"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, January 30, 2011

The Vick Dogs Make A Comeback

Today at the NFL’s Pro Bowl, Michael Vick’s remarkable comeback season will officially end. Vick returned to professional football after serving nearly a year and a half in prison for financing and participating in a brutal dogfighting ring based out of his house in Virginia.

Vick got his second chance, and made the most of it, leading the Philadelphia Eagles through a thrilling season and into the playoffs. Next year, Vick will likely be offered a huge multimillion dollar contract as a result.

That’s Michael Vick’s story. But what happened to the dogs?

Inspired by Jim Gorant’s book “The Lost Dogs,” Need to Know tells their remarkable story.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Since leaving prison, Michael Vick has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions. He has been working with the Humane Society of the U.S. to teach kids about the horrors of dogfighting.

The Vick case has also had a ripple effect in other ways. As Jim Gorant writes in his book, “the Vick investigation had not only shed light on the disturbing game of dogfighting, it had inspired action and begun to change the public view of pit bulls from perpetrators of violence to victims of it.” In several recent dogfighting busts, the successful approach used in the Vick case was applied to these new cases, and many dogs were spared as a result.

For more information on dogfighting in the U.S., and what’s being done to combat it, check out these organizations:

Bay Area Dog lovers responsible about pit bulls

Best Friends

Humane Society: Dogfighting

Pit Bull Rescue Central

From the moment Lucas arrived at Best Friends, it was obvious he loves people. He not only wants to be around humans, he absolutely has to be around humans. “He was probably one of the happiest of all of them,” says Michelle Logan, a team leader at Dogtown. “He’s just always been happy-go-lucky.”

When Lucas sees a golf cart, car or tour bus coming around the bend, he gets up on his doghouse in the outdoor part of his enclosure so he can get a better view. Lucas loves everyone he meets, and he gets sad if he feels he’s not getting his share of the attention.

Dogtown caregivers know just what to do when Lucas is feeling blue.

“All you have to do is pop him in a golf cart and take him for a spin,” Michelle says.
Just like the other Vicktory dogs, Lucas gets training and spends time at the dog park. But the folks at Best Friends knew Lucas would enjoy even more time with people, so two days a week, Lucas is an office dog, spending the day with executive assistant Brenda Escher and chief executive officer Gregory Castle. Not only does Lucas get lots of attention from them, he also gets plenty of oohs and aahs and pets from everyone who drops by. “Lucas is an absolute love, from the wagging tail you’d best not get behind because it can knock you over, to the sloppy kisses he lavishes on everyone,” says Brenda, who picks up Lucas in the morning and delivers him back to Dogtown on visiting days.

“Everyone should experience picking Lucas up from his run to take him on an outing to the office or just on a walk,” she says. “There’s nothing like that kind of reception — trust me!”

Sponsor Lucas while he's at the Sanctuary.

By Sandy Miller
Photos by Molly Wald

**Check out some other Vicktory Dogs, Handsome Dan and Audie. Audie even has his own book! Pre-order it here.
Articles from:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sarge, the Elderbull

I'm Sarge and I'm a 16 year old elderbull. After spending the first 14 years of my life with an animal abuser in Philadelphia, humane law enforcement officers rescued me (and 30+ of my friends) in September 2008 and brought us to the Pennsylvania SPCA. I still have scars and injuries from my old life, but they're all external; on the inside, I'm the most peaceful, happy, forgiving dog you'll ever meet. In February 2009 I went home to my new mom and dad (Kim Wolf and Thad Stringer). I live with five other adopted dogs, including my girlfriend, a 9-year-old adopted pug named Mary Todd Lincoln. In spring of 2009, I got certified with "Pals for Life" to do pet visitation at nursing homes, rehab centers, libraries, etc. I'm one of the oldest (and most famous!) dogs in the program and everyone loves me, especially the ladies! I also visit schools to educate children about animal issues. I've been on television, in newspapers and magazines, and all over the internet. I love sharing my story with anyone who will listen. Just don't ask me about my gas......it's the only dangerous thing about me. (From Sarge's blog)

