Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fostering: Drive in the slow lane for dog/dog intros

Fa-Fa-Frida went full adoption this weekend. This is one of those adoptions that has us all smiling like bliss ninnies. She was one tough broad when she came into the Oakland Animal Services...Full of the devil when it came to other dogs. Of course we loved her. Looooved her.

It took some doing, but we finally worked out an agreement with Frida, "You stop spitting obscenities at other dogs and we'll do our best to find you a new home. " She thought that was a fine idea, so we spent the next several weeks begging up rides for her to Pit Ed class, helping her develop good self control during arousal work (ie, flirt pole work) and writing extensive notes after every shift at the shelter. Week by week, she got over her leash-funk and became a true ambassadog.
Once her leash-manners were on-track, longtime BR dog handler Yvette Stahr brought up the idea of bringing her home for foster, maybe even foster-to-adopt. Us: "Hmm. Let's try it." The thing was, Yvette and her husband Steve had another dog-selective dog at home, so how they went about the intros would be beyond crucial to how this worked out.

It worked. They did such a text-book solid job of managing the intros that I asked Yvette to give us a play-by-play as part of our series on fostering. I hope this is helpful to others...

Six Steps to Smooth Sailing

"Our mantra for the introduction was “we can’t go too slow,” even though at times, it was hard not to rush things. However, since making this work was really important to both of us, we just kept reminding ourselves and each other that it takes longer to undo something done wrong than to do it right the first time.

Frida was on the NILIF program from the moment she walked in the door. (NILF = Nothing in Life is Free ) We wanted to make sure she understood that we were in control of her life now so she would look to us for leadership in any dicey situations. I really believe that this was a big key to our success.

First Step:
We started out with Frida crated in our home office away from our dog Nick, baby gate in the door. (NOTE: It's important to make sure neither dog is willing/able to scale the baby gate and do a non-kosher intro.)

The office is right off the kitchen/family room and in eyesight of the family room sofa so we could talk to her and praise Nick when he would look into the room calmly. It also gave Frida the opportunity to see that Nick was a valued part of the pack. We walked them together every morning but kept distance between them at all times to avoid any face-to-face issues. We would rotate who walked in front and also walked them side by side (but with one of us between them). Lots of praise for being calm and friendly. Anytime the dogs looked at each other with low slow tail wags, they got effusive praise.

Step 2:
Frida in the office, out of the crate, but with the baby gate up. We monitored this VERY carefully and spent a lot of time at the doorway petting both dogs and telling them how good they were. We also treated each dog at the doorway (after putting them both in sits) and told them how good they were. During this time we ONLY gave treats when both dogs were present and being good. This is the step we spent the most time on. It was the easiest to control and the easiest to reward for correct behavior. The one snark we had at the gate was quelled quickly and loudly – both dogs were reprimanded and sent to time-outs behind closed doors alone. Everything else we did really built on the positive associations the dogs got during this time. We waited until we had reliable, consistent happy tail wags at the gate and no snarks before we moved on. We continued with the walks, allowing them to be closer, but still avoiding direct contact.

Step 3:
Frida on a tie-down but enclosed by an Xpen. This part actually went quite quickly for us due to the solid work done before. (Note: Frida learned to accept crate and tie-down confinement as part of her Ambassadog training at Oakland Animal Services). Lots of praise and treats for good behavior and continued walks.

Step 4:
We moved on to Frida in the Xpen, but no tie-down. We took our time with this step since the next one would have them out together with no barrier and we wanted to make sure we had a solid base. We kept a very close eye on body language and quashed any posturing by either dog and praised appropriate behavior. Continued with the walks and allowed some contact (butt sniffing, but no face-to-face).

Step 5:
Frida on a tie-down, but no Xpen. What trouble we had was during this part. Nick was overexcited and rude. He tried to hump her. He tried to stand with his head over her neck. He was so excited he had no idea whether to shit or go blind. Frida was good as gold and would wait for us to correct him with no reaction on her own (except to look to us). Our corrections of Nick were swift, loud and scary and he learned quickly. Allowed much freer contact during walks.

