Thank you so much to everyone that took the time to read my super long post on Wednesday, and especially to those of you that took the time to also write letters to the people listed. Based on some of the responses from ABC6 staff that I’ve seen, I think at the very least we ruffled a few feathers. So, Maggie and I thank you!
I became aware of this situation from one of my favorite blogs, Run A Muck Ranch. They became aware of this through an Anti-BSL blog and then wrote about it on their blog. All credit goes to them, I am merely doing my best to spread the word too because in my opinion, it’s shit like this that is really holding us and our beloved “bully breeds” back. So, what is this all about? Please watch this video:
“Son of a b*tch. Great. Here’s yet another negative story about pit bulls. Why did that woman have to send her dogs to attack a reporter?! Way to perpetuate the stereotype lady!” I’m not proud of myself, but that was my reaction immediately after watching the video. I’m willing to bet not many people will admit it, but it was theirs too. And if I hadn’t taken the time to read the rest of what RAMR had to say, I would have only seen exactly what the ABC6 crew wanted me to: an innocent white lady being attacked, unprovoked, by two vicious pit bulls owned by a black lady living in the ghetto.
Let’s watch the video again and analyze it this time. First we have the introduction: the reporter wanted to ask a “simple question” to the mother of a recently shot teen. Wait a second. I didn’t even really catch that the first time around because all I could think about was the “pit bull attack” I was about to see. Ok, so we have a grieving mother on our hands. I am only mother to my fur children and I can’t even begin to fathom the state I would be in if someone had shot them. I can’t begin to put words to what she must be feeling.
The video starts, not as they are initially walking up to interview the mother, Ms. Lawrence, but at an undeterminable time later. How long had they been there? What did they say to her before they edited the video into the version we are watching? Were they the only crew there that day? Unlikely, since remember, this is the mother of a recently shot teen girl and the alleged shooter had just turned himself in. So the very first clip is of the mother throwing a rock. Then it shows the reporter walking up to the house…then it shows the same clip of the mother throwing a rock again? Note the two dogs, sitting peacefully on the steps. The mother is shouting, “Get away from me!” then she goes to get a bat.
So at this point, the crew had been told, by a grieving mother nonetheless, to leave her alone who knows how many times. She threw rocks. She got a bat. Still the reporter was going to get her answer! And remember, she isn’t harassing the mother of a recently convicted sex offender, drug dealer, or murderer. No, she is harassing the mother of a victim. The woman herself is a victim! But dammit, Abby Niezgoda, reporter extraordinaire, has a right to know how she is feeling, and get her question answered! Ooookay. Moving on.
So, after yelling to “get away”, throwing rocks, and getting a bat, the mother tells the dogs to attack. (Note that the dogs were just standing around loose up until this point, showing zero signs of aggression.) They jump on Niezgoda, barking, and following her as she
shuffles runs down the street. There is a voiceover and Niezgoda says, “They bit my forearm.”
Ok, reverse and watch the “attack” scene again. The dogs come out, barking, and really just trotting along. One of them does jump up on her, and maybe nips her forearm, but then they basically just follow her. I don’t know about any of you but the very first thought in my mind is that if the dogs really wanted to attack her, she would have been flat on the ground the second they made contact with her. Second, I’ve been bit by dogs before and let me tell you, I bled like a stuck pig. I didn’t see a drop of blood, did you? Third, and probably the most ridiculous, is Niezgoda’s attempt to run away. She’s not moving at more than an awkward trot with those ridiculous heels on! You mean to tell me these vicious, unprovoked dogs couldn’t catch her?! Puh-lease. What I see are two dogs that are reluctantly following the commands of their owner. I like how they show the clip of her “running” and them “chasing” her a couple more times too, just for good measure.
The video ends with the reporter making sure to tell us that Niezgoda was on public property the whole time, she had to get a tetanus shot!, and there is a warrant for Ms. Lawrence’s arrest. A warrant for her arrest. Do I wish that she hadn’t decided to sic her dogs on the reporter? Absolutely! Do I think she was thinking rationally? No. Can I even imagine what she is going through? No way. Can you? It’s funny how Niezgoda is portrayed as the innocent victim in all this, with our sympathies guided in her direction. No sympathy for the mother of a shot teen who was just harassed at her home when she should have been left alone to grieve.
