Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seattle bound, and announcing a Photo Book!

I'll be speaking about Shelter Strategies for Pit Bulls at the Pacific Northwest Animal Care & Control Conference this coming Friday and Saturday. If you live in the area and are curious about better ways to help pit bulls, please set part of your Saturday aside to be there. Sat's session is open to rescue groups and wanna-be rescuers. This is my first-ever time to Seattle, and I'm dying to know, will I get to see a wild orca? (Please, please, please)

Announcing, a Photo Book! We've been so inspired by the beautiful photos and stories that have been pouring in to the photo contest that we've decided to run a group of 'judge's picks' in a book, entitled - what else - My Dog is Family. With some luck, it will be completed in time for the holidays. The contest runs for another two weeks, so please vote for your favorites. And if you still have photos that you want to share - submit! They just may find their way into this new project. Above: Sasha Bean is loved by Lisa Hagell and her family in Lloydminster, Alberta. Lisa says she is the "best friend to our 2 year old daughter. Our family would be incomplete without Sasha Bean." Bless you girls!

Friday, September 25, 2009

a video blog from Tim

I heard Tim chattering away in his shop today and wondered about the long conversation he was having with the foster dogs. What were they talking about? Turns out he was video-blogging. My resourceful guy. Here he talks about the barn raising and why he's looking forward to having a place for the dogs to wrestle besides under his feet while he carves (And YES, that's a sneak-video-peek of new arrival Daisy May!)

BARN PROGRESS: We are currently $4900 away from the big 10K matching gift challenge that Tana Madrigal made the first of September. Not bad! We have these barn raisers to thank for getting us this far: Sara Hughes, Nafija Mujic, Sharon Logan-Smith, Lindsey Wetterhahn, Virginia Kelly, Elizabeth Richards, Darlene Kenney, Will Stearman, Michelle Harrington, Sandra Barker, Kristin Tassin, Lisa Wolverton, Laurie Metzger, Jackie Tracy, Tammy Chang, Lindsey Morris & Bryan Klavitte, John F. Hill, Altria (Matching gift for Jennifer Al Mo) and Salvito - who sent us Euro dollars (!) - in memory of Lulu, from her sister Stormy. Thank you big hearts! We're so very grateful for your help.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Celebrating life, Ritualizing death

This has been a weird summer of celebrating and grieving. The dogs from the Missouri centered dog fight bust have been front and center of our activities and brain space and, while many of the released dogs are doing well, others that have come with difficult medical or behavior issues have not had the happy endings we all like to celebrate. We're big on doing compassion holds for these dogs, one at a time. Our volunteer crew has been especially giving with their hearts this summer and while we keep these dramas on the down-low, behind the scenes we've been working hard to maintain our optimism and after having good cries from the belly, moving on to the next dog or group of dogs that need us. I don't want to use this entry as a macabre list of dogs that have died (although we will talk about certain special darlings at some point) but I wanted to start to prepare pit bulls lovers for the inevitable .. Through no fault of their own, a LOT of victims of cruelty from the big raid are going to die this summer/fall. We promise to do everything we can to bring dignity to the dogs whose deaths we're able to be a part of.

None have done that better than Molly Gibbs, who was taking care of Daisy for us (above) at the same time that she was letting go of two special darlings from the Oklahoma centered bust dogs of Claremore Animal Shelter. She wrote an essay on what it was like to put two bust dogs to death. It's worth reading - slowly - when you're in the right frame of mind.
The taking of life is something not to be borne lightly or without reflection on a heartfelt level. This is something I learned from my Grandfather, who had been a field surgeon during WWI. He said besides performing triage and surgeries, he had to help those who would not live die with as much comfort and dignity as possible. Today such conversations with a young child would probably be frowned upon ... continued.

In the meantime, we are celebrating Miss Daisy, who somehow defied the odds by getting a foster spot. She landed in SF last night and waltzed off the plane like a seasoned war veteran who can't wait to get back to the living. We cling to her good news because she's such a reminder of the old soul perseverance of the breed during trying times. We have a lot to learn from Daisy. And how much does this little dog look like (another) gargoyle? We seem to be blessed with gargoyle girlies in our corners this year. Go figure.

Welcome to California livin' Miss Daisy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

See this

I sure needed me some Mavis this morning. We came back from the midwest with a THUD and have been having a bit of a time climbing out of the jet-laggin' hole and back into business as usual. But Mavis - Photo Contest Diva from Madison WI - She put it all back into perspective with her photo and owner's words. Thank you, darlin'!

Mavis's person Alyssa Sean wrote: "Mavis's best trait is putting up with me." I'm sure she sees right thru to your heart Alyssa.

