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

Monday, September 27, 2010

the final stretch for contest photos

Can you believe it's almost October? We're closing in on our final week of the calendar photo contest, which ends next Monday on the fourth, so the next few days are going to get exciting as people strategize and jostle to position their favorite photos to the top twelve spots in the contest. There are bound to be a few surprises and upsets as now popular photos lose their seats in voting upsets, so keep you eye on that first page. If you haven't already, it's time to promote your fav page to your online friends using the links offered just to the right hand of the photo you want to see hanging on your wall next year.

If your friends are wondering what their votes are buying besides your dog's glory in our 2011 Calendar, remind them this is a fundraiser to help BR stay proactive with rescue and advocacy work in projects here at home and around the county.

An example of what votes will buy:

$15 - Buys a microchip for one dog
$50 - General vet exam for one dog
$150 - One spay/neuter surgery
$350 - Airfare to help BR get an out of state cruelty case to our Rescue Barn
$650 - Diagnostics for a dog with health concerns (this amount purchased the recent x-rays and consultations that helped Pinky Deluxe)
$1000 - Surgery for a sick dog (this amount helped remove a painful abscess from Eva Peace's mammaries)
$2500 -Spay/Neuter vouchers for 25 low income pit bull owners who attend our Shots Fairs

This is what facebook was made for! Last year, a particularly ambitious stage dad threatened to de-friend any of his fb friends that did not vote for his dog. All in good fun, but it made his friends sit up and notice his favorite cause. Thank you for supporting our work while showing the world the face of family pit bulls.

Below: Sir Walter Sunday, who we all met recently on the Today Show, is starting to nudge his way up to Calendar Fame. We're all wondering if he'll make it! Walter's contest link. Good luck to Walter and everyone else!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

when "good guys" fight their dogs

We've been holding onto this topic for months, not sure when or how or if it would ever surface...

Recently, police and humane investigators revealed an infiltration strategy that is loaded with ethical stomach upset. That is, they've confessed to using dogs to infiltrate fighting operations, even going so far as staging them in impromptu rolls as well as big money dog fights in the ring. Their reason for putting their own dogs in harm's way is explained by Terry Mills, veteran Missouri State Highway Patrol officer:.

"We would have never been invited — never gotten anywhere close to them," Mills says. "Especially after Michael Vick, they went from being 'Let's have everybody over and have a good time' to 'If you don't have a dog in the fight, you don't have any business here.'"

We were actually pretty surprised to see the confession in this eight page article in the New Times. We've known about investigation dogs and have provided asylum for our share of the battered survivors, and the atmosphere surrounding their existence has been very hush-hush. This topic has been especially hard for us. Yes - the investigators need a way in to the fights so they can gather the evidence needed to bring the f*ckers down, but when you turn into one of the f*ckers yourself in the meantime? It's been really hard to reconcile.

To add to the sadness, many of the dogs used in this manner end up in terrible condition when they finish their "work" and most have lasting health and behavior problems related to their care and abuse that hinder them for life -- if they get a second chance, that is. In many cases, we've had to euthanize dogs from these situations after giving them compassion holds. They were that bad off.

I can't for the life of me figure out why the investigators have decided to share a video of themselves doing the deed on youtube. It takes this practice out of the realm of the abstract and the dogs' suffering is suddenly presented before our very eyes. is feeling the same way we are about this use of dogs and recently ran an article about the practice with a poll that asks for public opinion.

Tell us what you think. Does saving 500 some dogs from ongoing abuse justify the torture of forty? Is there really no other way? It's one of the more difficult dilemmas of our moment and you can bet the discussion isn't going to get pushed under the carpet. Please tell us what you think. And yes, investigators, we would like to hear from you too.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dissed by a Talk Show Diva (the Big O)

A close call with Oprah three weeks ago reminded us all about the flakey nature of the media.

Back in New York, Roo Yori was all packed up and about to put homeboy Hector on a plane to meet Oprah in Chicago when a last-minute call came in from show producers who said: "Never mind."

