Sunday, October 30, 2011

using intimidation in Wilmington DE

According to the animal control officers interviewed in this news report, Wilmington DE has been rounding up dogs from low income people who can't afford special licensing fees and spay/neuter surgeries and warehousing them since 2000. Some are housed in overcrowded kennels for up to two years until they get too sick to keep. The euthanasia numbers must be staggering.

Mandatory Spay Neuter. San Francisco tells us that it's working for them, yet the city shelter recently alerted its public that it would not be able to accept any more dogs because of overcrowding. Pit bulls (as well as other breeds) continue to pour in the doors. SF-based rescues post desperate ads for foster homes on Craigslist, and dogs that can't be reached in time continue to die.

Are laws that target pit bull owners working? This report from DE is one of the most to-the-point demonstrations we've seen of the practice in action. Please take a minute to watch the video attached to the news report and tell us what you think.

Wilmington "crack down."

In the meantime, pit bull owners have been streaming in to fill appointments for free spay neuter surgeries offered at our recent Celebrate Your Pit Bull fair. From one event, thirty four surgeries completed on site and 58 are scheduled. One gentleman told me "Thank you. You saved my life. My female got pregnant by her son and I didn't have money to end the pregnancy." She was spayed during the event. Her son is getting fixed this week. Photos of the event.

When it's so easy to help under-served dog owners get their dogs fixed using a welcoming, voluntary approach, why would anyone want to use coercive laws and intimidation?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

alerting you about new posts

Someone asked why they haven't been getting prompts about new posts on our blog. Answer: I don't know. So to make sure you get 'in the system' I moved the email alert gadget up to the top of the page. See it? Sign up, over there --->

BR blog posts will come to you in email form, pretty pictures and all. Thanks for asking, btw. While you're at it, sign on for alerts for our Barn Dog Blog. There's always something going on in foster dog land and we don't want you to miss out on news. Like this weekend. Fun news coming up as a few special visitors stop by to say hello.

EDIT: Rochelle tells us that she organizes her daily reads on Bloglovin. Nice.

And can I just say how much we love Jondi? Her story is excruciating, but things have been looking up for our red girl.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ta Da! - New Website

We've lived with our old website for nearly 12 years so it was an interesting walk-down-memory-lane experience to revamp and redo a new site. Back when we originally built it (thank you Heather Capp), we had a very small roadmap for doing this work and no idea what the future would hold. We went into this project with a blind optimism that if we did some good work, some good things would happen for the dogs and their people. We were a pee-wee rescue group only trying to find a way to help the dogs that were standing right in front of us.

Building the new site has made me ever more appreciative of how much has changed over the years and the people we've met along the way. Jane Berkey and Stacey Coleman of Animal Farm Foundation, Ledy VanKavage of Best Friends Animal Society, Don Cleary and Karen Delise of National Canine Research Council - their bones and their wisdom are now a part of who we are and though you may not see them in our website, their good influence is inside so much of the content. So are the officers of our group who've been with us from the beginning and who embody the soul of pit bull activism: Christine Allen, Susi Ming, Linda Chwistek. And the diehard volunteers who are too big-hearted and too stubborn to walk away from this work: Kim Ramirez, Donyale Hoye, our incredible foster homes and dog handlers.

When the facebook based software company Zynga gave a gift to help us move our project into the future, it seemed like the right time to say good-bye to our past with a new and improved site. Your feedback is welcome as we pick at it, edit it, add to it and make this vision real. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

celebrate this

I need to preface this post by saying that it's very opinionated and may or may not reflect the opinion of others in our group ... individuals that we are.

I'll be the first to admit that I've never been very keen on the idea of Pit Bull Awareness Day. It's lovely, but it supposes that we need to market pit bulls to the world of (usually, white) people who (might) think they're scary. At this point in time, if people think dogs or people for that matter are scary based on what they look like, there isn't much we can do or say to help them see their way out of that mindset. But we'll keep keeping on with our events and activities and maybe those folks will notice how much fun we're having with our dogs - or maybe they won't. I sincerely believe that it's not up to us to change anyone's mind. We're here to have a good time with the dogs we call family and do some good work with the dogs and people who aren't so lucky.

On that note, as an animal welfare group, we do believe that it is up to the collective 'us' to look for ways to help the tens of thousands of pit bull owners in our home counties get what they need so they can enjoy their dogs. Which isn't easy considering dog owner resources are few and far between, and the economy has certainly forced many to make incredibly difficult choices, including surrendering their dogs on the heels of misfortune including foreclosure. So to celebrate the dogs the way we love best, we went out to under-served Pittsburg last Saturday and teamed up with Well Pet Vet Clinic to help people get their dogs fixed, vaccinated, microchipped and trained. There was no need to convince this crowd that pit bulls can be valued family members. There wasn't even any need to convince them that spay/neuter or training was beneficial. They were here for all kinds of help, and everyone was very grateful to get it.