Look, the last thing I’m saying is that what Ms. Lawrence did was okay, and yes, I do think she perpetuated some stereotypes. Our dogs should never be used as weapons. It is our duty to protect them at all times and at all costs. But again, I don’t think she was anywhere near a rational state of mind. She was provoked, how much, we don’t even know. I think there was a hell of a lot of editing going on to produce the video that we all just watched. Who knows what else happened that we didn’t see? And now she is going to get arrested? Actions absolutely should have consequences, so how about Niezgoda getting arrested too for harassment? I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.
And what is going to happen to the dogs? I shudder to think of the possibilities. So, here is what I think needs to happen.
1) The dogs in the story are the ultimate victims. They did not randomly attack Niezgoda. They chased her down after their owner told them to. They also came as soon as she called them off. I think we can all agree that these are not the actions of vicious, unprovoked dogs, and also that they do not pose any sort of threat. If Niezgoda had left Lawrence alone, after who knows how many times she told her to, this never would have happened. It might already be too late for these dogs, and if so, ABC and Niezgoda should be held accountable. But it might not. If you are in the Rhode Island area, or know someone that is, I implore you to try and contact Animal Control and speak up. These dogs do not deserve to die over this, and should be returned to the Lawrence family who has already lost too much.
2) I think Niezgoda needs to hear from the masses that what she did was wrong. Through who knows how much editing, Niezgoda and ABC painted an ugly picture. They want us to believe that this is just another story of a vicious pit bull attack. These stories need to stop! Until the media begins to report incidents like this more accurately, our dogs are in danger. We need to all stand up and let our voices be heard. Yes, what Ms. Lawrence did was wrong, but what ABC did is even worse because they are endangering not just those two dogs, but all pit bulls with this kind of inaccurate, lopsided, prejudicial reporting. So, let’s tell them what we think of their actions. Below is a copy and pasted list from RAMR of various outlets to contact. They are all public information so no worries there.
3) Everyone, please, think before you act. As the owners of “bully breeds” our actions are constantly in the spotlight. One wrong move and you never know just how blown out of proportion it might become. Let’s all try and take some time over the next few days to do something extra public and positive with our pit bulls. Maybe a walk through a park. Post a cute picture online. Just something to show them in a good light so that we can hopefully counteract a little of the most recent damage to our breed.
Thanks for sticking with me through that incredibly long post. Below are the list of contacts. Go. Now.
*This information was made available from public sources, and as outraged citizens, you are entitled to make your opinions known. Freedom of speech, just like freedom of the press, is guaranteed in the Constitution. Your filling of Abbey Niezgoda’s inbox can’t be any more wrong than her refusing to leave a grieving mother alone who asked her to leave. Unlike Ms. Lawrence, who never expected to be attacked by the press, public figures such as Abbey Niezgoda should expect people to express their opinions of her freely.
Please contact the ABC6 Executive Team and tell them that Abbey Niezgoda’s self-serving, unethical and despicable behavior should cost her her job.
Vice President/General Manager
General Sales Manager
Director of Broadcast Operations & Engineering
National Sales Manager
Anne Marie Menard
Contact ABC and let them know of the unethical means in which one of its affiliates creates news. (sorry, these are form contacts, but your voice is worth the effort)
If you are local to the Providence, Rhode Island area, contact the sponsors of ABC6 News and tell them you have a problem with a news station that tortures victims for a story, and ask that they pull their support until Abbey Niezgoda is fired, and ABC6 has issued a formal apology to Melissa Lawrence.
Good, bad, or just silly? I’ve got the full spectrum covered in my house. Yesterday my brothers came over for dinner (if you can’t tell, I hang out with them all the time) and while we were out in the yard I looked at Maggie and thought she most certainly was thinking, “Stranger danger! Stranger danger! There are strangers, there is danger!” (Yes, this random thought is what sparked the idea for this post.)
Now, my brothers at this point most certainly should not be considered strangers to Moo, but she keeps her distance and even lets out a throaty little half growl/half bark every now and then when they first come over. After oh, say, two hours, she will settle down and let them pet her, but even then you can see that she is in flight mode in case they try anything funny. Part of me finds this just plain silly because the other dogs, whom she looks entirely up to, adore my brothers, I clearly adore them, and if it’s true that dogs can sense if a person is good or bad (which I 1,000% believe it is) then she should know they are about as good as it gets. The other, bigger part of me, is completely heartbroken. Here is a dog that was so damaged in her first year and a half on Earth that even after living with me for over a year still is scared of strangers. She has improved vastly, a year ago she literally would have lost control of her bowels if a strange man had come over, but she still has so far to go. Will she ever rid herself of this intense stranger danger?
