honored to help her find a suitable dog. After sizing up a few prospects waiting in the kennels at Oakland Animal Services, a cutie pie from the Bully Crew program named Cata Girl won the pit bull lottery. Some paperwork and a peek into Cata's new home, and they were off.

Mary Jo wrote to us from the road and told us a little bit about their first few days together:
Right now we are heading back to NM and camping in the state parks. I call Cata Girl, Katy. Katy is getting used to big noisy semis with air brakes and generators running. Not much seems to faze her. She has seen some dogs and notices them but does not seem to be aggressive or agitated by them. She was interested in a prairie dog today.

She is very sweet and very loveable. Loves her tummy rubbed like most all Pit Bulls. Katy took to the RV right away when I started up the engine. Didn't bother her one little bit. When I go outside to do something or fill the tank with gas, Katy watches me at the window. She is a real love bug.

I think this is the first adoption we've ever worked on that included a prairie dog report in the first follow up.

Thanks for going to distance to find a new co-pilot, Mary Jo. We envy your gypsy lifestyle and look forward to more reports from the road.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Progress Report: From the Victims of Cruelty Working Group

Altho' it's been quiet on the outside since leaving the big multi-org meeting in Vegas last April, inside, busy brains are rockin' towards creating ways to work collectively to help the victims of cruelty: aka the pit bulls confiscated from abusive situations including dog fighting operations.

Here's a link to our e-news alert with the PROGRESS STATEMENT from the Victims of Cruelty Working Group included.

I decided to paste this photo in the blog post because, even though I hate pix of myself (Tim is way cuter), I remember exactly how I was feeling at that very moment it was taken when I see it ... Connecting with that ever-grateful dog and the realization that all this crazy work that we all do is so worth it.

This blog post and the progress report is for him ... Mr. Hopeful.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


A big day for Salvador and Retha. These best friends leaned on each other for companionship and fun while at the shelter, and today they got to leave the shelter together to go to their new (separate) homes.

After all these years, we're not supposed to get choked up when they leave us...right?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lessons from the late, great Dirk

After working with boatloads of shelter dogs over the years, we've dropped the belief that pit bulls are an inherently dog aggressive breed. We certainly consider them to be one of the more improperly socialized breeds in our crowded cities right now, however. We don't always do right by dogs in this big busy world of ours: Rushing them into dicey nose-to-nose greets with strange dogs, setting them up for failure in chaotic, poorly run dog parks, leaving them to their own devices at home with other dogs and no playground monitor to enforce the rules - or just plain isolating them from other dogs altogether in lonely backyards. Then, when they get into trouble or come to the shelter and show bad manners with other dogs, we blame them instead of their handlers - or especially - we blame their breed. "Damn pit bulls! Can't trust them with other dogs!"

Poor dogs - What have we done to them!

The sadder side of this story is how much damage we can do to a dog's psyche within the shelter walls. Shelters are impossible places for dogs to live - What, with raging hormones, constant noise and stress, fence fighting with neighbor dogs, distracted handlers and never enough time to help a dog stay exercised or improve his dog-dog skills.

We faced these challenges head-on last summer, when we started selecting dogs for our Ambassadog program at Oakland Animal Services.

Dirk was a big, sexy beast who showed us that he was able to co-exist and even play appropriately with other dogs. A good start. We got him going with training (he was a champ!), took loads of photos and fell ever more in love with his handsome face. And then, the worst happened ... We learned of an accidental fight that occurred between him and another large male in the outdoor kennels during the noise and chaos of the morning cleaning routine. After that fight, Dirk started looking for trouble at cleaning time. And then, he started creating trouble whenever a dog walked near his kennel. And finally, he triggered whenever he was near a dog that offended him. Watching him unravel from dog tolerant to dog aggressive behavior was a heart crusher. With no experienced foster home available and no way to re-school him at the shelter, we made the painful decision to put Dirk to sleep. It was AWFUL. He died because the world, and finally, our system failed him.

Out of this tragedy came a new gameplan: All dogs designated for the Ambassdog program were now to be shuffled to a smaller, quieter, calmer ward where all would get used to each other's presence and live like roommates rather than jailhouse gangstas. Peace and quiet was rewarded and reinforced. And best of all, we created a little oasis (photo: above) where dogs could get out of their kennels and become socialized to other dogs in a relaxed, safe setting.

Every shelter needs an oasis for their long term dogs. In this environment, they learn that they have to follow rules and good things happen to them when they show appropriate behavior. They looove this place and what it represents (learning! attention! fun!) and scramble to get inside during their out times. Dog intros can go as slow as we need here using crates and tie-outs, and everyone is rewarded for loose, happy body language around other dogs. They hear us laughing here and they get to let go of their stress and be a real dog - a pet dog - for a small but very important part of their day.

I was especially grateful for this space the other day when we introduced Salvador to a dog who is brand to the program. Salvador had been snippy with dogs when he first came to us. Not surprising, he had an injured front leg, he was skinny, unneutered, and the shelter was full of edgy dogs ready to push his frazzled buttons. 'Not to worry,' we said - 'We'll get him over this.' Thanks to the team's guidance and especially, Miss Retha, Sal has learned to expect that only good things will come from other dogs - All this, while living among dozens of reactive, barking shelter residents. Last week, Salvador imparted an "All is well" lesson to new dog 'Bemis.' Here's a video of their first play session, inside the oasis otherwise know as our trailer. Listen to how Tim and Mike are rewarding the dogs for their appropriate play. Look at how damn happy those dogs are. Every shelter needs a space like this - Really.

