Friday, December 31, 2010

news year's eve message a la video

wishing everyone a warm and wonderful 2011 with many happy endings for the dogs!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the Ins and Outs of language for 2011

“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.” - Benjamin Lee Whorf

Various catch phrases of every kind have been used over the years to shape how society views - and ultimately treats - pit bull type dogs. In the interest of evolving ourselves so our dogs can escape the generalizations, stereotypes, and myths that bring them harm, here are some outdated terms and ideas that need to be kicked to the curb. In the new year, we encourage better, cleaner language to help listeners gain a better understanding of the breed, and a more practical and compassionate view of dogs in general. Here's hoping that 2011 represents a period of fast growth and that even these new-and-improved terms will be replaced once again.

OUT - "Bully Breed"

What the hec IS a bully breed, anyway? We have no idea. This catch-all phrase has been used to stereotype more than help by causing some to apply over generalized traits and behaviors to several different breeds of dogs and breed mixes, including boxers, boston terriers, mastiffs. Aye! It gets so messy. Seriously, let's help the dogs and phase this term out.

IN - "Pit bull type dog"

We aren't terribly fond of this term either, but it matches 'our' dogs more than any we've found yet. Let's hope a new and better term emerges in the new year to describe dogs that appear to be pit bulls. With that in mind, remember that we've already learned from the scholars of the world that properly identifying breed type based on physical appearance alone is virtually impossible. Here's why.

OUT- Temperament test
IN - "BEVAL" (short for behavior evaluation)

We now know that you really can't see a dog's true temperament through any given 'test.' At best, we can get a snapshot of personality type by observing behaviors during assessments. On that note, the word 'temperament' has been dropped altogether in some circles and replaced with the more generous word, 'personality,' to reflect an animal's flexible nature, given his environment and handling.

OUT - "Fighting dog"
IN - Victim of cruelty

Needs no explanation. Lots of cruelty victims are ready to see the term 'fighting dog' go far, far away.

OUT - "Bait dog"
IN - Victim of cruelty

Like nails on a chalkboard, 'bait dog' is one of the most over-used and irresponsibly applied terms used to describe dogs with scars and unknown histories. Drop this one like a hot potato, please.

OUT - "Bred to fight"
IN - Born to be a companion animal

Since when are dogs born ready to be abused? Stop saying pit bulls were 'bred to fight,' or we'll have to cyber-smack you.

OUT- Mandatory spay/neuter.
IN - Dog owner support programs.

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) including mandatory spay/neuter laws are always out. Teach a man to fish and change the world. (For a less cryptic example of owner support, visit our webpage on outreach programs, and watch us power it up in 2011.)

OUT - "Trained to fight"
IN - Abused ... Victimized ... Encouraged to be anti-social.

Seriously. You don't need to train a dog to defend himself or to scrap with other dogs. You simply set him up to fail in several different ways. The Vick dogs taught us well; when dogs fight, people are always to blame.

OUT - "It's all about how they are raised."
IN - "It's all about how they are managed."

(Thank you Andie of Espanola Valley Humane, NM). Last we checked, dogs are still animals with behaviors that need to be managed by responsible owners no matter what kind of upbringing they have had. This definitely applies to all breeds, however some of the most abused and mistreated pit bulls out there are leading the way with reminding us all that dogs are a reflection of their owners.

OUT - Using images of pit bulls you haven't actually helped to fundraise for your cause.
IN - Actually helping pit bulls.

OUT, OUT, OUT - Celebrity dog abusers and their political allies.
IN - Compassionate, kick ass, boots on the ground advocates who work tirelessly to help the dogs.

OUT - "Pittie"
IN - Anything but pittie.

I have to admit that last one is a personal pet peeve (pit peeve?) and not necessarily a needs-to-go-away term, but if you must use it to describe your dog, recognize that it sounds like pity to some ears - aka pitiful. And our dogs are anything BUT pitiful. But I promise not to wince too hard if you use it in front of me, since clearly, it's a term of endearment - and what's sweeter than that?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Zoomies

Barn puppy Pepper, now re-named Elektra, is spending her very first holiday with her pack ... a group of huskies that make up the Hertel's family home and Idaho based rescue. The little pit mix has loved herself some huskies since "Uncle Elliot" took over the work of raising her and her litter this past summer. (Video) We love a good happy ending, and a happy holiday to boot.

Wishing many happy romps in winter weather to you and yours this season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

pack aggression & the media microscope

This isn't a happy blog post to write, but two recent incidents in our home towns demand attention.

Troubled dogs are in headlines after loose dogs attacked women in two separate incidents this month - in Marin County and just recently, in San Jose. Luckily, both incidents attracted good samaritans who intervened to stop the attacks, and each victim is home now and healing from their injuries.

The San Jose incident is still hot news (82 news stories and counting, including a nationally distributed piece in the AP), as one of the dogs is still missing. The captured dog appeared to be a very nervous and altogether unsocialized pit bull type dog in a KTVU television report. The body language of this animal helps piece together the 'whys' of frightening stories like this and moves us beyond the formula media hype and hand wringing over breed type.

Pack Aggression - where two or more dogs gang up and attack a victim - is not a breed specific behavior. While the National Canine Research Council reminds us that dog bites are on a steady decline in this country, dog attacks involving unsocialized packs of dogs still factor into many of the recorded incidents each year and they can include any breed type of dog. Even small dogs weighing less than 27 pounds have participated in packing together and harming people, according to a 1983 study "Attacks by Packs of Dogs Involving Predation On Human Beings," by Borchelt et al., published in the journal "Public Health Reports." It's not happy reading, but worth the understanding.

According to the Borchelt study, "The past history of the social interactions of dogs with people in a variety of circumstances is probably an adequate predictor of whether these dogs are inclined to bite someone." In other words, if dogs aren't socialized to people properly (ie, they're kept as resident dogs in garages or yards instead of as family pets) they're more inclined to revert to unruly and sometimes dangerous pack behavior when the situation presents itself.

