The World is Sadder Today

 

17758239_685137015012168_6895442719047982529_o.jpgJust a couple short days ago the Vicktory family found out that Susan’s beloved Little Red passed away in her sleep.  This is one of those losses that cuts to the core of my heart.  Little was a dog who had the sweetest disposition of any dog I have ever met.  Her sheer presence made everyone feel happy.  Little made you want to be a better, calmer, nicer person. You wanted to be worthy of this sweet soul’s trust and affection.

I am so sad about her loss…..but I am sadder for her mom.  Susan was the perfect adopter for this frightened little girl.  She gave Little the type of life that every dog deserves.  I know she is hurting…..and there is little I can say to help heal the wounds.

Please keep Susan, and the rest of her dogs, in your thoughts today.  This was a very painful loss for everyone concerned.

Run free and happy Little Red…and give Ray some love from me.  I know he’ll help show you the ropes up there.

Over-Coming Anxiety for Bosco

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Bosco is the greatest little dog…who happens to have a real problem with anxiety.

I have postponed writing this post, because it’s hard to admit that sometimes the things you have always done are not working.  Kevin and I have had challenging dogs in the past, but they have easily responded to all of our positive reinforcement without issue.  That hasn’t been true of Bosco.

I knew when we took this boy on that he came with some baggage.  Between November and when we adopted him in March he had been bounced around like a pinball (through no fault of his own). I think we counted 7 places he’s spent time before he came to us:

  • He was found running at large in November and taken to Animal Control
  • Lucas County Pit Crew pulled him and he went into a foster home
  • He was adopted days before Christmas. In an incident that can’t be considered entirely his fault (or even mostly his fault) he bit his adopter, who contacted LCPC to pick him up immediately
  • LCPC picked him up and placed him in a foster home to complete a mandated quarantine
  • AC took legal action to force Bosco to complete his quarantine in a dismal municipal shelter, with an AC Officer who hates pit bull terrier type dogs
  • When the 10 day quarantine was up, Bosco went into a foster home
  • Ohio declared him a dangerous dog because of the bite, so he was moved to an out of state foster home.
  • He was driven across the country to our home in Arizona.

That is a whole lot of change for one little dog, who already had a shadowed past.  Lord knows what he dealt with in his previous life.

Immediately after coming home Bosco picked up a foxtail; a noxious weed seed that burrows into a dogs body and travels through muscle tissue, sometimes ending up in the heart, lungs or brain of a dog.  This nasty little hitch-hiker required three separate surgeries to find and remove.  Three more times that Bosco was removed from what he saw as a safe environment and had scary things done to him.  That’s when we really started seeing his anxiety increase.

It started fairly slowly.  We noticed that Bosco didn’t really enjoy his walks that much.  That once a car or truck passed us he would show signs of stress: head down, ears back, tail slightly tucked.  Then he started having issues with some people, for no apparent reason.  First in general, and then in our house. Our daughter couldn’t safely come in our home, as Bosco became so anxious he started acting out.

We did what I’ve always preached to others: we sought out a great trainer.  We spent time hanging out in the parking lot of the grocery store, with people and cars all around.  We gave him treats every time he would look at someone and not react.  When my daughter was coming to the house, I’d put him behind the baby gate and start treating him like crazy, so he would associate her visit with lots of treats.  All that did was make him think someone was coming into the house every time he got a treat.  So, I started taking him for a car ride if she had to come over. He loved car rides.  Until he figured out that someone had been in our home while we were gone.  Suddenly car rides became an additional stressor.

If someone would knock on the door he would lose every ounce of self-control, racing back and forth from the door to whoever was in the room with him.  He would aggressively herd us away from the door.  He wouldn’t allow us to even stand up until he had time to calm back down.  One night I had to change our dinner reservations 3 times, while we gave him the time he needed to calm down after the neighbor rang our doorbell.

Our little guy became OCD about everything in his life.  Every single thing needed to be done at the same time, by the same person, every day.  He couldn’t handle changes to his routine at all.  John Garcia called him a “by the book dog”.

