"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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Healing Power of the Pit Bull

 Family with two autistic children discovers how they could help pit bulls
and how pit bulls could help them

By Jennyfer Keohane (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

As a child I grew up in east New York. My daily walk to school was littered with crack vials and syringes. It was a common to see dog fighters and drug dealers with pit bulls; drugs, violence and dealing seemed to go hand and hand.

Who would’ve thought that almost 20 years later this kid from the ghetto would be running a pit bull rescue in Texas?

How it All Started

When I moved away in college, I needed a hobby to distract me from the culture shock of leaving my concrete jungle. I decided to work with animals and volunteer for a local rescue.

At first it was wildlife and reptiles. Then one day while in Petco, I met up with dog rescuers and started working with canines.

By this time I was a mom of two boys, Isaiah and Charles. They were three years apart and they both were diagnosed as autistic. They have Asperger’s Syndrome, which means they’re functioning but they have several issues with social behaviors, and they have trouble sitting still for their teachers.

Charles had a lot of problems with his behavior including impulse control, and Isaiah had gone into a regression. He was removed from his homeroom class and transferred to a class for kids with special needs. Isaiah stopped recognizing letters, numbers and colors. When he was at his worst, he lost bowel control and had horrible acid reflux from stress.

As a result, I had to quit my job as a DJ and give up my application to go to police academy.

I wanted to get my children a dog but I wasn’t sure how that would work with their personalities because my boys can be emotionally distant.

Or at least that’s what I thought before we got Bosier.

A Pit Bull Named Bosier

Bosier was a red nose American Staffordshire terrier who was found furless and covered in sores on a highway in Grand Prairie, Texas.

He was barely growing his fur back and under the care of another rescuer when I met him. As weeks passed, I began to develop a relationship with this dog. Although I was normally apprehensive of pit bulls, I wasn’t fearful of him because I just saw a dog that loved everyone around him no matter what. I lived two blocks from the vet he was seeing, so I volunteered to take him in as my foster.

I brought Bosier home and the boys seemed to take interest. Charles asked me what type of dog he was; when I told him that Bosier was pit bull, Charles seemed to just shake it off. This wasn’t abnormal behavior of a child with his condition.

As the weeks went by I noticed that unlike with other dogs, the boys seemed to take a liking to Bosier—and he didn’t seem to mind either! In fact, the dog that had been in treatment for almost a year was finally growing his fur back and perking up.

The boys would come home and climb into Bosier’s crate, and the three would take a nap or watch cartoons.

At one point I asked my oldest son why they seemed so close to this dog. He said, “Bosier knows what it’s like to be looked at as weird or different. People treat us badly and he knows how it feels.”

I was stunned.

From that moment forward, we decided to foster pit bulls.

The next dog we fostered was a momma dog named Kisses who came with nine sick pups. The boys would take Kisses for a walk around the block every day with their dad trailing behind them.

One day Charles came in laughing. It turns out one of the local bullies who had teased him for being a “freak” was walking down the sidewalk the opposite direction as them when he saw the boys. Kisses looked at him and the bully decided he had something better to do.

I had never seen my son feel so empowered.

Three months later we started our pit bull rescue: Brooklyn’s Home for Unwanted Bullies, Inc.

Happy Endings

It’s been almost eight years since we opened our door, and we’ve saved 250 dogs. Our life has turned into a simple fairy tale.

Today Charles is in high school and Isaiah is beginning junior high. Both of my sons are mainstreamed and are in regular education classes.

Charles plays the baritone in his school choir and Isaiah, the little 7-year-old boy who had forgotten how to read and screamed when you touched him, is now a trumpet player in the band.

This year both boys went to competition and came back with first place in their divisions. They’re the same boys who hated to be touched, and now they come home everyday from school tell me about their day. No one would believe these were the same children who would throw up meals at the thought of going to school or cried when they got their hair cut.

My sons are both on the honor roll, and they both have regular sleepovers with the dogs and attend parties. I think they’ve progressed so far because they’ve had the chance to work with pit bulls—the same dogs who know what it’s like to be looked at as weird or different, who have been treated badly by people and who know how it feels. The boys take them for walks and play fetch with them, and that’s helped their socialization.

I owe all of their progress to one special dog: a pit bill named Bosier (who, by the way, was adopted to an amazing family and who also has lived happily ever after).

By Jennyfer Keohane

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hector the Pit Bull

Pit Bull Visit Lifts Police Spirits

Even tough guys with guns and badges like to play with a dog now and then.