Hector - who'd been recruited for the show by O's people - had just been stood up after a whirlwind of phone calls, planning and flight arrangements.

Oprah's producers had already invested in a film crew who shot Jonny Justice in a CA library doing his work as a reading assistant dog, but then put the kabash on the entire Vick dog story the morning of the show's taping with Hector.

We were disappointed in a "it figures" way. Canceling guests in the final hour is apparently commonplace with the Oprah Show, although we speculate that bailing on this particular story had something to do with the subject matter. It's common knowledge that Oprah is leery of pit bulls, so the topic of dogs once destined to fight now employed as cuddle buddies might've been too big of a stretch for someone who may not have noticed how normal the dogs have been acting since they came home.

Producers told us that there were "big debates" going on between staff about this story, one of them being whether or not to show sensationalistic fight footage in connection with the warm/fuzzy parts of the story. No wonder they were confused.

The bigger disappointment was felt by the kids, their parents and the staff of the Brisbane library who all re-arranged heaven and earth to get cameras in on a Sunday. That group of people, including Jonny's dad Cris Cohen, kicked into high gear to give Oprah's crew a sneak peek into the J-Man at work with a clip that would've been aired alongside Hector's on-stage appearance. Not easy, but when the world wants to hear the story of bust dog redemption, you make it work, right? Cris told us, "I wrote quite a few sad emails this afternoon to all the folks that banded together to get the library open on a Sunday, and the volunteers that rounded up all the kids. I'm ok with getting cut, but I feel for them. Everyone was so excited about this."

The stinky part? Oprah's crew sent the cancellation notice to Cris and Jonny second hand - no personal phone call, apologies for the near miss or thank yous for accommodating their need-it-now film crew. Poor form, Oprah. You may not get any tail wags from us, but we know our dogs would forgive you.

Below, a photo of Ava, one of the kids who put on her cutest outfit and came out to help tell the story of the little bust dog who could. Thanks for your help Ava. You're truly a star to all of us!

CBS Early Show

On Monday morning - Sept 20 - Jonny Justice and others were highlighted on the CBS Early Show with Dr. Debbye Turner.

They did a great job!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Snap a Masterpiece - Tips from Lori Fusaro

Photographer Lori Fusaro hit us all upside the head with her special brand of photography last spring when she spent a day doing a photo marathon fundraiser at the barn. It was awesome. Check it. She feeds us regularly on BR's facebook page with her art (O that gorgeous Gabby lass - Right) and of course she jumped right into submitting her stuff to the newly launched My Dog is Family Thingy

Since she's got such a knack, we asked if she could share some tips with everyone who might be working to get a great shot for the calendar contest. I'm going to re-read this one a few times for some ideas for foster dog photos. I hope it inspires a slew of masterpieces in your corners. Thank you Lori - We love you!

Rover Is Ready For His Close-Up. Are You?

You want to get some gorgeous shots of your dog, your cat, your turtle, but every time you try, the shots come out blurry or your beloved friend looks possessed with ugly red eyes. So what is an animal lover to do? I’ve put together some tried and true tips that will help you get the best photos.

First, take it slow, be prepared and put aside at least an hour to photograph your pooch. He probably has no idea what that horrible thing is that flashes bright light in his face every single time he looks at it. I’d go running with my tail between my legs too. Bring out your camera, set in on the table and let the dog sniff it and investigate when you aren’t using it. Don’t worry, he won’t hurt it.

Natural light is by far the very best; so when you plan your shoot, bring your dog’s favorite chair (or even the couch) over to the window, so you can get that wonderful sun shining through the windows. Don’t worry about making a mess; you never want to get the whole room in the photo anyway. This is about your dog, not the living room.

We all have things we love about our pets. I love Enzo’s super long whiskers, Francis’ big fat belly and how he sits like a human and I’m obsessed with dog tongues in general. So guess what I’m going to be sure to photograph? All those things that make me smile. After all, photos are meant to stir up emotions and memories. Zoom in on those things you love. Grab your camera when the cat is curled up asleep or cleaning his face. Capture all those little endearing qualities about your best friend.

