"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Peanut-Detecting Dog Sniffs Out Danger, Helps Boy Fight Peanut Allergy

Grey Sheer, who's allergic to peanuts, snuggles up to Layla, the family’s pit bull mix that's been trained to detect their scent.

As a service dog in training, Layla searches her family's grocery bags, kitchen cabinets, backpacks, stairwells, playgrounds, hotel rooms and other suspicious areas for the odor she was trained to detect: peanuts.

When the young pit bull/bulldog mix detects even the tiniest scent of a peanut, she lies down on her belly, stares at the culprit and points with her paw.

Her reward: a squeaky ball.

This subtle act of heroism is a lifesaver for her Manhattan owners and their 6-year-old son, Grey, whose severe allergic reactions to peanuts and shellfish have landed him in the hospital at least a dozen times.

The boy's food allergy first reared its head when, at age 2, Grey went into anaphylactic shock after eating a peanut butter cracker that had rolled under the couch.

"We're constantly afraid that he's going to die," said his mom, Catherine Sheer, 28, who noted that Grey's allergy is so bad he can break out in hives just walking down the aisle at the Whole Foods market. "It's like living in a world where there's cyanide everywhere," she added.

Peanuts - or their scent - are all around us. Their residue, which can be in the form of butter, oil or dust, is found or left behind in schoolyards, libraries, movie theaters, on airplane seats and just about anywhere people go.

For that reason, many kids with peanut allergies are home-schooled and rarely have play dates.
"I was determined for him to have a normal life," said Sheer, who is dismayed that service dogs are not allowed in New York City's public schools.

Still, Grey attends public school in Chinatown - unlike his preschool, it is not peanut-free - where he is shadowed by a paraprofessional who makes sure the boy steers clear of any nuts. Grey's family and the school nurse are armed with epinephrine and Benadryl to treat allergic reactions.

Meanwhile, Layla, a rescued pooch, was never meant to be a peanut-detector dog. Grey and his mom were on their way home from school one day when they spotted the 4-month-old puppy playing in the window of the Animal Haven Shelter in SoHo. Layla had been flown in from an overrun Missouri shelter by Paws and Pilots as part of a big rescue effort.

It was love at first sight for Sheer when Layla licked her hand and then rolled over and went to sleep.

"She's gentle and calm and the best dog in the universe," Sheer said of the mixed breed with a bad reputation, who, despite urban myth, is even tender with her year-old baby, Scarlett.

The idea to train Layla as a scent detection dog occurred to Sheer in August during a month-long family trip to San Diego, but she was told that scent dogs are generally shepherds, poodles and golden and Labrador retrievers.

When the family took a day trip to Legoland, however, Layla stayed at the Snug Pet Resort, where trainer Mike Stone saw great promise in the loyal mutt as a "peanut dog" and agreed to try training her, Sheer said.

After spending two months out West with Stone, Layla recently returned to Manhattan, where, despite her young age and breed, she continues to show great promise as a lifesaver for Grey.

While pit bulls aren't generally used as scent dogs, Sheer believes their great desire to please their owners make them worthy of the job.




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Oddest Couple in the World

A male Chihuahua's tenacity in guarding his beloved pit bull girlfriend helped save their lives. Now, the couple is inseparable.

Sometimes even an abandoned, injured dog with a bad rap ends up doing great things. And so it was with a female pit bull, being guarded by her beloved boyfriend, a Chihuahua.

What the Pennsylvania dog warden did not realize when he rescued the pair on Labor Day, was just what a sweet story these two dogs had to tell.

Once the pit bull got into a crate on the warden's truck, the Chihuahua would not follow. Instead, he put himself between the two, barking and growling at the warden.

"So I sat on the ground ... all the time having a conversation with a Chihuahua that was guarding a Pit Bull!," the warden writes in a story about this odd couple.

"Eventually he let me get close enough so we could have a face to face & heart to heart discussion. I told him that his intentions were very noble and would not go unrewarded for the both of them."

The warden would not follow his usual routine when finding a pit bull — to take the dog to a facility that could euthanize her within 48 hours. "Due to this little guy's tenacity and I do believe true affection for his Pit Bull lady," the warden writes, "I was not going to let that happen." Cute couples, it turns out, melt hearts.

The warden found them safe haven at the no-kill Washington Area Humane Society. He asked the staff, could they please find room in their already overflowing no-kill shelter for just two more dogs?

"We truly didn't have room but we could not let them go," says Alice Wancowicz, assistant manager of the shelter in Eighty Four, PA. "They stayed in the bathroom for two days until we could get a run open."