Step 6 - TA DA!:
Now comes the embarrassing confession: Nick and Frida’s first offleash meet was an accident. We had been doing the tie-down no Xpen for several days and it had been going very well. We had Frida on a tie down on the patio and had gone inside briefly when we heard a loud bark. We rushed back outside to find Frida had pulled the tie-down loose. Since both dogs were behaving (I think the bark was from excitement – they had been trying to play for a couple of days) we just went with the situation. It all went smoothly with just a few corrections (Mr. Humpy Boy mostly) and lots of recalls when play got a little too exciting. I truly believe that the long, slow introduction process is what saved us from a potentially bad situation caused by our own inexperience with tie-downs (now we know to check our equipment each time we use it).

The time from when Frida came home with us to her being out with Nick with no restrictions (but only when we’re home) was about 3 weeks. While it was hard at times to put off integrating Frida into our lives fully - that sad little face was hard to resist - the success we’ve enjoyed using the slow intro method is undeniable. At no point in time did we feel like we faced with a situation we couldn’t handle. Because each stage builds on the previous one and we didn’t move on to the next until we felt the dogs were solid, it was a series of successful and positive steps for us and the dogs." - Yvette Stahr

Frida's been bumped from our regular Pit Ed classes and is in our more advanced Canine Good Citizen Prep class now. Yvette and Steve continue to follow the guidelines on these pages: Multi-dogs and Keeping the Peace and the two dogs are working out their play style and becoming more deeply bonded. We'll keep bugging them for a video of Frida and Nick having themselves a little play session. What could be better?

Moral of the story: When introducing mature dogs, SLOW IS GOLD.
Congrats, you guys. You're lookin' good!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the Car Ride of Life

TugTug reminded me the other day that Life is one big long and bumpy car ride. It's exciting and fun and sometimes it makes us a little (or a lot) sick to our stomach. Even when we barf on the way to where we're trying to go, the trip is made easier with a friend or two to lean on.

So many emotions today - for Sweet Jasmine - for the butchered pit bulls of Philly and for their advocates. Trying to hang loose here and remember that the bumps in the road are all part of what makes this bittersweet journey so fascinating.

H/T to Dina for this news link outlining Philly's history on dog fighting convictions (not good): Pit Bulls in Pain
“It’s very, very rare for judges to give prison time for dogfighting in Philadelphia,” said George Bengal, the PSPCA Director of Law Enforcement. “It’s just not a priority here. Philly’s always been a Mecca of dogfighting, but after Vick it exploded,” said Bengal. “He’s an idol.”

And, to make a donation to Recycled Love in honor of Sweet Jasmine's life: LINK

Finally, a SLIDESHOW of Tug's car ride (barf scenes omitted). We know how you feel, little buddy. Boy, do we.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sweet Jasmine - An angel passes on

Sad news - Our little hero girl from the cover of Sports Illustrated has passed on. We were sad to learn that Sweet Jasmine was struck by a car and died yesterday. We don't know any of the details, but we can imagine that her adopted family is absolutely devastated.

We're all so proud of her family for giving her the life of champions. Her little face will go down in history as the face that helped change the course for pit bulls everywhere - She's immortal and cherished by us all.

Sending warm thoughts to everyone in Recycled Love today.
Bless you, sweet people!

In friendship,

Monday, August 24, 2009

BAD RAP to Philly: Seize the moment

Animal groups in Philadelphia are meeting with team officials from the Eagles franchise today to discuss ... What? Dog fighting. Vick. Money, we would imagine. Source

We don't envy the difficult position this puts Philly animal groups in. How do you accept help without compromising your values?

We have some thoughts. It's a longer statement, so we linked it on our website to avoid stealing inches of bandwidth away from the blog.

* Seize the Moment *

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good news comes in threes

Petal's challenge has been MET! Guess who showed up to help us with the last chunk of change needed to push us over the mark? It was Lolo's brand new family - Oaklanders Meg & Thomas Cosby! What a cool thing.