You could tell this was one miserable little dog.  He’d look at us and his little front teeth would be chattering from the stress.  It was heart breaking….we could tell he wanted to be a good dog, but he was too tightly wound to relax and enjoy life.  You cannot train a dog who is this overwhelmed.  You have to deal with the stress and anxiety before he is able to concentrate on learning manners.

The final straw was when he was so stressed by a walk that he acted out towards Kevin.  The situation was no longer okay.  Something had to be done…not just for safety, but for Bosco’s happiness.

So, with the help of our vet, a behaviorist in Florida, and a dog trainer who I trust implicitly (yes I mean you Steffen Baldwin) we started Operation Make Bosco Happy.  We are primarily depending on nutraceuticals…nutritional supplements to help him become calmer.  Along with exercise and some other calmative items, we are working to help Bosco accept his world.

So here’s what is currently in our arsenal:

  • A DAP collar. This is a pheromone collar that works through the dog’s own body heat.  It gives out the same calming scents a mother dog gives out to her puppies.  Each collar lasts about a month.  You can also get a diffuser to plug in and flood your whole house with this calming scent.
  • NutriClear Free by Biotics is a nutritional supplement for detoxification and metabolic clearing. It is a powder that you mix with water (it smells like a vanilla milkshake).  Bosco thinks it is the tastiest thing ever and slurps it down before I can even stand up from setting the bowl on the floor.
  • ComposurePro supplement treats which have been proven to lower anxiety levels in dogs and cats.
  • Phosphatidylcholine by Biotics. According to their website this is “a supplemental source of this important phosoholipid, which is a major constituent of cell membranes, and is important for normal cellular membrane function and repair”.
  • Bio-B Complex by Biotics, a high potency dose of important B complex vitamins
  • A treadmill for exercise. Walks are currently to upsetting to Bosco.  Everything in the world is seen as dangerous.  With time we are hoping to resume walks, which should be a happy activity for a dog.  In the meantime, a few minutes of treadmill time will help lower his anxiety level.
  • Rescue Remedy in his water.  RR is a great natural calmative.
  • A minute dose of Clonidine, which is an anti-anxiety medication.

The one thing everyone agreed was important was limiting his exposure to triggers.  Which is why we temporarily suspended walks.  I also have a big sign on my front door asking that visitors not knock or ring bell.  Instead I give them our cellphone number to call or text. We aren’t taking car rides right now. In fact, we’ve pretty much hit a reset button on almost all of Bosco’s activities.

You can’t work on behavior modification with an anxious dog.  These tools are allowing Bosco to be comfortable enough to start fresh on training.

We are currently working on building up proficiency on the treadmill.  He seems to be totally open to the idea of walking or trotting on this equipment.  But right now he wants to do it with a person, and I don’t have the stamina to keep up with him. With time, and a little effort he will be trotting along by himself soon.  NOTE:  never leave your dog on a treadmill unattended, and never leash or chain him to the treadmill. 

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We are also working on positive muzzle training. There are times Bosco will be frightened or uncomfortable.  If he is already muzzle trained, and considers it a positive (treat filled) experience, he will be safer to take on rides and to things like medical appointments.  Muzzles are NOT just for aggressive dogs.  They can be a great tool for any dog.

Bosco is already showing a lot of improvement in his stress level.  I haven’t seen the teeth chattering behavior since we started working on this together.  And even if he reacts to a stressor (if something unfamiliar happens), his recovery time is much, much shorter.  With just a couple of minutes he is back to being our little clown of a dog.

There is no magic bullet.  This process takes effort from everyone involved.  Mainly it depends on both Kevin and me showing Bosco that we have his back and we are committed to keeping him safe.

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In the meantime, Bosco and Turtle are best buddies, and she helps him burn off his excess energy.  Bosco has the best dog skills of all our kids, which gives me a lot of hope for his eventual happiness in the world at large.

This is a great little dog.  And he is worth every bit of effort to help him live a happy, comfortable life.