In May 2010 Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter presented Sarge with the “Humane Educator of the Year” award, and he also won the 2010 “Philadelphia Barking Beauty Pageant” and was featured on NBC 10. Sarge also received achievement awards from Pals for Life and Animal Farm Foundation for his work in the community. After moving from Philadelphia, Sarge now lives in New York with his parents and his 5 canine siblings. To learn more about Sarge, read his blog.
Thanks to private donations and a grant from the Animal Farm Foundation (http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org/), PAWS launched "The Sarge Fund" in 2010 to celebrate and serve the City of Philadelphia’s pit bull population. "The Sarge Fund" enables dogs identified as pit bulls (or pit bull mixes) to receive heavily subsidized spay/neuter surgeries at PAWS’ Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic, thus promoting a lifetime of health, companionship, and responsible pet ownership. Since one in four people in Philadelphia lives below the poverty line, PAWS is committed to helping pit bull owners - and all pet owners - obtain affordable and accessible health care for their pets. Doing so allows pets to remain beloved family members, helps reduce the homeless animal population, and limits the number of pets killed in city shelters simply because they do not have homes.

Want to look good, do good, and feel good all at once? Order a "TEAM SARGE" shirt!

All proceeds benefit "The Sarge Fund" at the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).


To view pictures from Sarge's sweet sixteenth birthday party, click here!

Photos courtesy of Sarge's Facebook page.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

American Dog Magazine ♥'s Pit Bulls!

(Click to view larger)

Here is a  FULL PAGE PSA in The American Dog Magazine (page 120) about saving lives and adopting the PITTIES! They have been running this full page PSA for over a year now in every issue!

Check out another pit bull PSA they have featured in their magazine!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life, a Bowl of Cherries For Cherry

Vicktory Dog update!
When you have as many fans and supporters as Cherry the Vicktory dog, you can pretty well ask for the moon and expect to receive it, along with a bouquet of constellations on the side. No doubt this guy is well loved, with an "extended family" numbering in the thousands. Yet he doesn’t ask for much out of life — at least not any longer. He already has his heart’s desire: a home all his own. Snuggle sessions on the couch with one of his family members (his people Paul and Melissa, his dog buddy Madison and his new cat buddy Walker) are all it takes to make Cherry believe he’s in paradise.

Cherry has lived with his new family for over a year now. "Cherry’s doing great," says Paul. "It still amazes us today; it seems like every week that goes by he keeps improving." When Cherry is with his own little family unit, he acts like a normal dog, explains Paul. (Which is probably the most exciting comment anybody could make about Cherry.) For Cherry, "normal” was an uphill climb from day one.

When he first showed up at Best Friends from the estate of Michael Vick, Cherry was shut down emotionally, especially when it came to being around people. Yet with countless positive vibes being sent his way every day, he couldn’t help but make improvements. Cherry had a vast crowd of friends at the Sanctuary in his corner, along with an ever-growing army of supporters from far away. Together, everybody rallied to help Cherry understand that life doesn’t have to be so hard.

Paul now refers to that group of supporters as Cherry’s extended family — and a family they are indeed. They still want to know everything that goes on with him. Cherry uses his Facebook page to pass along updates. He’s had a lot to talk about, for sure! His official adoption came last March, after successfully passing the court-mandated six-month foster period. That was just the beginning of all the wonderful things that have been going on for Cherry lately.

One of the main highlights of 2010 was Paul and Melissa’s wedding. They were engaged when Cherry joined their lives. For the wedding, Cherry and Madison, the other dog in the home, showed up to stand in the reception line for 45 minutes. That’s all the time Cherry was up for. Still, Cherry’s brief presence was a huge hit for all in attendance. The moment he walked in, he stole the show hands down. That’s Cherry’s specialty - without trying, he racks up fans wherever he goes.

Cherry has been busy making other public appearances to improve pit bull terrier awareness. At the most recent event, a pit bull awareness day at a no-kill animal shelter, attendees were allowed to give Cherry treats. In this instance, he did something he’d never done before. Cherry followed simple training commands from strangers, wagging his tail the whole time. What a superstar!