Our primary help for Lolo's broken knees came from blog readers. You helped us save this girl's life - literally - when we were faced with impossible decisions. She was later patched up good as new by ace orthopedic veterinarian Richard Schwach and his staff at Avenues Pet Hospital in SF. It's been a long hall for Lolo and her foster family, but we're happy to report that she's going home next weekend. Home! We're grateful to everyone who chipped in to help this foreclosure orphan find her future - and now - to Lolo's new people for turning around and helping BR's barn raising.

Thank you Petal Berkey and Friends for inspiring good.

The same day that Meg & Thomas donated to raise the barn, we got help from Will Stearman, Dixie Wells, Cendall Williams, LeeAnne Miller and Sara Reusche to help us reach our goal. Their gifts are going to kick off another large matching gift grant that came in this week. It's such an exciting new challenge that I'll wait and devote a separate blog post to it so it doesn't get buried.

Good News #2
Ambassadog Retha is in her new home for keeps after being courted by Thomas Lopez and Claudia Hernandez. Thomas is an Oakland Police Officer and he told us that he's brought so many strays to the shelter during his shifts that he knew he wanted to give a home to a shelter orphan once the time was right. This is Claudia on adoption day at Pit Ed class. Happy much, girls?

Good News #3
We'll never get tired of seeing Roo and Clara Yori and their dogs Hector and Wallace in the news. I had to watch this video report three times just soak up every bit of the happy. Great quotes from Roo, too.

ROCHESTER - Disgraced NFL quarterback Michael Vick is getting a chance at a new life, after serving federal prison time for dog-fighting. Fortunately, some of his victims also got new lives, including one who ended up in Minnesota. His name is Hector and he's turned out to be an irresistible pit bull. Andrew Yori holds Hector, a 50 pound pitbull, like a baby and kisses him repeatedly. - Beth Jett
See the kisses:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

happily ever after can be temporary

Sweet shelter dog Ella just scored a home that will give her everything she ever dreamed of: Stuffed animals, cookies, visitors, friendship, love. Dogs are zen masters about living in the moment, so we feel good knowing that, even though her time is temporary, she doesn't know (or care) what a calendar is. She's our latest compassion hold case, and thanks to BR volunteers, she's getting every luxury in her final days.

Ella's challenge is her advanced age and the fact that she's not willing to share her people with other dogs. Unfortunately dividing the home with baby gates has not been a big selling point, so she ran out of options. We'll keep our ears peeled though just in case someone is willing to give her a long-term safe space free of pesky youngins.' But either way, she's living happily inside every single moment and she's teaching us how to soak up the NOW. Bless you, Ella.

Petal's Challenge - Sooo Close!

We're only 193 dollars away from making a big BIG jump on our fundraising scale. Lori Lubin, Carol Krena, Paula Vanlare and Eryn Smith all muscled the bar up within inches of our big 10K matching gift run this morning with their generous paypal donations. Thank you ladies! If you heard the sound of cheering from the general direction of Oakland CA today, that was us!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barn Raiser Update

Nelly can't stop smiling. Check this out!...The barn raiser is inching up, steady as she goes. We're now only 963 bucks away from meeting Pedal Berkey's 10K matching gift challenge! Once we hit that mark, the bar will hopscotch right up the chart - on our way to halfway home. Huzzah!

A big shout out to our friends in Los Angeles, Found Animals Foundation for their most generous gift towards this match. We met Found Animal's staff at the HSUS Expo in Vegas this year and learned about the innovative advocacy work they're doing in a very challenged part of CA. Many thanks to FAF pit bull ambassador Rufus for inspiring their work as well as the love match given in Petal Berkey's honor.

Below. Nelly and cuddle buddy Leroy try to remind us that friendships last longer than bad news on the telly.

More Nelly Pix - Courtesy of foster mom Sara Scott.

Nelly is doing fine, by the way. We've been in a holding pattern with her, and have been trying to let her tell us how she feels. She's perpetually happy, but hearing her gasp for air reminds us how much work it is for her to breathe. For now, she seems to be telling us that her first-ever summer in sunny CA is worth the extra work of not having a nose. Dog bless ya, Nelly.