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The Truth about Parrots

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I was somewhat taken aback by some of the comments on one of our Parrot Garden videos that I shared. The insinuation was that our birds lived in cramped and tiny cages, where they had nothing to do but pull out their feathers from stress. The person making these accusations was here, once, many years ago. Apparently she didn’t bother to ask questions or learn what we do to help enrich the lives of the birds in our care.

She obviously doesn’t realize that our caregivers give their all for these birds each and every day. She doesn’t know that we spend a lot of time following research, so we can meet the emotional and nutritional needs of our charges. That caregivers take their responsibilities so seriously and bond so tightly to their kids that they become members of our extended family. That we rejoice in each positive step forward. That each bird is considered an individual, with his or her own care plan for rehabilitation.

She doesn’t have a clue that many, if not most, of the birds come here after years or decades of a crap diet, suffering from nutritional deficiencies that affect their health. She wasn’t here when we took in a cockatiel who had vitamin a deficiency blindness from years of living in a dark basement on an all seed diet.

She has no idea how many birds come to us with stereotypical behaviors from years of living ignored in tiny cages. Feather destructive behavior, self-mutilation, screaming and biting all come from natural behaviors which have been amplified by captivity.
She is ignorant of the fact that most of these birds have been hand-raised by humans, and have never had the opportunity to learn the most basic of skills from their parents. They have no clue they are birds and they suffer from the anxiety of not knowing the things that would allow them to live a happy healthy life. The parental deprivation basically ensures they will live life as emotional cripples.

She is ignorant of the fact that many birds, not knowing they are birds, are terrified of our open flights. That sometimes it can take months to convince them it is safe with all that space. That some birds will never be comfortable outside of a cage. That is how they come to us, and that’s where we have to start. We work hard to find the least restrictive environment for every single one of our birds.

She isn’t aware that many of our birds came to us after being inappropriately handled by humans who didn’t realize full-body stroking could lead to mate bonding, and even more emotional problems.

She hasn’t seen our beautiful outdoor garden area where each bird has an enclosure planted with bird safe food to forage from, like dandelion, clover and millet.

She doesn’t understand that a bird missing feathers isn’t necessarily stressed or unhappy…that the feather destruction comes from a natural grooming behavior which has gone haywire. That once a bird started destroying feathers it is often a life-long issue….even if they have the best possible of lives.

She hasn’t seen the care we take to find the best possible home for each of our kids. How we worry and agonize as we see them out the door.

She isn’t here when we are having to say “no” to hundreds of birds who need to come here…part of the growing crisis of caged-birds in this country.

She is oblivious to the fact that our organization has never said “no” to any need we have wanted to meet, for any of our birds.

The Truth Still Matters

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Bubba says “ppffftt” to DBO idiots (photo by Justyne Moore)

Yesterday I read a distasteful opinion article entitled “Denying Reality Won’t Make Pitbulls Any Less Dangerous”. It is another hatchet job, masquerading as truth.  For the most part, I’ve tried to stop fighting these battles on-line.  It does no good, and it’s bad for my blood pressure.  But something about this smug article, with its defamatory title tic’d me off.  So, I responded:

Do you know why animal people were so incensed with Michael Vick? It was because of the cruel and abusive way he killed dogs. Why did he kill them? Because they wouldn’t fight. He killed any dog who wouldn’t fight. And there were a lot of them. Dog on dog aggression is not natural, for any breed. Most of this type of issue can be fixed by leaving puppies with their mothers for 12 weeks instead of 4-6. Those extra weeks are critical socialization windows. This is when a puppy learns the social skills necessary to be a happy, balanced dog. He learns bite inhibition. He learns dog body language. Many pit type dogs are bred by irresponsible people who want their money quickly, and sell puppies much too young. I understand and used to share your discomfort around pit like dogs…until I started working with them. Until I got to know that a well-trained, well-socialized, well-treated amstaff or staffie can be the most loving and loyal of companions. Until I met and fell in love with a little brown fighting dog from a notorious fight bust. That dog lived his life trying to recover from what was done to him. He was the victim of a crime, not the implement. He died without ever hurting anyone.

