Sunday, October 26, 2014

PBRC Volunteers and Their Dogs: Juli and Layla and Andre

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

Building a resume for difficult dogs, by Juli Goodrich

In September 2004, I decided that my husband had proven himself responsible enough for his OWN dog. We already had Lita, a spayed 3-year-old pit bull, but I was also getting tired of only getting to walk her for rainy potty walks… So I began researching getting a second pit bull. I found PBRC and signed up for Pitbull-L, the email list that would become my number-one resource and community for many years. I began to search for the rescue dog of my husband’s dreams. He wanted a large, black or dark brindle, male pit bull. We were both shocked and bothered by the fact that our local shelter had a 100% euthanasia policy on pit bulls. My eyes began gradually opening to the problems for pit bulls in my area.

I didn’t want try housetraining a puppy in our tiny 2nd story apartment. I searched and searched and found some local rescues, but they didn’t have dogs that appealed to my husband. I mentioned to my carpool coworker that I was searching, and she got excited. We just HAD to meet her friend’s dog! She was going to have puppies in a couple of weeks, and the friend hadn’t sold any of them. It was an accidental breeding, of course.

After a week of pestering I finally agreed to meet the mother dog. I told my husband that I didn’t want to buy a puppy, but we needed to go meet this dog to keep the peace. She opened the door, and a warm white cannonball hit my hubby in the chest! Down he went, and spent the next half hour on the receiving end of the most enthusiastic face-washing either one of us had ever seen. I was told that Layla was so gentle and calm that the little 7-year-old girl could walk her easily, very smart and biddable, knew lots of tricks and housetrained really fast. My husband was smitten, already half in love with the mother dog. I reiterated my desire to rescue not buy and our need for a male to be most compatible with our Lita girl.

Not 3 days later, my coworker came bursting into my office. The landlord of the home the little white dog lived in had not known there were any pets in the home, and the owners were going to have to get rid of most of their dogs. The following day, she told me her friend had brought Layla into the vet to see how many puppies they were going to have, so they could decide if they were going to keep her. They were shocked to find out she wasn’t actually pregnant. Her body had gotten just enough hormones to go into a false pregnancy. The shelter where they planned to take all of the extra dogs had a 100% euthanasia policy on pit bulls. So, we got a crate and I told my coworker to tell her friend we would take Layla on October 1st.

Over the next few weeks, we realized that the only thing true that we had been told about this little dog was that she was a white female pit bull! She had no manners, no training, and wasn’t housebroken. She hid socks and fish food in our couch for the babies her body told her were coming. She was also only 6 months old. (This is why Layla’s honorary birthday is 4/1, she was the biggest April Fools’ joke ever played on us…)

Civilizing Layla has been a labor of love the past 10 years.

Layla is my living resume for difficult dogs. People who see her for the first time want her, people who know her are glad they can leave her when they go home.  She is a dog of many opinions. She will converse with us, in grunts, with appropriate pauses and eye contact. She will not tolerate rudeness nor excessive confidence in another dog.

She thinks new people are awesome, and her favorite people get treated to a special wriggling, leaping, grunting, licking white whirlwind focused on them. She will leap over the back of the couch to lick someone, but doesn’t even try to leap a baby gate. She will go under a fence, but never over. Her favorite (though contentious!) sleeping place is with her head on my pillow, snoring loudly in my ears. She doesn’t see the point of most toys, but has a love affair with a mighty tuff pig, nearly the same size as herself!

Layla is also a resource guarder, with food aggression. Layla’s food aggression has been a challenge for us. But she is tremendously predictable, which is the only reason we can maintain all 3 dogs and the cat.

We started by teaching her to go to her crate at mealtimes…which she now uses, by the way, to try and manipulate us into extra mealtimes! Layla being a pig in her soul, took to this idea with impressive enthusiasm, learning even to pull an unlatched crate door open and put herself away faster. She will, once inside, protect her crate from any of the other pets. This includes our cat. Layla must be crated with space, and preferably not looking directly at one of the other dogs, or she can terrorize them into refusing their own food. But if I put a cat carrier in her crate’s place, she will try to get in. Failing that, she goes for the nearest crate, and puts herself in there.

Once Layla is in her crate, we can proceed with feeding the dogs, and she will stay in there. She has learned that attempting to leave the crate means she won’t be fed. We no longer have to latch the door for mealtime, but she does require a mat in front of her crate to sop up the dribble, as she hangs her head out just a little the better to eyeball the procedure.

