Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bungee Jumping in Ohio - When smaller events are bigger than life

Twelve plus years into this project, and so much of our work feels routine that activities that used to get our blood going seem like no-big-deal anymore. Like, giving interviews or arranging tricky long distance transport for dogs or massaging dicey play sessions between unlikely dog pairs until they form lasting, trustworthy friendships. Very fun and fulfilling, but not roller coaster thrilling like in years past. These things are part of the job, so to speak.

So lacking bungee-jump moments, it's fun to feel that occasional gut twist now and again just to remind us that much is still new in this work, and to keep us on our toes of course. See that (bad) photo of me? I may look composed but a quiet freak-out is slowly bubbling its way to my surface, just out of view - I hope.

Tim shot it in Cleveland last week, where we were kindly hosted by the Cleveland Animal Protective League to present a three day Pit Bull Summit. As you must know, pit bull type dogs born in Ohio are uniformly labeled vicious by state law based on nothing but appearance. So an opportunity to share our programs and information was a most excellent reason to part out our foster dogs and hop into the biting mid-April wind of the midwest. The bigger part of the event was an education session with key stakeholders: city and county officials, APL's board of directors, other humane society leaders in the Greater Cleveland area, county dog wardens, local rescue group leaders. They filed into the room - each representing an unknown opinion about pit bulls and the law that condemns them and their owners to impossible restrictions.

This is where my knees got weak and my head started swirling. "Oh wow. This is big. Oh man. Oh wow." My sister Diane, who lives in Cleveland and was there to support as well as to learn how she can help, said I didn't look nervous but I don't believe her. We were jumping off a bridge with nothing but thin elastic bands tied to our ankles and it was a long way down, man.

Out of respect to the ongoing dialogue that is rolling out between Ohio shelters, dog wardens and general stakeholders, I won't give you the nitty gritty details on what went down in that room in regard to changes on the horizon for pit bulls. But you can know that my near-nausea melted into gratitude and hope while we were there. Gratitude - for the dog warden who's been putting pit bulls to sleep for years and years, but who tries every trick in his back pocket to get them out to rescue when he can, to the rescues who struggle against all odds to find them homes, to the shelter worker who melts with a floppy pit bull in her lap and declares her "very adoptable," to the politician who understands why stereotyping will always work against building safe, humane communities. Melting.

We brought this little political refuge home from Cleveland to help keep the movement in Ohio front and center to us when we get up every day. She (now named Ayse) didn't stand a snow ball's chance in hell of surviving the city shelter under Ohio's current law, but the stars lined up right for her to be in the right kennel at the right time when our plane landed. Purely dumb luck. No doubt her kennel was immediately filled with an equally wonderful dog who doesn't have the luxury of a Pit Bull Summit on her side, but don't think we aren't thinking about that anonymous sweetheart, as are most of the people who sat in the room with us last week during the summit.

There will be more to report as Ohio agents of change continue to show us their balls and push on through the changes that are so very necessary for dogs in that state. Hang tight.

In other bungee jumping moments, we're happy to report big news that may feel anti-climatic to some since so much time has passed: We finally marked Grace (below) with an Adoption Pending notice on our Available Page. Yay.

We've been getting to know her family since back in January, a long slow friendship that has been building with each phone call, email and meeting. You might know that Grace is a former Vick dog, so the pressure to find that nearly perfect home (is there such a thing?) claws at us with each media inquiry about the Vick dogs. Thanks to her ridiculously cute face, the little imp has had dozens and dozens of inquiries from all around the country, but we've been especially picky about her home to the point that I think we were all wondering if we were ever going to place her.

We're thrilled, relieved, excited and a little nervous too. She's in the barn this week while her devoted foster dad is out of town and we expect she'll be going home rather than back to her dog friend Gulliver in just a few short days. *Gulp* A door closes and a new door opens for this unassuming little celebrity dog. Falling, falling, falling -- and it feels so good.


Boris said...

What a story - remembering while a child Cleveland APL showing pets looking for homes on Mike Douglas show. Rock-Hall, Forest-City peoples' hearts are deep and big as our their troubles. Hoping more stories and plans coming out of your visit to sustaining that breakthrough and expand the network.

You said 'thin elastic bands' I thought 'rigid grape vines' as stories of the area natives used them to jump off into the green gorges. Hope you got in a good ethnic meal while you were in my home town.