First thing this morning I discover the author has published the exact same article on another site and is now calling it  “The Cult of the Pitbull” (one word…sigh). Same drivel, same tired-ass DBO supporters gushing and thanking him for have the courage to speak the “truth”.   Let me tell you something:  if you can’t tell the difference between fact and opinion, you are one of the problems in this country.  People like this are why we have an issue with “fake news”. Truth matters.  It matters a lot.  And if we ignore it, as this author is asking us to do, it will cost innocent dogs their lives.

Here is my response to that second article…..

Pit bull terrier like dogs are the #1 most abused dog in the country. Pit bull terrier like dogs often appeal to bad, lazy or stupid people who want a dog for show or other nefarious purposes.

Pit bull terrier like dogs often have owners who abuse them, chain them up, don’t fix them, allow them to run at large, and encourage threatening behavior.

Pit bull terrier like dogs are often bred by ignorant backyard breeders who are in it for a buck, and sell puppies at 4-5 weeks, instead of the critical 12 weeks puppies need to stay with their mothers to learn bite inhibition, dog body language, and critical socialization skills.

Pit bull terrier like dogs are encouraged to behave in aggressive ways by idiots who want a tough looking/acting dog.

All of these are people issues, not breed issues.
A large, powerful, high energy dog of any type can be dangerous. We need to pass laws that are going to actually make us safer, not demonize one breed, which actually encourages punks to own them. Offer low cost (or free) easily accessible spay/neuter services. Offer dog safe training classes for kids (have been proven to reduce bite incidents by more than 50%) Enforce leash laws, outlaw chaining or 24/7 kenneling. Offer low cost or free puppy socialization and dog training classes. Enforce existing abuse/neglect laws. Hold bad owners accountable. In my mind, allowing a large, untrained, unsocialized dog to run at large, attacking a human or other dog is no different than getting drunk and getting behind the wheel of a car, and hurting someone.

My profile picture is of Bubba G….an amazing dog who was found in an alley in Denver, dying from dog fighting wounds that ultimately cost him both ears. At 90 lbs he could easily have ended up being extremely dangerous. When he came to me he was mouthy and unruly. Earlier this year he completed 18 months of training to become my service dog. He has flown the country with me. He meets thousands of people every years. He is 100% American Staffordshire Terrier (we had his dna tested). This is a true pit bull terrier type dog, and he throws all of your hysterical, unscientific assertions out the window. These are dogs, just dogs. But powerful, high energy dogs who need regular exercise and training. People cause their problems, and people should be held accountable.

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Changing the world, one person at a time (photo by Justyne Moore)

My purpose in responding to this jerk is not to change his mind.  That is impossible.  It is to try and mitigate some of the damage this type of article does to pit bull reputations, especially with people with limited or no personal experience with these amazing dogs.  It is rather like trying to fill a bucket with no bottom…..a waste of resources and energy.  My secret weapon for changing people’s minds is asleep at my feet.  He expects to be adored and it shines out through his eyes.  He is changing the world, one person at a time.

Baked Potato of a Dog

The world lost a very special, very loved little brown dog this week.

My first meeting with Oscar was when Vet Tech Annik brought him over to our building, along with his “girlfriend” Squeaker. Annik had taken on the dogs as a project, and was determined to help them both gain enough confidence to pass their Canine Good Citizen tests, so they could be adopted into homes of their own.  Every single day, without fail, she would pick up the dogs at lunch and take them on outings.  Today it was to experience the noisy environment I work in.

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It was immediately obvious that Squeaker was extremely nervous being in a new place.  She gave all the signs of a stressed, fearful dog.  All the while Oscar stoically sat, staring out the front door….no signs of stress…no lip licking, yawning, or actually any sign of movement at all.  I mentioned how much better he was handling the whole experience and was stunned when Annik corrected me immediately.  “Look at him” she directed “he is completely and totally shut down”.  And she was right.  When Oscar was stressed he just checked out and went somewhere far, far away in his own mind.