For Cherry, meeting new people is not always easy. Paul and Melissa have to watch his cues carefully during public events. They know when he’s ready to pack up and go home. Such events are good for him in the long run, though, even if they’re somewhat challenging. Melissa and Paul have noticed how afterward, when Cherry’s back in the comfort of his own home, he makes greater strides toward trust and confidence. Getting out in the public stretches him bit by bit in a positive way. It’s a definite win/win. Not only is it good for Cherry, it’s a huge plus for those he meets. People love to see what a happy, charismatic dog he is. He has made a great impact in public perception of pit bull terriers.

The other big news item in Cherry’s life this past year has been the addition of Walker the cat into the family. Paul and Melissa adopted Walker as a kitten from a local rescue group. Walker and Cherry are now two peas in a pod, wrestling and cuddling constantly. Walker’s favorite napping place is right on top of Cherry’s head! Walker has played an important role in teaching Cherry even more confidence. "He kind of lets down his guard when Walker is there," adds Paul.

As did his buddy Handsome Dan — with whom, by the way, Cherry still has play dates — Cherry decided to give back to other animals in need. Cherry, with a little help from Paul and Melissa, held a fundraiser raffle for his birthday this past June. Cherry donated some paw-printed photographs, and several other organizations pitched in items for the raffle. All told, Cherry was able to raise $1,400 for Mariah’s Promise, a pit bull rescue in Denver, Colorado.

Cherry has a new home, several animal buddies to snuggle with and chase around the yard, a comfy couch to claim more often than his people get to, and thousands of friends out there who want nothing more than for him to enjoy the happiness he’s found at last. Now there’s a happy ending for the record books.

by David Dickson

Photos courtesy of Paul and Melissa

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dolly the Pit Bull

This is a story about a pit bull's struggle to survive and overcome society's negative stereotype and discrimination. After living as a bait dog, she has found a wonderful home and now works to spread awareness in order to save dogs just like her. She is an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen as well as a therapy dog. In addition to that, a pit bull rescue was created in her name, Dolly's Foundation.

Watch her story:

The purpose of Dolly's Foundation is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome homeless, neglected, and abused American Pit Bull Terriers and other bully breed dogs. As well as preserve, promote, and bring positive awareness to the breed and the negative stereotype bestowed upon them.

Visit the website at www.dollysfoundation.org/
Click here for Dolly's Facebook page.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Little Red, Big Turnaround

Vicktory Dog update!
Seeing Little Red bounce around other dogs, lick their faces and go tearing off, you wouldn’t know this dog from the same one who arrived at Best Friends three years ago.

When Little Red arrived at Best Friends she was, like a lot of the Vicktory dogs, shut down. Of course, learning to trust humans after the abuse she’d endured as a Michael Vick dog would take some time. In fact, it wasn’t until last year that Little Red started to come out of her shell, according to Dogtown team leader Megan Larsen.

“She took baby steps before,” Larsen says, “but in the past year she has really started to blossom.”
Larsen attributes Little Red’s progress to a combination of factors, one being the “wallflower class” she regularly attends with Jamie Healy, manager of Best Friends’ Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls who has taken Little Red under her wing. The class aims to bring dogs out of their shells, to help them become more sociable and relaxed around people and other dogs.

The other factor Larsen cites in Little Red’s progress is the time she spends during the day with Healy. Healy picks up Little Red three days a week so she can hang out in her office. She’s been office-fostering Little Red for over a year now.

“At first she was extremely skittish,” Healy says. “She just wanted to find some place to hide.”

To help with Little Red’s nerves, Healy began bringing Beefcake to the office as well. Also rescued from a fighting situation, Beefcake was, as Healy calls him, Little Red’s boyfriend, and having him around gave Little Red a boost of confidence. Beefcake, however, got adopted soon after the office visits began. Still, Little Red has gotten to the stage where she’s approaching people for treats, something that was nearly unthinkable when she first arrived.

And though she might still exhibit some fear, she loves being picked up, Healy says.

