Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disaster Relief: Missouri comes to Oakland

There are three dogs from the Missouri-centered dog fighting bust snoring in our living room as I search for the words for this blog entry. It's been a whiplash week around here. We didn't expect to even think about these victims until a little later this summer. Til then: plan some summer socials, swim more, paint kitchen...riiight. Fate is a tricky beast and she had other plans. Ten bust dogs slid through a legal loop and were signed over by a Missouri dog owner last week who'd neglected them terribly, but who also gave them the gift of early release, so they were as free as birdies. It was only a few short months ago that this same batch would've probably been destroyed, but you remember how we all made a big fuss about that? --- Times, they sure have changed.

Problem is, the midwest is packed full of out-of-luck pit bulls and despite the months-long efforts that went into planning housing and care for 400+ dogs in MO, these ten were squeezed out. We got a call on Friday asking if we could assist with finding space. Gulp. Lord knows fast foster options are hard to find, so. What to do?

They didn't just need a place to be stashed, they deserved a quiet place to decompress so they could be assessed for adoption potential. And while our living room might be able to fit 10 crates, our brainspace would not be so accommodating.

Nothing else you can do in these situations but dial up friends and holler for help. So, hollering ensued and the most wonderful thing happened: People shouted back with a chorus of 'Yes.' People, as in, our shelter partners and rescue friends and foster homes. Immediate relief came from three east bay shelters who all offered temporary kennel space until the dogs could rest and be distributed. Beautiful. Oakland Animal Services, East Bay SPCA and Berkeley Animal Care Services all opened their doors. And with that incredibly kind offer (hey, we have our own* crushing pit bull overpop problem like everyone else), a crew from the HSUS loaded up the dogs - these dogs - and drove all night to get them to friendly territory. The dogs arrived a week ago Monday - scared, curious, excited and beautiful.

Above: BR dog handler Kim Ramirez gives 'Freddy' some love at Oakland Animal Services.

What are they like? Like the Vick dogs, their personalities are a mixed bag. We have the timid/cowering dog, the pushy/optimistic dog, the easily aroused dog and the low key love bunny. We have every range of dog tolerance level from been-there-done-that dog aggressive to the please-be-my-pal dog social. We have highly adoptable, needs some work, and sadly damaged compassion hold status. As always - individuals, individuals.

Once the transport and housing issue was worked out, our job was to suss out the personalities to learn who they are, then match them to willing foster homes and adoption programs -- and, all this in a big hurry since busy shelters needed their kennel space back. Leslie Dodds, who earned an award for her community partnership work with pit bull friendly shelters in Mendocino County, didn't hesitate to say Yes. So did Vick dog healer Nicole Rattay who recently started a compassion-based rescue in sunny San Diego.

We knew which dog would end up with Nicole the minute we laid eyes on her - a cropped female with an affectionate, velcro personality. She has fight scars aplenty and a painful eye injury that had been left untreated for way too long, but she's a survivor and she's not nearly ready to leave this planet. That left seven dogs for BR's foster care and/or compassion hold program. (We're still sorting)

The Barn! In the middle of chaos, our faithful scribe Susi Ming has been sending us emails with wonderful news updates: Another donation for the barn. And another! Oh that sweet, blessed barn. How welcome you will be! I hope to slow down enough today to see where we are with our challenge and list the recent givers.

I want to wax philosophic now about the beauty of working as a collective with like-minded people to get a job like this done in ten fast days - and yes, that includes members of the HSUS who wanted these dogs to get a second chance as much as we did. But someone's waking up in their crate and a thumping tail tells me that full bladders are waiting. So I'll post these videos to show you who landed here from Missouri and you can bet there will be more to this story coming up as we dig in deep with this summer's adventures.

1. Video Beauty

2. Video Jimmy

3. Video Violet

4. Video Edison

5. Video Zena


Dianne in DC said...

This is such wonderful news. I am having a hard time keeping from crying here at work.

Anonymous said...

WOW, niiiiiice dogs!
Are the Feds encouraging the dog owners to release them? Or was this owner a rare breed?

Anonymous said...

Beauty is so gorgeous I am also sitting here crying at work. I LOVE you guys!!!

Donna said...

Hey anon - I understand that it's not unusual for people to release dogs in order to look good. That may have been the case here -- I really dunno. The feds like to keep things on the down-low as you can imagine. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Such a spectrum of personalities. From wounded dignity to warrior princess. With your experience, each will find the place that will allow them to rest, heal and come into their own.

Donna, Tim and your team remind me that the heart is an amazingly flexible organ. It never runs out of the capacity to love.

Thanks for all you do.

Leila & Quizz
Richmond, VA

Anonymous said...

Such great news, these pups all look like they're doing well. How come the gray and white one isn't neutered?

Mike Sweeney said...


Please feel free to let me know how I can assist in any way.!!
I will also be in the greater San Francisco area next week so let me know how I can volunteer.
Mike Sweeney

Boris said...

Hey Bully Crew,

Stay resilient, humans and pups alike. You all must be on a roller-emotion-coaster from adrenaline exuberance to worn frazzled.

Great documentary vids. What great personlities in the Jimmy man and the Edison boy.
Jimmy seems to thrive off of people's positve emotions. He reminds us of our ol' Jake (with a special name of my OEL). He needs a little fixin' and a lot of fixin's (a whole jar) to plump him up for a forever home.

Just the start "Edison" looks like he is a son-of-Jimmy. He sure did connect already with the ladys. Make sure the folks that get him have big hearts, as he could grow into those snowshoe paws.

As you've taught us, stay in the moment. Every pibble you touch, whether 10, 20 or 100, is better because you all were 'present' with your love for each one.

I'll check back on the new gang,

Martine said...

these pictures are priceless.

thanks for sharing

martine & sugar

Beth said...

Wow, just when you thought things couldn't get any busier and yet you find a way to manage, find the time, and help. There are so many wonderful things about what you both do for these dogs. Astounding. Thank you for all that you do.

Ken Foster said...

That's great news.

Meanwhile, does anyone have any idea what's going on with the rest? I called the hotline ten days ago and left an offer to take dogs into The Sula Foundation (and expected it would be a while before that actually happened.) The message on the line said that they would be in touch in a few days for more information--yet, not a peep so far.

Any chance we'll see you in New Orleans in two weeks?

Donna said...

Hey Ken, I'm not sure why you're not hearing from HSMO yet. But we'll be hollering for help for Iowa and Oklahoma dogs soon, so if you're still not hooked up in MO by then, let us know. We do good dog shopping. And THANK YOU for being one of the helpers. Lord knows it's not easy to find room these days.

We hope to see you on August 5 if possible. More later -- I have to go pee some foster dogs.

Amanda said...

Tears flowing over Violet, but happy laughter over the silliness of Edison and Zena and the hopeful plea for a belly rub out of Beauty. Jimmy is a doll too.

BLESS YOU all a million times over, I am often in awe of your work. Fingers, toes, paws crossed that Violet finds a peace and joy in life soon!!!

Natural Disaster Preparedness and Management said...

Cool dogs! I'm glad to see that they made the trip okay.