Inspired in Philly - Hat tips to Ken Foster for pointing out this very impressive 'Save A Bull' effort created by Philadelphia group PAWS to help the pit bulls in their city. In their words:
Our Mission is to reshape misperceptions regarding pit bulls in the City of Philadelphia, educate the public about what wonderful pets, family members, and companions pit bulls can be, serve as a source of information and referrals for pit bull owners, and ultimately reduce the number of pit bulls that are killed in shelters by promoting foster care, adoption, and responsible ownership.

Well done, PAWS. We look forward to seeing this website grow. And we love that you're recommending trainer Carol Siegrist among others for help with pit bulls. Carol spent a week with us at Pit Ed Camp and we give her two high paws up for her clear vision and big heart for the dogs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

223 cyber stars, and counting

We hope everyone is enjoying the daily arrivals of the My Dog is Family calendar photo contest as much as we are. Some have suggested that we find an additional way to get the contest entries in front of public eyes. Thanks guys - Great idea. We're spinning some thoughts around and will see what we can come up with. Hopefully we can find a fun way to show off a bigger number of these heartwarming pix, outside of our 2010 calendar.

If you've submitted an entry, don't forget to promote it around the Net using the handy-dandy share feature located just beneath the Log In button of your photo page. You can launch your favorite entries anywhere you're hooked up (facebook, twitter, etc) via this tool. ---->

Some recent entries that have us smiling:

Eloise of New York is owned by Bara Sapir. Bara says that, "Eloise closes my laptop computer if she thinks I've worked too much." Smart doggy. I sure could use a helper like that.

Lolabean Starlett's photo makes us want the small fluffy as much as we want to squeeze Miss Bean. Lucky Alissa of Medford, NY.

Ollie and his beautiful friend know exactly what family means. Submitted by Rana Pawlowski (Paw-lowski, really? love it) of Tullahoma, TN.

Visit, Vote, Enjoy. BR Photo Contest

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mother Nature says, "NOW" - The barn must begin.

Mom Nature gave us a nudge yesterday. Just as our contractor stopped by to discuss those final details on the barn's design, she dumped a good rain on us as a reminder that we just better get a move-on with this project. Point taken!

So tomorrow is the day - the Big Day - when the ground is opened in preparation for next steps. We love our contractor, John Hearney. He chopped his price for us and he doesn't seem to pull his hair out - publicly, anyway - when we tell him we have (yet another) leetle change in the plans: The bathroom just got smaller, and the area where the dogs will sleep just got a little bigger, along with the real life area. The 'real life area' is where our crew will gather round for movie night with the dogs. We figure any respectable housing for homeless pit bulls better have a good set-up for movie night. The breeze-way porch will face the sunrise for early morning doggy yoga stretches. And a dog door off of the larger kennel will open to a small fenced in area inside of the larger half acre play yard. I hope the dogs like it. Left: Inspector Sally is fine-combing our lay-out for the barn.

As luck would have it, we're leaving town and will be in a midwest location with bust dogs tomorrow while the crew is breaking ground for the barn. When we get back, we're told the poles to this traditional style pole barn will be planted in the earth, pointing towards the sky and waiting for the next step ... Dog willing.

We're six thousand dollars away from earning the big 10K matching gift from Tana. These good folks helped us get this far:Luisa Serrano, James Schier, Suzanne Vice, California Latin Dreams, Paisley Rosengren and Susan George all showed up to this virtual barn raising with their gifts sent via PayPal. Edward Ramey, Sophie's adopter held a big music get-together to fundraise for the barn which brought in a big chunk of change, too. Thank you, friends!

Say Cheese

The My Dog is Family Photo Contest has been gathering some of the most charming pit bull pix we've seen, including this one of Louie from Delaware - owned by Gina Fries.

It's starting to feel like a poker game, with lots of players holding their (purchased) votes close for now. Hmm. We predict a wild and crazy scramble once we get closer to the contest deadline of October 15. It should be interesting!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

That's what I'm saying ... !

Claremore Animal Shelter makes the news
It was great to see Oklahoma's Jennifer Cummings in the news for her part in helping the bust dogs. And in the Washington Post, no less. Congrats Jennifer .. And thank you again for your good deeds. WA Post Article + Photo

On the left is the same cute doggy shown with Jennifer in the Post. We all anxiously await her arrival in CA. Thanks to Molly Gibbs for the great photo.