My husband Kevin began joining Annick on her daily outings, helping her work with both dogs, but concentrating on trying to help Oscar, who was very frightened of men.  He walked hundreds of miles with that boy.  Oscar would go almost anywhere to follow Squeaker….she was his bravery.  I joined the team too, and started having both dogs as “office dogs” once or twice a week.

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It was an easy transition to move him into my office when he needed a place to stay after Squeaker had ACL surgery on her leg.  How much different could it possibly be to have him in my office full time?  A lot actually.  Oscar didn’t know how to function without Squeaker. He was afraid of literally everything.

 

We worked every day to help Oscar learn the skills he needed to go into a home.  But it is very difficult working with a dog who won’t take a treat from you, and doesn’t want to play or receive affection.  What in the world do you use as a reinforcer?  Trainer Pat Whitacre worked with us to help us fined ways to help Oscar learn. Mostly we just worked to gain, and keep his trust.  Without a loving relationship, no forward motion was going to be possible.

The day Oscar walked up to me as I worked at my desk, and nudged my knee for some attention was one of the highest points of my life.  After literally months of being together 8 hours a day, he had finally decided I was safe.  From that point on, he made tremendous gains.  But it still took a massive effort to get this little brown dog through his CGC.

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Besides his discomfort with new people (the CGC test requires handling by a new person and a couple of “crowd” tests) Oscar had two major hurdles:  he would do a “fly by” when asked to come….heading straight at you and then veering at the last moment, and he HATED the feeling of sand on his stomach and refused to do a down on the ground.  It took repeated efforts to get him through these two items.

On the day of his actual CGC the tester allowed us to do the “stay” and “come” portion of the test first.  If he was going to pull his idea of a joke by running past me, there was no sense in continuing.  He nailed the test items, coming right to me when I called.  We left the “down” portion of the test until the end.  When the time came, I gave the cue, and Oscar turned his head away from me…..I almost panicked, but tried one last time: “Oscar, down”.  He heaved a sigh and lay down.  I promptly burst into tears.  Oscar had passed his CGC.

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It was just a short time later  I was told that a potential adopter was coming to meet our boy.  For those of you who foster, you know how difficult this is….a dog you have poured so much work into…is anyone really good enough to be his family?  I typed up a letter to this unknown person, trying to give her a sense of who Oscar really was.

Dear Potential Adopter:

When Oscar first came to live here, he spent all of his time in a corner, or under my desk.  We’d have to drag him out to go for a walk.  He refused to eat in front of us, and I’d have to leave his food in the evening, so that he could eat once we were all gone.  If I touched him, his skin would twitch like a horse with a fly on its back.  He refused to make eye contact with me, and would stare off into the distance if you looked at him.

Taking him for walks could be an exercise in futility.  He would walk 2 or 3 steps and then just stop.  The only way to get him going again would be to pick him up and set him down again a few steps later, or to pull him a step or two.  If there were people in sight, nothing could convince him to walk in that direction.

Slowly, over time, these behaviors started to change.   He now runs to me in the morning for a good butt scratch.  He goes for walks with Kevin without hesitation.  He will even take treats from strangers.  He is still very scared and shut down if he doesn’t know a person, but the time it takes to get comfortable has gone from weeks to a few days.

It will take Oscar some time to get comfortable in new surroundings.  He is very nervous and unsure of anything new.  It will take him a few weeks to know someone enough to trust and respond to them.  But this is a wonderful dog, who truly deserves a home of his own.  I can’t tell you how amazing he is.

