Category Archives: Humans

Ketchup!

Last night I had a dream that I was competing some championship swim meet. I was up on the starting block pulling my goggles down over my eyes when it suddenly hit me that I haven’t done this since high school – what am I doing here? I’m not prepared for this! I won’t mention just how long ago high school was – or how long it’s been since I’ve been in a pool for that matter – but I think that dream was a metaphor for the chaos that has been my life lately.

Yes, I’ve been busy, as is probably evident by my lack of blogging. Actually, busy is an understatement. But most of the things that have been keeping me busy are great blog fodder, so my New Year’s resolution is to blog more. You like how I’m just now getting around to making my New Year’s resolutions and it’s almost February? Welcome to my world.

In addition to being busy at work (yes, I do have a day job – despite the fact that I would much rather spend all my time rescuing dogs, that doesn’t pay the bills), my involvement with rescue has pretty much occupied any remaining time outside of work. I’m cranking up the mileage on the car running transports and doing meet and greets, running up the minutes on my phone screening potential adopters and staying up late almost every night answering emails. But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I fear this post is going to get quite long, so I’m going to break it out into chapters with big bold headlines so you can skip anything you’re not interested in….

Chapter 1: Update on the bust dogs

What an emotional roller coaster that situation was. It really opened my eyes to the horrors of dog fighting in a very personal way. Of course I have always thought dog fighting was terrible, and if the Philadelphia Eagles ever come to play the Seahawks, you know I’ll be the first one outside the stadium letting Vick know exactly what I think. But getting to know so many of the bust dogs, knowing very well many of them would never be adopted, really hit me hard. I fell head over heels in love with so many of those sweet souls, and in the end, we were only able to save 4 out of the 22.

That sounds like a terrible outcome – and in many ways it was – but the important thing to realize is that those are 4 dogs that would never have been saved if we hadn’t stepped in. Pierce County has never before even evaluated fight dogs – they were always held as evidence until the trial and then destroyed. And it’s not that the other dogs were vicious. They were just broken. Broken by human hands, through no fault of their own. I hate people sometimes.

The hardest part of the situation was knowing that many could be rehabilitated, if only we had the resources. But the shelter where they were being held probably puts down 10-20 healthy, adoptable pit bulls every week, since we are a small group and can only save as many dogs as we have foster homes for. Sure, we could have taken in more fight dogs and spent 2 years rehabilitating them to ready them for adoption, but how many “regular” pit bulls could we have saved during that time? Unfortunately the dark side of rescue is that it’s often a numbers game, and you have to weigh which option has the best odds. It’s really hard, because it’s often the sad cases that really tug at your heartstrings.

I still want to cry when I think of all those sweet dogs who are no longer with us, but it helps to know that even though they spent the last few months of their life in a shelter, it truly was heaven to them. They were inside, and they had nice people stopping by to give them treats and love on them every day – compared to their previous lives of being chained up outside in the cold, forced to fight each other in hopes of pleasing a master who never showed them the approval or affection they craved. For their last meal, they all got cheeseburgers. I like to think they left this world happier than they ever had been in their lives.

But you have to focus on the positive in this line of work, or you’ll go crazy. So to end this chapter on a positive note, here’s a link where you can follow the progress of the survivors. They are doing great!

Chapter 2: Foster #2: Gracie Lou Who!

At the beginning of this month, we unexpectedly ended up with our second foster dog. We were technically supposed to be on a foster hiatus, as the hubby wasn’t quite ready to foster again, but one of our previously adopted dogs came back to us and we had nowhere else for her to go. So after much begging and pleading with the hubs, we took in Gracie. We had two good leads on her for permanent homes anyway, so I convinced the mister it would probably only be for a few days.

Gracie was an absolute doll, and I quickly fell hard for her. Unfortunately, my boy Stewie did not. Thus, we were quickly introduced to the world of crating and rotating. Let me tell you, I have tremendous respect for people who have been forced to crate and rotate as a way of life, and make it work. It’s exhausting! (Mental note: crating and rotating would make a great future blog post)

Gracie’s presence with us really tested my emotions. The fact that I had to pretty much force my husband to even take her in in the first place, coupled with the fact that we had to keep her separated from Stewie created a lot of tension in our home. When the first adoption lead fell through, I was heartbroken. I was so sure it was going to be a good match. So I convinced the hubs that it would only be another week with her while I worked on the second lead. The next weekend, the second meet and greet went really well so we tentatively planned to send her on a trial run starting the following weekend (me to hubby: “okay, just one more week”). About halfway through that week, though, the adopter got cold feet.

Crap, now what?