Our Heroes.
These are the names behind the wood and timber of the barn-to-be. Thank you kind people! Patricia Marquez, Thomas and Carol Zientara, Timothy and Lynn Boyle, Sarah Deluna, Loretta Abeyta, Scott Cunningham, Melea Cassell, Karin Campbell, Inga Sheffield, Will Stearman, Ping Ping Dai, Karen Delise, Karen Keaton, Jim Lemperis, Mary Doll, Marisa Piovarcsik, James Ogg, Gail Moon, J. Pav Designs, Terri Blouin, W P Hawthorne Jr and Sons Inc., Deirdre Doyle, LeeAnne Miller, Stephen Kahn, Michelle Harrington, Gilbert Brown, Elizabeth Dranow, Judy Holte, Sharon Jue, Katherine Pitts, Laura Bennett, Lissa Stiles, Todd Antonuk and Rufus and his friends at Found Animals Foundation.

It's almost certain that I've accidentally dropped a barn raiser's name from these lists. If your name hasn't shown up or if I've fumbled and misspelled into something unrecognizable, please let me know so I can fix. I'll sleep better - Thanks!

A gentleman's sport?

We've had a lot of inquiries about our reaction to the 60 Minutes interview of Michael Vick and his roll with HSUS as well, so I finally sucked it up and watched it all a short while ago. It's not something anyone in BAD RAP was particularly looking forward to since we'd really rather not see or hear him anymore than we absolutely have to, but somebody had to do it, so here we are...

With the rash of recent emails we've received it has become clear that there are still people out there who aren't aware of the particulars of this case - Some wondering if Vick might even get his dogs back now, while others think they are all dead, and some still thinking he only bankrolled the operation. But everyone seems to have strong opinions and feelings about it, so it feels like good timing to shed some light on a few things so that we can at least all come from a place of clearer perspective if we are going to judge Vick, or go easy on him.

Ultimately, it does not matter anymore what anyone thinks about Vick playing football again. He has been accepted back into the NFL and that is more a reflection on the league than anything else. This multi billion dollar corporation has proven that a conscience is not much of a necessity to big business - it has been pointed out to me that the NFL employs killers of people as well as killers of dogs. So who are we to judge Vick? But since we're all in the mood to make some kind of an assessment of MV after watching his interview with Jim Brown, I'll continue.

First it should be made clear that Vick was not simply a dog-fighter who paid his dues and now deserves that second chance at football that seems so important to some. Dogfighting was ironically labeled a "Gentleman's Sport" some decades ago in the south, and while I obviously don't agree with that moniker, I bring it up to illustrate how different Vick is from even the most common dogfighter. There were rules and ethics that demonstrated, oddly enough, the dogfighter's love for their dogs. If a dog "turned" (faced away from the opponent) twice, the match was over and the dogs weren't harmed any further. Medical supplies were on hand to dress wounds instead of killing a dog for underperforming, and the towel would be thrown in when a dog was obviously beaten and and in jeopardy of bleeding out, even though it wasn't giving up. There are even old stories of dogs going home in the baby carriage after a battle because of the affection for their dog as a family member. Now this sounds as strange to me as it probably does to you, so I just don't even try to understand it.

For those who are still not aware, Michael Vick on the other hand is the guy who not only fought dogs, but threw family pets into the pit for fun, and laughed while they were suffering "major injury." He's the guy who killed dogs in a variety of ways - one last time: hanging, drowning, shooting, repeatedly slamming their head and spine into the ground until dead, and electrocuting with jumper cables attached to their ears before being thrown into his pool. So no, not even a regular kind of dog-fighter, but an over-the-top, especially sadistic kind of man.

The 60 minutes interview did not show a man healed, it showed a man that could still not face his own demons, much as he tried to make it appear that he had. All but once he referred to the dogs as animals, because hey, they're just animals right?

Several times he spoke of what he let happen to the animals ... because these thing just happened and hey, shit happens right? And in reference to losing his money, the one and only time he finally referred to killin,' and dogs as dogs, (due to Jim Brown's prodding) he spoke in the third person: "Why would a guy making thirty million and then on the flip side killin' dogs or doin' the wrong things...they don't deserve it." They.