Then we have the middle child, Tag. Middle in age, and always middle of the road in personality, she is the perfect cross between the two extremes that I call Buddy and Maggie. Tag is never one to be scared necessarily of a new person, but she usually hangs back to see what Buddy and I think of them. Tag (short for Tag-a-Long) is the epitome of a follower. If we like them, she likes them. If we trust them, she trusts them. When people are over she generally prefers to sit by me (not to toot my own horn, but this dog will never, ever love anyone the way she loves me) but if someone wants to engage her in a game of catch, or better yet a belly rub, she is all for it. Happy-go-lucky Tag will always just go with the flow. Stranger indifference?
And of course, there is Buddy. Buddy has literally never met a stranger. In fact, back in the day when Buddy and I were a couple of single kids
, livin’ the good life, my house got broken into while I was gone one night. I’m still pretty sure Buddy reached up and opened the door for them to come in. Another time I was playing catch with Buddy in the front yard when he saw a woman pushing a stroller on the other side of the very busy street and took off at a dead sprint. Why? He obviously needed to introduce himself and make friends with her. Talk about a near heart attack. We joke that Buddy loves everyone else more than he loves us because as soon as someone comes over to the house, he smashes himself up against them and moans and groans with delight from the attention he gets. Buddy would probably be happiest living in a frat house so that he could constantly be surrounded by hoards of people to dish out the attention that he so loves from strangers. Stranger danger? You gotta be kidding.
So which is the best? Is there a right or wrong? For the most part, I think Tag probably wins in this department. I don’t have to worry about her bolting down the street to say “hi” to someone, but I also never have to worry about having people over and if it will upset her. Do your dogs have stranger danger? Are they at either extreme of the spectrum?
Yesterday I met up with my brothers for lunch. There is this awesome dog that keeps getting the short end of the stick (no pun intended) and I was asking them if they knew of anyone in the market for a super easy, laid back dog. My brother Nic, you remember him from my all time favorite rescue, said, “You should just take him to J’s house. They wouldn’t notice another dog!” “J” is one of the guy’s Nic lived with when he first adopted the girls. (He has since moved into a new house because there were already three dogs at J’s house, and with his new girls, five was just too many.) “What do you mean? Did they get more dogs?!” I asked. “Yea, they just bought two new puppies.”
Wait a second. They bought two puppies? What the what? They obviously know and love Nic’s two rescued girls. So I know they know about rescues and how awesome the dogs you can get from them are…..so that begs the question: Why? Why in the world did they BUY two puppies?
Obviously I was like “What the heck?! Why did they buy them?!” Nic didn’t really have a good answer and seemed almost ashamed. He basically just said, “They didn’t really know any better.” Ugghhhhhhhh! Hearing things like this sends me through a whirlwind of emotions: sad, frustrated, and angry being at the top of the list. I want to immediately hate the buyer and assume that they are horrible, evil people without a soul–but I know these guys, and they are truly good, nice guys. So why, when they have seen firsthand what great dogs you can get from a rescue, did they choose to buy? You better believe, I fully intend to ask them next time I see them. Nic, if you’re reading this, I promise not to nag them or be annoying! I just truly am curious as to what their thought process was. What is the driving force behind their decision? Maybe if I can understand their logic, I can learn a better way to go about educating other people.
It’s absolutely gut wrenching to know that there are amazing dogs like Rocky that end up rotting away in a shelter while people are going out and buying dogs. And for what, a lack of education? A lack of empathy? Plain old indifference? If it’s a lack of education, we can all work to fix that, but you can’t force people to care. And that essentially is what this boils done to in a lot of instances, isn’t it?
To watch a video showing just how awesome Rocky is, click here. If you are interested in this sweet, mellow, so deserving boy, please please please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eeeek. Now there’s an unpleasant thought. Oh, you hadn’t ever thought about it before? Well buck up cowboy because you know what? Shit happens. Car accidents, heart attacks, plane crashes. People die every day that weren’t planning on it. And guess what, if you aren’t prepared, it could very well be your beloved pet that ends up sitting in a cold shelter, alone, confused, and in mourning.
About a year ago a woman contacted one of the rescues that I volunteer with and asked for help finding a home for her dog. Her mother had passed away and no one in the family wanted the dog. It had already been living in boarding at a vet’s office for almost a month before she contacted us. I got in touch with her and told her we would begin working immediately to find a foster home. She called me later that day and told me the dog had passed away. They suspected heart failure. I believe it was a broken heart. And this happens every. single. day. because people assume surely someone will care for their pet if they pass away unexpectedly, rather than taking the time to put a plan in place. Here’s Rich with some advice on how best to prepare for the worst:
Today’s legal topic is one that I actually came across in law school; and not in a specialized animal law class, nor in my pro bono work with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, but actually in a class that many law students take in Florida: Gratuitous Transfers aka Wills, Trusts, & Estates. Today we’re talking about a bit morose, but necessary topic: providing for your pets in the event you die or become incapacitated before they do.