Members of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department got the chance to do so Thursday, days after making an arrest in a dogfighting case.

Due to the case, and the images of mistreated dogs stamped into the minds of those who worked it, Capt. Andy Jackson, head of investigations, thought it would be a good idea to ask Leah Brewer to bring her registered therapy dog, “Elle,” to see his officers.

“We brought the dog over here because when officers go to a case with dogs all torn up, with cuts and injuries, on chains with no food or water, it’s a traumatic experience,” Jackson said. “Elle’s a good reminder of healthy, happy dogs.”

Roanoke Rapids narcotics investigators discovered the dogs while serving a search warrant in Brandy Creek Oct. 19. Approximately 30 dogs were on the property, some showing obvious signs of having been used in fights, according to Jackson. The dogs’ owner, Calvin Jerome Champion, is facing charges relating to dog fighting in the matter.

Elle, who happens to be a pit bull, gave the officers a chance to interact constructively with a breed many associate with negative imagery, Jackson said.

“It helps us to remember that with pit bulls getting a bad reputation, that not all pit bulls are bad,” Jackson said.

Brewer also thinks having a pit bull as a therapy dog, one trained to be around people who are sick, weak or traumatized, helps improve the breed’s image.

“It’s good we’re helping the community,” Brewer said. “But we’re helping the breed, too.”

Det. Jamie Hardy, a narcotics investigator who was there when the dogs were discovered, thought having Elle come in helped the breed’s image.

Being a pit bull owner himself, he said it is important people understand pit bulls are good dogs.

“I have a pit bull so I know how good they are,” Hardy said. “They’re not aggressive. It’s all in how you raise them.”

Hardy said he has three other dogs — an Australian shepherd, a Chihuahua and a Rottweiler — and they all get along with the pit bull. Small children have also been around the dog without any trouble.

“It’s not in their nature to be aggressive,” Brewer said. “They love people.”

Advanced Law Enforcement officer Rich Somogyi, who recalled watching a malnourished female pit bull trying to chew through a chainlink fence to feed her puppies on the other side at the scene, had a surprising twist on the visit.

“This is the first pit bull I’ve ever touched,” Somogyi said. “All the ones I’ve seen before have been used by the criminal element. She’s really a great dog.”

Those involved in the case felt Elle’s visit was good therapy, but Hardy also kept in mind the dogs he saw in Brandy Creek, and felt owners of fighting dogs need to be held accountable.

“It’s tough to see dogs treated that way,” Hardy said. “People have a choice, but these dogs, they don’t have a choice.”

By Roger Bell

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


No Bull, a Wedding Fit For Dogs

The bride wore a veil with a white satin dress edged in lace. The groom wore a yellow bandana and a black bow tie. That was it. No shoes. No shirt. No pants.

But then the wedding party – mostly homeless – was similarly attired. “Frankie” fit right in with all his friends, all of them pit bulls.

Frankie and “Isabelle” tied the knot Sunday at Conimicut Point.

It looked like rain would wash out the ceremony. An earlier shower had left wet grass on the lawns and puddles in the parking lot. But then the day brightened and Tammy Collins stepped forward to officiate.

A lot of life has brightened in the last year for the two pit bulls.

Frankie was first to be rescued, by Lauren Fontaine, a registered nurse at Rhode Island Hospital.

Fontaine had a dog as a child and searched on PetFinder.com for another. Frankie’s face called to her. She had no idea she was looking at a pit bull, and certainly no clue that the initial connection on the Internet would lead to meeting a group of people who stand by and support the breed.

Fontaine visited Frankie at the West Warwick Animal Shelter. She was torn. Was this the dog she should bring home? Was he the right one? Finally she decided to let Frankie make the decision.

She sat and posed the question, “Do you want to come home with me, buddy?” Frankie wagged. He does a lot of wagging. He jumped in her lap. Question answered.

Then there was Isabelle, a refugee from the great flood of 2010, recalls Warwick Animal Supervisor Ann Corvin. Isabelle was one of those dogs that were evacuated when the Pawtuxet flowed over the levees and inundated the shelter with water that almost reached the ceiling.

By then, Fontaine had connected with Susan Parker, the founder of the Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club.

“I was working with Sue and I knew there were a whole bunch [of pit bulls] that needed a home,” said Fontaine.

