Future Fly Ball Champ

I shared a picture of my favorite resident at the Jacksonville Humane Society on Facebook yesterday.  Her name is Barbara (I know, it’s terrible) and when I look at her I see a Fly Ball or Agility champion.  I am obsessed; she is just so.freakin.awesome.  Here, see for yourself:

Agility Dog

Fly Ball Dog

Pit Bull

Tennis Ball

Right?  Oh, you’re not convinced that this is the coolest dog ever?  Check out this beautifully dirty mug:

Dirty Mouth

and Super ears!

Tongue

Fly Ball Dog

This girl needs to be on a Fly Ball team.  In fact, I have been able to teach her some tricks without using one single treat.  Her obsession with tennis balls is so great that they are an even bigger reward for her than any treat could ever be.  B’s future is absolutely limitless, she just needs to get the heck out of the shelter system.  I think she would be pretty perfect for a younger guy that could take her to the beach for endless games of fetch and picking up chicks.  I mean, I certainly would go talk to any guy that had a pup as cool as her!

Gorgeous Pit Bull

Barbara is available through the Jacksonville Humane Society.  If you know of anyone in the market for a super athletic, smart, and loving pocket pit tie, feel free to share this post!

We Love: Love!

When Maggie came to me as a foster, Rich was out of town for the summer.  That means we had weeks of bonding under our belt before he was even in the picture.  To say that she disliked the sudden appearance of a man in the house would be the understatement of the century.  She was terrified of him.

Tag

Buddy

I’m pretty sure Rich loved Maggie even before he met her.  Every time we talked over the summer I was telling him all about her and how much she was blossoming.  You would think coming home to a dog quite opposite of the one I had been describing would be a turn off.  Instead, I think it made him love her even more.  Every time she growled at him he would turn around and ignore her per my instructions but he would also say, “It’s okay Maggie, I just want to love you.”  And his favorite line to recite to Maggie, “Love doesn’t divide, it multiples!”

Moo

Eventually the growling subsided and she slowly began to let him sit near her.  Then touch her.  And eventually full on cuddle.  It took almost a year, but finally she got excited and would initiate play with him when he got home from work.  A sight I honestly didn’t know if I would ever see and still makes my heart swell.  Now, Maggie can typically be found cuddled up with her dad; her favorite human in the house.  If not for Rich’s persistent love and devotion to little Maggie, she might never have turned the corner with men.  She still occasionally give a little growl at men she doesn’t know but I am quite pleased with her progress.  She may never run up to a strange man just to give him kisses, but I can live with that.  The most important thing is that Maggie has learned to love love.

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Happy Valentine’s Day from our pack to yours!

Villalobos and #367rescue: Changing Lives

The busier I am, the happier I am.  Lately, you can find me on cloud nine.  There are quite a few new things I have gotten involved with lately, and I’m sure I’ll talk excitedly about them one day, but for now I wanted to share the first of two very exciting pieces of news:  I will be deploying the end of February for one week to help with the #367 dogs from the fighting ring bust last summer!  I am honored and excited beyond words to be part of this amazing experience.  Adding to the extreme awesomeness is the fact that my dear friend from And Foster Makes Five will be there at the exact. same. time!  Um, yea.  That’s happening.

A friend sent this link about the #367 dogs to me a couple of days ago and (if you have a box of tissues handy) I highly recommend reading it.  I was instantly transported back to my time at Villalobos Rescue in New Orleans (from the show Pit Bulls and Parolees if you aren’t familiar with the name.)  I’ve mentioned my time there in passing once or twice and many people have asked me to talk more about it, but I haven’t felt I possess the eloquence necessary to do the experience the justice it deserves.  I still don’t think I do I will do my best to sum it up in a couple of “quick” paragraphs:

Life changing.  If I could only use two words, those would be the ones.  I can’t honestly say that I remember much from my drive to NOLA but what probably sticks out the most in my mind was the drive home from NOLA.  I cried so hard that I had to pull over at one point.  I distinctly remember sitting at a rest stop and debating just turning around and going back.  Surely I could find a job bartending or something so I had food money and I was happy to just continue living in the warehouse that us volunteers had called home for the week.  All I could think about were the things I was so ready to give up just so I could be there doing what I finally realized, with stunning clarity, was my true purpose in life.  Obviously my head prevailed and I managed to make my way back to Florida and my regular life.