And so, the staff embraced the pair, naming them Bonnie and Clyde. "We were trying to think of a good duo kind of name," says Wancowicz. "They're kind of like rebels but they're not, they stick together."

Now, it is Bonnie who protects little Clyde. "They are just adorable together," Wancowicz says. "Bonnie just lays there and Clyde jumps all over her. They are totally inseparable." The couple goes on walks together, eat together, sleep together, with Clyde snoozing on top of Bonnie or cuddled within her front arms.

"When Bonnie got spayed, Clyde was beside himself," Wancowicz says. "He wouldn't settle down, was crying, on your lap, off your lap, you could tell he wasn't himself."

So it comes as a surprise that they have not been adopted. "They would fit in anywhere," says Wancowicz. "They don't have issues with adults or kids."

The dog warden writes that we need to change our opinions of pit bulls: "You may find a loving, loyal and dedicated companion to fight for like our Chihuahua friend did. Perhaps this story will give you a second chance to revisit your thoughts and opinions concerning Pit Bulls. They deserve the opportunity to overcome a stereotype that can most certainly lead them to death."

We know that Tonic readers like to take action. If you want to help out Bonnie and Clyde, click here (http://www.washingtonpashelter.org/) to visit the Humane Society's website. Or, you can call them at 724-222-PETS (7387)

By Diane Herbst
Photos courtesy Washington Area Humane Society.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Saving Audie: A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance

When Michael Vick's dog fighting ring was discovered, more than forty dogs were rescued. But their struggle was far from over. Most animal advocates believed the former fighting dogs were too damaged to save, but Audie and his kennel mates would prove them wrong when public outcry and the publicity surrounding Michael Vick's punishment won them a chance at a happy life. Teaming up once again with William Muñoz, photo-essay veteran Dorothy Hinshaw Patent gives an emotional account of one dog's heartwarming story, showing how Audie, who was only a puppy when he was rescued, was rehabilitated, adopted, and now enjoys the love he deserves.

Buy the book here.

Check out Audie's Facebook page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dog Owner Can't Forgive Michael Vick

An appropriate article to read after Michael Vick's blowout game last night. (Not to mention Desean Jackson's comments)
Mel, a black pit bull, cowers to the corner while another dog, Pumpkin, shields him. Mel was one of the 47 pit bulls in Michael Vick's interstate dogfighting ring. (Richard Hunter / November 16, 2010)

While Michael Vick was screaming toward the sky, a black pit bull named Mel was standing quietly by a door.

On this night, like many other nights, Mel was waiting for his owners to take him outside, but he couldn't alert them with a bark. He doesn't bark. He won't bark. The bark has been beaten out of him.

While Michael Vick was running for glory, Mel was cowering toward a wall.

Every time the 4-year-old dog meets a stranger, he goes into convulsions. He staggers back into a wall for protection. He lowers his face and tries to hide. New faces are not new friends, but old terrors.

While Michael Vick was officially outracing his past Monday night, one of the dogs he abused cannot.

"Some people wonder, are we ever going to let Michael Vick get beyond all this?" said Richard Hunter, who owns Mel. "I tell them, let's let Mel decide that. When he stops shaking, maybe then we can talk."

I know, I know, this is a cheap and easy column, right? One day after the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback officially becomes an American hero again, just call the owner of one of the dogs who endured Vick's unspeakable abuse and let the shaming begin.

Compare Vick's 413 total yards, four touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns against the Washington Redskins to the 47 pit bulls who were seized from Bad Newz Kennels, his interstate dogfighting ring. Contrast one of the best three hours by a quarterback ever to the 21 months he spent in prison.

Cheap and easy, right? Not so fast. Vick's success is raising one of the most potentially costly and difficult perceptual questions in the history of American sports.

If he continues playing this well, he could end up as the league's most valuable player. In six games, he has thrown for 11 touchdowns, run for four more touchdowns, committed zero turnovers and produced nearly 300 total yards per game. Heck, at this rate, with his Eagles inspired by his touch, he could even win a Super Bowl, one of the greatest achievements by an American sportsman.

And yet a large percentage of the population will still think Michael Vick is a sociopath. Many people will never get over Vick's own admissions of unthinkable cruelty to his pit bulls — the strangling, the drowning, the electrocutions, the removal of all the teeth of female dogs who would fight back during mating.

Some believe that because Vick served his time in prison, he should be beyond reproach for his former actions. Many others believe that cruelty to animals isn't something somebody does, it's something somebody is.

Essentially, an ex-convict is dominating America's most popular sport while victims of his previous crime continue to live with the brutality of that crime, and has that ever happened before?

Do you cheer the player and boo the man? Can you cheer the comeback while loathing the actions that necessitated the comeback? And how can you do any of this while not knowing if Vick has truly discovered morality or simply rediscovered the pocket?