Her first recollection of Isabelle was a dog that couldn’t stop jumping up and down. Isabelle jumped into Fontaine’s heart. Now Frankie had company.

So, how did co-habitation lead to a wedding?

Well, it wasn’t a doggie thing. Rather, the wedding was the brainchild of Parker and Fontaine who saw it as a means of bringing club members together and raising some funds to help homeless pit bulls.

They created Facebook pages for Frankie and Isabelle. Interest grew. The dating couple suddenly had lots of friends.

Sunday’s wedding was followed by a reception at Dynamic Dog Training on West Shore Road. There was plenty of food, including hot dogs that Isabelle and Frankie would have for their wedding banquet. Of course, they had cake too. The newlyweds will honeymoon in Fontaine’s backyard, although the couple won’t get too much time alone. More than $1,000 was raised to help homeless dogs.

“I have a wonderful boyfriend,” Fontaine says of Dennis Greenless, who gave away Isabelle. Fontaine and Greenless work alternating shifts so the dogs aren’t left on their own much.

And what about the family planning for the couple?

“They decided long ago that life is all right without puppies,” said Fontaine. Not to mention that both dogs have been fixed.

But Fontaine said that shouldn’t change things.

“Maybe they’ll adopt," said Fontaine.

The adoptable dogs in the wedding party are available at the Warwick shelter, where Isabelle, the bride, was adopted. Information on them can be found on Petfinder.com and by contacting the shelter. Winnie, Regan & Jordin are their names.

They are already getting training now and continued FREE upon adoption! All of the dogs in the wedding were adopted from local shelters, including Warwick, West Warwick and Providence, and all are wonderful dogs! All are in training or already have their AKC Canine Good Citizen Certificate, and a several have or are training to be certified pet therapy dogs!

By John Howell

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Have a Dream

Girl Rescues Pit Bull, Gains Unlikely Friend

A Pickerington girl's Good Samaritan act recently earned her a new four-legged friend she hopes will change perceptions about a commonly feared breed of dog.

Last month, Tina Yarish was driving her 12-year-old daughter, Abigail, to Toll Gate Middle School one morning when the sixth-grader spotted a pit bull terrier alone and dodging traffic near their home off state Route 204. A pet lover, Abigail pleaded for her mother to stop so they could bring the dog to safety, but Tina had concerns about their own well-being and the logic of approaching a strange animal known for having powerful jaws and lethal capacity.

"I was scared," Tina Yarish said. "Pit bulls have bad reputations."

After begrudgingly stopping, the Yarishes were unable to corral the animal. Over the next two days, however, Abigail watched from her home as the same dog paced a nearby field.

Overcome by concern that the dog had been abandoned and would either be struck by a vehicle or starve, Abigail once again convinced her mother to allow a rescue attempt.

This time, the girl took dog treats with her and approached slowly, a tactic she learned while watching "Pit Bulls and Parolees," an Animal Planet television show in which rescued pit bulls are paired with ex-convicts to give both second chances from lives of abuse, organized fights and crime.

"I had to go after her because I didn't want her to get hit by a car," Abigail Yarish said. "I found her under a thorn bush and she was very scared.

"I took the treats and went up to her slowly and all she did was come to me, sit by my knee and lick my face."

Tina and her husband, Richard Yarish, still had their concerns when Abigail brought the pit bull back to their home, but they decided to let the new arrival stay until they could post signs about her throughout a three-mile radius of where she was found. They also took her to a veterinarian to see if she had a monitoring chip or any other clues that would help reunite her with her owner.

At the vet's office, the family learned that Annabelle -- the name given to the dog by Abigail -- didn't have a monitoring device or other identification, but she had another surprise.

"We found out she was about to have puppies," Tina said. "(Abigail) was as excited as could be, but I was just like, 'Oh, no.'"

Annabelle, who is believed to be a full-blooded pit bull, later gave birth to four puppies at the Yarish house; the pups will soon be given to various friends of the family.

The Yarishes still weren't sure what to do with Annabelle, especially since they already have a Labrador retriever and Pomeranian, as well as a pet bird and a rabbit. However, the bond between the dog and her adoptive mother has, thus far, kept the family from breaking them up.

"I hope that we can keep her," Abigail said. "She already loves her house, and I want to make her into a therapy dog that you could take to a nursing home or to somebody who's lost someone close to them."

As someone who always has appreciated pit bulls' physical appearances and believed the dogs to be misunderstood, Abigail now fully loves the breed. This despite its reputation, plus the fact many animal shelters won't accept pit bulls, that they're banned from some communities and that there is an Ohio law which requires pit-bull owners to carry a minimum of $100,000 liability insurance.