Boris' OEL

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy you have hopeful news from Ohio. I'm even happier that Gracie has a home (always had a special affection for her). YAY!!!!!

The Pit Bull Princess said...

This post made me cry for so many reasons. Thank you Donna. Thank you Bad Rap. Thank you to everyone working hard to save these dogs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Donna said...

Send good vibes to Ohio, guys. There are some diehards there who care deeply.

Boris - Love the grapevines suggestion. I waited until we landed from our jump before having a big meal with Stilton Cheese Soup and a big pint of locally brewed BEER (of course). The natives eat well in Cleveland!

Stephanie said...

Can't wait to hear the updates from Ohio. Keep us posted!!!

Dianne said...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only that ever has. (Attributed to Margaret Mead)

When you are the forefront of change, you are considered a trouble maker. When the changes start to happen you are seen as a pioneer.

Keep up the good work. Proud to be part of that small group.

BTW her face is the spitting image of our lost and found dog Berdina.

Amanda said...

Kudos on the amazing work you do through the country. I wouldn't say pit bulls have is easy anywhere, but in certain pockets of our country, they have it worse and it sounds like Ohio is one such pocket and has been for a long time. =( That there is effort to change is amazing. Slow and steady can win the race. ;)

YAY for GRACE! That is wonderful! Gives me hope for one of the MO500 we have in our rescue who has been waiting about a year and half. Seems paltry compared to how long Grace has been waiting. I hope she's home soon. =)

Crazy_Canuck said...

If there's hope in Ohio, dare I hope there's hope in Ontario?

Donna said...

Canuck - ! What would we all do without a good challenge ahead of us? Be bored to tears, methinks.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”
- Anne Lamott

One voice counts said...

Tony the TIGER great post. As for bubbling in photograph -- can see it, can feel it. So many of us out here in the hinterland are very proud of what you and Tim and all the other BAD RAP folks are doing. I know every morning when the first rays of daylight hit the barn all the guys inside are giggling as they wait for their two-legged pal on barn duty to come inside -- everything is way more than OK for the BAD RAP barn guys. Will they be holding a reunion soon? Thank you for snapshot of the dog warden and what he is doing... yes on melting. Wonderful news about GRACE! Will she have a blog as well?

katherine said...

As a Cleveland resident and pit advocate, thank you for coming here and helping us continue the fight. Had I known you were in town, I would have stopped by the APL and hugged you.

Anonymous said...

Job well done! Can't wait for the updates!

Lynn in N.Cal

Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...

Thank you Lynn & Katherine. The hugs belong to the folks at APL though.

Donna! we were in love with that puppy. Ayse broke with a mild case of KC, too. Same strain, I'm sure. We're keeping it at bay with our favorite remedy - in the link below. Give her two tabs per meal. We swear by it. Our other dogs are getting it too, as a preventative. We look forward to happy news about Joliette - She's one blessed little doggy.

Hilarie said...

I love this post. Not just informative but completely heartfelt -and timely for me. It takes tremendous time and effort, as well as comprehensive study if you want to do a just job of it -to really understand a breed -its history as well as its present challenges.
So many folks get their information from sensational media stories -it's so much easier. But as active stewards of the breed we must constantly push to be the "foot soldiers" to Tim and Donna's "field marshall" efforts.
I have to remind myself of this everytime someone sees my girl and crosses the street -with that common expression of superiority and disgust -"to whom much is given, much is required" from Jessup of course -gets me through many a discouraging day.
But no one more than Tim and Donna -consumate champions we'll never be able to adequately thank..

Anonymous said...

Dare I believe....I'm from Lorain, Ohio. Believe that change is possible. Thank You, from the bottom of my heart.


Hilarie said...

..and speaking of Ohio -one of my working dog forum members alerted me to this:

I noted a screening in Columbus this past weekend with Rep. Sears in attendance -wonder if it will roll out to Cleveland?

ForPetsSake said...

You all have been busy! What exciting changes you're setting in motion. Let's keep moving in this direction!!

Frazz said...

I know you take great care in adopting out the Vick dogs, but...well, I enjoy the Bad Rap Dog Blogs so much - I think you should make "blogging" a pre-requisite for all of the dogs you adopt out. I never get tired of them.

Thanks for all you do for Pit Bull type dogs!

Anonymous said...

Cheers from Oxford, OH!

Appreciate so much all that you do for these wiggly bundles of love. I have learned so much from Bad Rap. Thank you!