There are a few things to keep in mind about Oscar:

  • He is scared to death of cameras.  Even if he is with someone he loves and trusts, cameras (even cellphone cameras) cause him to flee instantly.
  • Oscar has absolutely NO aggression.  When he is uncomfortable, he just “goes away” mentally.  You can see that he has checked out.
  • Oscar likes to have a safe place to hide.  I have never had a problem getting him out of these safe places, although sometimes you have to pull him.  Again, he shows NO aggression.
  • Oscar loves car rides.  The problem is getting him out of the car at the end!
  • Crowds and groups of people terrify him
  • He loves the packaged bones that you can get at Pet Stores
  • He loves to destroy stuffed animals.
  • He prefers jerky type treats to biscuit treats.
  • He loves a fluffy bed.
  • His favorite way of being petted is a butt scratch, followed by a body massage.  He is not all that fond of being petted on the head, unless he really trusts you.
  • He does love to tear up paper and will pull files off my desk to tear them up.  Garbage cans are another favorite.
  • He has only had one accident in my office, and that was when it was storming, and I think he was afraid to go outside.
  • He hates bread or a lot of other things that most dogs like.  But he will do anything for cheese.
  • Loud noises bother him a lot.

Thank you for being willing to give Oscar a chance.  It will take awhile for him to respond to you, but once he does, it is amazing.  I have never felt so honored as the day he came to me for affection.  This is a remarkable dog that we love very much.

It only took one meeting with Rachel to know she was the right person for Oscar.  I sobbed like a baby as we loaded Oscar into her car, but it wasn’t because I was worried about her as his person.  Only that I was going to miss him so desperately.  It was instantly apparent that Rachel was the one. The two of them were meant to be together.  Rachel was willing to let Oscar live life on his terms, and arranged her schedule around his needs.  She was the most perfect home possible.

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We were very fortunate to have built a relationship with Rachel so that both her and Oscar became part of our extended family.  Kevin and I were able to visit them on several occasions.  Rachel called him her Potato…and it was the best possible name for him.  The happiest I ever saw him was when he was living with Rachel and her mom in Colorado.  He had a little dachshund friend, and played with that dog all day long.  He looked so happy when we visited him there.  It made me tear up to remember how far he’d come.

This week Rachel had to say goodbye to her boy…this dog she had spent so much time with, meeting his special needs, earning his trust.  She let us know that it was time to let Oscar slip away.  I know how devastated she is……and I ache for her pain.  Please keep her in your heart……She needs your good thoughts right now.

One very special little dog is finally free from fear……

Group W Dogs

My husband calls our small pack the dogs from the “Group W Bench”.  Those of you who are familiar with Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant will get the reference immediately.  Kevin means that our 3 dogs started out life in pretty traumatic circumstances, which have marked them psychologically.  They aren’t “normal” dogs (if there is such a thing).  In some cases they need special handling or routines.  We’ve learned to deal with each one’s foibles and idiosyncrasies.   That’s our job as their human caretakers.

Almost everyone knows that our late dog RayRay was one of the dogs from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.  He taught us a LOT about living with a dog who has a traumatic past. Ever since we’ve been drawn to dogs who need special handling…..

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After we’d had Ray for about a year, we adopted Turtle, who is one of the Fearing Six fighting dogs.  She was, without a doubt, a fighting dog.  She has the scars and damage to prove it, including being Babesia positive (a blood borne parasite that can be passed by tick, or more commonly in dogs, by deep puncture wounds). Turtle has never met a human she didn’t love.  She wants to be with her people at all times.  Her tail wags if you even look at her. With humans she is a rockstar.  However, she is highly “dog selective”.  That means that it takes her a long time to accept another dog as a companion.  It takes time, patience, and a lot of skill to integrate her with another dog.  She lashes out easily at other dogs, and will re-direct in a heartbeat.  Thankfully she only has one canine and no front teeth, so it limits the damage she can do to another dog.

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Our Turtely Girl

When Ray passed away we adopted Bubba G.  Bubba is an amazing boy who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.  What he does have is exuberance and the mass to be somewhat intimidating.  When he first came to live with us he was so mouthy it could be frightening.  He would knock me down.  He would bite me on the butt.  He would have zoomies that would shake the house and threaten our electronics.  He loves other dogs but fails miserably at reading their cues, so he gets himself into a lot of trouble socially.  We have to limit his time with other dogs as he gets so overstimulated that it causes problems.  With time and training Bubba has become an amazingly calm companion who accompanies me everywhere.  But every once in awhile he gets “crazy eyes” and we know all hell is about to break loose.  Anymore that generally means zoomies….in the past it meant he was going to “play” with me, just like he’d play with another dog.