I had already pushed my luck with the hubs, and if I wasn’t careful, I’d turn him off to ever fostering again. But with no other adoption leads in sight and nowhere else for Gracie to go, we were at a loss. The reality of the situation is, we can only save as many dogs as we have foster homes for, so if we don’t have a foster home for Gracie… I didn’t even want to think about that.

You see, Gracie had already cheated death once before. In fact, Gracie is the very reason our rescue formed a partnership with one of our local shelters. That particular shelter had a “no pit bull” adoption policy. Not because they thought they were inherently vicious, but because they were so hard to adopt out and they were already a high-volume shelter. Gracie was found as a stray and taken to that shelter a little over a year ago. She was actually on the euthanasia table, and the shelter worker flat-out refused to put her down. She was just too nice of a dog. So he called up the board and told them if they wanted this dog euthanized, they would have to come down and do it themselves. That sparked a discussion with our rescue, and they worked out a program where any pit bulls they received would be evaluated by us and taken into our program if there was room. They would still spend their days at the shelter to get exposure to the public, but would go home with foster families at night to learn manners and sleep on a warm bed. All applications would be handled through our rescue, not the shelter, so we could adequately screen them.

Long story short, Gracie had come too far and been through too much for it to end now. So I called up the adopter with the cold feet and talked to her about why she had changed her mind. She said she was in love with Gracie, but she was worried about how her cat would do with her in the house. After reassuring her that Gracie had lived with cats before and would probably be fine, we agreed to do a week-long trial run. I am happy to report the adoption was finalized last weekend! Gracie did awesome with the cat (as I knew she would), and everyone seems really happy.

I will end this chapter with a few photos of sweet Gracie, AKA Gracie Lou Who, AKA Gracie Lou Freebush (Miss Congeniality reference).

Chapter 3: Josie Update

Speaking of foster dogs, remember that super cute blue brindle puppy I had for a while? Well, that “puppy” is now a year old and about 70 lbs! That means she’s bigger than my Stewie. To put that in perspective, here’s a picture of her when we first got her, next to Stewie:

And here’s a picture of her now:

Look at the size of that head! Such a pretty girl, still. She is just thriving in her home, and I love that I get frequent updates on her. I love that “little” girl, and she is a big reason I do what I do.

Chapter 4: “The Kids”

As swept up in the rescue stuff as I get, I can’t forget my own two dogs! Maggie and Stewie are doing great. Stewie still chases his tail on occasion, but we seem to be able to manage it for the most part.

Having been through the crating and rotating phase when Gracie was with us also made me realize how good I have it, and what a perfect match Maggie and Stewie are for one another. Dogs are funny – like people, sometimes they just “click,” and sometimes they just don’t like each other for whatever reason. Maggie and Stewie are like soul mates. They bring out the best in each other. Maggie was really shy around other dogs before we got Stewie, and she has really come out of her shell in the last couple years. Stewie can be a bit of a butt head around other dogs sometimes, but he totally looks up to Maggie and does whatever his “big sister” says.

Sometimes I get applicants on our rescue dogs who are set on one particular dog and don’t like to hear me tell them it won’t be a good match for their family. But I really wish they’d just trust me. When you have a multi-dog household – especially with pit bulls – having the *right* match makes all the difference in the world!

They are lazy and like to wrestle laying down

Best friends

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Filed under Humans, Josie, Maggie, Misc., Rescue, Stewie, Training/Behavior

Tattoo!

Earlier this week I finally got the tattoo I have been thinking about for a while now. Four pawprints – one for my childhood dog, two for my current dogs, and one for past and future foster dogs. If you look carefully, you’ll see the paw prints are actually made out of hearts and teardrops, symbolizing the dogs I have loved and dogs who will never know what it’s like to be loved.

If there was every any doubt, I’m pretty sure this officially makes me the crazy dog lady. But you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, I embrace it. Someone’s got to speak up for those who can’t. I’m very happy with the way the tattoo turned out.

(Now if only it would hurry up and heal – it’s currently very itchy!)

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Thoughts on positive versus negative reinforcement

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on dog training. I have, however, spent a lot of time researching different training methods and have had experience training many different types of dogs via my involvement in rescue and shelter work.

Let me just put this out there: I am not a fan of Cesar Milan (AKA the Dog Whisperer). This surprises a lot of people, since he has basically become the pop culture icon of dog training. While I do appreciate all he’s done for pit bulls, and I think it’s great he’s inspired an interest in working with behavior problems and not giving up, I simply don’t agree with dominance techniques. Many experts will agree that these methods are horribly outdated, and downright destructive for many types of dogs.