It was jarring to realize that sleeping on a cot, surrounded by strangers, showering (yes, showering) in a cold porta-potty, and eating processed crap had lead me to realize my purpose, but that’s exactly what it did.  Why did I ever think I cared about clothes, or shoes, or a real bed with real sheets?  So unnecessary and frivolous.  I had always loved animals and I’d volunteered or taken in strays here and there, but it was now blindingly clear that this is where my heart is.  I had a semester left of college, which I knew I had to finish, but it was clear that this was the only “career” I had any interest in.  Being flat broke and possessing nothing more than rain boots was all I needed to fulfill my purpose in life.  Fast forward to today and admittedly the drama of my drive home has worn off some, but my heart still beats to a slightly different drum, and I still view many things I previously thought were oh-so necessary as frivolous.

Home Sweet Home

Home, Sweet Home for the week.

I had only seen clips of the show prior to my trip (and honestly I still have yet to see more than 10 minutes here or there) so I didn’t really know who anyone was, aside from knowing Tia called the shots.  There were two momma dogs with litters of very young puppies and we were asked who wanted to step up to be on “puppy duty”.  I assumed everyone would fight for this job but no one seemed particularly excited about it.  Desperate to show I was worthy of being there, I tried to maintain my composure when I said I would do it (it was puppies people, putting a lid on my excitement was not easy!)  The previous “puppy duty” volunteer was getting ready to leave and showed us everything that needed to be done.  Aaaand now I realized why people weren’t fighting for the job.  Those things were food devouring poop machines!

Puppies

And then I met her: brown momma dog.  I instantly fell hard and fast for her.  While visitors came to “oooo” and “awww” over the puppies, she was the only dog I had eyes for.  She was a plain little brown thing.  No discernible markings, no discernible breed.  Just a plain brown mutt, and it was love.  When there was down time, which wasn’t often, I would go sit in her kennel with her.  And by sit with her, I mean she would do her best to climb into my lap so every possible inch of her was touching me.  I would murmur in her ear, telling her what a good girl she was, that she was the best mom ever, and that she was safe now.  She was the biggest reason I wanted to turn my car around and come back, forever.

Momma Dog

Pardon the poor quality, all I had with me was a crappy old phone!

The days were long and the work was manual.  I loved it.  I’m not a particularly large person (I claim to be 5’2″ but I don’t think I’m even that) so of course I felt that I had to prove myself.  I was partnered up with a guy named Ben and I was damned if I let him work faster than me.  As we worked through cleaning our section of kennels he would tell me what he knew about the dogs and their lives before Villalobos.  Initially all I could think about was how terribly depressing it was for these dogs to live in a loud warehouse, in a kennel, with minimal exercise and interaction.  There just isn’t time in the day to sit and play with each dog, unless maybe you are a zombie that requires absolutely no sleep.  Intuitively I knew that crying in front of these dogs was a selfish thing to do.  It’s been said many times before, but they don’t need our tears, they need our strength.  Holding it in all week is probably what lead to my torrent of tears on the drive home though.  But like I was saying, Ben helped me realize just how much happier they were in this setting.  They weren’t being beaten, living on chains, forced to fight, scrounging for food, or roaming the streets looking for shelter from storms, or, like my favorite brown momma dog, a safe place to have their babies.  They were safe.  And they were loved.

There is so much more I could say or describe about this experience but the main things I took away from it were: a deep appreciation and respect for the guys (and girls!) that work there.  They are quite possibly the most compassionate people I have ever met.  Tia knew everything about every single dog there.  It was amazing.  Not to mention the other volunteers that week were seriously so cool, and I still keep in touch with some of them!  I took away a burning desire to keep at this rescue from now til forever.  I learned first hand just how amazingly resilient dogs are.  I mean, I had always known that to some extent, but seeing these happy, grinning faces, despite their varying backgrounds was truly amazing.  I realized how little I need to truly be happy.  A new purse can never, ever make me feel the way I felt while running through the yard with a dog that was just thankful to be out of his kennel.  And I learned that sometimes a plain brown momma mutt is truly the coolest dog of all.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the #367 experience will be like compared to my time at Villalobos.  I’m guessing it will be even more intense.  These are all dogs from a fighting ring.  I’m already repeating the mantra “They need my strength, not my tears” in preparation for the week.  If my time at Villalobos taught me anything though, it’s that I’ll be giving their past much more thought than they will.  I’m quite sure they will just be happy for the safety, regular meals, and especially love, that they are already receiving.  Check back in a couple of days for my second piece of super exciting news!