Now, according to Wayne Pacelle of HSUS, Michael Vick is The Man Who Needs No Introduction when it comes time for him to speak to youth about the evils of dogfighting. Apparently the kids in Chicago were on the edge of their seats while watching their hero. Now was that because they were so excited about learning to not fight their animals, or because of Vick's celebrity status? These are kids from the ghetto who have literally nothing to lose who learned that Vick, the dogfighter, who had everything to lose and seemingly lost it all, is now once again a millionaire who's back in the game.

Just what have these kids learned?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rub my belly and I'll grant your wish

This pretty girl's wish was just granted. Now named 'Minnow,' she scored a safe haven with rescue group A Rotta Love in Minnesota. She's extry special because she's from the group of 'MO bust dogs' that were rounded up in the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma was more than happy to work with rescue to save the victims of cruelty from this raid - a big sign of progress made!

Minnow has a compelling story that we'll be able to detail shortly. Thanks to many helpers, in a few days all but two of the dogs from that Okie grouping will be out of the shelter and with adopters, foster homes or in compassion holds. Fabulous! (The remaining two dogs were euthanized at the shelter due to animal intolerance issues.)

The Rotta Love gals could use some love themselves for this rescue and rescues coming up. You see, the agencies that orchestrated the MO dog fighting bust are not providing $$ help for the dogs, so rescuers are eating all costs, including pricey transport and any upcoming vet bills. (And no, we are not getting paid to evaluate or coordinate rescue efforts. Bleh.)

Not one to be deterred by obstacles, VP Lara Peterson made the long 22 hour round trip drive from MN by herself to pick this girl up and bring her home. It's a sacrifice we all make in the name of making sure pit bulls are given a seat on the bus as promised ... Necessary, but not easy. And such a big contrast at a time when millions are being tossed at Vick for his new role as reformed gladiator hero.

If you have a few extra bucks this week, please send them to A Rotta Love to help reimburse the high cost of saving lives. They certainly deserve it after going the distance to help a lowly fight bust dog in Oklahoma.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woe is Philly

Something has been going seriously wrong for animals and their advocates in Philadelphia, PA. Since Vick's jail sentence was announced in December 2007, over two dozen crimes committed against companion animals were reported in this city. (Source: Some say the trend of animal abuse is on the rise. George Bengal, the Philly SPCA director of law enforcement, was quoted to say, “I've been doing this job for 18 years and I’ve never seen the amount of starved to death dogs or fighting dogs that have been killed in various locations around the city.”

The abuses go above and beyond staged dog fights. Young people in Philadelphia have been staging very purposeful acts of violent torture.

Last September, "a horrified neighbor called the Pennsylvania SPCA after witnessing four teenagers walk a young pit bull to the commuter rail tracks near Front Street and Tabor Road. The teens wrapped a towel around the dog, doused it with lighter fluid, and then set it ablaze." The dog was charred and smoldering when officers arrived at the scene. Back in January, "the battered body of a dead pit bull, stoned with chunks of concrete and bricks, was found hanging from a railing at an abandoned school." Source I could go on with the long list of gruesome reports, but you get the picture.

The City of Brotherly Love is certainly facing some very real challenges with seeing that love distributed to its four-legged brothers, pit bulls especially. And now they have one of the world's most infamous torturers prepped to sign autographs for young people who will, undoubtedly, look up to him as their gladiator hero.

What a shame that they don't have one of the good guys from the NFL who have proven their commitment to compassion. Like former Raider Jarrod Cooper (below), a volunteer at Oakland Animal Services whose concern for animals needs no scripting from media savvy PR coaches. After all, as author Kitty Kelly has said, "A hero is someone we can admire without apology."

My heart sank for Philly when I heard the news of Vick signing with the Eagles. My first thought was for of all the people on the ground who work day in and day out there to sort through this terrible trend - and for the pit bulls especially, who suffer a disproportionate amount of the abuse. I can only imagine some animal workers may be so utterly discouraged that they throw their hands in the air and leave the city that has decided to embrace a man who laughed - laughed - while dogs were crying out in pain.

(Question: Does laughing during torture count as a "mistake?")

