Lucky Enough.

I’ve been meaning to write a post for Pit Bull Awareness Month and today while cleaning out my inbox I found a picture that I’ve been searching for for months and I dare say, is quite fitting for the topic at hand.  Check it out:

photo-51

Recognize that face?  This is Maggie, about a week (and a week’s worth of meals) after she was found.  That thing hanging from around her neck is what she chewed through to free herself.  Look at her ribs.  Her sunken forehead.  Her posture.  The dark, sick rings around her eyes.  This picture makes me think of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

Pit BullAnd look at her now.  Meat on her bones, a twinkle in her eye, and a big ole goofy grin on her face.  Quite the transformation, right?  Well, I want to let you all in on a little secret:  this is normal.  That’s not to say it’s “normal” to find severely abused dogs, but what is normal, is to see these kinds of transformations in dogs once they find themselves in loving homes–and that’s particularly true for Pit Bull type dogs.  It’s been said time and again that Pit Bulls are a particularly forgiving and resilient type of dog, heck, I said it yesterday when I talked about Gracie, but I thought sharing a little visual could only help to further my point.

Pit Bull

Even more important than the physical transformation though, is the emotional.  After being found, Maggie was initially in boarding, then a different foster home, then she finally landed in my care.  The first foster was wonderful, and absolutely loved Maggie, but she was so terrified by the man of the house that she would lose complete control of her bowels and refused to come inside if he was home; she would hide out in their yard until he left for work.  Realizing that this was not the best environment for her, I was asked to take over her foster care.  Of course I agreed, and the rest is history.

Pit Bull

Now, Maggie leaps into Rich’s arms when he gets home, plays like a lady at the park and daycare, welcomes new dogs in to our home, is all around confident, silly, and very happy.  She can still be unsure of strangers, but she is getting better with every day!  Just last weekend Rich took her to Home Depot where she proudly walked around her with beloved dad and even stopped to let strangers give her a pat on the head.  If you met Maggie a year ago, you would never believe she was capable of this.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t even sure she would ever get to this point!  But true to Pit Bull form, Maggie has proved me wrong and blossomed into (dare I say it out loud?) our most well-behaved, well-adjusted dog family member.

Pit Bull I see that this has turned into a “Isn’t-Maggie-Awesome” post and that wasn’t my intention!  I honestly can’t even pick one specific thing to discuss for Pit Bull Awareness month though.  There is the obvious point of this post: Pit Bulls are amazingly resilient and have stunning transformations should them come for a bad start.  But then there are also all the myths that should debunked.  Our friend did that here though.  Or the fact that they make fantastic family dogs.  Or how smart they are.  Or how cuddly and loving they are.  The list goes on and on.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines:

“If you’re lucky enough to be owned by a Pit Bull, you’re lucky enough.”

{Legal Issue} Restraining Dogs in Cars

I am going to NY this weekend and currently suffering from some yucky cold that I can’t kick, so when my hubby called and woke me up at almost 10 o’clock last night to tell me he had lost his cars keys I was less than thrilled, to say the least.  He was at an NBA game downtown and needed me to bring him the spare set.  I decided that if I had to drag my butt out of bed, I might as well bring the dogs along and make it an adventure.  So I folded down the seats, rolled the windows down (but not too far because Buddy has been known to jump out so he can go introduce himself to strangers) and off we went.

Getting downtown was no problem, nor was finding Rich….but getting back?  For whatever reason I took the wrong exit and we ended up going waaay out of the way.  And then a police officer pulled up behind me…and stayed there.  I suffer from the delusion that      I’m always going to get caught when there is a police officer around.  For what?  Who knows.  But my mind was racing.  Was he running my plates?  Was he looking at my “My Pit Bull is Family” bumper sticker and getting ready to pull me over and shoot Maggie?  (I have read one too many sad storied about pit bulls being shot and yes, I’m a “worst-caser”, plus I was sick and tired!)  Could he see the dogs in the back and was getting ready to pull me over for that?  It seems like I remember hearing that they are going to start requiring dogs to be restrained, but I can’t quite remember….then the officer turned and I was safe.  But my mind kept going.  Had I in fact been breaking a law by having the three of them loose in the back of my SUV?  Turns out, Rich had already researched this and I completely forgot to read (and obviously post) what he had learned!  Let’s all find out together:

photo-31

There is currently a push for legislation in states to prohibit driving a car with a dog unrestrained in it. The push stems from a fear of dogs causing accidents by interfering with the driver’s use of the steering wheel or pedals, or distracting the driver or from the added damage that can occur when in an accident, that the dog can become a “missile” further injuring itself and/or the occupants of the car. I know in our household traveling with the dogs in the car has lead to more than one red light being run to avoid having to slam on the brakes and making them go flying.

There are seven states that restrict letting dogs or other animals ride in the back of a pick up truck or otherwise open air vehicles. Though many of these statutes can be complied with by putting the dog in a crate in the bed of the truck, or by cross tethering the animal to the truck.

IMG_3490

There are only a few states that currently have any law on the books that can be used to ticket someone that drives with an unrestrained dog inside the car. New Jersey is one such state and a fine of up to $1,000 for someone improperly transporting an animal.  At this time, Florida does not have a specific law on the books for this.

Other states prohibit driving with a pet in your lap. Hawaii has an explicit law prohibiting this conduct and Arizona, Maine and Connecticut can use their distracted driving laws to ticket drivers for this conduct.

IMG_2304

“What do you think? Tell mom! She loves to hear your input!”

What do you think? Is driving with a dog unrestrained in the passenger compartment of the car inherently dangerous, should there be a law against it, or would this just be more needless regulation? Don’t just tell us! In a previous post we linked to this Library of Congress website that allows you to contact your local state legislator. Write them and tell them what you think about potential legislation and then share your thoughts here with us.

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!            

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know how obsessively in love I am with my brother’s two dogs.  They are my all-time favorite rescue story and I get giddy every single time I see them and how perfect their lives are (which is a lot now that I live in the same city as them.)

Happy Dogs

                                                        So tired, but soooo happy.

photo-27photo-29Seriously, they go running on these trails all the time, and to the beach almost every single night for a run.  Tell me that is not doggie heaven.  Maybe I should be researching a way to clone my brother…

photo-31And in other news, my dogs are thrilled with our new purchase.  Car rides are about their Most Favorite Thing Ever.

photo-32Happy Hump Day Y’all!

#winning

I know the whole Charlie Sheen “#winning” thing is like so two years ago, but it still cracks me up and it just feels appropriate right now.  So here’s the deal: remember how I kept pathetically begging asking for you guys to “like” Maggie’s picture and help her win a spot in a calendar?  Well, she didn’t win.  Dude, it’s cool though!  You know why?  Because her and I have both already #won!

Happy Pit Bull

I #won the day I agreed to foster her.  I never, ever wanted a third dog (that spot was meant to be permanently reserved for fosters!) but here came Maggie and she became one of the biggest, but hands down most rewarding, challenges I have encountered.  She has single pawdedly (get it, like “single handedly”?) changed my mom’s mind about pit bull type dogs as well as many others.  She turned Rich into a mushy-gushy dog lover and pit bull advocate.  And she makes my heart swell with pride on a daily basis.

IMG_2924

And Maggie #won the day she came to my house.  She was terrified and cowered behind corners at first, but quickly learned that I would never so much as raise my voice to her, let alone hurt her the way other people had before.  She almost instantly bonded with my two dogs and learned that being part of a pack is pretty much The Greatest Thing Ever.  She lives in a big house with an even bigger back yard that remains permanently full of lizards for her hunting pleasure.  She gets to sleep under the covers right between Rich and I every night.  She has food in her bowl every morning and evening, and Kongs full of peanut butter when she gets crated.  She is loved like no other.