After a horrible fatal attack involving a pack of dogs in GA last year, Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert in pack behavior, explained that when pack mentality takes over "they do insane things that they would not do" under normal circumstances. This news link shows two of the dogs involved in the GA incident. CNN

Meanwhile, the second bay area dog attack victim is safe and healing in Marin County after a good samaritan came to her aid. She and her dog both needed emergency care after two loose dogs tore up her jack russell terrier and bit up her face, arm and legs. The Novato Patch said that an "employee with the North Marin Water District is to thank for preventing worse injury or even death to the woman and dog."

The loose dogs in her situation were rounded up by authorities and are being held at the Marin Humane Society. You won't hear much about that incident outside of this singular news report, however. Why? The attacking dogs were identified as "chocolate labrador retrievers" so apparently didn't interest our local news cameras. And so it goes.

Hang tight all, as San Jose jaws at the topic of breed specific regulations again. They won't help reckless dog owners learn how to be more responsible, but they make for exciting headlines.

Friday, December 17, 2010

it feels good to laugh

We're all loving Anderson Cooper today for putting Michael Vick on his 'RidicuList' and coming up with the perfect solution to his hope for a new doggy ... the kackel dackel.

Dog bless you, silver fox.

In other news, we wanted to report that "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" sent a generous donation to BR for Christmas this year. Jay got into trouble when he set Chris Rock up for a really bad joke late last year, letting MV off the hook since "a pit bull ain't even a real dog." The world was as mad at Leno as they were at Rock. Rock even lost a role as Richard Pryor for pissing Pryor's widow off with that comment.

My mother-in-law Margaret phoned me last night to laugh about a new joke that aired on the Leno show last night. Apparently they put together some clips of dogs running for their lives after news anchor Brian Williams announced Vick's hope to get a new dog. (If anyone can find that clip, please share.)

It feels good to laugh. And even better that Leno's gift to BR will become our emergency vetcare fund for our dogs in 2011.

Never thought I'd say this, but "thank you Jay."

Hat tips to Samantha Laine for the kackel dackel news. LOL

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

file this one in your "Have you been SMOKING CRACK?!" category...

From the book "The Lost Dogs" written by Jim Gorant, the senior editor of Sports Illustrated.....

As that dog lay on the ground, fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its back legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn't kill it. So, Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground until, at last, the little red dog was dead.*

From today's Atlantic Journal Constitution.....

"I would love to get another dog in the future," Vick told a Website called theGrio in an article published Wednesday. "I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love, and my passion for animals."

Vick has critics who believe the ban (on owning a dog) should be permanent, but others say he can be a responsible pet owner.

"I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner," Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, told the AJC Wednesday.

* By the way, I gave away one of the very worst moments in the book "The Lost Dogs" with that paragraph. (Sorry, Jim) If you can get through that, you're ready to read the whole book. Here's our review and link to order.

The Lost Dogs was nominated by goodreads as one of the 15 most important non-fiction books of 2010. If you agree, head here to cast your VOTE.

The little red dog that is no more has a mighty roar.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miss Natty has left the building.

From our 2005 Happy Ending story of the most wonderful Madeline:

Lady Madeline was found running stray on an Oakland street. She could've easily been dropped here from another century: With old world looks and casual, devil-may-care confidence, she seems to embody decades worth of wisdom and street smarts.

Her finder grabbed her up and filed lost dog reports in hopes of finding her family. No luck. So she was spayed, vetted and kept safe until a spot could open up in our program.

We took one look at this girl's big intelligent eyes and knew we had just met a very special little bulldog. She didn't disappoint: Natty is a friend to all and even maintains her ladylike composure around pushy dogs, despite the peppering of old bite scars on her face that serve as a reminder of a colorful past.

Her back legs are weak and don’t always work right, but in true Natty fashion, she pushes on through and shoulders her body weight on her powerful and motivated front end. That seems to be her m.o. - "When the going gets rough, chin up and carry on." Such a bulldog!

Her perfect match showed up in a woman named Stella, who was hoping for a gal just like Natty. They enjoyed a sweet friendship full of fun adventures. For many weeks after her adoption, Stella sent letters outlining their newest discoveries and simple pleasures together.

Natty died last week, and the news sucked a bit of wind out of us. Thank you for blessing us all with your friendship, little Natty. Warm condolences to her grieving human, Stella Winslow.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

sign of the times

A recent email:

Hi there,
I had the sad task of surrendering my Pitt bull mix Prada Jane to the Pinole Animal Shelter. I recently lost my home to foreclosure. I advertised on Craisglist, Facebook, and friends and family but could not find a home for Prada Jane. I am now concerned that she will be assessed as unsuitable for adoption because when I brought her in, she was shaking with fear. It was heartbreaking to have to do this.

Prada is by far the sweetest dog ever. Even my friends who are not fans of dogs, find themselves falling in love with her.

Prada's profile: Black and White Pitt Bull mix (not sure of the mix), 2+ years old, 65 pounds, Spayed in 2009
Responds to commands "sit", "lay down", wipe your feet, (stops at the mat on her way into the house), "pillow" (she goes to her pillow)

Thanks in advance for your time.

.... Yes, she's in our barn tonight. Although our hearts are still breaking for both the dog and her human .....

Friday, November 26, 2010

foster dog bandwidth

Because you need more excuses to graze the Internet, in the tradition of the Vick Dog Blog, here are three new blogs from dogs that are currently in our program, written by their foster homes. These have been such a fun way for us to share the dogs' progress as well as remember how far they've come as the weeks tick by.
Robin - a recent intake from an Ohio case.

Chunk - also from the Ohio case.

Winnie - our new favorite diva, from Florida.