The event officially started at 11am on Saturday. At four in the morning, people started lining up to make sure they were able to get what their dog needed... Four in the morning. At 8am, over 75 pit bull type dogs were in line to get spayed/neutered. By the end of the day, that number rose to 90 and we started wondering how far over budget we were going to go. A good problem to have, actually!

When you see a line like this, you have to wonder: Why would anyone in the world think that mandated spay/neuter laws would be practical or even necessary?

All in all, a hugely successful event that took a relatively minimal amount of planning. All advertised via flyers and word of mouth in under-served communities by fellow dog owners in the community, and staffed by volunteers who value this work. We are enormously grateful to PetSmart Charities for allowing us to buy so many surgeries (even though - gulp - we might've gone a little over budget on this one). And to Well Pet Vet Hospital for not passing out when the line grew around the block. You people rock in ways we didn't know people could rock!

Finally, huge thanks to our volunteers for your heart and tenacity and to Best Friends Animal Society for sending shelter workers from out the area to witness the way we like to celebrate pit bulls.

Finishing off with the best photo of the day. Thanks for your photography Brian George!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

finding Penny - lessons from a misadventure

Chris and Tina van Wolbeck sent a donation this week in honor of Kate and Marshall Reed's recent kindness. What did the Reeds do to inspire such a generous gift to the dogs? Chris tells the story himself, along with the lessons that came out of a very scary experience.

My wife Tina and I recently learned a lot about what to do if a dog goes missing. I am writing this in hopes that it may help someone else who loses their dog.

On Saturday, September 24, 2011 we were camping in the Lakes Basin area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We left Penny, our beloved pit bull mix, behind to watch our motor home while we went for a hike. When we came back we found that she had escaped through a window. Penny came to us from the Oakland Animal Shelter, so we don’t know what her previous life was like but we do know that she is very shy and depends heavily upon us for her emotional stability. I believe that she escaped to come looking for us. She didn’t find us for six days.

We were devastated when we found her missing and immediately began searching the area for tracks and calling her name until we were hoarse. When it became apparent that she was nowhere nearby, we widened the search area and began putting up signs at campgrounds, stores, post offices, turnouts and everyplace where we thought people might see them. We did this until 1 a.m., when we decided that we had covered an area wider than we believed she could cover in that amount of time. Sunday morning, we resumed the search and widened the area to about a 30 mile radius, putting many, many more signs out and talking to everyone who would listen. There is no cell service up there, so we didn’t get the message until about 5 pm that the Sierra County Sheriff’s officer and two other people had seen Penny at about 9 am, about 5 or 6 miles away from where she disappeared. We immediately went to the area and began calling again. We didn’t find her.

We were supposed to be back at work on Monday but took another day off to look for her. We couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her up there. Penny has very short fur and gets cold easily, even inside the house. We moved our motor home to the area where she was last seen. We visited every house in the area where people were home and continued calling her. We left that afternoon to come home. There had been no more sightings of Penny and knowing that she was lost in an area strange to her and that there are mountain lions and curvy roads with cars, we feared the worst.

On Tuesday I went back to my job as a high school teacher and told some of my colleagues about what had happened. Many of them encouraged us and told us not to give up and were sure that we would find her. I was not so sure.

One very helpful and compassionate couple, Jeff Torquemada and his wife Wendy know Penny and know what a wonderful dog she is. Wendy left Wednesday morning and spent two days searching for her. There were still no more reported sightings.

My friend, Chad Cochran spent hours on the internet, checking with animal control and shelters within a very large area. He actually found a dog in Reno who looked remarkably like Penny.

On Friday morning, my friend and Colleague, Don VanNess and I left to resume the search. Tina was planning to come up after work. We lost cell phone service at about 11:00 am. We began retracing the route which we thought Penny took from our campsite to the area where she was last seen. When we got to higher elevation, we got into cell phone range and I had two messages. The first one was from Kate Reed, who has a cabin about one half mile from where Penny was last seen. She had Penny. We called and got no answer. I listened to the second message and it was the sheriff’s office informing us that Kate had dropped Penny off there. Through the small town grapevine, our friends Glenn and Irmke, who live in Sierra City, six or seven miles away from where Penny was found, had already heard that the sheriff had her. They beat us to the sheriff’s office by ten minutes. Eventually we caught up with each other and we were reunited with Penny. Below - Penny with Chris and Tina's grandson Max.