Take off your dog’s pinch collar, harness and leash! Nothing looks worse than a cute pup with all that apparatus. Even better, get a fancy collar. We’re going for pretty here, not necessarily functional. And remember safety first. If you aren’t in a house or fenced in backyard, always keep your dog on a leash, but use a simple leash that matches the collar. Nothing beats a second pair of hands, especially if you are new to handling a camera. So enlist a friend to help you.

If you absolutely have to use flash, you’re sunk. Just kidding. If you have one that you attach to your camera, point the light bulb portion at the ceiling. This is called “bouncing” the light and it will make a much nicer photo with soft, even light. If you only have the flash that is built into your camera, take a piece of wax paper and tape a piece over the entire flash bulb. This mimics a “diffuser” and again the light will not be so harsh and the shadows will be much softer.

Another really cool thing to do is get down on his level. The hardest part about being on the ground will be him wanting to come investigate you! If your dog is good with commands, make him sit or lie down and stay. Use a zoom lens to get in really close on his face. I love those kinds of shots. Try different angles and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Does your dog love agility? Hiking? The dog park? By all means bring your camera. You’ll want your ISO at 400 and your shutter speed should be as high as you can get it. On a bright sunny day you can set the shutter at 1000, probably higher. (Check your camera manual to see how to do that. It sounds complicated, but really its super easy.) And another thing about shooting outside? Shade is your friend. Not to mention your dog’s friend too. How much fun do you have when the sun is streaming in your eyes…with no sunglasses?

Pay attention to your backgrounds. Simple is always best. Green grass or a sandy beach really make your dog pop off the page. And if possible, keep your dog about 10 feet from any walls or harsh backgrounds. The further away the subject is, the blurrier the background will be and again, will make your pup stand out. And get rid of all patterned blankets, beds and throws. The busyness just takes away from your pet.

Treats and toys are a must to have on hand. Plus my secret weapon. Use those special treats your dog will do anything for. Or, give your dog a nice bone to chew on and then when you are ready to take the shot, squeak a toy and watch what happens. The most adorable quizzical look! With an even more adorable head cocked to one side. The equivalent for cats? Catnip of course. And my secret weapon? Peanut butter. Give your dog a mouthful of that and he will sit still while he tries to eat it. And it makes for some amazing tongue shots. - Lori Fusaro

My Dog is Family Contest is back!

Since we're all suckers for cute dog photos, we just had to bring the My Dog is Family Photo Contest back for another round. Here are some of the shots that came in last year. Turn up the volume. Dance with your dog. Grab your camera!

It's contest, it's a fundraiser ... but beyond that, it's turned into a way for dog lovers to peek into the hearts and homes of pit bull owners around the country. This year's gallery is already full of charm and smiles - it's addictive. Please add your dog. Not just because we need your ten dollars, but because we all want a blast of your joy. Gallery

The twelve photos with the most votes will get a place in our 2011 My Pit Bull is Family Calendar. And the artsy, opinionated judges around here will pour over all the entries on October 4th and try to choose a favorite shot for the cover.


Contest ends at noon eastern standard time on October 4th, 2010 - so we have weeks of pit bull paparazzi time ahead of us. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Open House Sunday Sept 5th - Be there!

Last month's Open House was so busy that we decided to open our doors and do it again. Come on down this Sunday, September 5th, and invite your friends who want to greet, question, stare, marvel, or just tickle our available dogs who are looking for homes.

Our volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the Pit Ed classes that will be in session during this hour. If you're thinking about volunteering yourself, this is the place to be. And if you're looking to adopt, you'll see a smorgasbord of dogs of every age, size and color from both BADRAP and Berkeley Animal Care Services.

Please leave your dogs at home for this one, but bring your cameras! Sunday Sept 5th from 11:30-12:30. Training grounds are at Second Street and Addison in Berkeley, one block south of Berkeley Animal Care Services. Hope to see you soon!

Click on map to enlarge.