For every dog that we take from out-of-state, we try our best to rescue a local dog. Below is Turner, who just joined us to today from the kennels of Oakland Animal Services. Ambassadog volunteer Inga Sheffield found him tied to a warehouse fence, forlorn and forgotten. We look forward to seeing him get his bearings and attract a new home. Someone's going to love this handsome monkey.

In other news from home: The beautiful Tulip is healing from a second exploratory surgery to find the source of a weeping wound. The culprit? A foxtail .. deep, deep, deep within the muscle. Lolo finished her first week in her new home. Bemis left the shelter and went to a new home today. And Aberfoil and little TugTug both have very promising suitors. A good week for Oakland pit bulls.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Using bad news to do something really radical ... Educate

An article in today's Salinas Californian is a great example of how the media and animal control can use a bad dog experience to educate the public rather than hype up hate and alienate dog owners....

The bad news is a fourteen year old boy was left in charge of his family's strong pit bull, who pulled him straight towards three leashed and barking chihuahuas during a walk. One chi was bit on the leg and the chi's owner's suffered bites breaking up the ruckus. You can just imagine how some most media outlets would spin this story.

Instead, the paper chose to highlight dog owner responsibility in its headline and the story was aimed and reminding dog owners to keep control of their pets and to get formal obedience training if they aren't able to manage them. No beat up the breed, no screaming that fourteen year olds should not be allowed to walk dogs.

Officials gave very reasonable responses and pointed out that parents need to use common sense when deciding if their young teens can be responsible with walking dogs. To cap it off, the article used former Vick dog Red as an example of a well behaved dog who now helps other dogs. Above: Amanda Mouisset of the Monterey County SPCA with Red, a former Vick dog who helps the shelter socialize dogs,
Gary Tiscornia, executive director of Monterey County's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said a good way to gauge control of a dog is through formal training. At the SPCA, for instance, a pit bull named Red who was formerly owned by NFL player Michael Vick now helps train other dogs with aggression and behavioral issues. Red is also used to test other dogs' aggressiveness. "Pit bulls tend to get more press because of reputation," Tiscornia said, "[but] a great, stable pit bull is a fabulous pet." - ARTICLE
Thank you for taking the lead in educating, Monterey County SPCA. You guys get a two paw salute for the day.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The life and times of Rosie - In memorial

I opened an email headlined
Rose Caldwell 2001-2009 early this morning and was confused for a few minutes. Who died?

My bleary brain started working as I read on. Rose - our little Rose. She was one of our all time favorite dogs. She lived with us for the good part of a summer while recovering from a rough beginning. Her adopter attached BR's Happy Ending bio for Rose to this sad note as part of her eulogy:

Miss Rose
'This beautiful creature achieved a sad form of celebrity status when she was removed from 3 Oakland youths who later pled guilty to setting another pit bull puppy (Theo) on fire. True to their brave and hardy breed, neither the hairless (mange infected) Rose nor the severely burned Theo showed any lasting ill effects from their crappy beginnings. Like a Little Elfin Queen, Rose kept her impish personality and tomboy confidence, and never failed to offer cheerful greetings to an adoring public wherever she went -even (and especially) children. She embodies so many qualities that are classic pit bull that having her around made us fall in love with the breed all over again. Rose is a VERY smart, responsive little dog ever eager to show the world how incredibly vivacious her pit bull kin folk can be. She was adopted by an active SF couple and their pit mix male. She gets to jog with her athletic 'daddy' and anxiously awaits her opportunity to play Nanny's Helper to the couple's soon-to-be-arriving first child. Congrats to everyone in this busy, loving family.'

Attached to the email was over a dozen photos outlining Rose's life with her adopters: Camping adventures, a pregnant belly being inspected by a gentle Rose, heaped on the sofa with a new baby, a car ride next to a toddler, dress up parties, endless cuddling sessions by an affectionate family. My eyes burned with tears. This former cruelty victim's new life had been meticulously recorded as she participated in every important family event. She was family, no doubt, and will always be a part of the Caldwell's memories. We couldn't ask for a happier ending to the story of Rose.

From her human mom:
Dear Friends

I just wanted to let you know that our beloved Rosie was put to rest this morning around 8:30 am. Rosie was recently diagnosed with advanced cancer and a tumor in her abdomen which had likely spread to her lungs. Our family is very sad. Rosie was truly one of the best living creatures I have ever known. A wonderful family dog from beginning to end, Rosie endured countless "riding" and dress up by toddler girls. A wonderful companion and friend, she is terribly missed in our home.


Kristin, (Robert, Lola, and Skye Caldwell)

Our heart goes out to the Caldwell family for their painful loss.