So what did Penny teach us by getting lost? The first and most important thing is to get the message out as quickly and to as many people as possible that your dog is missing. Kate knew exactly who was on her porch Friday morning because she had seen one of our signs. We had given the sheriff’s office our phone number and a description of Penny, so they were familiar with the situation. Also make sure that local animal control offices and animal shelters have her description. The second thing and also very important is don’t give up. Keep looking and keep your dog fresh in people’s minds. Third is, rely on your friends for support and help. Don was absolutely sure that we would find her and we did. That kind of positive energy can only help! Fourth is get your dog a distinctive looking collar. The easiest thing to describe about her was her orange collar with daisies. Fifth is to make sure that your dog is micro chipped, so that if the collar is lost your dog can still be identified.


I have made a donation to Bad Rap in Kate and Marshall Reed’s honor. If they had not taken the time and effort to win Penny’s confidence, she would probably still be lost and it is snowing up there as I write this. - Chris van Wolbeck

Good work, everyone. We appreciate you sharing these important lessons - and huge props to everyone who stayed so determined to find sweet Penny, despite the insurmountable odds. In the spirit of helping more lost souls find their way home, your thoughtful gift is earmarked for a special stray on his way into our program. We'll holler when he gets here!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

photographing shelter dogs

When I shopped for our newest family member a little over a year ago, I was no different from scores of people who pour over hundreds of teeny tiny hard to see photos on websites in search of "the" dog face that would somehow speak them. What an enlightening but maddening experience!

It was easy to see why some shelters attract more rescue help and adopters than others - they know how to win hearts with a good photograph. Below are some dos and don'ts when capturing dog faces in hopes of attracting those solid homes.

Many thanks to Berkeley Animal Car Services, whose volunteers set the tone with some of the best examples of public shelter portraits on the Net. All of the appealing photos in this post are from their facebook page. I won't tell you where the not-so-great photos came from!

Above - Look into My Eyes - Which dog do you feel connected with? Unless you want to send potential homes running straight to the backyard breeders, avoid using photos of distracted dogs in bleak and dismal backgrounds. Eye contact is golden and easy to get with a dog treat and a silly sound at the right moment. Black dogs photograph best in the early morning or close to dusk. You might end up taking 20 photos to get that winning shot, but with digital cameras, who cares? That one winning shot you spent 10 minutes trying to get will empty your kennel much faster then the bad photo you grabbed in a fast hurry.

Above - Touch Me. Adopters are rightfully hoping to find family dogs who welcome touch, but institutionalized settings only serve up the heebie jeebies. Get that pooch outside where he'll look (and feel!) more like herself. If your subject is shy or uncomfortable with the camera, a warm embrace can make all the difference in her experience as well as the viewers' opinion of her.

Above - What a difference a pretty background makes. This photographer was smart - it looks like she waited until her subject was back from her walk and 'smiling' before she pulled out her camera. Dogs that are tied to walls might beg up sympathy from a select few, but the fearful body language that comes along with being tied will send the more discerning dog shoppers to websites where it "feels good" to look for dogs. You can't blame them.

Above - Ouch. Did that dog on the left do something bad to land him to jail? Probably not, but the chain link mimics the photos news outlets use of dogs who've been involved in bites. Compare to the photo of the happy dog who wants to show us how much fun her adopter will have with her.

Finally, I had to end on this most inviting shelter photo. It says, "Yep. I'm an older, brindley mixy girl. But I'm loved here at the shelter and I've got a lot of life left to give. Come on down and get me!" The gentle hand on her flank, the splash of color with the bandana, the smile that came from (probably) taking photos after she'd been exercised. And note how she's standing on her handler's shoe. Love it.

Here are more tips from fab photographer Lori Fusaro on ways to grab a digital masterpiece. And, more examples from Berkeley Animal Care Services. Good luck!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

treadmills - dog powered fun

If your dog has a lust for life, you might really like a treadmill for days when a quick winter walk just isn't going to cut the mustard. Physically confident dogs can take to them almost immediately (Star did!) Other dogs need days or weeks of mini-sessions around and finally on the mill before they feel comfortable enough to jog with joy. Once they get it, you can get them dog tired in just 10-20 minutes time. Priceless.

The video shows a (dog powered) carpet mill. We've had the most experience with these, although some homes like the motorized treadmills. If you do a search on for 'dog treadmill,' a few motorized options will pop up. We prefer the quiet of the dog powered mills. The one in the video is a Grand Carpet Mill. We can also recommend the Colby Carpet Mill.

One harness option comes from the sled dog folks - here - and the one Star was filmed in came from here.

Many thanks to Letti de Little for the demo, and to Uba for loaning his precious mill to Star while he recuperates from knee surgery.