Two of our locally rescued dogs are about to get their own little spot on the Internet too, so stay tuned. Below, Robin exploring the brave new world of dog beds and stuffy toys.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

giving thanks

Counting our blessings today and appreciating the support, the inspiration, the army of helpers who help shoulder the load, the little miracles that come along just in time - and especially - the lessons learned from these impossibly generous creatures.

Have a safe and gentle holiday with you and yours.

Photo: Cruelty case survivor 'Chunk' asking me to slow down just a bit and sink in. Thank you Chunk.

Monday, November 22, 2010

schooling a former stud muffin - it takes a village (of dogs)!

When Chunk came to us from the crap-ass breeder in Ohio, we knew that he'd most likely been used as a stud dog for much of his life. He showed the classic behavior that's so common with puppy mill studs; one track mind with no idea how to relate to dogs outside of, well, you know. A neuter helped curb some of the reproductive drive, but he didn't have a clue as to how to play. Since most homes want dogs that can have one or more dog-friends, it's important to us to socialize our charges as much as possible while getting them ready for adoption. This is where having a group of well-socialized, known quantity dogs is such a life saver. Chunk needs to learn 1) not to hump and 2) how to play. And since he's a rather low-key, middle aged guy who's never done either, it will take very tolerant dogs to bring this out in him. We grabbed video clips of Chunk's progress during short, well supervised play sessions. Here are some of our favorites. With each clip, he learns something new from each dog.

First, Elliot. The loose-bodied malberian's been great for teaching Chunk that dogs are safe, but he's too young to teach him not to hump. That's fine. We wanted some of Chunk's first experiences with dogs to be happy, even if altogether frustrating.

Next, Sally. She takes great pride in correcting dogs that offend her, but without going overboard. We don't employ our senior as much as we used to to socialize dogs since she tends to throw herself into these sessions with so much gusto that she sometimes throws her back out (!) But she told us that she thought Chunk was uber sexy, and was game to teach him some new moves. Immediately, she gave Chunk a few VERY loud and scary corrections for trying to mount her (not shown).

Once he showed a little more respect, in classic Sally fashion, she invited him to play. Chunk's not quite sure what to think of Miss Sally now - which is fine. Being confused at this point is a good lesson for the former stud muffin. We want him to think rather than fall back into old patterns (FYI, We're giving Sally LOTS of praise in this clip because she hates the camera and tends to go on strike when it comes out.)

Below - finally - a decent play session with Lola. He's still trying to mount, but he's also starting to try out some new moves. A few more sessions with a variety of dogs including helpful teacher Lola, and new doors will open for this boy. For now, Chunk will also be getting verbal reminders from us when he falls back into humping, but the dogs are giving him the opportunity to learn and develop a real play style. What would we do without all these wonderful dogs to help us out?

One Caveat: Here's our "don't try this at home" disclaimer. Every dog - especially every under-socialized dog - is going to be wildly different in how much he can tolerate from new dogs. If you've never done new dog-intros, you're wise to mentor with someone who knows how to do them before tossing dogs that don't know each other together. It's not rocket science and it's really fairly easy to read dog body language, but experience is SO much kinder than blind experimentation. So be smart, k?

EDIT BELOW ...and finally, Chunk starts to play. Whew.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

welcome to bootcamp

I snapped this not-so-nice photo of a stressed little boy-dog when things were at their worst for him a few days ago. I want to remember this moment.

He didn't come from a cruelty case. He's a locally rescued dog who's still unwinding from several weeks of Good Intention Overload.

Let me tellya! His original rescuer didn't know it at the time, but by taking a drivey little never-had-nothing orphan and then lavishing heaps of freebies on him - free affection, free praise, free treats and snuggle time in her bed - she created the most insufferable BRAT.

Terrifically-Spoiled dog had lots of love on tap but no rules and not a leader in sight. His baby brain couldn't handle the freedom, the excitement, the non-stop vending machine of Life's biggest party. So, like a triple-latte-tanked teenager with a paw full of mom's credit cards, he (understandably) made all kinds of bad decisions, which got him ejected from one foster situation to another to another! All told, this dog was said to be in eight or nine different addresses in ten weeks time. Just imagine.

It seems his big eyes, tiny size and sad story inspired each new caretaker to repeat the same structureless spoiling, including pillow time in their bed at night .. "Pooooor weeedle misunderstood peeboo." ... Until he chased the cat or snarked at a dog or otherwise acted like a terrier gone awry. Then, good bye! Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. By the time we met him in Pit Ed class, his eyes were bugging out of his stressy head and he was homeless again. His final caretaker pleaded for help and then ducked beautifully while we cussed and grumbled. She even bought us lunch, and suckers that we are, we accepted both the dog and the bribe.

So here he is, in our program now, making us slightly nuts (well, much less nuts than HE was a few days ago).

We'll ride it out. There will be rules. There will be structure. You will not snark dogs, chase cats, bounce off my body or otherwise get what you think you deserve. We'll ignore you when you holler, beg, cajole, YODEL for attention, and if you persist - Yes, Little Stinker - we will zap you with the squirt bottle and walk away ... entirely unimpressed. Gasp.

We're cold as ice, baby.

You are no longer a six figure rock star bouncing from one terribly exciting situation to the next. You are just a cadet in our bootcamp. We don't care how cute you are - Your pleading eyes will not move us to feed your addiction to frenzy.

Life will be perfectly boring, and you'll be forced to rest, ponder, breathe - come back down to earth, already. When you get out for stretches and exercise, you'll have to work for everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. When you're ready to play with dogs again, you'll be grounded and sane - Not spastic and defensive (not surprising, spazz boy got into some scraps before he came to us). You'll look to your new leader(s) and we'll coo - very quietly so it doesn't excite you - "yes. good boy." But only when you do the good stuff.