“You can pick her up like a baby, and she rests her head on your shoulder and closes her eyes.”

Larsen says that Little Red is getting close to passing her Canine Good Citizen test. In the meantime she’s enjoying what life now has to offer her, which is an endless stream of positive experiences with people and other dogs.

“She can make any dog play,” Larsen says. “She just plays and plays and plays until the other dog plays too.”

Who’s that girl?

You may also recognize Little Red on a recent publication! Her visage graces the cover of the Blackstone Audio version of "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption" by Jim Gorant, read by Paul Michael Garcia. The Lost Dogs (hardcover) was a New York Times bestseller and was named by Library Journal magazine in their “More of the Best” list of the Best Books of 2010, and the audio book is in the Blackstone Audio top ten titles released in the last quarter of 2010!

“What a thrill it was to be able to use Little Red's photo on the cover of Blackstone Audio's version of 'The Lost Dogs,'" said Lysa Williams, who is in the acquisitions department at Blackstone. “Often the cover of the audio will vary from the print version, but it was some keen thinking that led one of our artists to track down this beauty at Best Friends. We were so happy when this book hit the New York Times bestsellers list. It's wonderful when you acquire the audio rights to a book late in the season and it moves on to become one of your bestsellers, especially when it's a story like this one.” Listen to a sample and order your copy of the audio book.

Sponsor Little Red!

Buy a copy of The Lost Dogs here.

Article by Ted Brewer

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Five Year Old Child's Tragic Death And Lessons To Be Learned

Here is a classic example of how pit bull attacks are often, if not always, portrayed in the media.

Waxhaw, NC - Several news sources have reported on the tragic death of 5 yr-old Makayla Woodard on January 7. The young girl was attacked and killed in her own yard by 2 Pit bulls.

Her grandmother, Nancy Presson, 67, was also seriously injured in the attack while trying to protect her young grand-daughter.

Most news outlets covering this story have focused on just these facts - two vicious pit bulls attacked and killed. Leaving out the backstory.

One outlet, however, has shared the rest of the story. Information that explains much of what happened and information that people in positions of authority should take serious note of.

According to the Union County Weekly, the dogs involved in the attack were well known in the neighborhood. The female, a dog named Daisy, was so emaciated that she looked like she shouldn't be alive.

Several people reported seeing both dogs roaming the streets, unsupervised and searching for food. One person noted that the female looked as if she had recently had pups and that a tether was attached to her collar - in other words, she had been bred, left on a tie-out and from the looks of her body - starved.

Others reported that the dogs were "usually secured on a chain" but occassionally left out to roam. One neighbor had contacted animal control to let them know that the dogs were being neglected and that they should be removed from the owner's home. They were told that "animal control" could do nothing".

The dog's owner? A man named Michael Gordan. The 23 yr-old man had been released from prison last May after serving 10 months on felony charges including breaking and entering.

The basic components for a dangerous dog situation are all here. Irresponsible dog ownership by a negligent owner.

This is where the people in positions of authority need to pay attention. Animal abuse and negligence needs to be taken seriously. It's more than "just a dog" - by ignoring the suffering of dogs you are potentially contributing to a tragic situation such as that which happened to the innocent 5 yr-old girl last Wednesday.

Dogs that are starved, abused, and ignored can become aggessive and unstable. Slaps on the wrist or turning away from the problem gives that much more time that the dog will suffer and more opportunities for an attack situation to take place.

People fighting for Breed Specific Legislation - read this article again and read it carefully. You will find all of the elements that people against Breed Specific Legislation keep trying to make you understand.

It's about the owners, it is not about bad dogs. Look at who owns the majority of the dogs that are involved in bite situations. They are horrible owners - negligent, abusive, uncaring - they should not own dogs - period.

If you "want" a dog, only to stick him on the end of a chain in a backyard, you don't really "want" a dog. Put an old car in your yard instead. Something that isn't alive - breathing, feeling, suffering.

There are so many victims in this sad situation. A 5 yr-old child is dead. Her grandmother, wounded and grieving. Devastated parents, heart-broken neighbors.