She said she admires the dog's loyalty and intelligence, and even her parents marvel at how Annabelle and their daughter cuddle and are seemingly inseparable.

"If someone good would come along and want (Annabelle), we would think about letting her go, but we're not going to break Abigail's heart," Tina said. "I think I'm outnumbered, anyway, because the three kids --Abigail, Alex (the Yarishes' 15-year-old son) and my husband -- they all want to keep her.

"I know pit bulls have a bad reputation, but I think it's all about the way they're raised," she said.

Tina further said she's become prouder of her daughter through the Annabelle adventure because of the girl's devotion to saving and protecting the dog, as well as the sense of responsibility she's displayed. She credits her daughter with saving the lives of Annabelle and the puppies.

"I really believe that if Abigail wouldn't have rescued her, she would have had the puppies under some tree and they would have died from malnourishment or the cold," Tina said.

Since rescuing Annabelle, Tina said, Abigail steadfastly has cared for the dog and her pups. She also is saving money to pay for Annabelle to be spayed, something the family never required but that Abigail wants to do as she takes ownership of the dog.

The event also has transformed Abigail from a full-time pet enthusiast to a full-fledged animal activist.

Since rescuing Annabelle, Abigail now proudly wears an "I Love Pit Bulls" T-shirt and hopes to operate her own pit-bull rescue facility when she grows up.

"I want my own rescue center for pit bulls and other animals," she said. "I won't go to veterinary school because I don't want to put animals to sleep.

"I just don't get how people could not like this breed of dog," Abigail said. "I love how they look. They look so mean, but they're so nice."

By Nate Ellis
Picture by Lorrie Cecil

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Video du Jour

Animal Farm Visits UPS from Animal Farm on Vimeo.

Animal Farm Foundation is committed to building safe and humane communities.  They visited the UPS in Poughkeepsie, New York, to teach their delivery staff about dog safety and behavior.

Friday, May 13, 2011

So You Think You Know a Pit Bull Person?

Jessica Biel and her Pit Bull
People are watching as the gang approaches from down the street. There are about 10 of them, each tethered to a Pit Bull, all in uniform and on a mission.

The location is downtown San Diego. The “gang” is a group of young Southern California women who call themselves “Pretties with Pitties.” And their uniform is a hot pink T-shirt. The dogs are shelter pets sporting vests that say “Adopt me, I love to cuddle.”

“A lot of people have the perception that Pit Bulls are really for masculine guys and tough guys,” said Kerri Ewing, co-founder of Pretties with Pitties. “We wanted to show people that that’s not the case. They are great dogs for anybody.”

Pit Bulls are warm, friendly, family dogs and not at all like the caricatures that have been portrayed as in recent years. Ewing, a graphic designer and social media consultant, is about as far from the stereotype of a Pit Bull person as you can get.

Ewing, a foster mom to rescued Pit Bulls, has just placed Harry Potter in a great new home. Harry was found abandoned and starving near the Mexico border.

“He refused to believe he was anything but a lap dog,” she said.

In fact, Pit Bulls are as much an “everyone dog” today as they were 50 years ago when they were known as “America’s family pet” and, in the UK, as nanny dogs. And while Labradors and Goldens have been claiming that particular title more in recent years, Pit Bull people span the social spectrum, too. Here are some examples of that.

Won over by Pit Bull puppy

At her Hudson Valley estate outside of New York City, Marilyn Cohen is checking on lunch. That would be lunch for China, her 11-year-old Pit Bull who has cancer and is on a special diet prepared by the chef. Cohen, after all, is in the business of good food – she owns two top-rated restaurants in Manhattan. So only the best is good enough for China.

China is Cohen’s second Pit Bull.

“My twin sons were teenagers on vacation in Florida 11 years ago when they saw this Pit Bull puppy on the beach,” she said. “One of them decided they had to bring the pup home, and he paid his brother to drive her back to New York. That way, he could come home a day later and wouldn’t have to have me yelling at him. Of course, I fell in love with the puppy on the spot. We called him Morgan.”