The other important thing that we have taught her is that people control food. This has been a long term project, with lots of tweaking, and will continue to be a project for Layla’s whole life.

She has had several serious incidents with Lita over the years. When I make mistakes, like moving her crate just before mealtime, or forgetting to get her indoors before opening the food bin, she fights with Lita. Lita’s forelegs are crossed with scars, but there have actually not been very many incidents considering how long she’s been with us, and most of those happened either during a time when I was injured or immediately after a move, when her crate placement wasn’t set in her mind. After any altercation, we separate the dogs until everyone is healed and all stitches have come out. Then, we begin a slow program of reintroductions. We have come to accept, that as Lita ages and Layla’s triggers more apparent that a day will probably come where we must keep them completely separated for Lita’s safety.

Her resource guarding is mostly managed through small things. I don’t hand toys out to the dogs without having a toy for everyone. We manage her play with other dogs very tightly, she’s not allowed to get possessive over a toy, or it goes away. She gets called out of play constantly, to break her attention and focus, and to bring her back into focus on us. We don’t have toys out when she meets a new dog. Toys that she gets possessive at all over are put away for a while.

Layla is calming down as she ages, but she remains a character, a live wire, and a test of my will. She is also funny, charming, and a class-A clown.

She has raised 6 foster puppies and is my right hand in teaching them bite inhibition, good manners, and her whole cadre of tricks. Her last puppy is our own Andre, the foster puppy we kept, in part because he is happy as her minion. The attached LitanLayla5 is of the girls and their first foster puppy.

... And then there's Andre....

My husband and I, and our 2 female pit bulls, began fostering for a local rescue group shortly after the younger one joined our family. We had been researching before adopting her, and once we understood how difficult pit bulls in our area had it, we wanted to help. After fostering 2 wonderful dogs who had unfortunate personality clashes with our youngest, we took a hiatus for a few years. I continued to volunteer for the rescue, and was very excited to learn about a partnership with a local shelter. After 20 years of a 100% euthanasia policy, the shelter agreed to allow stray pit bulls a chance at adoption! We all began spending a lot of time getting ready, training, and being trained for the project. The first weekend of the program I spent the morning in the kennels, talking with the staff and the public visitors, about the program and the breed. Just at the end of the day, I got a call from our president, asking me if we could possibly foster a puppy, just for a little while. A young couple had brought in an 8-week-old puppy because they had learned that the female was pregnant, and despite being counseled that as an owner-surrendered dog the tiny puppy would be destroyed, they signed him over. Now, the staff was by and large excited about the opportunity to adopt out dogs that many of them had loved and cared for but been unable to adopt out, and conspired to keep the little fella out of the system, and tucked him away in the cat room. They grabbed our volunteer, and demanded that we find a way to get him safe. I used all of my wifely wiles, and in a bargain that lasted for nearly 10 years, my husband agreed to fostering if he got to name the pups. Brady Bam Quinn was our first foster puppy, and his forever family, which now includes 2 children who adore him, still send us updates.

Several puppies later, we had finalized the adoption of one I thought we would never find a home perfect for, and taken our traditional month-long break. I had told my foster coordinator that I wanted the Mary Poppins of puppies—practically perfect in every way. She texted me back and told me she had JUST the right one for us. We drove down and picked him up from our president’s workplace on Tuesday night. She had noticed he had a runny nose, but upper respiratory infections are common in the shelters, so we have a policy of just monitoring. On the way home, we discussed a name for him. Based on the size of his feet, we thought he was going to be as big as our previous little black foster puppy, who weighs 100+ lbs now, so we named him Andre, for Andre the Giant. My friend, being told his name, said” Oh! He does look like a seal!”. Then she told us about a movie she’d seen about a seal named Andre. The name fit. He still looks like a seal and his coat color is called seal!