Last but not least, the 2 dogs involved in the attack - undoubtedly euthanized for the horrible incident. Two dogs that "snapped" after enduring severe neglect - a sad, culmination of the bad ownership they experienced for too long.

For those individuals that work tirelessly to fight breed specific legislation, please forward this on to those people that you are trying to explain your standpoint to.

Pit bulls are vilified in society because so many of them are owned by pathetic excuses for owners. Pit bulls are villified in society because so many news outlets don't bother sharing the backstory to the "attack" situation.

Makayla didn't need to die. Perhaps if animal control agencies and law-makers will start to take animal abuse and neglect more seriously, her death won't be in vain.

By: Penny Eims

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pinups for Pitbulls, Inc.

"Pinups for Pit Bulls, Inc. works to educate the public about the history and temperament of the American Pit Bull Terrier and Bully Breeds, to raise awareness about Breed Specific Legislation and Breed-Specific abuse, and to raise funds for bully-breed-friendly rescues and dogs in need.

Pinups for Pitbulls, a 501c3 Non Profit Organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the American Pit Bull Terrier & Bully breed dogs. Pinups for Pitbulls' goal is to educate the public about bully breed's using pro bully breed testimonies of 12 strong, bully breed dog moms. The ultimate mission is to save the lives of abused and abandoned pit bull-type dogs, pit bull-type mixed breed (shelter) dogs that allegedly account for the majority of dogs in shelters across the United States."

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video.

To buy their 2011 calendar, click here.
Pinups for Pitbulls Facebook page.

Video from:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Touched By A Dog - A Story of Rescue, Love and New Understanding

I was forwarded this email from a reader just before the start of the new year. The person that received the email was touched by the writer's words. I was touched also. I am not going to attempt to re-word the letter as it is perfect just as it is.

The email was sent to Jason Flatt, President and Founder of Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, Inc. The letter is a beautiful recount of a woman that has been deeply touched by the love of an abused Pit Bull.

The letter is long, but incredibly moving and worth the effort to read.


I have been wanting to write this for some time, but have not been able to get the words right. Maybe I thought if I kept putting it off, it would magically write itself.

I was one of those people who never really thought much about pitbulls. It's not that I disliked them, I just never considered them and I am ashamed to say that. I come from Laguna Beach, Ca where people bring their dogs into stores, sit with them at outdoor cafes and where there is a fancy dog boutique on every block. I have always loved animals, took in everything that came along when I was a kid.

To this day I carry cat and dog food in my car and can build a dog house in record time. No animal has ever been unworthy of my time. I never saw pitbulls, didn't know anyone who had them. They were....not my problem. When I moved to Alabama, everything changed. I would see dead dogs and cats by the road. Afraid, lost, unwanted and starving animals everywhere just trying to survive. It did and still does break my heart. Horses shot for no reason, dogs skinned and left in agony.

However, it was the day to day attitude....the disregard for their well being, their safety, their quality of life that haunted me. I was so shocked and I hurt for all these lost and lonely souls. I will leave food, I will help spay and neuter, but what can I do, what good is the little I can offer when I can't make a dent? People would tell me to forget it, "you're just making yourself sad, who cares." "Animals can take care of themselves, they like being free." I would scan the roadside for my strays, do my small part, feel bad when days or weeks went by when I didn't see a dog who always waited for me in the same spot. But I was doing my part, right?

Fast forward a few months and I started volunteering at a kennel. One day we got a call about a pitbull who had been found by the side of the road and was in very bad shape. The Vet believed he had been a bait dog and was so badly beaten, one side of his skull was sunk in and that might mean brain damage. The Vet also said he had begun to show aggression and people were afraid of him so he needed to be put down or moved.

The rescue wanted to know if we could take him and we did. I happened to be sitting in the lobby when Sawyer arrived and I had never seen anything so "forlorn." I didn't even know what a bait dog was before that day, but there he was, all 31 pounds of him. Bones breaking out through the skin, head down, ears flat, tail so tucked we didn't even realize he had one at first. He walked over to me, put his bony, misshapen head in my lap and began this slow, long wail.