Many of us have friends that we know would take care of our animals for us if something untimely were to happen. While this may work in the short term, depending on the needs of your pet, it can become quite a hardship for someone to take on over the long term. Additionally, in the case of death a pet may become the subject of a property dispute among your friend and a family member that has always loved the dog, or worse one that may think that it can be sold for a profit.
A way to get around the possible property dispute is to include your dog in the property left by your will. Doing this ensures that there is a record of your wishes as to who is to take care of your dog at your passing. In the case of incapacity, a living will can include the same provisions and direct who is to take care of your dog. In the case of a will, there still exists the problem that just because you leave your dog with someone doesn’t ensure that they will continue to have the funds to take care of the dog for the life of the pet. Property from a will is distributed all at once, and what’s more is that it can take a long time, a year or more, before the probate process is completed.
The most complete way to make sure that your pet is taken care of is to establish a pet trust. Traditionally pet trusts used to fail because the pet was set up as the beneficiary. Courts would not enforce the trust because the beneficiary, the pet, could not sue the trustee in case that the trust was not being administered in the way that it is meant to be. However now all states in the US recognize pet trusts. Now, instead of making your pet the beneficiary, the creator of the trust designates the new keeper of the pet as the beneficiary of the trust. The next step is to make sure that you have a trust instrument drafted that details all of the care that your pet will need, and provides for other care and maintenance as the pet may require. The trust instrument can even instruct which vet the pet is to be taken to for the rest of its life.
Now in addition to naming the caretaker of the pet, i.e. the beneficiary of the trust, you will also have to name someone to administer the trust, this is the trustee. The trustee is charged with making sure that the letter and spirit of the trust instrument is followed, and that the beneficiary is taking care of your pet the way that you would want. The trustee disburses funds for the upkeep of the pet as they become due. This can be a personal friend, associate, or you can use a trust company to administer the trust. The last thing that you need to do is fund the trust. This can be done by depositing the money to fund the trust in an account with a bank or trust company just for this purpose, you can direct that funds be taken out of another account in your will at probate to fund the trust, or you can even name the trust as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy.
One last thing to consider is what you want done with the balance of the trust fund at the time when your pet passes on. You can designate that the balance go anywhere, so you can leave it for the caretaker of the trust as a “thank you” for caring for your pet after you are no longer able to, or you can pass it to another person just like a gift under your will, or you can designate that it pass along to a charity of your choice.
In addition to everything Rich just proposed, there is something I would like to add: sit down and write out all of your dogs routines, favorite treats, allergies, quirks, and anything else that can’t be solved with just having money set aside. I actually stumbled across a book that you could buy and fill in with every single detail imaginable about your pet so that if you did pass away untimely, the book could be given to the designated caregiver. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of it or find it now but I will keep searching and share it if I do. But think about it: no one knows your pet like you do and if you were to pass away he will already be a mess so the least you can do is make sure the future caregiver has all the tools necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible. I know this was a rather long and morose post today, but I think it is so important, and not something to be ignored because it is unpleasant. Now, go kiss your pet put a smile back on your face!
Say what? The phrase “You dirty booper!” or some variation, “Ohh yous a dirty booper. Boop boop! Come here my little booper!” can be frequently heard around our house. It’s our favorite thing to jokingly say to Maggie. Imagine a cross between that hilarious meme with the husky (see below) and that scene from Superbad (see further below.)
And there you have it; we coined the term “booper”. Obviously we have excellent senses of humor–but the catalyst behind this funny phrase sadly isn’t that funny.
It took probably a good 6 months before Maggie really began to relax in our home and her true colors started to show. I can’t honestly remember the first time that it happened, but one day Maggie and the other two were running from one room to another, riled up about something outside, and Maggie did this weird snarl/snap at them and kept running. It was hilarious! She didn’t make contact with either of them, she just made a funny sound with a little snap of her mouth, and they all kept going. Hello boop, nice to meet you.