When I get a new puppy, I bring it to work when I can, for socialization and to avoid pushing the limits of potty training! So the first day after we brought him home, I took him into the office with me. I realized quickly that he was off. He was displaying low energy, excessively tired for his age, and not very interested in food. His symptoms were too strong for over the counter treatment, so we made an appointment for the vet, and got him in the next day. They prescribed antibiotics and cough syrup. Getting pills into puppies is old hat, and I wasn’t worried about medicating him. However, he didn’t want to take the medicines. He started refusing everything we could think of to get his medicine into him. His little body was burning up, his weight was dropping, and his coughing was so horrible. That Monday night was one of the most horrible nights of my life, and I know it was the worst birthday my husband has ever had. In desperation, I used a turkey baster to feed wet food and chicken broth. Tuesday morning I got him to the vet the minute they were open. I cried for days at the drop of a hat, as I learned that the shelter had a distemper outbreak, and that he had pneumonia, and so much more. I called the vet daily, and for a full week, the reports were all the same. He’s on an IV medication, and is hanging in there. Finally, his tests came back negative for distemper, and I could breathe a bit. Then I started getting reports of his cough improving, and eventually, after nearly 2 weeks, he consented to eat on his own. I drove down to the vet’s office and picked him up, bawling the whole way! Literally down to skin and bones, still coughing and very snotty, Andre was a pretty pathetic little guy. I got permission to bring him to work with me, so I could feed him 3 times a day to get his weight up to healthy, and he came into work with me nearly every day for 6 months.

After such a dramatic first few weeks, the rescue agreed to hold off on listing him for adoption. I wanted to get to know him healthy before trying to match him to a new family. Once he was listed, there were a few people interested but nothing really clicked, and I just didn’t feel right about letting him go. We discussed it one day, and realized Andre was already home. He adores my cranky younger female pit bull, and spends an inordinate amount of time expressing his undying devotion. He thinks my 13 year old pit bull is a puppy, and, since she agrees with his age assessment they have a splendid time wrestling like littermates! He thinks the sun rises & sets on my whim, and my husband is the coolest guy ever. He’s the only dog we’ve ever had that loves my cat.

He loves many people, and enjoys doing events with me, as an alumni for the rescue…. but you only get 1 chance to make a good impression. People who pat him on the head to start with get a disgusted look, he walks to someone who knows how to properly pat a dog, and he solicits attention while looking pointedly at the patter. Scratch his butt, stroke his shoulders or chest, and you have a friend for life.

Andre is extremely sensitive by nature. Any handling and training has to be done hands-off and with only rewards-based techniques. He’s got the fastest shut-down I have ever seen, and this has done wonders for my handling skills!

Helping him learn confidence has been my joy! We work on building his confidence by playing games with things that make him nervous. He’s an avid disc-chaser, so he’s done lots of events with a disc in his mouth, like a pacifier. He’s confident in my ability and desire to protect him, so I am his security-human, which is something I work to protect.

He’s not a morning dog, and since I am not a morning human, he occasionally feels too emo to get out of bed without me, even with the other dogs going out for potty and breakfast time. My husband, used to our less-sensitive girls, tried to evict him from the bed, and got pee on our bed, his socks, the carpet, and in a trail down the hallway for his pains (yelling at Andre also results in puddles). Andre was nervous about slipping on the floors when we moved into our home, and for weeks we had to install a slip-proof rug down the length of the hallway and lure him out of our room with treats. He peed in our bedroom, after slipping halfway down the hall, and running back to the security of our room.

After his time at the vet clinic, it was impossible to trim his nails, as he’d be literally screaming and thrashing so hard we worried about him hurting himself. His nails are hard and black, and so I decided to teach him to handle his own pedicures. He uses a scratchboard for his front paws, and we’ve finally gotten to where I can trim his dewclaws.

Andre loves kiddie pools, and “swims” in puddles, lying down & rolling to get wet all over, then paddling with his front paws. He plays happily with toys by himself, if he can’t lure anyone else into the game, he loves wrestling giant ropes. He wanted tug of war games to continue after he yanked the toy away, and taught himself to bring it back. Now, he will put toys in your hand to play…or your mouth if you don’t make eye contact fast enough.