And when we get to the other side of this, you will be truly adorable, and the world will wonder how such a fabulous dog ever ended up homeless.

Sigh. We'll fool everyone - I promise.

Wish us luck. Here's some good Nothing In Life is Free information in case your dog has had access to too many credit cards in your home. And our own personal 'bible' for teaching rules to a new dog.

UPDATE: 'Tater' survived bootcamp and gained some important manners while with our team. He flew off into the sunset to become the household pet of a working dog handler in VA. We're thrilled that he found such a loving home with someone who understands the little squirt. Yo TATER TOT! Below, at home with Ellen and Eric. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

tunnel vision

Winnie survived one of the most disturbing cruelty/neglect cases we've seen in our work. Having her here seems to have helped stop Tim's nightmares from his memories on the ground. We can't divulge details while a prosecutor builds the case, but can certainly say how great it is to have nothing but tunnel vision for Winnie's happiness now. Home boy Elliot is ever-helpful with the important work of keeping her well exercised and learning fun games .. this one being a favorite as you can tell. We're not sure how he folds himself into that tunnel for wrestle games, but it brings some of the biggest smiles of our day when he does. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

news from a compassion hold home

From Sara Woods, BR volunteer and big hearted foster home:

I wanted to share that Elphaba passed on few weeks ago. She was rescued from the shelter after being diagnosed with pancreatic tumors. I volunteered to foster her as a compassion hold. While I expected to provide her some peace and TLC for a few weeks, Elphaba made other plans. Some people may have known her as Toes but she came to me soon after I read Wicked. Elphaba was named for the heroine who popular culture also knows as the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba shares with her namesake an experience of being misunderstood and fated for a tragic end, but also a triumph of spirit and a tender soul. Elphaba was a wonderful and loving pet. We shared a home for a year and half, which surpassed all expectations and is reminder that with love and grace that unexpected miracles are possible.

Elphaba loved everything about life even if her health presented challenges. She taught me a lot about how to live. She loved to play like a puppy even though she was a senior. She enjoyed her daily activities with enthusiasm and never met a food she did not relish. She was mild and well mannered by nature with few vices, except squirrels. Squirrels really got her heart pumping. So now she is in doggie heaven free to chase squirrels and eat as much cheese as she likes. Rest in peace, my pretty.

I want to thank on behalf of myself and my beloved pet, Elphaba, all the people who heard her story and sent us such positive vibes. I truly believed those vibes strengthened her. In particular, thank you to respite providers - Sara, Jarrod, Peg, Claudia, Pat, and Bob. Thanks to Donna and Tim for choosing her, allowing her to be part of my family and for all the countless ways you provided support.

Sincerely, Sara Woods

We're so grateful to Sara for opening her heart to dog that wasn't slated to get that long term happy ending we all work for. It seems likely that Elfaba hung on much longer than anticipated because of Sara's care and companionship, and we're all the better for it.

Compassion Holds are a worthy way to give comfort to an old or sick dog that would normally be destroyed in crowded shelters - pit bulls especially. Unfortunately many busy shelters still see an old or ailing pit bull as an opportunity to open kennel space via euthanasia. We commend those that rebel against old-world shelter tradition and are willing to contact local resources for special case like these ... We know you're swimming upstream, especially in places where pit bull type dogs are plentiful.

If you work in a shelter and would like to learn more about developing a program for cases like Elfaba, or if you have candidate dogs that come up and want to know if BADRAP can help, or, find someone local who can, please contact us and post "Compassion Hold" in the headline of your email.

Thank you Sara, and thank you dear, sweet Elfaba.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Houston TX - Still in the dark ages

Click2 Houston offers this depressing news article on three Houston shelters' unforgivable stance on pit bull type dogs. "Should pit bulls live or die?"
Statement from Houston SPCA:
"The Houston SPCA does not adopt pit bulls."

Mission Statement: Our mission is to promote respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation.

Statement from Houston Humane Society:

"The Houston Humane Society does not adopt out pit bulls due to their dangerous nature and liability for the shelter ... While these animals may seem friendly, all too often they are ticking time bombs as they are extremely powerful, unpredictable and can cause serious damage and even death. Attacks by pit bulls frequently come without warning and the shelter would face serious liability if they adopted out a dog that subsequently attacked a person. In addition the shelter faces danger for even housing pit bulls as criminals involved in dogfighting rings often break into shelters to steal these dogs. Adoptive families may also be targeted as well." - Sherry Ferguson, Houston Humane Society Executive Director.

Mission Statement: The Houston Humane Society (HHS) is a non-profit animal shelter dedicated to eliminating cruelty, abuse, and the overpopulation of animals.

Harris County Animal Shelter

"In this line of work, it's very, very difficult to determine the good ones from the bad ones." - said Dr. Dawn Blackmar, Harris County's director of veterinary health. Blackmar is also a veterinarian and runs Harris County's animal shelter. She says so many pit bulls come into the shelter abused and mistreated, so there's no way to know their history. She says there's no way to know if the pit bulls were bred to fight or even what could trigger a violent attack.

One Houston shelter rises above. From the news piece, "BARC believes good pit bulls are making good pets for responsible owners. (Adopter and veterinarian) Susan Pickle says her new pet, Rosy, is proof pit bulls are not all bad. "I just don't think it's justified, and I think people need to give them a chance," said Pickle. "I think there are a lot of good dogs out there that are being killed, and that's all it is, killing them.""

Photo: A homeless dog that was lucky enough to avoid Houston Humane, Houston SPCA or Harris County Animal Shelter. She's now waiting for a home at BARC. Find her here.

Hat tips to facebook friend Bonnie Marugg for calling out this news piece.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

inside the barn

The little barn in the Oakland hills that you helped us build has been humming with activity, and every day we invent better ways use the space to benefit its guests. Right now, dogs from two different cruelty cases fill the kennels and our busiest hours of the day.

