Labeling, For Lives.

For saving them.  And more often, for destroying them.

It’s no secret I am a pittie lover and advocate.  I am extremely proud of my Maggie and brag about her every chance I get.  When you look at Maggie, there is no getting around the fact that she is a “pit bull”; some combination of American Pit Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Terrier most likely.  And I love it!  Maggie will never find herself anywhere other than living the good life in my home.  She will never, ever see the inside of a shelter.  But what about all the dogs out there that aren’t as lucky?

Puppies

These adorable brothers were so cute but with their long lanky legs and coats, and silly underbites, but I think “pit bull” is pretty far from an accurate descriptor for them.

Before I go any further, let me be clear about something: I am a firm believer in full disclosure and honesty in the rescue world.  You are helping no one by lying about a dog’s health, temperament, or breed, just for the sake of getting it adopted.  Why?  Because often times dogs that are adopted out under false pretenses find themselves returned to the rescue or shelter.  Now you have to do all that work again: securing a foster home, marketing the dog, helping it through what likely are new or amplified behavioral issues as a product of being bounced around, and if it goes back to a shelter, you’re probably looking at immediate euthanasia since owner surrenders rarely stand a chance.

Puppy

I agree that this fella looks to have some “pit bull” in him, but his looong, lanky legs and slim build definitely lead me to believe he is more Lab than anything.

 I recently spent some time at a small, rural shelter, just south of Jacksonville.  I was there with a wonderful friend, but the experience still wasn’t the best.  Why?  Because with one exception, every single dog I walked and played with (and I think all of the ones she did as well) were labeled as a “pit bull” and nothing else.  Some were so clearly not pit bulls that it would have been funny, if the label hadn’t meant their chances of making it out alive were significantly decreased.  I’m not saying these dogs couldn’t have some “pit bull” in them, they probably did!  But, and it’s a big but, by labeling them as just “pit bulls” most people going to the shelter interested in adopting wouldn’t even take the time to meet any of these dogs.  It’s sad, but especially in areas like where this shelter is located, people are still caught up in the bad media hype surrounding the breed, even though we know better.  There is no shame in a dog being a pit bull type, but my point is, by labeling them as just that and not even acknowledging other breeds that could be present, you significantly decrease their chances of meeting potential adopters that could be a perfect fit.

Puppy

This goofy bundle of love had “hound” written all over her if you ask me.

It’s scary that people with no training, and often times some misconceptions of their own about different breeds, are allowed to slap a label on a dog with no more than a glance in their direction.  This decision that they spend maybe 10 seconds making, frequently seals that dogs fate.  And I’m not just talking the breed they label them as, I’m also talking about the dreaded “aggressive” label.  These shelter workers usually don’t even interact with dogs any more than walking past their kennel before deciding if a dog may or may not be aggressive.  If you have any experience with dogs you know that they are sensitive creatures.  The feel fear, confusion, frustration, and much more.  And these feelings can manifest in very different ways in different dogs.  While one dog might cower at the back of his kennel another may run to the front and bark or growl.  To a person that doesn’t understand or care, they might view this as aggression and slap that label on the dog without giving it a second thought.  And that dog has probably just been given a death sentence.

Chocolate Lab

This gorgeous girl is a Chocolate Lab, through and through. She is stunningly beautiful in person. I was so shocked to read “pit bull” and NOTHING else on her kennel card!

This beast of an issue will take a long time to correct.  The point of this post is to hopefully open some eyes.  Please, don’t take a label at a shelter as fact.  If you are considering adopting, take the time to meet every dog, despite how they might be labeled.  You never know, that dog barking her head off might just be the sweetest, most mellow dog once she is out of her scary, loud, stressful kennel and in an open space.  You won’t know until you take the time to meet her yourself.  And anyone lucky enough to own a pit bull type dog, is lucky enough, period.

All of the dogs in this post are urgently looking for a forever home before their time runs out.  If you are interested in adopting any of them, please let me know!            

You Dirty Booper!

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.)

Boop

Borrowed from the google machine. Rights are not mine.

Superbad

Also borrowed, also not mine. Please don’t sue, all my money goes to feeding my monsters.

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.

photo-2

I am happy to report that our God awful couches were replaced the very day this picture was taken. Finally!

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.

photo-3

We were so sad when we arrived at the beach and they informed us that they strictly enforce leash laws. We made do the best we could.

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.

photo-5

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.

photo-6

So concerned about the squealing children.

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!