I don't know what we can possible say to console you, Philly animal defenders, but please know that we're thinking of you today and the terribly difficult situation you're facing in your town.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oklahoma Music

We're still trying hard not to think about - you know - "that" person, and we've been so caught in the details of the bust dogs in the midwest that it's been a strangely effective distraction. But this op-ed from WaPost writer Richard Cohen needs to be called out. It's a crystal clear piece that capsulizes what thinkers everywhere have been saying....

A League of His Own "Being able to throw a football is a good way to quickly get past a heinous crime." - Richard Cohen

But, back to our favorite distraction: The good news that comes out of the bad...

This buggy eyed little darling is getting ready to go live in New Orleans and become a part of Sula Foundation's adoption program. She survived a dog fighter in Oklahoma just in time to enjoy a new way of thinking that supports the rescue of evaluated victims of cruelty. We'll have more details and happy dog photos in a few days as this batch of "MO bust dogs" goes home. We have a lot of people to thank once this Oklahoma shelter says good-bye to its last dog from the big HSMO-lead dog fighting raid.

Not-dead-yet Nelly!

We're sorry Tim scared everyone by mentioning that Nelly is in heaven with Aberfoil in the comment section! That boy's brain cells have been smoking and I think he needs a couple of days off. To confirm that Nelly's in the heaven-on-earth style of heaven, here's a little slideshow where she makes a couple of guest appearances, compliments of foster mom Sara Scott. Sara reports that she and Aberfoil are such junkies for each other that when play time over, they paw and coo at each other through their crates. Aberfoil has a strong suitor right now so Miss Nell may be saying good-bye to her best boy soon. Sob!

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's the Little Things

Among the many hats I wear while serving the pit bull Dog is that of treasurer (or "CFO" when I want to make myself really feel important). Secretary Suz mails me the checks that have been so generously donated every month. I add them up, fill out my deposit slip, make copies to send to Linda (our CGC trainer who keeps offering to help out everywhere - how can we say no?), and then take them to the bank to help pay for another month's worth of expenses.

I skipped the part about taking the checks out of the envelopes and reading the many handwritten notes that accompany them. Now don't get me wrong, it feels great when those two or three or four or five hundred dollar checks arrive, and even startling when we get in the rare several thousand dollar matching grant check like we did recently from Petal Berkey. But then there is the stack of eight checks averaging about $20 - the ones with the notes that say they wish they could help out more. I imagine the young person working the low wage job who just wants to help make sure her dog has a strong advocate in this crazy era of breed bans. The handwriting sometimes gives clue that it is an elderly person who is donating their scarce resources as a way of protecting their dog's kind. Or the check is from the person who lost their job a while back, but wanted to honor their recently passed pit bull terrier.

Those little checks are the ones that get me, you know, right in the throat. My eyes start blinking a lot for some reason and then I have to get up and get a drink of water. The pit bull seems to belong to everyone now, but I am reminded that the APBT has always been the common person's dog, just like his predecessor the Staffy Bull in England - common perhaps, but like our dogs, never richer in heart. - Tim

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Petal's Challenge - "Build my kinfolk a barn"

If you're familiar with our blog, you may remember our writing of the lovely Petal, the pit bull from Animal Farm Foundation who saw fit to burrow herself into a lifetime of hearts. By doing so, she helped change the direction of this nation’s feelings and understanding about our beloved breed. Petal passed last December, but she's still working her magic...

...Through AFF, she found a way to shine her sparkle on our Barn Raising Project in the form of a matching gift donation. Petal was never one to do things small, and now she's challenging everyone to meet her match of ten smackers. Yep - that's right - $10,000! Woof!

We're thrilled beyond words to have this great opportunity to raise this amount for the barn. Thank you Petal!

If you knew Petal or if you've been inspired by her work, please consider sharing news of this challenge with people in your circles. Once we've raised 10K, Petal's gift will arrive. Exciting! One step at a time, we'll get this barn built so we can be a better help to the dogs that need us.

Disaster Relief, Part II

Another batch of victims caught up in the Missouri-based dog fighting bust is ready to be released to rescue. Tim met up with Ken Foster of Sula Foundation in a hundred degree heat last week to begin the work of evaluating the cruelty victims in one small midwestern shelter.