When Morgan came down with lymphoma some years later, Cohen became obsessed with finding a cure – anything that would save Morgan or even just give him a little more time. “I almost gave up my businesses taking him from one vet to another. My dentist told me ‘You’re crazy; you could have bought a condo for the amount you’ve spent on that dog.’ But not long after that he got a dog himself and admitted that ‘I would have spent any amount on that dog. They’re family.’ ”

Cohen’s husband, Dan, is an Israeli film director, who’s worked mainly in Germany and is best known in the United States for his 1978 movie Madman, starring Sigourney Weaver. Today, he’s at work on a novel that tells a fictionalized version of the family’s Pit Bulls, which he’s also planning on making into a movie.

Does your State Senator have a Pit Bull? Connecticut’s does.

Equally passionate, and a staunch member of the unofficial community of Pit Bull people all across the country is State Senator Bob Duff of Connecticut. “My family and I have adopted two abandoned Pit Bulls, welcoming them into a home with two small children without fear. We’re proud and lucky to have them in our lives,” he said.

Connecticut state senator Bob Duff's family includes a Pit Bull

 Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Christine Craig grew up in Miami where her parents had emigrated from Haiti in the 1960s. She recently received her MBA, and has been in marketing for several years.

“I couldn’t have told you what a Pit Bull was,” she said. But she adopted one of the puppies after her ex-boyfriend’s Pit Bull had gotten together with the Rottweiler across the street.

“I’ve had Diva nine years. I don’t think of her as being a big dog like a Rottie or a German Shepherd,” Craig said. “But people still seem surprised that I have a Pit Bull. I think they see me as a rather demure person who should have a dog who fits in my purse!”

Craig thinks that most people assume that Pit Bulls are a man’s dog. “Their perception of the dog doesn’t match their perception of my personality. But that just means they don’t know Pits!” she said.

In the city of sin

Across the country in Las Vegas, Tino Sanchez believes that most people in his part of the country really do understand Pit Bulls. He says they know that most of the fear of Pit Bulls is fostered almost entirely by the media’s negative portrayals.

Sanchez, a disc jockey, is a regular volunteer at the city animal shelter, and helps get the dogs ready for new homes. Right now he has five Pit Bulls at home, two of whom are certified therapy dogs.

“Yes, I get weird looks sometimes when I take them all out for a walk,” he said, “but nothing like as much as I get positive reactions. People are always coming up to me asking ‘Why do these dogs have such a bad rap when they’re such good dogs?’”

Rags and Riches

At either end of the economic spectrum you’ll find Gary Michelson, a California, Forbes 400 billionaire and the spinal surgeon who invented spinal implants, and David Love, a homeless man in Brookings, a small town on the Oregon coast.

As a dog lover and, especially, a Pit Bull lover, Michelson is using much of his wealth to help animals, offering $25 million to the first inventor of a safe and effective injectable sterilant for cats and dogs, and another $50 million to support the research and development of the product. His goal is to replace spay/neuter surgery, which is comparatively expensive and time-consuming, and so to reduce the numbers of unwanted, homeless dogs and cats coming into shelters.

In a different way, Love also strives to do the right thing for the world around him. On any given day, he can be found checking on his friend, Buddy, another homeless man, who, like him, gets around in a wheelchair.

Buddy lives more than two miles away. But it’s an easy ride for Love.

“Kitty is my motor,” he said with a grin, referring to the Pit Bull he adopted and who has become not only his best friend but also his official chauffeur and unofficial service and therapy dog. “I’d always been told they were bad dogs, but it’s all in how you teach them. She’s a very gentle dog and she’s great with kids.”

Love has several medical problems, and Kitty has become his lifeline, who enjoys her daily exercise pulling the wheelchair around town.

“She seems to know I’m going to have a seizure before I do,” Love said. When that happens, Kitty takes over, putting her head on his legs and looking at him. “She blocks me from going anywhere!”

So who’s a Pit Bull person?

From presidents (Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) to pop stars (Pink, Madonna and Usher); TV personalities (Jon Stewart, Cesar Millan, Rachel Ray and Dr. Phil) to athletes (Shaquille O’Neal, Serena Williams, Anthony Kim and Amare Stoudemir); and actors (Jessica Biel, Michael J. Fox, Jamie Foxx and Brad Pitt) to legends (Helen Keller, Thomas Edison and Humphrey Bogart), Pit Bulls are the beloved pets of people of every kind.

So, you think you know a Pit Bull person? It’s easy; they’re really no different from anyone else!