Our work involves sussing out new dogs and organizing dog socials and training sessions so we can confidently match them with the right foster home or adopter. Adoption candidate families find their way up here too, to study the dogs they might be adopting and watch them romp goofy like real dogs outside of the rules of Pit Ed class.

Never satisfied, of course we're already talking about ways to expand out one of the walls to include a washer/dryer and maybe-just-maybe one more kennel. Doggy doors to outdoor runs are on the drawing board, too.

We hosted our first big tour at the barn last week and it was a rousing success. You'll see photos from the tour in the slideshow. 2011 is the year we get back to doing Pit Ed Camps, so we're excited about that. We're also open to holding tours or little day camps for local schools and clubs, so if you have a desire, please let us know what you're thinking and we'll try to accommodate your lesson plans or field trip goals. The dogs would be so very pleased to see you.

Here's a little peek inside the walls:

LINK HERE for the full screen slideshow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Heroes among us - An award for a brave group in Ohio

Last winter, we learned about an incredible crew of people who make up the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County Ohio. There are shelter staff all over the country doing great things for animals. This group is extra special because they showed the world how to save dozens of pets including 162 dogs - most of them pit bull type dogs - after a horrible hoarding case in the midwest. The kicker was, AWL is sitting smak dab in the middle of BSL-hell in Ohio, where dogs that look like pit bulls are labeled "dangerous and vicious" based on nothing but appearance. So helping a large group of homeless pit bulls would be no small feat ... especially for a tiny org that operates on a shoestring budge in an antiquated facility.

AWL proved to everyone that doing the impossible is possible, and created safe housing for all the dogs, organized their vet care, evaluation and promotion, reached out to rescue groups around the country, and celebrated each dog who made his or her way to a new life. As a result of their resolve, they were selected for one of three awards presented by Partners in Shelter Services for outstanding efforts in 2010. Partners is a collaboration between BR and Animal Farm Foundation, and focuses on helping shelters get the information they need to build solid programs that support pit bull type dogs in their community. Each of the three award winning organizations will receive a monetary gift to help them advance their work with pit bulls.

One of the dogs they took in from the hoarding case was a boy they named Buck. Before he was Buck, he was known as Niko, and he lived with another dog and a man named Scot. Scot loved his dogs dearly but fell on hard times and was unable to care for them, so brought them to a place - called "Humane Sanctuary" - that many said was safe. He was no fool - even desperate animal control officers in Ohio have told us that they brought dogs to this place rather than have to put them to sleep in their own shelters. Desperate times. Unfortunately the sanctuary turned out to be a hell-hole for animals, as we reported back in March.

Top 3 Photos - Buck's intake photos on the day AWL rescued him.

Scot told us: "I took them there because it was the only no kill shelter that I found and there was no way I could care for them safely anymore. I still have both Sam, and Niko's bed, pillows, blankets, and a few of their toys. The Shelter said I should keep them because what they had there was fine and the bed would just get messed up. I love these two. They where my only friends."

When Scot learned that the sanctuary had been shut down by authorities for cruelty/neglect, he feared his dogs were dead or on their way to being dead. You can just imagine his relief when he read in the papers that every surviving animal had been rescued and was being re-homed by AWL. Who does that in Ohio? Scot followed their progress, found out that Buck had come to live in CA, then tracked us down so he could tell us Buck's story. He didn't want us to think that he was a bad dog owner for taking his dogs there or that he didn't care.

When we connected, Scot outlined the dogs' life story to us; their likes and dislikes and the training he had done with them. "They where both accustomed to Nutro and one nice high protein whole meat treat once a week. Two medium meals a day. 3 walks. 1 hour of play/workout time. With about a handful of treats in moderation. Bath time every two weeks and sleeping in bed. King size is best. Niko runs in his sleep and tends to kick. Sam just sleeps. They were well socialized with adults, kids, and other dogs in social environments, forests, dog run parks, and in city streets. They both walk on the right side normally. Sam doesn't pull, Niko does. I am so happy Niko is ok. I am wondering about Sam because he has had the harder life. they are both great dogs." (Note: Sam also found a home thanks to AWL)

When Buck arrived here to join BR's adoption program, he had the good fortune to find a foster home with Jaime Allen (Standing, right). Some might remember her as the adopter of 'Buzz' - the big bodacious blue who helped Jaime present hundreds of programs as part of the Humane Society Silicon Valley's humane education mission. Jaime was still hurting from the loss of Buzz when Buck arrived, and fostering him offered a sweet distraction from her grief. She noted the good manners that Scot had already built into the silly pit mix and shined them up enough to do demo work during summer camps for teens at the shelter. During training, the kids learned about animal welfare topics like overpopulation and adoption, proper care of pets, and practiced teaching some of the activities they will do with their campers. Buck helped with a special dog program called “My Dog Said What?” In this program, students are introduced to the importance of learning how to “read” your pet. Buck’s job was to not only entertain the kids, but also to show them how a well-behaved, happy, trained dog should act. Kids got to practice commands like “sit,” “wait,” “shake” and “down” with him.

Jamie told us: "My job as a humane educator is to give kids opportunities to practice citizenship, responsibility, and compassion because I believe doing that in a structured way can help save animal’s lives. Buck’s story is a perfect example of this – when we show compassion, beautiful and profound things can happen. The kids were amazed at how calm he was and that he had a “glass-is-half-full” attitude. They connected with Buck’s story, and they were imagining what it would have been like for their dog, and I think that was scary for them. If Buck hadn’t been rescued, no one would have been able to experience his gentleness, his silliness, and his ability to help kids understand what empathy looks like and how it feels."