I had never heard anything like it and I honestly thought my heart would split in two. In that instant something happened, some crazy, unbreakable bond was made. I never in my life expected to fall in love with a pitbull, but I did. Maybe it's because I didn't see a breed, I saw another living creature who had probably never known a moment that was not full of pain. He became mine, I became his.....I'm not sure, but there it was. I was new to all this and naive in thinking that the wounds to his inside could be healed the way the ones to his outside were. That the scars I could not see, were the deepest, the ones that had caused him the most suffering.

Those wounds would not close easily. We had our battles, Sawyer and I. Sometimes he won and sometimes I won, but neither of us gave up trying to find a way out of his past. I could see how badly he wanted to join in, to trust, to believe. I guess having never known love, he could only take a little bit at a time. There were some scary moments and almost everyone said, "put him down, he's ruined." "He's only a dog and only a pitbull at that, those kinds of dogs are just meant to be mean." "Get rid of him before he hurts you, pitbulls can't be loving, they simply are not family dogs." But there was a light in this dog I could not ignore. I spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars, we saw specialists and trainers....it was always two steps forward and five steps back.

But Sawyer could only go at his own pace, he could only accept and trust so much at a time. My telling him it was all going to be ok, was not enough....I had to show him over and over and over again. It was more than a year before he would let me rub his belly without his eyes flying wide open and panic spreading all through him. A year before a little tap on the rear was a sign of affection and not the start of a beating. He does have a tail, by the way and these days it never stops. He loves petsmart, loves kids....the harder they laugh, the harder he tries to make them laugh that much more.

I see the look of horror at first because their parents think my pitbull is destined to eat their children before their very eyes. He licks faces and fingers, follows the little voices carried on little feet and he is happy. Older people always ask to pet him, this now 65 pound pit sitting calmly while an old withered hand bangs him on the head....lol. I never know who will attract his attention first, or why he is drawn to someone, but it's beautiful to watch. He has a sense and I have learned he sees things I do not.

I don't mind though, I'm just glad he saw something in me that day. That one day back in June that started so simply, but changed everything. In the year and a half sense then, I don't know who changed whom the most. I do know that one broken and battered pitbull taught me more than anything else ever has about love and trust, about second chances and redemption.

About forgiveness and hope. And something else that I can't explain.....it's probably that feeling I can't explain that made me put this off for so long, but I don't need to explain that feeling to you, to others like you because you already understand, you already know. I am happy to be one of you now, having seen that full pitbull body wag and knowing with absolute certainty that I will never, ever stop doing everything I can to end the wrong done to these dogs.

So, I guess this was a VERY long way to say thank you....thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing your part and mine. For keeping it going until people like me could catch up. For getting it faster than the rest of us and for going on when you thought you couldn't because these noble dogs have so much to give and deserve better than they have been given. I understand now and I'm hapy to have pittie fever which I am told lasts forever....lol

Cynthia and Saywer

By Penny Eims

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pretties With Pitties

Pretties with Pitties is a group of girls who love the goofy, loving and affectionate dog breed, pit bulls! We want to show people that pit bulls can be any girly girl's best friend and partner in crime! There are so many incredible pit bulls in local shelters and rescue groups, and our goal is to increase awareness of these dogs and to ultimately get them adopted! Look for the Pretties with Pitties crew around San Diego.

Founders,  Kerri and Jessie
Photo by: Kevin Calumpit

Read the StubbyDog article about Pretties With Pitties.
Check out their website or their Facebook page. 

They work with dogs from:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Video du Jour

A heartwarming video about a man's devotion to his paraplegic dog.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Inspiration For the New Year

Each Sunday, Ashley Messoline, a third-year Texas Tech law student, drives north on I-27, past the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. She arrives at her destination and spends the afternoon exercising with some friends.

There’s Calamity Jane, that crazy character. She’s the hyper one. Then, there’s Brittany. She started out shy, but these days she shows off a lot of personality. And who could forget Quasi? Her smooshed pug-like face is unforgettable.