The “boop” continued to make appearances, few and far between, and I basically did nothing but laugh at them because they were always seemingly random, quick, and without consequence. It wasn’t until after this horrible event that I began to grown concerned about the booping situation. Don’t get me wrong, I could see from the get go that the boop was some sort of redirected aggression/frustration (due to whatever it was that was outside that they wanted to get to) but I assumed that my two good-natured, steady-as-a-rock dogs would always just ignore little Maggie. No harm, no foul kind of thing. Well after the fight (which I still firmly but sadly believe was Tag’s fault, and completely unrelated to “booping”) I began to consider the potential consequences to Maggie’s actions.
Nothing happened between the time of the fight and our move into the new house with a nice yard, but the boop continued to make little random appearances and I did my best to discourage them. Now that we have this big back yard for them to run around in, the boop is continuing to make appearances, but this time at top Maggie speed–which is fast and generally results in her barreling into someone at the end. I can see that the other two are getting annoyed with it. And after a boop I can sometimes see that she has a stressed, wide eyed, trembly face too, and I’ll grab her and calm her down. This is rare but afterwards she always goes up to the dogs and does her best “I’m-super-submissive-and-so-sorry” face-kissing, flopping-on-her-back act. And the incident is over.
I know that the dogs all love each other, enjoy each others company, and are probably the happiest they have ever been (thank you big back yard!) but I feel like it’s time to put an end to this booping before, God forbid, something bad does happen. So, fellow dog owners/lovers have any of you experienced this with one of your dogs? Do I seek professional help? I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement, so I always praise them when they are all playing nicely and Maggie runs around boop-free, but it’s not stopping the behavior. Any ideas or recommendations would be so super appreciated! Oh, and Happy Hump Day!
Let me start at the beginning:
My long time readers know that I used to frequently volunteer at a tiny shelter just south of Tallahassee. I was there one Saturday with a fellow Last Hope Rescue board member and we were taking pictures of the new dogs so that we could post them to the various social media outlets and hopefully get them adopted. We both instantly fell in love with this uuuber adorable little pittie/dalmation/am. bulldog looking mix. Seriously. We were plotting how one of us could bring him home and not have our significant others walk out on us (I have 3 dogs, she has 5!)
While we were there a shelter worker told us that there was actually a girl already interested in him. Excellent! We learned that this girl had recently been raped and, rightfully so, was traumatized and suffering from depression. She didn’t want to leave her house, she didn’t want to get out of bed; she was scared. Her mom decided getting a dog would help pull her out of her depression but they had looked at a few already and she didn’t feel anything for any of them. Then she met this hunk. It was love at first sight and she was dead set on getting him. At this point I had never met her, but my heart went out to her nonetheless.
Being the small world that it is, she called my office just a few days later, and asked if we accepted American Bulldogs. “Yes!” I can’t remember for certain but I think she was standing at my desk within the hour. I took her on a tour and she started talking about this dog she wanted to adopt because something bad had happened to her. I quickly put two and two together and realized she was the girl interested in adopting the dog that I had fallen so in love with at the shelter!
This girl hadn’t even officially adopted the dog yet, and she was already breaking her lease at one apartment, just to move to another so that she could legally have him. I liked her already. She gushed on and on about how awesome he was and how she already loved him and would do anything for him. In fact, she already had a name picked out: Ryker. Yea, I like this girl a lot.
Needless to say, the adoption went through, and I became friends with this sweet, hilarious girl. I didn’t know her before the rape, but I know her and Ryker now. They are inseparable. The pair frequently attended pack walks and are regulars with UnSaidYetUnderstood at the dog park. In fact, Ryker and Circus are best friends (not to mention probably the two best looking dogs I have ever known!) Their bond is so deep in fact that she went to great measures to make sure that when she gets ready to move later this summer, there are no issues. Ryker was DNA tested, the results of which are hilarious, and I will let her share for herself on her blog one day. She also got Ryker certified as a Therapy Dog so that he is protected if they move somewhere that doesn’t allow “pits.”
So, why am I sharing my friend’s personal story? Because she is speaking up. She is telling her story. She is the voice of so many girls that aren’t strong enough to speak up. And you know what else? I think she has Ryker to thank. Of course I think she is strong, beautiful, funny (she picture below) and would have gotten to this point on her own one day, but I think Ryker sped up the process. I think their relationship is the epitome of love and understanding. She saved him from the shelter and now he is saving her.
I admit that I’m a sucker for a good pit bull story, especially when I personally know the dog involved and can attest to his greatness, but if ever there was a blog worth reading, this is it. Pit lover, even dog lover, or not. Check out their story and see what she has to say. She talks about the rape, depression, and most of all her amazing pit bull mix that means the world to her. Go. Now!