Congratulations to the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County Ohio for earning the Compassion for Ohio Victims of Cruelty Award. We can't thank you enough for setting such a strong example and spreading the joy by saving the animals from the 'Humane Sanctuary' cruelty case. Ohio's animals are so lucky to have you on their side! Below: Buck gets into the swing of educating on his very first visit.

More photos of Buck at at work at camp. And, just being silly when he's not working. Compliments of photographer Tom Becker.

With many thanks to Jaime Allen and Buck for reminding us how important it is to let the dogs tell their stories.

According to the Animal Rescue League's website, the owner of "Humane Sanctuary" was found guilty of a second degree misdemeanor of animal cruelty with five years probation, fines, a ban on pet ownership for five years and a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. Hoarders are typically treated as people with a mental illness. More info including photos of the conditions of the sanctuary.

Ohio's statewide law that condemns pit bulls and dogs that look like pit bulls as "dangerous and vicious" at birth is still on the books, and dog owners like Scot who fall on hard times are currently left with only the most heart breaking of options for their pets. A sign of hope: Toledo, Ohio recently stepped out in front of the crowd by overhauling its dog regulations with new rules that do not discriminate by dog breed. The country holds its breath in hopes that the rest of Ohio follows Toledo's enlightened example.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday communion: Chicken strips and a boy named Chunk

To lift our moods on this crap-tacularly rainy day, new boy Chunk and I went for a little walk on a local golf course. It's usually empty during rain, so I looked forward to getting better acquainted with our new charge in a quiet, albeit soggy setting. We're designing best foster options for our new boys right now, and everything they can tell us about themselves makes the matching that much easier.

This lovely boy walked at my side like an old pro. Nice. He's a wee tiny thing, similar to Linda Chwistek's boy Audie in size. As cute as he is, Chunk hasn't wanted to take treats from our hands since he got here. It seems to be part of his submissive nature ... He's just trying to be a respectably polite doggy, since - in his mind - polite dogs don't dare take food from big tall hu-mans. While that's super sweet, we want to get him passed that so we can help him learn cool new manners and tricks that will help the world adore him. Plus, we want him to enjoy the fun of getting tasty treats from friends.

To help him feel more at ease, I chortled to him all around the golf course, especially during those moments when he looked up at me (which was often). Me, trying to read funny little him and him, looking up and trying to read funny strange me.

We got back to the barn and I laid chicken strips on the floor while he was feeling especially perky from his hike and stepped back ("I'm not looking"). Hmm? Then ...Slurp.

Then, chicken strips laid out on my outstretched hand on the floor. Careful nosing, then - Yes. Then, a choice morsel in my palm raised up closer to his face. He stared at me, questioning. Can I? 'Yes Chunk. Good boy.' He braved up and licked it from my hand, ever so careful not to use a tooth. Then, several more went down the hatch. A small hurdle for a dog who will soon learn that the world is a wonderful place full of welcoming, outstretched hands, treats and praise.

We always say that fostering is all about problem solving, working to soften those caveman behaviors and help streamline dogs from crap beginnings into real life: The barking, the poo dancing, the shyness, the over-exhuberant greetings. Every new dog has a pocketful of behaviors that need fine tuning. We take note, we puzzle, we compare notes and, with some luck, we solve. It's not rocket science to polish up a new dog, but it helps to bring a fresh eye to each individual. Who are you? What does the world look like to you? How can we help you find your way? I guess the rain was good for both of us tonight.

More pix of Chunk and Robin here.

Pit Bull Awareness Day

Thank you to everyone who attended our heavy-weather Open House at training class this weekend.

The rain held off just long enough for us to have an enjoyable couple of hours greeting the visitors and showing off the dogs. Jonny, Uba and Audie were a big hit of course. Not sure what they thought of the pawtographing part of the day, but our guests sure seemed to like it. Photo: Beth Cannon snapped Jonny signing "The Lost Dogs" for a fan.

Channel 26, a news station that serves SF's large Asian American community, came out and did a nice story on the dogs. If you're curious to see what Jonny, Uba and Pinky look with Cantonese subtitles, double click on the graphic to the right to see what the KTSF26 archive page looks like, paste the url in your browser, then fill in the fields as shown in the jpeg to get you to the story. I can't be sure, but the tagline next to the pit bull image seems to say, "Bulldog bite cases. Easy to generate fear of this dog, whether it be misunderstood Bulldogs." If you speak better Cantonese than my online translator, please share.

We were thrilled when some of the visitors who watched shelter dogs working in class applied to adopt them once class was done. We always love when that happens at our Open Houses, and it seems to be a pattern now! Many thanks to Patsy who stationed herself at the Berkeley shelter to handle impromptu tours. It paid off: A longtime resident who'd been at the shelter for nine long months (Ruby) found her people this weekend and is sleeping in her new home tonight. As part of our commitment to Berkeley's pit bulls, Ruby's owners will get free training in BR's classes, so we're thrilled to be able to help them transition. Stay tuned: Video junkie Becky Correia is preparing a fun video of the day with little snippets of interviews from guests who attended the event this weekend, so check back soon for that.

Below: Photo by Rob McNichols of Ruby with her new people, saying good-bye to a shelter volunteer. Congratulations Ruby and new family.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

welcome Ohio dogs

We welcomed two new guests to the rescue barn this past weekend. They're straight from a large cruelty case in Ohio that netted two hundred pit bulls. This case was special in that the survivors were moved to a local riding arena where HSUS staff and local volunteers worked long days for several weeks to keep the dogs going until they could be evaluated and moved to appropriate rescue.

You may see news blips pop up here and there as various orgs announce the dogs they took in - groups on the east coast especially. This rescue was particularly successful in the number of rescues and shelters that participated and the number of dogs that were saved as a result. A very happy success for the cruelty victims of Ohio.

Before "the boys" arrived, we combed a local Salvation Army for second hand leather chairs that can serve as cozy dog beds in the kennels. Twenty bucks a pop and our kennels are looking very homey and spiff.