Pit Bull awareness

And Maggie and I aren’t the only #winners from this contest.  Of course there are the 12 dogs that made it in to the calendar, but really every single dog whose owner took the time and cared enough to enter them in the contest has already #won.  How lucky are these dogs to have owners who not only love them but care so much about them that they seek out avenues for learning more about how to care for their dog and provide them with wonderful lives?  I’d say they are #winning all over the place!  And among the other #winners are my friends Rebecca and Oscar from Tails of a Foster Mom.  Oscar was even closer to winning than Maggie, but at the very end a couple of other dogs pulled ahead and he didn’t quite make it.  But if you’ve ever read Rebecca’s blog, you already know Oscar has #won!

Pit Bull

How have you and your dog(s) #won lately?  I’m trying super hard to see everything in a positive light these days, and I’d love to hear about how others are #winning so spill the beans, friends!

Pit Sisters

Guess what?  So you know how I was talking about how bored I have been because I’m not busy?  Well, the group Pit Sisters, a Jacksonville rescue that pulls pits from the high kill shelters, has been putting me to work!

Pit Bull puppy

In addition to pulling the most at-risk dogs and adding them to their program they also team up with the shelters to help them when they are in a time of crisis.  Last week they committed to “holding” 7 dogs until next weekend when the shelter is having a major adoption event. These dogs would have been put down otherwise.  The Pit Sisters found a woman with a piece of land that was willing to house all of the dogs.  The problem was, she suffers from a serious illness and can’t actually care for the dogs herself.  The group put out a plea for volunteers so of course I jumped at the opportunity!  I’ve gone out there a couple of times to feed, walk, and just generally love on the dogs.

Deaf Puppy

If I wasn’t concerned Rich might leave me, I would have come home with this sweetie. He’s deaf but that does NOT slow him down! He is so stinkin’ cute and cuddly, I wanted him all to myself!

Deaf Puppu

He’s got the cutest pink nose, and is all white except for this unique little spot on his rear end. Just to die for!

In addition to that, I went to their adoption event yesterday and got to meet some of their dogs that are in foster care.  What an adorable group they are!  (They are the dogs featured throughout this post.)  I’ve now got a standing agreement with the ladies to come to their monthly adoption events and get pictures!  Yay!

Chocolate Lab Puppy

And of course, now that I finally am getting put to work a little, I find a job.  Starting tomorrow I will be Jacksonville’s newest accountant.  I know, it sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?  Oh well, I suppose crunching numbers for a few years isn’t such a bad thing.  It might just give me the experience (and definitely the savings!) to open my own rescue one day.  I suppose only time will tell though.

Pit Bull

If any of these adorable mugs are begging to be added to your family, please email sisters@pitsister.org or myself.  They are a fantastic group that does great work here in Jacksonville!

Bulldog Mix

This girl was a total ham. So silly and sweet!

Bulldog Mix

Calling All Anti-BSL Folks

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:

http://www.abc6.com/Category/178006/video?clipId=8959457&autostart=true

“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.

FUR 035-(ZF-1860-91697-1-007)

Just another “vicious” pit bull, hangin out.

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.

IMG_2924

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.

IMG_2304

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.

https://www.facebook.com/abbeytv

Twitter:  @abbeyniezgoda

e-mail: aniezgoda@abc6.com.

Please contact the ABC6 Executive Team and tell them that Abbey Niezgoda’s self-serving, unethical and despicable behavior should cost her her job.

Chris Tzianabos

Vice President/General Manager

ctzianabos@abc6.com

401-453-8000

Michael Troiano

General Sales Manager

mtroiano@abc6.com

401-453-8024

Beth Ulicnik

MultiChannel Manager

bulicnik@abc6.com

Web/RINC/Digital

401-453-8021

John Methia

Director of Broadcast Operations & Engineering

jmethia@abc6.com

401-453-8058

Robert Rockstroh

News Director

brockstroh@abc6.com

401-453-8036

Cindy Walsh

National Sales Manager

cwalsh@abc6.com

401-453-8026

Judy Shoemaker

Promotion Manager

jshoemaker@abc6.com

401-453-8158

Anne Marie Menard

Business Manager

amenard@abc6.com

401-453-8008

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)

http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us?nord=1

http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3271346&cat=ABCNews.com

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.