Rest in peace little prick eared Rosie. You did such a good job here on earth.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Okie girl countdown and barn progress

We're looking forward to seeing this little munchkin (who needs a name) land in CA. She's still in Oklahoma, healing from her spay surgery and making up for lost time by schmoozing every human that her new friend Molly Gibbs introduces her to. She's practicing her craft here with Jennifer Cummings of Claremore Animal Shelter. And did we tell you she gave love-rubs to a cat while at the shelter? Have mercy.

There's a good chance we'll miss this girl's much anticipated arrival ... We're headed back to the midwest for more bust dog business and expect to be tied up for the good part of a week. This involves more gag orders, I'm sorry to say. But soon enough, we'll be able to outline how yet another state went about handling its bust dog victims.

BARN UPDATE: While we've been fussing with travel plans and having fun with the photo contest, people have been great about helping us chip away at Tana Madrigal's 10K matching gift challenge. We're currently $7,120.00 away from the big jump up the bar. To sweeten this effort, we've been offered a challenge within a challenge. Laurie, otherwise known as dogfostermom around the net, has offered to match any gifts up to 1K that come from readers of her blog called, "My Life as a Dog Foster Mom." Check it out. Laurie's got some crazy-fun photos and posts about life with foster dogs and, in between, she's always raising funds for other groups. Thanks for your big and busy heart, Laurie.

Our most recent barn raisers: Esther Shir, Barbara Mroz, Wilma Broekhuizen, Michelle Stewart, Ann Kolbeck, Ken Foster, Karel Bagwell, Carmen Velasquez, Kristin Herrera, Anne Graves, Martha Kennedy, David Brown, Andrea Ives, Lynn Greenberg, Lisa Warner, Melinda Richards, Kathleen Hanley, Robin Causbrook, Boris Artemyev, Mahsa Adami, Jonna Hensley, and Stuart Fisk. Thank you!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Your dog's face in our calendar

If you've ever been to BR's facebook page, you've probably given over part of your day to the amazing photos that people have been submitting of their pit bulls. I can spend hours in there Oooing and Ahhing.

We've been brainstorming ways to help more people see these gorgeous images. Lightbulb moment! Why not create a calendar that highlights the best of our online friends' pit bull photos? Online photo contests have been floating around the Net for awhile and they look like fun, so we signed up and are giddy with excitement about launching it out to the wide world of pit bull owners...

The theme - "My Dog is Family" - makes an important statement. People who are confused about pit bulls fail to understand that dogs (of any breed) that are kept indoors and treated as family companions are typically quite different from dogs used to guard or protect. The National Canine Research Council voices this distinction beautifully in their viewpoint piece on the difference between residents dogs and family dogs.

To help further this point, we'd love to use this contest to help circulate as many photos as possible of the dogs pit bull owners share their lives with. This contest allows the public to vote for their favorites ($1 a vote) which raises money for BAD RAP. The top twelve photos will earn a pet of the month placement in our 2010 My Dog is Family BR Calendar, and the photo with the most votes will grace the cover. We expect we'll be publishing some of the entries in other places, including our blog and website to help show others why pit bull owners are so deeply committed to their four-legged family members.
BAD RAP Photo Contest- Enter Here!

Thank you for showing off your best. The contest is now officially live and ready for your digital masterpieces...Let the fun begin!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bust dogs wag big thanks to Oklahoma

While we've been distracted by frustrations in Philadelphia, it's good to note that things have been going the right way for some pit bulls -- in Oklahoma, to be exact. A tiny shelter not too far from Tulsa just waved farewell to the last dog from the group of 12 that came from this summer's big bad ass dog fighting raid - reported to be the "largest dog fighting raid in history." It was a happy good-bye -- every adoptable dog made it out to adopters or to rescue.

The folks at Claremore Animal Shelter raised their hands to house the dogs from this federal case when they could have said 'No' - They were under no obligation and lord knows these cases can freeze up badly needed kennel space for months on end. But after some deliberation between themselves, the staff decided they couldn't turn their back on the dogs. Did you get that? - they wanted to make sure the dogs got the help they needed. The part that gets us is that this shelter is so sadly under-resourced that a staffer wept when the HSUS donated some dog crates from the raid. I hope I'm not embarrassing said person - but gosh - it's big news around here when a small country shelter with no website, much less a donation button, scrapes together to help a lowly batch of fight bust victims. Left: Shelter Supervisor Jennifer Cummings. Jenn rallied hard to help the dogs. Below: This lucky pup went to a local home.