>His blend of smart and sensitive makes him fun, but challenging! He's high octane, a perpetual wiggle machine, and the best snuggler when he's tired.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

Sunshine of My Life – by Liz Henderson

By the time we bought our first house including our first yard, our first dog, KC, was 6 years old. KC was a “BBD,” a big black dog. Though he reached 112 lbs at his heaviest, his little rose ears and petite terrier feet led us to believe he was a pit bull mix. We never faced any discrimination or issues having KC because everyone else just saw a black Lab. Once I had my house and fenced yard, I was ready to become the crazy dog lady I had always hoped to become. I started looking at the online dog listings. KC went to daycare, so he was great with other dogs and all I really knew was that I wanted a large female dog with a “smooshy face.” KC really liked girls with smooshy faces. So we found a good candidate with a local rescue, and on a Saturday in February we set out for an adoption event to meet our future dogchild.>/p>

Upon arrival, KC knew what was up. Despite having a blast at daycare, he immediately decided that having another dog in his new house – sharing his new yard – was not going to be cool. I assume he was envisioning our already full sofa when we sat at both ends and he spread out across the middle. We introduced him to the first girl we came to meet. Nope! Our friendly BBD was having none of her. OK, well that was strange, he is usually so friendly with other dogs. Let’s meet this other girl, she looks nice! Oh, you don’t like her either, huh? Ok, well who do you like? After meeting 6 adult female dogs, all of whom were perfectly nice, I started to fear that my dreams of becoming a crazy dog lady might be ending before they began. KC was making it clear that he did not want to take home any of these girls and was not going to make this easy for us.

So feeling down, we were preparing to leave the adoption event. On the way out, we passed some crates with a few puppies. KC stopped at one crate and sniffed the little puppy inside like crazy. Then he pounced! He went in to play bow and wagged his tail like a windshield wiper. The puppy pawed at him through the crate and he whined in response. We had only considered adult dogs because there are so many that need homes, but if KC wanted a baby dog, then so be it! I opened the crate and pulled out the little red, golden-eyed, nearly hairless creature. She was a girl! A bit of mange and a URI, but that was nothing we couldn’t deal with.

The rescue group explained to us “You know this is a purebred rednose pit bull, right?” Well, no, we didn’t, but that’s ok. I mean, she is a puppy. With us as parents, it is not like she is going to become “one of those pit bulls!” We listened to all their concerns about placing a pit bull, making sure that we understood the risks and responsibilities. We signed an addendum to the adoption application that had special rules for pit bulls, such as never leaving them outside alone, even in a fenced yard. I honestly thought this was a bit overboard, but I kept those thoughts to myself. We got to meet her littermates and even her dad. We were told that they were confiscated from a drug and dogfight bust and that the mother was already dead when police arrived. That was my first introduction to the horrors and realities of dogfighting. The dad was friendly with people and playful with his pups, so that made me feel positive about her prospects to be a good dog.

We got her the following afternoon after she was spayed. I told family and friends that she was an American Staffordshire Terrier and rarely used the words “pit bull.” We named her Sunshine so that she and KC might someday form a band. She went by Sunny and each day she embodied the spirit of her name. I fell deeply in love with this amazing creature. Her goofiness, loving nature, and joie de vivre were like nothing I had ever seen in another dog. Life was grand for us and our undercover pit bull—travel, adventures, and training…

…until one day, I read an online article about a pit bull ban in another county in my state. “Are you kidding me?! Is that even legal? How can do they do that?!” I researched more and discovered that this was not just some reactionary Southern thing—pit bull bans were all over the country, in major cities and rural areas. And if you had a pit bull and they passed a ban, someone might come take your dog from you! Well, friends, that was not going to happen.

That day changed everything. It was then that I decided I had to get involved to make sure that Sunny was never in danger of being taken and that dogs like Sunny would be protected. I started following websites that tracked breed-specific legislation and started volunteering with a local pit bull rescue. I learned that not only were pit bulls under threat from BSL and dogfighting, but from overbreeding and overpopulation. Somehow I had no idea that millions of “Sunnys” were suffering and being abused. It was frustrating. I kept meeting other people with pit bulls who also did not know about BSL, the prevalence of dogfighting and the high euthanasia rate for pit bulls. I also learned about how often pit bulls are stolen and how they are always blamed when dogs get in to a skirmish at a dog park. Now I understood why the rescue was so concerned about who they adopted pit bulls to and why they felt they needed special rules for them. I wanted to find a way to reach more pit bull owners and organize them so that they had access to this information.

So I started Atlanta Pit Bull Parents, to serve as an educational and social resource for pit bull parents. I proudly proclaimed myself to be a pit bull owner to everyone I knew, as well as on my car, and most days on my clothing. I continued in pit bull rescue locally and became a volunteer for PBRC. Now Sunny is 11. She has gone through several surgeries and is a cancer survivor. The issues facing pit bulls and their owners are just as serious now as they were all those years ago. But I like to think that because of this one little pit bull, we have made life better for many more.