Details coming soon! We can't discuss yet, but for now we want everyone to know that a large number of dogs are presenting as strong candidates for adoption programs -- No surprise, right? Our phones and mail boxes are cookin' as we hammer out arrangements with rescue partners in different parts of the country. This is certainly an all-hands-on-deck kind of effort, and we're very grateful to the orgs that are working so hard to make room for one or more dogs. It's not an easy thing to do when our own local shelters are already crowded with needy pit bulls.

Tim's new friend in the photo is just one of many that are depending on us - I mean, all of us - for their chance to shine. If you have room NOW, please let us know so we can include you in the current rescue efforts already underway. In a few weeks, the Humane Society Missouri is expected to announce when the 400+ dogs in their care will be ready for release. Lots of work to be done!- HSMO

Questions? Let us know - We'll do our best.

Home Fires Burning - Oakland's Tulip

This little lady helped remind us why we need to keep one eye on the dogs at home while we burn the other side of the candlestick for the out-of-state cruelty victims. Tulip came into the Oakland Animal Services with an unusual swelling in her thigh. Vets looked for a foxtail during surgery, but weren't able to find one. She went into foster care last week for observation and is doing well, despite her mystery ailment. We're grateful to Catherine, Brett, Carol, Larry and Linda, who all rallied to make sure this darling wasn't lost.

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fostering. First, the basics.

One of the most important ingredients to a successful foster experience is your partnership with the group that you work with. These are the people who will - ideally - support you during the weeks and months that you have your dog. You should never feel alone with this big project, so make sure the group you hope to help has a good track record with solid adoptions and that they take matching foster dogs to foster homes as seriously as they take creating those final adoptions. Using drama and desperation to find homes shows up in some rescue circles, but it's not a sustainable way to do business. Avoid drama junkies.

It's a good idea to look over a group's foster home contract in advance to make sure you like what you see. Will they help you with obedience training? Vet care? Your family vacations? How will they problem solve and promote?

In return for being a good support system for you, your group will want to know that you're willing to follow their guidelines and instructions and that you'll be good about communicating questions and concerns that will undoubtedly come up along the way. No question is stupid - really. Ask, ask, ask.

An experienced group will want to get to know you, your lifestyle and your skill level before giving you a dog to foster. They'll want to see if your personal dog has good manners and if he's comfortable with sharing his home. (Your dog doesn't have to be friends with your foster dog - but he should tolerate its presence. More on that later.) They'll also want to make sure that everyone in your household is okay with the project and willing to participate in some way, especially, with double-checking those doors and gates, and reinforcing the new house manners you'll be teaching the dog.

These are some beginning need-to-knows offered to us by BR trainer Linda Chwistek. Linda is usually repping 1-3 dogs for BR. That means she's over-seeing the details of 'her' dogs' progress and making herself available to the foster homes as questions come up. Anyone who fosters with Linda learns a ton about dog training - lucky them.

  • The dogs coming from shelters often smell bad and have fleas. You aren't getting a shiny coated, well mannered, clean house pet. You will be proud when you make him one.·
  • Fostering can be long term so be ready to make a commitment. It's fun, it’s rewarding, but it can take time to find the right match for your foster.
  • Know you own pets and their needs. If your personal dog is 15 and wobbly, let us know so we can match up a dog that will be suited to yours.
  • Just because your dog doesn't chase cats doesn't mean a foster won't initially think that’s a fun game. Let us know if you have a cat, make sure your foster has been cat tested, and follow introduction instructions (We'll get back to those -- promise)
  • The dogs coming from shelters often have kennel cough. And sometimes they get sicker before they get better. It'll go away, but come up with a plan to keep the KC germs away from your personal dogs until your foster is well.
  • Fosters might develop a behavior you find odd or interesting. You may find tail chasing cute, but it can be an obsessive behavior that has to be handled. Always bring up any new or odd behaviors. They could signal health issues or a behavior that needs to be addressed with training.
  • Let you neighbors know you have a foster and if possible, have them see/meet him. If he inadvertently gets out, they may recognize him.