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Then there is Bosco.  This little dog came to us from Lucas County Ohio after he had been declared a “dangerous dog” for a bite he gave his new adopter.  The bite was minor, but that doesn’t matter to the legal system.  Bosco leads with his mouth.  He is easily the mouthiest dog I have ever met.  He is full of energy, basically a happy little clown of a dog.  Unless he is frightened.  Bosco is a fear biter.  We have learned that it is critically important to keep a strict routine with him.  He wants the same thing to happen the same way, by the same person, every single day.  Routine soothes him.  It keeps him happy and calm.  This is a dog who cannot tolerate surprises.  Bosco has the best dog skills of any of our kids.  He reads Turtle’s cues perfectly, and plays when she wants to play, and backs off if she is crabby.

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We are extremely conscientious dog owners.  All three of our kids are fixed, immunized, licensed and chipped.  We walk them every day.  They are trained.  They are never outside without us.  They do not run loose.  We take our responsibilities very, very seriously. Thankfully we live in a small community where it is readily apparent to everyone that we are extremely responsible with our dogs. That is critically important to this post, because we found out, strictly by accident, that BSL isn’t the only law that dog owners need to worry about. Especially owners of Group W dogs.

The day after Thanksgiving Bubba and Turtle got into a spat.  Mostly it was storm and fury, but things were heating right up.  Because of Turtle’s background, once she starts a fight, she is in it.  Period.  Kevin and I tried to separate the two, and Kevin ended up getting his hand in the way of Turtle’s mouth.   And Bubba, who’d been just trying to get away from his sister, ended up biting her to get her to back off.  I sent Kevin off to the ER to get his hand cleaned up and a tetanus shot, and I took Turtle to the vet to get her checked out.  Kevin and I both realized that a lot of what had happened was totally our fault, and we calmly set about dealing with the fall-out.  No biggie.

Except that it was.  It was huge.

Once Kevin got to the hospital, the police were called to come take photos of his hand as “evidence”.  Apparently, in our community, any dog who bites anyone or anything is declared a dangerous dog and must be removed from town.  Immediately.  Standard operating procedure is to seize the dog at the time of the incident.  Turtle would be taken for causing Kevin’s injury, and Bubba would be seized for nailing Turtle.

Somehow Kevin convinced the police officer NOT to seize the dogs that night, and he made arrangements for them to come “evaluate” the dogs the next day.

Can  you imagine the degree of terror we were feeling? We had put so much effort and training into making our dogs good, safe citizens, and in the blink of an eye, it could all be gone.  Because of our inattention, our dogs might be forced to pay the ultimate price.

The next day a very nice, polite young Marshall came to the house to meet the dogs.   I had both dog’s paperwork laid out for his inspection. Both dogs were both models of perfect canine behavior.  I asked him if we needed to either a) retain an attorney or b) start packing to move.  He assured me he wasn’t there to seize our dogs.  He mentioned the fact that Kevin and I are seen walking our dogs daily.  They are all up to date on shots. They are licensed with the city.  They are never outside unattended.  They aren’t allowed to bark or disturb the neighbors.  In short, we are the type of dog people that police like to see.    That somehow allowed the city to “look the other way” regarding this incident.

I was always very aware of our dogs and their interactions with others; especially unleashed dogs.  We always carry both citronella and pepper spray.  But now I am hyper-aware.  If a strange dog runs up and one of my dogs bites him, my dog will pay the ultimate price.  Even if they are leashed and the strange dog isn’t.  Because that’s the way the ordinance is written.  It doesn’t allow for any shades of grey.

My whole point for sharing this situation is to tell people you MUST check out your city’s ordinances.  Although you may not be dealing with breed specific legislation, your dogs may be at risk if there is a zero tolerance policy.  What a law like that overlooks is that all dogs can bite, given the right set of circumstances.  The sweetest little mutt I ever met bit his mom severely when he was badly injured and scared.  Dogs can bite.  Good dogs can bite.  And you want to be very conscious of how your community deals with situations like that.