If you are Richard Hunter, you just don't watch football.

"When you look at Mel," said Hunter, a radio personality from Dallas, "you just don't think about how Michael Vick is a great football player."

A couple of years ago, Hunter and his wife Sunny were watching a documentary on Best Friends Animal Society, the Utah sanctuary where the court sent 22 of Vick's 44 seized dogs. It was after 1 a.m. when the show featured a Vick victim that had been so badly abused, it refused to move, behaving as if paralyzed.

"My wife said, 'Get out of bed, get on the computer and e-mail those people, I want one of those dogs,' " Hunter recalled.

Nearly 18 months later, they became one of six people to adopt one of the dogs. The process included a home visit by caseworkers, an extended visit to the southwest Utah sanctuary, home monitoring by a dog trainer and a six-month probation period.

"These dogs were scarred in many ways both emotional and physical," said John Polis, Best Friends spokesman. "It was something we had never really seen before."

Hunter and his wife quickly saw Mel's scars. The dog wouldn't bark, wouldn't show affection, and would spend nearly an hour shaking with each new person who tried to touch him.

It turns out that Mel had been a bait dog, thrown into the ring as a sort of sparring partner for the tougher dogs, sometimes even muzzled so he wouldn't fight back, beaten daily to sap his will. Mel was under constant attack, and couldn't fight back, and the deep cuts were visible on more than just his fur.

"You could see that Michael Vick went to a lot of trouble to make Mel this way," Hunter said. "When people pet him, I tell them, pet him from under his chin, not over his head. He lives in fear of someone putting their hand over his head."

On Monday night, no, Mel was not hanging out by the televised football game. He was hanging on his owner's bed as they watched something on HBO.

"How can you support football when you know one of their stars did this to a dog?" Hunter said. "If more people saw Mel at the same time as they saw Michael Vick, he wouldn't be so lauded."

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the lessons learned from Vick's crimes were on display in a postgame quote from Eagles star receiver DeSean Jackson.

"We were like pit bulls ready to get out of the cage," he told reporters.

Cheap and easy, huh?

By Bill Plaschke


Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Honor of Veterans Day

Here's an incredible story about the value dogs have in the lives of veterans suffering from PTSD. Starring a pit bull named Cheyenne.

When You Think of Liberty Think of Me

 When you honor the red, white, and blue
When you celebrate our nation's liberty
Think of the one who's been beside you
in spirit, in heart, in body...
No being could be as loyal as me, for I am
your best friend, your partner... your family

When our nation was young
I was the runner, carrying messages
in a war that would leave us undone
where brother fought beside brother.

And, alone in the face of terror
I moved through enemy lines,
as families fought one another,
my mission foremost in my mind.

I was the one waiting for you even though
I sensed you would not be coming home
I languished on our wooden porch
growing thinner, until the war was over
and my days on earth were done.

I was in the trenches, fields, and meadows
accompanying you into foreign lands.
With you in the jungles and swamps
and at your heels on hot, dusty roads
or on blistering, desert sands.

I have been first in the line of fire
first to enter a field laden with mines
putting myself in your stead.
I went unflinching, leading,
to wherever, doing whatever you said.

With you I've jumped from the belly of a plane
dropping into places neither of us had ever seen.
All for the greater glory and good. All for humanity.

When a bullet took your life I laid by your side
my chin on your chest--despair in my eyes.
Content to have remained with you,
until a man in our unit lifted me up,
carrying me back to the war... as he cried.

When we had parted, when you'd gone home
and when on foreign soil I was left all alone
through no fault of your own I was forsaken.

The government advised you that your friend
and helper; the soldier who'd been by your side,
would not be accompanying you home...
To our home, our country, I could not be taken.

And so it was that we were abandoned
after you tearfully told us we could not follow
the men with whom we had served.

Confusion set in as we watched you depart;
being left behind, we had not deserved.
You left us dispirited, empty, and hollow
for we had given to you all of our all.
Like ghosts were we, missing our souls,
for you had taken with you... our hearts.

I have been injured for you.
And I have died for you.
In your absence I have wasted away
from the loss of you.

I'm the scruffy, thin dog sitting quietly
next to the veteran in his wheelchair.
On the hill, the band plays a song
and the man softly cries, while
fireworks light up the night's air.

Gently I place my paw on his knee
lay my muzzle on his withered leg.
He looks at the small flag he is clutching
then he turns his attention to me.

His eyes are filled with thoughts and tears
but his smile is as warm as the sun.
"Thank you for reminding me," says he,
"what's been sacrificed for the freedom we've won."