Visit PBRC for more information about the work we do.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

PBRC Volunteers and Their Dogs: Karen and Jackson

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

After the Panic: An Adoption Story, by Karen Stein

While sitting in the lobby of the veterinarian office down the road from the shelter, waiting for the dog I’d just adopted to get the rabies shot that would allow me to take him home, I flipped through breed books to get to know more about what to expect from this American staffordshire. When I saw the classification “pit bull” screaming at me from the page, I may have stopped breathing in a flash of panic. I knew nothing about pit bulls at that time—including, clearly, that American staffordshires were among them—except for what I’d heard on the news, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with this dog that (in my mind) had the potential to be a monster.

While still at the shelter trying to find the dog I wanted to take home, I'd thought him to be particularly odd as we sat in the shelter’s greeting room and tried to get to know each other. While the other dogs I’d met were bouncy and licky and jumpy, he just sat quietly and stared at me intently, as if he were waiting for me to say something hilarious or otherwise entertain him. I handed the leash back to staff and told them I wanted to keep looking. But every time I paged through the binder of doggie profiles, I kept pausing at his photo before I realized it was that same extraordinarily mellow dog from earlier. Finally I accepted that I had to see him again. But this time when he came sauntering back into the room, he was carrying a bowl in his mouth—apparently the thing he always did when let out to play. This time his weirdness was so endearing that there was no way I was leaving without him.

For a fleeting moment in the vet’s waiting room, I had the thought that there was no way I was taking him home. It’s easy to become angry at statements like that, and of course I wish I'd known then what I know now, but at that time I'd never known anyone who owned a pit bull, and never interacted with one as far as I knew. My knowledge of pit bulls had been shaped entirely by the anti-pit bull media noise machine.

I did take him home, though. Admittedly, for the first month or so I was acutely aware of how leery of him I was. He played rough—his kind of play was to do an airborne 360-degree spin into a hip-check into me, to whip his plush toys all around and against the ground until the squeakers and fuzz came flying out and left a toy duck murder scene on the living room floor—a kind of play I’d never seen in any dogs I’d owned previously.

After hearing the inevitable suggestions that I take him back—“he’s going to snap, and you’ll be sorry”—I rejected them, knowing that returning him to the shelter would not make me a better person nor, more importantly, him a better dog. I knew there was nothing wrong with him, I just didn’t understand him, and in that way I was failing him. I became a member of the pit bull listserv managed by PBRC volunteers to get information and advice, share my experiences, and trade funny stories. I enrolled him in obedience classes. I quickly learned that the dog park was not a place where we could succeed, where we would both be comfortable and welcome, and so I stopped taking him there. But for as much as I hated each sidelong glance or utterance of distrust directed at my dog based on no more than his body type and the structure of his face, I enjoyed witnessing just how much he was letting down these people by not meeting their behavioral expectations of him.

He’s just a goofy little kid (so little that I’m often told “he’ll be so big when he’s full grown” by people who don’t realize he’s 7). He nearly insists that everyone who passes says hello to him. He waves goodbye. When he’s not whipping the stuffing out of them, from time to time he arranges his toys. He follows the sun around the house until it is just his front paws in the day’s last bits of warmth.

I adopted Jackson in 2008, and he has since become my heart dog, a 40-pound mix of energy and empathy. He went with me when I moved from Chicago to Mexico and then from Mexico to Michigan, and all along the way, he has done what he does best—change people’s minds about pit bulls.


Visit PBRC for more information about the work we do.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

PBRC's Volunteers and Their Dogs: Amanda, Samantha, Syndey, and Murphy

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

A Crew of Therapy Dogs, by Amanda Clase

In June 2009, I was suddenly introduced to the world of pit bulls. My mom was driving to work and saw a huge black and white pit bull sitting on the side of the road. We already had four family dogs between the two of us so she passed by hoping someone else would stop for the dog. Her heart got the better of her however and she returned to the spot about 40 minutes later to find the dog had not moved an inch. She seemed to be waiting for someone. When my mom invited her to come home, the dog jumped into the back of the car and waited to be chauffeured into her new life.