 

We Must Never Forget the Truth

At the beginning of the month the Dodo did a beautiful piece on Cherry, one of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.  It was a video montage of Cherry since rescue, showing how frightened and shut-down he was, and the amazing, really amazing job he has done recovering from his abuse.

There were so many players in his journey towards recovery.  The folks that originally assessed him in Virginia.  Best Friends Animal Society trainers and caregivers.  And not least of all Paul, Melissa and their kids.  Cherry has become the dog he was always meant to be.  And it is a wondrous thing to see.

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I remember watching the original video of him at Best Friends.  He was featured on one of the episodes of NatGeo’s Dogtown.  It was physically painful to watch as he would pancake on the ground, too afraid to stand upright.  I cried when the episode showed him crawling to Michelle for some love and comfort; finally conquering his fear enough to accept physical touch voluntarily.

A few years ago I was incredibly honored to meet him in person, spending time with Cherry and his family at a lodge in Utah.  They had come back to the sanctuary for a reunion of the adopted Vicktory Dogs.  I sat on the floor and fed him pieces of dehydrated liver, which he gently accepted from my fingers. The change from the dog who had arrived at Dogtown scared and broken was amazing and thrilling.  It is a tribute to the resilience of dogs in general, and the calm loving care that Paul and Melissa give him.

The Dodo piece was lovely, but in ways somewhat confusing.  Video clips from the past ten years were spliced together to show some of the high points of Cherry’s life.  Some people thought this was a new situation with Michael Vick.  But I think most of the confusion stems from the fact that people are already forgetting the facts about this case and these dogs.

Some of the comments on the Dodo post were stunning in their ignorance.  The more I read the more agitated I became.  There were even people who said there was no proof this dog was one of Vick’s.  That the piece was a lie.

Ree Person Smh ….. I don’t believe this mess . What I do believe is this is attempt to slander Michael Vick.If you wanted to get the message out ,to stop animal fighting , you really could’ve done that in a more tasteful way .We the viewers don’t really know if the dog came from a ring of dog fighting ran by him .
So full of it !

Also among the comments were several references to the documentary that was released about Michael Vick last year.  That piece was an attempt by the NFL to whitewash Vick and his involvement in dog fighting, or as they contend, his lack of involvement.  The piece inferred that Vick only bankrolled the operation, but played no part in the actual abuse of dogs.

Zuriel Kirkwood I respect everything the dodo does, but the Michael Vick mention was unnecessary. Anyone who hasn’t seen the “Vick Documentary” should go watch it. Just like we all make mistakes, Vick made a huge one but now has changed his life. Take the worst thing you’ve ever done and imagine people remembering you by that the rest of your life.

Anyone who has followed this case knows that is a flat out lie.  Vick has admitted to personally killing under-performing dogs.  There is plenty of documentation of that fact.  Read The Lost Dogs.  Watch the Champions on Netflix.  Read the court transcripts.

I think the statement that hurt the worst was the woman who said she wouldn’t allow any of those dogs near her children.  Sheer ignorance when you look at  Jonny Justice and Hector doing certified therapy dog work, or the public events that Cherry or Ray attended and the children they interacted with.  We can’t let those type of statements stand.  If we do not challenge them, we are allowing the spread of hate and bigotry unchecked.

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The biggest thing I take away from those comments is that people are beginning to forget.  The dogs are aging, slowly passing away one by one.  It offends me to think that their story might be forgotten, swept away.

Those of us who know and love these dogs must work to keep the truth in the mind’s eye of the public.  We need to make sure everyone knows that not one of the adopted dogs has had any problems with aggression of any sort.   These dogs are proof that pit bull terrier type dogs are not inherently vicious, and we mustn’t let the world forget that.

I have been remiss myself.  I’ve let this blog slowly fade away.  But no more.  I can’t let Ray’s life and death go unnoticed.  He deserves better.  All dogs deserve better.  And I have a responsibility to speak my truth.

As Darcy Dennett’s documentary showed, these dogs are true Champions.  And they deserve our respect.

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