In the now, we cannot know
who will be needing who.
But what you may not know is
that when you'll be needing me
I'll be needing and looking for you.

We've been a team, you and me
through the many years
that have shaped this land,
and God has blessed us mightily.

So, every now and then, thank me--
with a look, kind words, and the
touch of a gentle hand...

When you think of liberty
and count the reasons you are free...
Don't forget to think of me!

Copyright © 2004 by Kathy Pippig Harris

Read an article here about Sgt. Stubby, America's first canine war hero.

Read the story about a veteran who was prescribed a pit bull after serving in Iraq. Denver, Colorado said that the service dog violated the city's ban on pit bulls.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pit Bulls' Visits Heal Patients, Reputation

Joyce Baldwin, Plainfield Nursing and Rehabilitation Center resident, loves visits from Murphy, a 4-month-old pit bull. Murphy's owner believes pit bulls make good therapy dogs. / Matt Kryger / The Star

Pit bulls have long been known for their vicious behavior and little else.

Whether it is fighting other dogs to the death or attacking people, pit bulls have developed a bad reputation that has been hard to shake.

A Mooresville woman, though, is making an attempt to tear down that stereotype one nursing home at a time.

For the past six months, Kim Lane has visited nursing facilities in Anderson, Martinsville, Mooresville and Plainfield with her "two boys" -- Milo, a 3-year-old pit bull, and more recently Murphy, a 4-month-old pit bull -- to provide therapy for staff and residents.

"I promised Milo when he was a puppy that we would change people's minds," she said. "It was hard at first because as soon as some places heard the word pit bull, they said, 'no.' I even gave up at one point. But six months ago, I decided I would try even harder, because I felt Milo's talents were just wasting away."

Milo already has a Canine Good Citizen certificate and is being trained to be certified as a therapy dog and to serve in hospices.

Lane said what makes pit bulls such good therapy dogs is the same trait that some owners take advantage of when they are training them to fight and be mean.

"Pit bulls will do anything to please their owner, even if it means fighting to their death," Lane said. "But if you channel that desire to do good things they were meant to do, they have the perfect disposition for it. My dogs have been treated and handled with nothing but love, so Milo, in particular, is just one big mush ball."

The people who get weekly visits from Milo and Murphy couldn't agree more. Many say it is the highlight of their week.

Joyce Baldwin, a resident at Plainfield Nursing and Rehabilitation, can't wait to have the dogs climb up on her bed with her.

Baldwin said she lost her dogs just prior to moving to the facility. So Lane's dogs have helped her cope with the depression many nursing-home residents endure.

"Aren't these dogs the sweetest things?" Baldwin said. "They have brought me so much joy and always cheer me up. What you hear about pit bulls isn't true. They are good dogs. I don't know how anybody could not like these two."

Chris Ray, administrator at the Plainfield facility, said he believes in pet therapy and often uses dogs, birds and even fish to help cheer up and relax residents there. So he was delighted and had no hesitation about having pit bulls come into the facility as therapy dogs.

"You always think about the concerns when you hear pit bull, but once you meet them, that all goes away," he said. "You can just see the change in the residents' faces when the dogs come around."

Lane said she believes both dogs can sense when someone needs extra love and attention.

They can even do a few tricks to entertain residents, and Lane also allows residents to feed them low-fat treats.

"As long as we can change at least one person's mind about pit bulls and make someone happy every visit, I consider it a good, productive day, and hopefully, it starts a domino effect that changes people's perceptions," she said.

By: Josh Duke


Monday, November 1, 2010

Pit Bull Resources

Here is a list of pit bull resource websites compiled by
The American Dog Magazine:

All or Nothing Pit Bull Rescue  

Animal Farm Foundation  

Bad Rap

Bama Bully Rescue 

Bless the Bullys   

Bull 911 

Casa Del Toro Bully Breed   

Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue   

Dead Dog Walking Pit Bull Rescue   

Defending Dog  

Denver Kills Dogs   

For Pits Sake   

Hug A Bull   

Indy Pit Crew   

Karma Rescue   

Love A Bull Rescue   

Mid-America Bully Breed Rescue    

Mike's Dog House   

Missouri Pit Bull Rescue   

Natl Canine Research Council   

Our Pack   

Out Of The Pits   

Pawsitively Pit Bull   

Pit Bull Rescue Central   

Pit Bull Lovers   

Pit Bull Rescue San Diego   

Pittie Love Rescue   

Recycle-A-Bull Rescue   


Save A Bull Rescue   

Save The Pit Bulls   

Stop BSL  

Understand A Bull  

Villalobos Rescue Center  

Wiggle Butts Bully Rescue