By Michael Mountain
Founder, Best Friends Animal Society and The Stubby Dog Project

Monday, May 9, 2011

Florida Lawmakers Deliver for the Dogs

Legislation repealing automatic death sentence for canine victims of cruelty passes, individual evaluations to be encouraged

The 2011 Florida legislative session scored one huge victory for the dogs.

Senate Bill 722 (formerly House Bill 4075), unanimously passed in every committee and in the Senate, and yesterday cleared the House floor with a 99-17 final vote. Sponsored by a team of three bipartisan lawmakers – Representatives Luis Garcia and Jeff Brandes, and Senator Jim Norman – this legislation supports what we already know: rarely is an abused animal beyond redemption and no breed is inherently dangerous.

“In a year in which the State has gone after many of Florida’s most vulnerable I was glad to see that we came together as a legislature to stop punishing these abused animals,” said House bill sponsor Rep. Garcia. “I truly believe that you can judge the civility of a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable, including its animals.”

Best Friends Animal Society’s Ledy VanKavage, a nationally-respected expert on pit-bull terriers and reckless owner/dangerous dog legislation, testified last month in support of SB 722. Other animal advocacy groups, veterinarians, and rescue groups also voiced their support for the bill by highlighting their work with dogs seized in from animal-fighting situations.

“We have been working to remove the automatic ‘dangerous’ stigma from dogs and puppies seized from cruelty situations,” said Ledy. “After SB 722 becomes law, we will continue our work to remove this arbitrary designation in the remaining 13 states as part of our national pit bull terrier initiatives.”

SB 722 provides local authorities with the option to conduct individual behavioral evaluations of all animals seized from dogfighting situations and to determine if the dogs can be rehabilitated and adopted. The individual evaluation is not required, but an option for animal control officials.

“I am honored to be a co-sponsor of this bill which allows animal experts to evaluate the dogs and gives these victims of abuse a second chance a life,” noted Rep. Brandes.

Prior to its passage, the legislation received a warm reception at a Tallahassee capitol press conference. Bill sponsors decided to put a face on canine victims of cruelty by showcasing Dolly, a rehabilitated pit-bull terrier who was believed to have been used as a bait dog but now lives peacefully as a Canine Good Citizen canine companion and therapy dog for senior citizens.

"You can see what a wonderful animal this is," said Senate bill sponsor Senator Jim Norman during the press conference, as Dolly laid down near his feet. "This is a dog that has been typified as a vicious type of animal but, as you can see, if dogs are treated right, they're man's best friend, ladies' best friend — just wonderful creatures."

Best Friends expects Governor Rick Scott to sign the law when it reaches his desk.

Best Friends Animal Society is working throughout the country to help pit-bull terriers, who are battling everything from a media-driven bad reputation to ineffective and expensive legislation. Best Friends hopes to end discrimination against all dogs. Dogs are individuals and should be treated as individuals. Find out how you can help by visiting and becoming a fan of the pit bull terrier initiatives.

Learn more about breed bans and dog bite facts at the National Canine Research Council.

Find more resources in our Tools to Use section.

"How to Prevent Breed Discrimination in Your Community"

By Jessi Freud, Best Friends Network volunteer
Photo courtesy of Representative Luis R. Garcia’s office

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pit Bull Heroes

Diamond: Brave in fire but 'scared of cats'

Diamond had to overcome fire, smoke and her breed's reputation to become a hero.

The 15-month-old dog is a pit bull - the canine of choice in dogfights, the dog most often cited in the news about vicious attacks and the most abandoned and euthanized dog in the country.

But on Wednesday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles presented Diamond with their 29th annual National Hero Dog award.
Fire survivors: Darryl Steen, showing the burns on his back, is hugged by his daughter Darahne, 9, as her sister, Sierra, 16, looks on with their hero pit bull, Diamond, which is now nationally recognized.
 Diamond's owner, Darryl Steen, and his two daughters were asleep in their Hayward, California apartment on Oct. 24 when the dog started barking. The apartment was on fire.

Mr Steen said: 'She means everything to me. If it hadn't been for this dog, me and my girls wouldn't be alive'.

Steen grabbed his 9-year-old daughter Darahne and dropped her to safety out of a second story window. He said he couldn't find his 16-year-old daughter, Sierra, who was hiding under a mattress in her father's room.

Diamond had found her; firefighters spotted the gray-and-white pit bull on the mattress shielding Sierra, Mr Steen said.

Mr Steen and Sierra were hospitalized for weeks with burns, and had to have skin grafts.

Diamond spent six weeks at a pet hospital, being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.