You know how pit bulls love their creature comforts: when nothing much is going on, the boys are usually camped out in one of the chairs, snoring away. Ahhhhhh ... this is the life.

The newcomers are named Chunk and Rockin' Robin. Chunk - the black dog with the round head and Halloween pumpkin smile - is a middle aged stud muffin. Emphasis on stud. We think he's had a lifetime of making puppies based on his - ahem - behavior with the girls. A neuter will help square that away.

Chunk's got the Velcro-dog thing all worked out. When he's not in his chair, his favorite place is at your ankles. He does an amazing job winding in circles while looking up and begging eye contact. It's pretty impressive considering he doesn't have much in the way of a neck.

His sidekick Robin is a happy kid of a dog with crazy party boy eyes. He's our new favorite comedian dog. He's got a muscley little body, a low center of gravity and a big appetite for the flirt pole so we're having a great time with him already. We love us some Robin.

Sad to say, but it's already time to prep for the winter rains that will be here soon, so we're game-planning around weather proofing the barn, securing the fences and will be adding a healthy layer of gravel around the perimeter to keep the mud to a minimum once the rains take hold. After the barn puppies left, we tacked the star pattern tin ceiling panels on the walls to protect them from hose splash and busy diggers. We're rather fond of how it looks now.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our photo contest last month. Your entry fees and votes helped us bring the Ohio boys here and are making it a whole lot easier to house them in comfort until they can move to foster care. Stay tuned as they work their way into our program, and our hearts. Below: Chunk discovers the joy of a butt scratch.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

PB Awareness Day - Join us in Berkeley Oct 23!

A fun day to look forward to. We'll be opening our doors from 11:30am - 1pm on Saturday, October 23. At BR's training grounds at Second St. & Addison Street in Berkeley. (Double click on poster to upsize)

Come out and meet Jonny Justice, Uba, Audie and friends next Saturday! Badrappers and Berkeley Shelter volunteers will be training dogs while you take in the sights and peruse our educational materials. There will be refreshments, games, mini-tours, an auction of paw-tographed copies of "The Lost Dogs" and some wonderful dogs to snuggle, including dogs that are looking for homes. Bring your camera!

HAPPY BRIBES: To encourage visitors who might not otherwise come to an event like this, we're giving a FREE GIFT to everyone who brings a guest who is not a pit bull owner. Grab your neighbor, dentist, work-mate or local politician and LET'S DO THIS THING!

Since this event takes place during our training classes, we have to ask that you leave your dogs at home. Thank you. See you soon!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

trading cards for your ambassadog

So your dog is a super star and changes minds wherever s/he goes, but how do you make sure that the impression she or he has made on the public lasts? One great way to give people something they can take home to ponder is a trading card with your dog's name, photo and accomplishments listed. They're small enough to tuck into wallets and pockets and relatively affordable and easy to create using online trading card websites.

Pit Bull celebs Jonny Justice and Hector both have them, but your dog should too, especially if you've both worked hard to create ambassador style manners.

As an example, here's the card that Jackie Gunby created for Salvador. He's the BR alum who found his niche doing therapy work in psyche wards, where he's helping soothe the most frazzled of nerves. (In case you missed this classic post, the story of Sal at work will give you chills.)

Sal's card lists his life philosophy ("Life is an Adventure"), his talents, a photo of his person Jackie, a list of his titles and accomplishments (Delta Partner, Canine Good Citizen cert, American Temperament Test Society) and website links to BR as well as the Delta Society, who sponsor the therapy work. But your dog doesn't need a packed resume to deserve a card. Just being a wonderful dog with nice street manners is a great reason to make your own.

You can list things like your dog's favorite activity, his nickname, where he came from and most definitely - list a website so your dog's most curious new friends can go home and do some research.

From Jackie's reports, it seems Sal has been turning heads and winning hearts everywhere he goes - both on the job and off. And we're betting that his trading card is being put to good use as new fans go home to brag about their chance meeting or dig up more info on the Internet. You gotta love it.

Do you have a favorite online resource for creating trading cards? We'd love to check them out! Please share here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

tearing down the BSL wall in Toledo

Toledo Ohio, a town that used to be a death camp for pit bulls - even going so far as to pay its former animal warden's office a bounty for every citation it wrote against pit bull owners - has decided to do away with its breed specific policy that once labeled dogs "vicious" based on looks alone.
Toledo City Council Tuesday approved a broad overhaul of regulations concerning dogs and their owners that establishes steep fines for dog bites and considers behavior rather than just breed when classifying a dog as a threat.

The regulations will replace the city's “vicious dogs” law, which a Toledo Municipal Court judge found unconstitutional in January. - Toledo Blade
It's a new day, friends! We're eternally grateful to the diehards who've been working against enormous odds to turn the tide in Toledo and all around Ohio. Bless you, good people!

Photo credit: The Berlin wall being torn down, published in The Washington Times.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BADRAP at Florida Animal Control Conference Nov 20

We're being drawn to Florida again to present a talk on pit bull adoptions at the Florida Animal Control Conference in Orlando next month. If you're in the field of animal control in this state, we know how many challenges you face and how many wonderful pit bull type dogs you encounter in your work. Please join us on Saturday, November 20 for this presentation.
FACA Conference
One of our celebrated shelter partners in Florida is Hillsborough County Animal Services. They were recently recognized by Best Friends for their kick ass breed ambassador program, which has saved nearly 500 pit bulls since its inception in 2007. We credit a supportive shelter management and diehard volunteer crew for helping turn some major tide by the Tampa Bay.

Our friendship started when we visited HCAS with Animal Farm Foundation to brainstorm ways to help them increase their adoptions. We met Little Man there, and the rest is history.

This high volume shelter is one of our favorite examples for what a motivated group of people who want to help pit bulls can accomplish.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

And now, the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar!