    More later!
    Above: Christine Allen and her son Sam. This family fostered Vick dog 'Teddles' until he found his home. Photos: Carol Guzy, Washington Post.
  • Monday, August 03, 2009

    purple toys make the world go round

    Missouri's recently rescued boy Edison sends a thank you to these generous barn raisers:

    Lynda DeRosa, Sarah Jordan, Felicia Figlewicz, Kari Crema, Esther Shir, Letti de Little, Julie Cook, Pat Allgood, Andrea Ives, Posh Paws Pet Care (!), Melinda Richards, Pit Bull Miller family, Kristen Taylor and Greg Morrow.

    Thank you!

    Eddie's been settling into a foster home full of happy dogs. They've been a good influence on him. Now that he's caught up on his rest, he's ready for obedience training and more practice with learning how to play.

    So far, his favorite topic in foster dog school: Purple stuffies.

    Sunday, August 02, 2009

    The fearless hearts of foster homes

    We're getting ready to run a series of articles with fostering faqs for people who may be curious about what it takes to help a homeless pit bull find her place in the sun. It will offer tips and how-tos and hopefully promote some good discussion and maybe even inspire some to take the plunge.

    As different as they may look on the outside, foster homes seem to be their own breed of people. One of the common traits they share is their willingness to plunge into new adventures with blind faith and a strong sense of optimism. While working with an established group takes away most of the guesswork about temperament, saying 'Yes' to a foster dogs brings a series of unknowns to your life. How long will the dog be with you? (it could be weeks, months or in some cases - years) How will you handle starting from scratch with an untrained dog's kindergarten basics? What kinds of surprises and lessons will the project bring? How will you weather the days, and we all have them aplenty, when you're tired and you just don't want the responsibility anymore?

    I've never done a marathon before (ack!) but I imagine that the emotions are similar, including the initial adrenalin rush and, later, the exhaustion and finally, the sheer delight of stretching yourself towards a fantastic goal that goes beyond what you ever thought you could accomplish. That, and convincing your friends and family that, No, you aren't crazy and could they please support you, thankyuverymuch?

    There is no better example of fearless foster homes than the people in our circles who do compassion holds. We ask them to take on a very sick or somewhat troubled dog that, most likely, will not have a happy ending. And we ask them to provide a temporary life and full-time love for that animal. See that chopping block over there? Put your heart on it, please.

    Kerry, left, opened herself up in April to a little old lady dog (Gemma) who was too creaky for a shelter adoption program. Her job was to provide some TLC so Gemma could die happy rather than alone - which could happen in a week or three or maybe more, depending on Kerry's timetable and the dog's health and comfort. Well, in this situation, the creaky girl rallied so well and fit so nicely into her dog pack that Kerry decided to keep her. Which makes for a great happy ending. But the fact is, Kerry was willing to take that little girl on no matter her health issues and even if she didn't* fit into her household for keeps. And that's the fearlessness that blows me away. "Whatever happens, I'm here for you. Whether it's to keep you, or transition you to a new home, or whisper in your ear as you pass over to your next journey. Whatever it takes."

    The nuts and bolts of fostering (crating, training, juggling pets, etc.) are child's play compared to the work-out you get learning to be flexible, brave and relentlessly committed to helping your foster dog over the finish line. If you have a stubborn streak and a can-do attitude that you want to put to good use, fostering might just be for you. Check back soon to read up on some favorite BR foster homes' favorite lessons earned while putting their hearts on the line.


    Meet: Ella - a damsel in distress

    In a crazy coincidence, this creaky little old lady came into the Oakland Animal Shelter the same week Kerry announced her plans to adopt Gemma. She wandered onto the grounds of a roofing company and was aided by a couple who went to the trouble to take her to a vet and buy her a pink collar.

    Unfortunately her former home has not come looking for her (How in the hell do you lose a precious old dog?).

    She's unassuming and gentle and forgiving and very, very hungry -- and Yes, she's in need of a compassion hold or better. Here we go again: another project with another unknown ending begins.

    If anyone reading would be interested in providing a safe haven for Ella, please let us know!