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

Where, oh where is the time flying to?  I have been so stinkin’ busy with rescue/volunteering things that I fear the blog has been suffering.  Whoooopsies!  Tune in tomorrow for a post on what I oh-so humbly think is an important topic.  And then stay tuned for what I hope is a very exciting announcement in the near future.  But for today, try and warm up with these pictures from sunny days past:

Maggie the Pit BullNala and DuncanNalaDuncanHappy DogsOh the lessons we can learn from our dogs.  Stop and smell the weeds roses:

Smell the Roses

Pssst, UnSaidYetUnderstood, we really miss you!

Passively Positive Pit Bull Advocating

Almost without fail every time I take my dogs for a walk someone (if not multiple people) say something like, “Wow, is that a pit bull?”  or “Oh, that’s a pit bull, isn’t it?!” referring to Maggie and ignoring the other two dogs.  I always respond with something like, “They’re my rescues, aren’t they great!?”  Remember this post about just calling them “rescues” or something like that?  I still love it and am pleased when I am able to politely dodge their question and reply with something cute instead.  But then I’ll get home from that walk and check my google alerts.  For every one alert I have set up to flag a variety of different topics, I get literally ten about pit bulls.  (I have it set to give me ten per day per topic, I only wish I was exaggerating this since they are almost always negative!)  So then I post a cute picture of Maggie on Instagram with something like #mypitbullisalover #notafighter but guess what? #I’mFeedingIntoTheProblem!

You gotta love a pit bull's smile.

I recognized once before that my good intentions were in fact adding to the problem and I talked about it here.  It’s a good read for anyone that means well by saying, “It’s all in how they’re raised!” and I would recommend taking a peek at it.  I also recently read a fantastic article about a former “pit bull” rescue that realized their community was beginning to view pit bulls in a positive light so they dropped “pit bull” entirely from their mission and now just focus on rescuing all dogs and educating the public on responsible pet ownership.  It occurred to them that if they continued to focus on just pit bulls, all the attention could undo what they had accomplished.  Check it out here.  But then I read this article by And Foster Makes Five and literally hung my head in shame.  Uh oh, guilty as charged!  If you stop reading this post right now and head over to read AFM5’s piece I would be happy as a clam, because she says it perfectly, and much better than I will.  Go on, I’ll wait.

IMG_3565

It was great, right?  And makes SO much sense, right?  I fear that we have almost made pit bulls too popular.  “But that should be a great thing!” you say.  Well yes and no.  The reason it is concerning to me is directly linked to the incredible number of pit bull stories in the news, which I am fully aware of because of those google alerts I was talking about earlier.  Did you know there is no standard definition of what a “pit bull” is?  Click here for an absolutely fantastic article that illustrates beautifully how varied the definition of a “pit bull” can be.  Imagine this scenario: a dog bite occurs.  The first reporter on the scene asks around about the type of dog involved and no one could give them a definitive answer.  A couple of people mention it had a “big head” and was “muscular”.  The reporter doesn’t know much about breeds.  They think back to all the other stories they’ve heard about dog fighting and pit bull attacks and decide that this must have been a pit bull, too.  And there you have it, another negative “pit bull” story makes it to the news.  The dog very well could have any other breed but it doesn’t matter.  The damage is done.

IMG_3911

So what’s my point in all this?  Basically exactly what Stephanie was saying in her post.  Let’s stop victimizing pit bulls and coming off as coo-coo pit bull fanatics which is just pushing away those that aren’t sure yet how they feel about the breed.  I don’t know about you, but the quickest way to get me to either tune out or disregard what someone with an opposing view point has to say, is for them to be loud, obnoxious, or worst of all, come off as uneducated or pushy.  Am I saying we should all go into hiding with our pit bulls so that they are never seen?  Never share a picture on Facebook or Instagram?  Never write a positive pit bull story on our blogs?  Of course not!  But I for one am going to stop using things like #lovernotfighter and instead do my best to always focus on being passively positive.  That’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?  “Passively Positive”.  I’m not going to scream and shout to anyone within a 10 mile radius that pit bulls are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I am just going to continue writing pieces and sharing pictures of all the wonderful dogs I encounter, pit bull and everything else alike.

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

I really can’t say enough good things about Joffy.  Just look at him, he’s stunning!

Joffy 2

Joffy is a long-time resident of the kennel and I know that this is because he just isn’t seen by enough people.  Not only is he a looker, but he’s got the greatest personality.  Big and strong, but sweet and gentle.  Smart and willing to please, but goofy and full of personality.

Joffy

Can you all help me help Joffy find a home for the holidays?  Please share this so everyone can see his gorgeous mug.  If ever I were going to bring a fourth dog him, this would be the man, and that’s really saying something!

Contact me at morganrivera518(at)gmail(dot)com for more information or if you are interested in this fantastic boy!