Good girl: After saving Sierra's life in a fire, Diamond the pit bull wins National Hero Dog Award from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles
The bill was over $5,500, but people were so generous and there were so many donations, some money had to be sent back, Mr Steen said.

The 15-month-old pit bull had been with the Steen family about a year before the fire, Mr Steen said. She was protective of his girls, but her allegiance had never been tested.

Mr Steen and his daughters are living with his sister in Hayward, and Diamond is staying with their other relatives because they haven't been able to find an affordable apartment that will take Diamond.

Some people worry that she weighs nearly 50 pounds and others are concerned about her breed, he said.

But Mr Steen, who will be able to return to his job at a warehouse in June, won't give Diamond up, so he keeps looking.

Best friends: Darryl Steen kisses Diamond, who is currently staying with members of his extended family until the father of two can rent a new pet-friendly apartment.
He hopes the award helps the apartment search: 'Hopefully it will, and I'll be able to get a decent place with my dog.

With her title, Diamond gets a plaque, dog food for a year, air fare to and from Los Angeles and hotel accommodations for her and her family.

The spcaLA for 29 years has been recognizing the heroic efforts of a dog that is not formally trained for rescue or law enforcement.

But for all her heroics, Diamond isn't without an Achilles' heel.

Mr Steen said: 'She likes the dog park and playing with me and the girls. But she doesn't like cats. She is scared of cats'.

By Daily Mail Reporter


Virginia Beach pit bull, shot in head, saves people during robbery


Pit Bull Saves His Family From Intruder

An Oklahoma family credits their dog DBoy with protecting them from a gun-wielding intruder who barged into their home. Roberta Trawick says her pit bull leapt to defend her and her family.

The intruder, who is still at large, "came in, pointed a gun at me and said, ‘Get down on the ground'," Trawick told Oklahoma City’s News 9. Then, Trawick says DBoy immediately ran in from another room and was ready to attack. The gunman shot DBoy three times -- twice in the head -- before running off after apparently being spooked by the dog.

"It is amazing, it's amazing that he went after that guy, and that I still have a family," family member Angelic Shoemaker told News 9.

"The vet said if it wasn't for his hard head he wouldn't be here," Trawick said. The family was able to pay for DBoy’s medical bills through donations, the report said.

"I'm sorry my dog got shot, but I still got my family and we still got our dog," a tearful Shoemaker told News 9. Trawick's father reportedly rescued 2-year-old dog from an abusive home just three months before the break-in.



Pitbull Saves Woman In Domestic Fight


Pit Bull Saves Owner's Life

*Also, check out these two heroes previously featured on this site: Weela and Dolly.
*This website lists a ton of other pit bull hero stories: Pit Bull Heroes Hall of Fame

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Celebrity Speaks

Trainer-to-the-stars Ashley Borden shares her passion for pit bulls

When Ashley Borden isn’t acting as a wellness consultant to her celebrity clients (including Natasha Bedingfield, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling and Mandy Moore), she’s often spending time with pit bulls.

Author of the book Your Perfect Fit: What to Wear to Show Off Your Assets / What to Do to Tone Up your Trouble Spots, Ashley adopted her first pit bull, Jesse, nearly 20 years ago. “He was the best dog ever – an absolute love,” she says.

Ashley’s love for Jessie led her to learn about pit bull-type dogs. “I learned about how much abuse and mistreatment and wrong information was out there,” she says. “People think that, because [pit bulls] are so big and tough, they don’t have any feelings. It became my mission to adopt these dogs to help dispel the myths about them.”

What drew her to pit bulls? “I’ve always been attracted to adopting the animals that won’t get adopted,” Ashley says. “I couldn’t believe how many pit bulls were in the shelters.”

But more than that, Ashley is also drawn to the special traits that all pittie lovers know and appreciate. “I feel like I can see their souls in their little almond eyes,” she comments. “They are very aware and very sensitive. I love how loyal and super affectionate and smart they are.”

In addition to two cats and a rescued Chinese crested dog, Ashley currently has an adopted pit bull and a pit bull mix. Her pit bull mix Pedro was rescued from a hoarding situation and had spent several years locked in a crate. “He was born there and had never left his cage,” Ashley explains. “He didn’t know how to walk. He had emaciated back legs. … People don’t want to get involved [in rescue work] because they don’t want to see how awful it is,” she says. “But when you see it, you see how important it is to spay and neuter your animal.”