So needless to say, this is the kind of agency that we jump to help when a rescue request comes in. We weren't alone - several individuals and rescues came together to help this particular batch of dogs. Ken Foster from Sula Foudation in New Orleans met our Tim Racer out in Oklahoma to lend a hand and select a dog for his program. A local rescuer offered help to two dogs, one with a pretty bad tumor. Lara from A Rotta Love Plus drove a jillion miles to help this little girl. Mighty Molly Gibbs (adopter of Alf the Vick dog) bent over backwards during a very busy time in her life to help two special females in particular. Setting up transport for these dogs while keeping their secret location off the message boards is a bitch, but many helpers chipped in and worked under the radar. (You want gossip? Just tell people that you can't give them details.) Ken lists out the crew of understanding transport angels on Sula's Blog. Watch this spot for more pix on the adorable Annie (pictured below).

In total, 8 of the 12 dogs were steady enough to find their way to new homes or to rescue programs. The four dogs that had medical or behavior issues received compassion holds either in a rescuer's home or after receiving some special attention at the shelter. It doesn't sound like a lot of dogs considering the hundreds still waiting, but remember -- this is small town Oklahoma, where beat up pit bulls never used to have a snowball's chance of surviving post-raid, so we seized the opportunity to organize these rescue efforts. The commitment shown by every person involved - including and especially HSUS reps Cynthia Armstrong and Adam Parascandola - is an indicator that we are exercising our muscles in a new age where compassion, collaboration, and correct-action can finally click into gear for pit bull victims of cruelty.

Above Right: This sporty girl is on her way to BR. Below: This local rescuer (name withheld to protect him from local bad guys) offered this lovely girl a compassion hold. Sadly, a large tumor in her belly was too advanced, so she was recently put to peace after a couple of weeks of love and comfort in his home.

But back to the shelter that did good: Oklahoma's example is important because it demonstrates how this kind of collaboration can work to help cruelty victims in other locales, and we really need their example right now. We're worried that not every shelter holding dogs from this bust is working in the best interest of the dogs. That's not surprising, given the many variables involved in housing bust dogs all around the midwest. No details to share now, but rescuers are watching the various shelters closely and comparing notes on how things are - or aren't - working. I will say that the cases being handled by the HSUS reps continue to go without a hitch, so kudos to them for being so active in helping the dogs get the second chance they deserve.

If this story touches you, please consider giving to one of the orgs that absorbed the dogs. Or better yet - send supplies (toys, kong balls, pet vitamins, leashes/collars) to this tiny shelter in the middle of cowboy country, along with a hardy thanks for their impressive generosity towards the dogs. They truly deserve to be remembered for their self-less commitment to these victims of cruelty. (I've just signed them up for kuranda bed donations, so check back soon for the new link that will go directly towards gifting a bed to the shelter.)

Claremore Animal Shelter
815 W. Ramm Rd.
Claremore, Oklahoma 74017

Stay tuned for news on this group of Oklahoma bust dogs, and updates on rescue progress in other states.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Barn News - A new matching gift challenge

The barn raising project has brought the added bonus of helping us realize just how many people care about the disenfranchised pit bulls of the world. It feels so good. Tim wrote earlier about the personal notes that cross his desk during his late night catch-up chores and the unexpected emotions that come up when connecting with people who care so deeply. We were taken aback recently by a note from a SF bay area gal named Tana Madrigal who's been watching us since the Vick dogs came home. She told us that she wanted to help the barn project and she offered us 10K if we could raise another 10K in matching funds. Wow. We knew there had to be a pit bull story behind that incredible generosity...

...It turns out that our kind benefactor grew up half a world away in the Philippines, surrounded by her family's pit bulls. Now her heart is in Los Angeles, where a little orphan named Blissy Lissy (above) is waiting to come home to meet Tana for the first time and become a part of her family. Lissy was found by two Best Friends members in an east LA shelter, covered with many lacerations. She is deaf - which tells us she's extra special. I love that this former street stray is getting a fresh start with someone she's never met, and at the same time, so are the dogs that will be finding safe haven in our barn. Thank you for following your heart, Tana. The dogs are blessed to have you on their side.

$1898 has already been raised towards this big matching gift challenge. If we can raise an additional $8012 (wow, that sounds like a lot), we can jump our bar up and over the $60K mark. Holy moly.

Tana's match has been jump started by these dog lovin' gifters: Kirsten Reed (thank you Kirsten!), Kathleen Pierce, Amy Willey, Will Stearman, Dixie Wells, Cendall Williams, LeeAnne Miller, Sara A Reusche, Sally Anastassiou, Nicole Steinbeck, Rosemarie Tarampi, Thomas C. Bethea III, Leigh Marion, Karin Adams, Soraya Nasirian, Vintage Grace and Stephanie Chang. Thank you to all!