We decided that since I only had one dog living with me, that the one and a half year old pit bull would stay with me until her owner could be found. She and Samantha, my 9-month-old ‘pitador’ (lab/pit bull mix) instantly became fast friends and I fell completely in love with her before the first day was done. Not surprisingly, her owner who had likely dumped her on that road never came to claim her and Sydney became a permanent family member.

I knew nothing about the breed and made no attempt to do any research since I felt all dogs were basically the same. This blissful ignorance came crashing down on me, however, when later that year I decided to move to Denver, Colorado, to go back to school. Talking to a Denver cab driver on the way back to the airport, I was devastated to learn that pit bulls were illegal in Denver. Back home I started doing my research and learned the horrors of breed-specific legislation. I had already accepted the studentship in Denver but quickly made arrangements to live in the neighboring city of Aurora so I could legally keep my dogs.

After a few years, I decided that therapy work would be a great way to showcase pit bulls in a positive light and joined a local organization that held training classes in Denver. I couldn’t bring Sydney to the classes, but Samantha looked lab-enough that I could sneak her in. The organization also didn’t agree with the breed ban and agreed to let me train Sydney at home and the evaluator would come outside of Denver when the time came for the girls to take their final exam. Both girls passed with flying colors and we were all ready to start visiting.

The organization had an agreement with a hospice facility outside Denver city limits but before I was able to start visiting, my father passed away unexpectedly and the hospice facility felt it was unwise for anyone to volunteer if they’d had a recent loss of their own. Soon after, I finished my education and moved on to Montana to further my career. I also decided to make another addition to my family and adopted Murphy a 9 week old pit bull puppy. Over the next year, I trained and socialized Murphy as much as I could and again decided that it was time to pursue therapy work with the dogs.

In July 2006, I drove an hour and a half to a Delta Society evaluation with Samantha and Sydney, now 8 years old, and 18-month-old Murphy. Sydney was the first to be evaluated and after we finished the last test, the evaluator turned to his volunteer helpers and said “Now that is what a pit bull is supposed to be like! Next time you hear anything bad about this breed, remember what you saw here today!” Samantha and Murphy also passed with flying colors that same day. We spent the next couple of years visiting a local retirement home and Murphy visited the University of Montana for their “Stress-Less” events for the students.

I will never forget our very first therapy visit. I had made arrangements with the retirement home to start their therapy dog program. Since they never asked, I didn’t offer the breed of dog I’d be bringing; I just gave their Delta qualifications. One can imagine their surprise when I walked in with this huge black and white pit bull when they were expecting the more typical “family” dog. The residents were waiting in the lobby for our first visit and Sydney immediately planted her huge head in the lap of the first person she saw. The woman was ecstatic and laughed and petted her, much to Sydney’s delight. Suddenly Sydney looked behind her and as I turned I saw a woman leaning forward from her wheelchair to pet Sydney’s back. She never said a word and only made that single stroke, but I saw tears in the eyes of every staff member in the room. I was told later that this woman had been at the home for five years and had never once made any effort to reach out to anyone until she stroked Sydney’s back.

All my pit bulls were welcomed there from that point on. Sadly, over the next few years, Samantha and Sydney’s health deteriorated and by 2010, I had lost both of them. Murphy continued on their great work for seven years. He was a favorite at the Virginia hospital we most recently volunteered at. In the emergency room, he had what was dubbed “The Murphy Effect”: big macho EMT’s would fall to the floor squealing like little girls at the opportunity to pet and play with Murphy. I can’t begin to count all the times patients or visitors have told me “This is the first time I’ve ever petted a pit bull”.

One evening while passing through an empty waiting room, we heard a door open behind us. I didn’t think anything of it until Murphy suddenly turned and was determined to go back. A woman was coming out of the restroom obviously very upset. The sight of Murphy heading her way caused a small smile and she knelt down to greet him. She sat on the floor for several minutes with him in her lap (all 65lbs of him) talking to him and stroking him, rarely saying a word to me. Eventually, her tears started again and embarrassed she hid her face in his neck and kissed him before getting up to leave. Murphy absolutely knows who needs his special kind of therapy the most and this woman definitely needed him at that moment.

Murphy’s comical, joyful expression and the little socks he wore to provide him traction on the slick hospital floors enticed folks to invite him over and gave me the opportunity to educate people on the reality of the breed. However, it is his personality and love of his work that has changed more minds than I ever will.