Calendars will be coming at you from every angle soon, which is a lovely thing indeed. They're an affordable way to support favorite causes and of course there's no better way to start conversations with your friends and workmates than a gorgeous new photo flashing at them every month from your wall. We're so pleased to announce that, not only is the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar back in all its glory, several BADRAP dogs and kids will be making an appearance in this year's edition. Including this darling pair ...

Can you stand it? That's Christine Allen's daughter Natalie with Honky Tonk at the barn, surrounded by the barn puppies. Photographer Laura Moss spent a few days here in CA with our crew and captured some wonderful moments to add to the calendar.

Pre-order now and save 10% off the retail price. Inside the 2011 Calendar: Jonny Justice at work as a reading program dog, fight bust dog Daisy now living the California life, Eva and the barn puppies and even our girl Sally snuck her way into a freeze frame. They're keeping good company with several other gorgeous pit bulls and their people.

The founders of the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar volunteer all their time to create this work, then generously donate 100% of the proceeds to rescue groups. It's a true labor of love. The kennels in our Rescue Barn were paid for by this calendar, for example ... That's recycling at its best. We'll sneak other photos from the calendar here onto the blog in upcoming posts, so check back later to see what some of the inside spreads look like.

Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar - Pre-Order Now

Buy it, love it, share it with everyone who needs a blast of these hardcore happy images. Many thanks to Jyo Buyyala, Laura and the rest of the UPBC volunteers for pouring so much of your hearts into this project and the dogs who benefit from it. Below, the talented Laura Moss at work, shooting Daisy with her adoring adopters, Jeanne and Neil Nutter.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

our cover stars represent

And our cover for the 2011 My Dog is Family Calendar goes too ...

... Tozi, the lovely senior brindle photographed by Anna Patterson of Gainesville Florida!

It was nearly impossible to pick just one photo. Our heads were spinning with all the winning shots that came in, including, a handful of sweet naked baby shots (gah!), flower sniffing dogs, arty shots, cuddle shots, action shots and a phethora of sofa surfing shots.

We kept coming back to Tozi's image though - in part because the photo has such beautifully rich color and crisp focus ... But it was the warmth and comfort of the boy & dog's relationship that bowled us over. They embody the theme of our contest: My Dog is Family. These two are all that.

Tozi's story sealed the deal...
Anna wrote, "Tozi is the perfect family dog. She was left at our county shelter nursing four puppies and missing a few teeth. When she and our then three year old son Rafael met, it was love at first sight. Now she is a Canine Good Citizen and a library reading dog. Mostly she is Rafael's best friend."

And all this, in Florida .. where dog owners bust butt each and every year to push back BSL threats and keep their dogs safe.

We'll announce the sale of the calendar in about 2-3 weeks (depending on how quick the design fairies pull the twelve images together into a sweet design). So hold tight. And thank you Anna Peterson, Rafael and Tozi for representing everything that makes us so proud to call these dogs family.

HolyMoly! A great finish to a great contest.

Picture a group of rowdy, enthusiastic pit bulls wrestling for primo spots on a too-small sofa. That's what the last hour of the photo contest felt like yesterday as last minute votes poured in, pushing images up and out and back in again to the final twelve calendar slots. I know we weren't the only ones howling as favorite images moved in and other favorites lost their seats. It was crazy!

Congratulations to EVERYone who played. You brought over 320 images and stories of pit bulls as family members to the public eye and helped educate and delight thousands who visited the contest every day. You also helped raise 20K for BR's rescue fund - which we use to help dogs in crisis get back on their feet. This ding-dong boy is in Ohio right now after surviving a large scale cruelty case. We can't wait to get him here to CA - and he has you to thank when he does!

We're currently reviewing the photos that made the top twelve slots to ensure that they're large enough to print in the 2011 My Dog is Family Calendar, and are going through the tortuous process of choosing a cover shot from the hundreds of fabulous images that were entered. (Heeeeelp!) The Photos

Thanks again to everyone who made this such a success! Below: Laura Rogers' boy Truman is coming to a wall near you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pit Ed Announcement: A quick break, then back to SATURDAYS!

... and NO CLASS this weekend!

Muggy and Lola's sweet mugs are a steady fixture on the sidelines of Pit Ed classes, always wearing those classic "Woe is me" faces and luring visitors over to get them some lovin' while their person stays busy teaching two back to back training classes. Smart dogs!

Their person Donyale is a popular instructor with the steady stream of new dog handlers that file in each week. She's got a knack for helping people learn their beginning skills with her down to earth style, her endless enthusiasm and happy sense of humor. Donyale understands how new handlers feel - She started out as a shelter volunteer herself, taking Berkeley shelter dogs through class and helping them get adopted. She showed so much natural ability that we snagged her for a new role as class instructor for the Beginner and Novice Drop In classes and we've been humming along ever since.

Class members may not always realize that Donyale comes to a good number of classes right off of a 48 shift at her 'real' job. She's a SF fire fighter and does a lot of shift trading so she can be there for the dogs on Saturday mornings, with or without a full night's sleep. A true pit bull junkie - she painted Muggy and Lola on her station helmet to keep their bully spirits near when she's on the job.


We're taking a tiny break, so there will be NO classes - No Pit Ed and No CGC Class this weekend, October 2.

Starting Next Weekend - to accommodate Donyale's work schedule - we're switching our classes to Saturdays. Beginning classes will go from 10:00 - 11:00 and drop in classes will run from 11:30-12:30 am and Linda's CGC Prep Class will also switch to Saturdays - still at 11:30 - 12:30, starting October 9th.

Thanks for making note of that!

Are you on BR's Pit Ed class wait list? It's currently taking 6 months for people to get in once they register for classes. We're so sorry about the long wait! We're looking at ways to move things along so we can help you with your dog. Don't give up! Registration