Many, many thanks to our supporters who helped make this tiny island a reality. And forever thanks to Dirk for a lesson that's saving so many dogs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

S'more pit bulls, please. June Pit Ed Camp.

Every shelter worker deserves a good get away. Here's a little peek into what our Pit Ed campers get to do when they come to Oakland to play with pit bulls. From June Camp: All work and no play! (Not)

1. Everyone gets to see bay area shelters from the inside out.

2. Environmental enrichment work: Flirt pole practice keeps everybody on their toes. Heather Hart, Interim Director of Operations, Baltimore Humane Society

3. Learning handling skills in Pit Ed class.

4. We stop to watch an Ambassadog meet his prospective family.
5. Helping out at a Shots Fair: Greeting clients and learning what life is like for pit bull owners in this town. Ed Fritz, Campaign Specialist, Best Friends Animal Society
6. Meeting local celeb Jonny Justice.

7. No visit is complete without a snuggle from a snoring Nelly. 

Jessica Dolce of the Animal Refuge League (Maine!)

8. Potty breaks for the dogs interrupt an afternoon of policy talk.

9. Entertaining Ambassadog Retha after hours 
(Shhh .. don't let the hotel desk catch you.)

Evaluating dogs at Berkeley Animal Care Services.

Celebrating a great week with new friends.

12. And finally, a video made during camp by Jessica Dolce in honor of her new buddy, Retha. Thank you Jessica! We had a great time and look forward to highlighting all the wonderful things you diehards will be doing for the pit bulls in your corners in upcoming months.

For more info on Pit Ed Camp, visit Partners in Shelter Services

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Watsonville Shots Fair - A family event!

Last summer, the small farming town of Watsonville spent a few scary days talking about breed specific regulations after two dogs ended up in the spotlight for killing neighborhood cats. Thankfully, that talk subsided once cooler minds recognized that loose running dogs had everything to do with irresponsible owners and nothing to do with breed. Whew When the city council decided to reject targeted discrimination, we promised to do what we could to help bring education and resources to pit bull owners in that community. We put them on our list for one of the four Shots Fairs we do each year and looked forward to becoming more familiar with the dogs and the people of this little town.

Last Sunday, we were greeted by nearly a hundred bee-u-ti-ful pit bulls and some very appreciative families in the green fields of Ramsay Park. Many dog owners shook our hands and told us that no one had ever done anything like this for them before. They'd learned about the fair from fliers we left on their door or from neighbors who shared the news around. Some residents showed up early and helped us unload gear from our trucks. One man kept the first arrivers organized for us.

A number of the dogs already had shots (we vaccinated 65 dogs in total) but their owners were eager to stand in the long line and wait for a free microchip (50 chips distributed) and behavior and training advice, much of it offered in their native language. Many were excited to receive vouchers for free spay/neuter surgeries. Some pit bull owners had everything they needed, but they came out anyway just watch and enjoy the scene: Everyone seemed delighted to be part of this important day.

It was clear to all of us that Watsonville has some very well loved dogs. We hope this city continues to embrace and support the kind people who consider pit bulls to be an important part of their family. Below: A family with their pride and joy, a pup named 'Beast.'

Thanks to everyone who said Yes to this event - including our diehard volunteer crew and veterinarian Dr. Sequoia, who were undaunted by the long and twisty drive to get to the dogs in this town. We have two more Shots Fairs to do in 2009 and rely on private donations to make this real. Big thanks to our donors who vote for projects like these with their hard earned dollars. You are the lifeblood of this work! To help with the next two fairs, hit up our PayPal button in the right hand column and make sure to let us know that you'd like to sponsor our Owner Support work. Thank you, Thank you!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Gargoyle Shade

TugTug and Nelly, Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Eight dogs meet two big hearts

These kinds of stories are better than a good cup of strong coffee: Two unemployed brothers took on eight abandoned pit bulls in Phoenix this week when their owner was deported. They seem like great guys and great dogs. Donations are pouring in to help them with the burden of vet care costs.

Two paws up for random acts of kindness today! Phoenix Story

Hat tips to Samantha!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Good times in NorCA - Let's get the party rollin'

We've been banging our head on tuff topics for too long. It's time for a pick me up with some yellow duckees in Truckee and some rockin' good times at the upcoming SF Pride parade. 

Truckee Duckee Derbee & Dogs in Duds Contest - June 7

NorCA pit bull peeps can find some fun comin' up in the beautiful mountain town of Truckee, CA, where the Truckee Humane Society is honoring V-dogs Uba and Jonny Justice at their annual fundraiser. Come on out and meet them and donate to a good cause! Full details: Article
Two dogs rescued from the infamous Michael Vick Bad Newz Kennels will be the special "pets of honor" at the sixth annual Truckee Duckee Derbee & Dogs in Duds Contest at the River Ranch Lodge on June 7.  The TDD pre-race party starts at 2 p.m. with live music and the "Dogs in Duds" at 3 p.m. The Derbee, which starts at 4 p.m., is billed as the "most unpredictable 2 minutes in Tahoe" as the rubber ducks must negotiate the whimsical currents and eddies of the Truckee River to the finish line at the River Ranch patio.
SF Pride Parade - Sunday June 28

Needless to say, this event is all about feeling fabulous and PROUD. The GLBT community has always been so welcoming to our dogs and our diverse community of pit bull owners. We look forward to marching in support of equal rights for all once again. Please look for us as we head down Market Street on June 28. Holler LOUD so we know who you are, pit bull people! Pride Details

Here's a re-run for a little taste of last year's parade. Get those walkin' boots ready.