Monday, October 13, 2014

PBRC's Volunteers and Their Dogs: Jeanne and Annie

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

Annie: My Joyful Spirit Guide, by Jeanne Posner

In June of 2011, I found myself in a dark place. In one year, I had a near fatal heart attack and had to say goodbye to both my sweet boys, Odie and Junior. I found myself browsing as looking at dogs always lifted my spirits—at least a little—that June. A good friend suggested I check out the section of Rose Hope Animal Rescue on Petfinder, a wonderful rescue group in Connecticut. So, I started looking through their photos. Honestly, I wasn't sure I was ready to embrace a new dog yet, but my life and home surely felt empty without a fur baby. I found that I was specifically looking for pit bull. I had fallen head over heels in love with them while volunteering at the Humane Society near my Connecticut home.

A photo appeared and I stopped and stared at it for at least 20 minutes. I couldn't stop looking into this dog's eyes (she was looking right at the person taking her photo so it appeared as if she was looking right into my eyes as well). I went back to that photo at least a dozen times, so it became clear to me that I wanted to give that dog with the piercing eyes a home. I filled out the online application form and a month later Rose Hope informed me that I was approved. I was excited by this news! So, in July 2011, I went to meet Annie.

I walked into the adoption event and gave my name and said I was there to find out if Annie and I were a match. They said, "She's right there—why don't you walk her around the store?" (The event took place in Petsmart). I wasn't sure where the woman was pointing, so she took my elbow and walked me the approximately two feet to where this gorgeous pittie mix was wagging her entire body. I knelt down and Annie curled up in a C shape against my body and started kissing my face. I was in love—but didn't yet realize I had hit the adoption jackpot.

Annie was rescued from people who were using her as a breeder dog. They took her from her mama much to soon, and bred her too soon as well. They didn’t' love her or treat her well in any way—she was a commodity to them. I asked the Rose Hope volunteer how Annie could be SO full of joy and love...she replied that Annie had been with a wonderful foster mom for several months who helped her come to trust people again. So, Annie and I went home together.

Every day since, she has proven to be the most joyful spirit I've ever known—human, canine, any kind. Her zest for life inspires me every day. She holds no bitterness toward anyone for the way she was so mistreated during her first two years of life. She is still a bit fearful of certain other dogs (why wouldn't she be?) although she instantly loved her sister Darla in our new home in Vermont. Having the honor of being Annie's human guardian led me to get much more involved advocating for pit bulls. It also helped lead me out of the dark place I had been stuck in for a long time.

Of course, I will always miss all the dogs and cats I loved and had to say goodbye to. But Annie—who charms everyone she meets—is a special soul. She touches me in a deep place and makes me laugh every day. As I said, I hit the jackpot. And I will fight with all the energy I have to stop loving pitties from being misrepresented, misunderstood and abused. I will fight—with Annie by my side—until they all have a home.


Visit PBRC for more information about the work we do.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

PBRC's Volunteers and Their Dogs: Stephanie and Wilbur (and Moby!)

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

Moby (hearts) Wilbur! —by Stephanie Feldstein

When I brought Wilbur home, I didn't know he was the one. The local humane society had called and asked if I'd be willing to foster him. They adopted out pit bulls, but had a limit on how many could be up for adoption at any one time. They were already full and had at least half a dozen young, friendly pit bulls waiting for their shot at a home. This one was older, and he had some cuts on his face that might deter adopters.

I agreed to meet him. I brought my pit bull Moby with me to the shelter. My three girls—two shepherd mixes and one pit bull—had been through dozens of fosters with me over the years, so I knew they could handle the new routine, whether this one fit into the household or had to be rotated with other dogs. But I'd had Moby for less than a year and wanted to get an impression of how they'd react to each other.

When we arrived at the shelter, I put Moby into an outdoor playpen and waited for them to bring out the hard-to-adopt dog. Two volunteers emerged from the kennels, each with a separate leash around the dog's thick neck. The dog, a nameless stray at the time, trotted along with his tail wagging, oblivious to their tension. I knew I had to get him out of there. He and Moby greeted each other well, played a little on their leashes, and I took him home.

I started taking Wilbur to adoption events with a local pit bull rescue group. When adopters checked him out, I was happy that he was getting the attention—he really was a good dog and deserved the second chance. He listened well and adored people, an older dog who was still playful. He was good with my dogs and cats, and had plenty of silly pit bull charm. But at the same time, I started to wonder if these potential adopters could handle him -- especially his separation anxiety and small but powerful destructive streak when left alone. I found myself rejecting them before they even applied...but it didn't matter, because even though a few people said they were interested, he never got any applications at the end of the day.