Dominance techniques are based on asserting yourself as a leader over your dog in order to elicit a desired behavior. While this sounds good in theory – in the dog world, true leaders don’t earn their status by force; they earn it via respect from their pack. That’s not to say dominance techniques don’t work – sure, you can sometimes get your dog to behave a certain way via these methods – but when dogs behave out of fear of punishment, it drives a wedge between dog and owner. This method also can also backfire horribly. For example, many aggressive dogs are actually fearful dogs – when it comes to fight or flight, they choose fight. Instilling more fear in dogs like this only perpetuates the problem.

Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, works to strengthen the bond between dog and owner. In the dog world, the leader controls the resources, so by giving positive reinforcement in the form of praise and/or food when your dog does what you want him to do, you’re showing him that you’re in control of the resources and he’ll get what he wants when he behaves how you want. Dogs have an innate desire to please their people (even if they don’t show it sometimes)!

Again, I’m not an expert on the subject. But if you’re seeking an expert’s help for training or behavior modification, ask them whether they use dominance techniques or positive reinforcement, and seek out the latter. You and your dog will be happy you did.

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Filed under Humans, Training/Behavior

Update…

I have not been very good about keeping up with this blog lately. So, here’s sort of a mashup of what’s been going on in my life…

Josie is doing great in her new home. My cousin and her husband have been sending pictures and keeping me updated, and it’s so great to know she’s doing well. I am thrilled that it worked out that I got to keep her in the family. Here are a few pictures – she and her big brother Moses are just the best of buds!

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In other exciting news: I was just voted onto the board of directors for our local pit bull rescue! I have been volunteering with this rescue for about a year and a half now, and have slowly been getting more and more involved. I’ve been very impressed with the rescue and consider it a huge honor to have been asked in the first place. As a board member I’ll become more involved with the events and media outreach I’ve already been doing, and will also start doing some of the adopter screening and dog evaluations.

This past weekend I went to hear Donna Reynolds, the co-founder of BAD RAP, speak at the Pacific Northwest Animal Care and Control conference. What an amazing experience. First of all, BAD RAP is pretty much the holy grail of pit bull rescue (they are the ones responsible for saving all the Michael Vick dogs). Donna shared some amazing stories about programs they’ve implemented and partnerships they’ve formed, and then everyone broke out into groups to talk about the problems pit bulls are facing today, what our main goals are for improving these problems, and how we plan to get there. Though there were a lot of different points of view in the room and at times we didn’t all agree (the group consisted of private rescues, shelters, trainers and animal control, to name a few groups), it was really interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives. We were also able to share quite a bit about what our rescue has been doing, and I think there are a lot of ways that we can help these other animal organizations through partnerships. At the end of the session, Donna actually told us how great she thinks our rescue is – which was a huge compliment, considering the source! We’ve certainly modeled a lot of our programs after the success that BAD RAP has seen, and to receive that recognition was quite an honor.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…  Stewie’s tail chasing has been improving. Ironically, the day I called in the prescription for his medication was the day he quit chasing his tail in his crate. He still does it occasionally – mostly in the mornings when I’m getting ready for work. But the crate thing was the biggest issue since we couldn’t stop him from hurting himself. At least when we’re home and he does it, we can physically stop him from spinning and/or redirect him to a bone or toy. I think we’ll hold off on the meds for now, but it’s nice to know we have access to them, should we get to a point where he needs them again.

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Filed under Humans, Josie, Misc., Rescue, Stewie

Boat Dogs!

The Pacific Northwest has been slammed with record-breaking temperatures this week. In fact, yesterday Seattle had the hottest day EVER in history, with temperatures reaching 103. Now, some of you in other parts of the country probably laugh in the face of 103 degree temperatures, but let’s not forget that hardly anyone in Seattle has air conditioning. Combined with the fact that the temperature normally hovers somewhere around 75 in the summer, and you can see how we’re not handling this heat so well!

The dogs especially have been taking the heat wave a little hard. I’ve had fans blowing on their crates and have been freezing the water in their dishes, and they’re still pretty miserable. So yesterday, in an effort to cool us all down, hubby and loaded the dogs into boat and headed out onto Lake Washington. It was still hot, but much more bearable and we enjoyed a nice swim and the breeze coming off the water. The dogs seemed to enjoy themselves as well, even if they did fall in a few times. My back is killing me today, though – I must have pulled something after hoisting them back in the boat when they would slip overboard. Here are a few pictures of the dogs enjoying themselves (excuse the poor quality – they were taken with my camera phone).

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Dogs checking out Hubby on this weird floaty thing

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"OMG, I'm so glad you're back in the boat!!!"