The pack Messoline spends her Sundays with is comprised of a few volunteers and roughly 30 pit bulls. Every weekend, Messoline, usually joined by her fiance Joe Keegan, spends about three hours running or walking with the pups at the Saving Grace Pit Bull Rescue at Lollipop Kennels.

She makes sure every single dog goes on a walk or run.

Every single dog.

“I can’t leave without knowing they’ve all been out or been walked,” Messoline said.

Lauren Cline, a rescue center volunteer, said most dog walkers come and go, but not Messoline.

“It’s always Ashley,” Cline said. “No matter what.”

To say Messoline is a dog lover is to make a massive understatement. The 26-year-old has three rambunctious beasts who she admits to talking about like they’re her children. And she’s always rescuing more.

That person chasing a stray puppy running across the Loop? That’s probably Messoline.

But it’s not just the animal lover in Messoline that forces her to drag herself out to the rescue center week after week. Walking and running with the dogs helps Messoline stay in shape, a necessity for the Marine and triathlete.

As an undergraduate student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Messoline was a member of the track team, but she competed in pole vault, long jump and triple jump.

It was just a few years ago that Messoline signed up for Tech’s Broadway Bikes Rec Triathlon. It was a decision she made on a whim; something she thought would be fun.

She placed in the top five. She signed up for the race the next year.

This time, she came in first.

The president of the Tech triathete team recognized her talent and asked her to join the club team.

Since then, Messoline has won scores of medals. A simple Google search of her name reveals more than 10 pages of accomplishments.

Most recently she beat nearly 700 other competitors and took first place in the Amica Mid-Summer Triathlon in her home state of Oregon.

She completed the half-mile swim, 16.1 mile bike and 3.1 mile run in 1 hour and 9 minutes. Prior to that, she took second in both the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships in May and the Collegiate National Championship at Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock this past April.

Messoline trains every day, and she often counts her workouts with the dogs as a part of that training. Her Sunday schedule often calls for long runs, so Messoline takes three half-hour runs with three different dogs, totaling one 90-minute run.

They race along a dirt road, passing the cotton fields that border the kennels.

“It’s perfect for running,” Messoline said.

Not all the dogs are the best behaved on their leashes. Some jump or become easily distracted. Messoline said they tend to behave better if she runs with them instead of walks.

But not all the dogs can run. Some are older, and many were injured or abused before they came to the shelter.

Messoline said she finds the problems among Lubbock’s high pit bull population heartbreaking. The rescue center is always at capacity and some of the dogs stay there for years before being adopted.

Cline said she attributes the problem to overbreeding.

“There’s a huge population of backyard breeding,” she said.

Both Cline and Messoline said there is a stigma against pit bulls that hasn’t held true in their experiences.

“There extremely misunderstood,” Cline said. “They’re extremely loyal, people-loving dogs.”

The most recent data available showed that in 2007, Lubbock Animal Services recorded 247 dog bites. Of those, 75 where attributed to pit bulls. Lubbock Animal Services also picked up 2,330 pit bulls, more than any other breed.

Messoline hopes to continue helping pit bulls as she furthers her career. After she completes her law degree she’ll dedicate the next four years to the Marines. If she doesn’t continue with the military beyond that, she said she’d like to run an animal shelter and use her law degree to help dogs by focusing on laws regarding breeding or abuse.

In the meantime, she continues to make an impact by volunteering at the rescue shelter each weekend.

“It really helps the dogs’ quality of life,” Cline said.

Since she started volunteering one year ago, Messoline said, she’s seen many of the dogs’ personalities develop .Originally, the dogs cowered as Messoline walked through the kennels. But now they jump and wag their tails, excited to see her.

Messoline loves to see they way they’ve changed.

“That’s the best part,” she said.

By Kellie Bramlet
Photo by: John A. Bowersmith

The plight of homeless, abandoned pets is overwhelming when we look at the raw numbers, but we can make a difference, one person at a time, each doing a little bit. Take the step. Get involved. Volunteer. Foster. Adopt. And above all, Spay and Neuter!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Do something positive for the breed! Educate. Advocate.