Wilbur was well-behaved in his crate at events, but started breaking out of his crate at home. At first it was kind of funny— I'd wake up to find him standing proudly on my bed, happy to see everyone. But then one night I came home from a movie and he was trapped halfway out of the wire door. That was the last time I left him alone in a crate. Instead, he had his own room in my house when I went out, which wasn't that often since I worked from home now.

About four adoption events into his foster care, something had changed in my house. Moby had decided Wilbur was the one—and I mean The One. They spent their days following each other around and finding new creative ways to cuddle to get as close as possible.

I tried to imagine the perfect adopter for him. Someone who didn't have to leave him for long periods and could deal with his separation anxiety when they did go out. Someone who would be consistent with him and could manage him—he was a strong dog, and the more he settled in with my dogs, the less he liked new dogs. And, of course, it had to be someone who loved him.

It occurred to me that I kept describing my situation and my home as the perfect place for him, so I stopped taking him to adoption events and took down his PBRC listing. If he wasn't right for me, I would've kept him listed, but Wilbur had grown on me by then, more than previous foster dogs. And there was no way I could tear him and Moby apart.


Visit PBRC for more information about the work we do.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

PBRC's Volunteers and Their Dogs: Nikki and Reggie

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

The Story of Reggie—by Nikki Halip

I was not looking to adopt another pit bull. I still wasn't doing well after losing my best friend even though it had been well over a year. However, after leaving L.A., I moved to a small beach community to start another chapter in my life. I decided to volunteer with a local rescue group that partnered with a pet store that held adoption events. As I entered the back of the shop, all I could hear were dogs barking, crying and howling. As I made my way around, I noticed one particular dog that just sat there looking very stoic; no barking, no fussing, no jumping. I wanted to take him out for a walk but was advised it would not be a good idea because he was a rough, tough, uncontrollable boy who had absolutely no training. I wanted to know, then, why was he at the adoption event? I was told it was just a way of getting him out of the kennel because he had already been there 2-1/2 years waiting for a home but sadly was always overlooked because of no training and how formidable his looks were.

I learned he was tossed out of a truck on a two-lane highway. A lady watering her garden saw the incident and called the police/rescue group, advising them that the dog was frantically running down the freeway after the truck. The rescue took almost three days. The husband/wife team who finally found him in the bushes named him Reggie after the NFL player Reggie Bush.

I insisted on taking him out. I noticed a bench, sat down and asked him to join me. He laid his big body against me and let out a pitiful sighed. I knew he was emotionally shutdown. He never wagged his tail nor did he ever make eye contact. I can't begin to describe how I felt but knew he needed to get out from under, and I made a commitment to him on the bench. I was so surprised when he gazed up at me. He knew. I was confident that together we could make this work because I worked from home which would enable me to be with him. House check and adoption application were approved.

The day I picked him up at the kennel is a day I will never forget. He remembered me when they brought him out and he literally dragged the guy towards me! He still had the raw sores on his face and I asked what they were from. Apparently, since his ball was his only source of comfort all those years, when he got to go into the gravel pen, he just ran and ran after his ball, hence the open sores on his face. Talk about a tough guy! As I he pulled me to my car, I told him he will never see a kennel again.

I took him to the vet the day after and was told he was underweight, his tail was broken in 3 areas, both ears were infected, and he had kennel cough and tested positive for giardia. The vet also told me his teeth were either filed down or they were worn down from gnawing on the kennel bars.

Reggie Before

It took me almost a year to fully house train him. It was an incredible challenge but I never gave up on him. Little by little, he came out of his shell. I put him on the “no free lunch” program, which worked wonders. Because Reggie was so food motivated, he caught on real quick and really enjoyed our training sessions. Although he still has loads of issues with other unfamiliar dogs, he is such a gentleman with my grandchildren. He loves all people. After two long years, he started vocalizing, running around the yard, doing zoomies in the house, throwing toys up in the air. Finally there came the day he wanted to cuddle on the couch. To this day, his ball is always beside him.

He truly is my best pal, and I often wonder who saved who. Reggie has given me such joy and happiness that words can never express.

Reggie After


Visit PBRC for more information about the work we do.