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Enjoying the view, the breeze, and ... the taste of the windshield?

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Stewie attempts to find his sea legs

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Filed under Humans, Josie, Maggie, Stewie

Vote to Ban Michael Vick

ESPN has posted a poll, asking people whether Michael Vick should be reinstated to the NFL.

PLEASE, go to http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/polls and click “outside the lines” on the left hand side of the page. Last I checked, 59% had voted to reinstate immediately. This completely disgusts me. Let us not forget that not only did Vick fight dogs (a horrendous crime unto itself), but actively participated in the bludgeoning, drowning and electrocuting of dogs who failed to perform. On top of this, he pled “not guilty” to animal cruelty. Many sports fans will argue that he did his time and has rehabilitated himself. I call BS. How can you be rehabilitated if you don’t believe you did anything wrong in the first place?

For an inside look at the magnitide of this man’s cruelty, check out this post on the BAD RAP blog, and scroll down to Donna’s story. For those who aren’t familiar with BAD RAP, they’re the organization that pulled and rehabilitated all but two of Vick’s dogs. Donna’s story is incredibly heartbreaking, and it just sickens me that someone who could do such a thing could possibly be placed back into the national spotlight, where he will be an example to the kids in this country who look up to NFL players as heroes. Even if you aren’t a dog lover, you can’t argue the connection between animal cruelty and crimes against people. Who’s to say Vick’s next crime won’t be against another human being?

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An introduction…

My history with dogs started when I was about six years old, and my parents took my brother and me to pick out a Dalmatian puppy. I named her Pepper, because she looked like she had been sprinkled with pepper (I was so clever, wasn’t I?). Unfortunately we only had her for a week before we discovered she was deaf – something I now know is very common among poorly-bred Dalmatians. My parents concluded that we simply didn’t have the experience or resources to dedicate to a deaf dog, so we returned her to the breeder. In addition to being heartbreaking for me (I had grown quite attached in just a week), it turned out to be a huge headache for my parents, as the breeders wouldn’t give them back their money, resulting in a trip to small claims court. This was my first introduction to “backyard breeders” – a practice I now vehemently despise. It makes me sad to think of what may have become of Pepper. I hope she found a good home where her owners had the means to accommodate her special needs.

My parents, turned off from the world of breeders as well, decided the best thing would be to adopt a puppy from the shelter. We went to PAWS and picked out a six week-old Sheltie mix. She had been dropped off in a box at the shelter that morning with her brothers and sisters, and was one of two left by the time we got there. Kelsey ended up being one of the smartest, most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever met and lived to the ripe old age of 17. It’s been more than five years since she’s been gone, and I still miss her terribly to this day.

After my husband and I had been married for a year, we decided it was time to add a dog of our own to our little family. I really didn’t care what kind of dog, but was still very much anti-breeder and hoped to find a rescue. Hubby was a little more specific: he wanted a female lab puppy. On to petfinder.com I went, applying for every female lab (or lab mix) puppy I could find. Much to my dismay, I received rejection after rejection after rejection. We lived in an apartment at the time, and a fenced-in yard was a non-negotiable for all the rescues I applied to. Hubby suggested we just buy a puppy from the paper. I did not want to support a breeder, but I badly wanted a puppy. We ended up finding a private rescue in the paper that took unwanted litters off people’s hands in exchange for spaying the mother dog. They had a litter of Black Lab/German Shepherd pups, and that’s how we ended up with Maggie.

Three years later, we adopted Stewie, a 10 month old dark brindle Pit Bull, whom I fell in love with while volunteering at the Humane Society. Such a sweet-natured, yet misunderstood breed, I fell in love with Pit Bulls, and soon I began volunteering for a local Pit Bull rescue as well. When was laid off in February of this year, I decided now was the perfect time to foster a Pit Bull, and we ended up with Josie, a four month old blue brindle girl. We’ve had Josie for almost four months now. Everyone always asks why she hasn’t been adopted yet, but it truthfully takes a long time to find a good home for a Pit Bull. We love Josie like one of our own, and are happy to take care of her for as long as it takes to find the perfect home. Some days I start to think that perfect home might be ours. But then she reminds us it’s not – usually by eating one of my shoes or pooping on our bedroom floor at 2 a.m. Three dogs are a lot to handle, and I know a lot of people probably think we’re crazy. Sometimes I think we are too. This weekend, we will have all three beasts, along with about 25-30 guests (including two more dogs!) up at our cabin for the 4th of July.

Should be no shortage of stories that come out of this weekend. Stay tuned…

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Filed under Humans, Josie, Maggie, Stewie