When Ashley met her white pit bull, William, he suffered from inverted eyelashes, sometimes known as entropion. “He was on death row,” she says. But after surgery, he was good as new and has played an integral role in rehabilitating fearful Pedro and in Ashley’s own rehabilitation.

Rescuing and Being Rescued

As many of us know, when we adopt a pet, that animal has as much potential to help us as we do to help him or her. That has certainly been the case for Ashley.

“I had been on Paxil for 17 years and I finally decided to get off it,” she says of her personal journey. “The only things I could be around were my animals. Walking them I swear was like my healing therapy during the two months that I detoxed off that.

“In some ways, I love them more than I love myself,” she adds. “So being forced to take care of them helps me take care of myself. Putting my music on and walking the dogs is my therapy.”

Ashley’s deep relationship with her rescued animals motivates her to get involved wherever she can, even if it’s just stopping to educate people on the street. “I never hesitate to get involved,” she says, relating a story of talking to several young men with unneutered pit bulls on chains at Venice Beach. “A lot of it is that people don’t have the information. They don’t know,” she says.

“You don’t have to be an activist,” Ashley comments. Making a difference “can just be where you adopt and [avoiding pet stores that sell puppy mill animals].I just try and do my own part.”

Sometimes, Ashley takes her passion to the streets, protesting against cruelty to animals. “I protested with Last Chance for Animals. We protested the circus. We protested vivisection,” she says. “It’s surprising to see how angry people get that you are protesting for an animal and not for people. But somebody has to be the voice for animals. They can’t hold signs. They don’t have the Internet. They can’t protest for themselves.

“I always try and root for the underdog,” she adds. “That’s why I’m so attracted to pit bulls because someone has to be there for them.”

By Micaela Myers

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Moose Became a Hospice Volunteer

On our visits to the hospice, I’ve heard a few patients tell Moose their life story. They tell him their regrets, favorite days and share their stories. If they cry, he lays his head on their belly, and moves his body in such a way that he’s not putting any pressure on their sore body parts. I’ve watched him stand on one foot, in an awkward position, just so he can lie next to someone as he’s slowing down his breathing.

That’s not how Moose’s story began.

When my husband, Cory, said he wanted to meet the homeless pit bull at the shelter, I thought it was a terrible idea. Moose was an emaciated dog at the Humane League of Lancaster County who barked a lot and jumped all around in his cage.

Still, my husband said there was something about him, and so we brought him home.

After a few months of training, Moose went from a humping machine to a well-behaved, fattened-up dog.

Then we noticed that he’d started picking up on intuitive nuances. For example, if someone were crying, he’d come up and lay his head in their lap. If you jumped because you were excited, he’d jump in unison with you. At mealtimes, he knew instinctively that he wasn’t to get near our food and instead would seat himself on the steps.

That made me think he would make a good therapy dog.

Moose and I went through a few months of training at KPETS, and when he graduated in November, I learned that he was one of 30 certified pit bull therapy dogs in the United States.

We began visiting nursing homes, and then domestic abuse shelters and The Clare House. I’ve watched children practice reading to him and I’ve seen lonely people light up when he walks in the room.

After intensive training, Moose and I became certified volunteers at Hospice of Lancaster County. It’s Moose’s job to go into Hospice so people can pet him as they’re dying. We know we can’t fix the situation – it’s just our job to be there to provide comfort.

Moose is a good friend to them. He doesn’t say much, he’s just there when someone needs him … when they want to talk to him.

Moose and Cory have been keynote speakers at the Humane League. They share our stories about how others can turn pit bulls into therapy dogs and begin to change the perception of the breed.

We’ve learned, since their last speech, that more people have volunteered to foster pits so they have a longer time to be adopted. This means that because they’re not anxious in the kennel, they won’t have to be put down as quickly. They even posted Moose on their website as a breed ambassador right after their posting on the top myths about pit bulls.

But that’s not all. Recently, the Humane League of Lancaster County has put on a program called “Pitties in the Park.” It’s a way for responsible pit bull owners to gather together to learn more about the breed and learn how they can inspire others to change their perception of the dogs.

We’ve learned that if enough people are inspired to show kindness and compassion toward animals, it makes our communities safer and more humane.

Moose is just one example of how to do that. There are a lot of other pit bulls who can make a difference, too.

Moose is a breed ambassador and he shows others that they have the power to change the perception of the breed while making a difference in the community – on a one-on-one level and block-by-block.

This dog is a gift to us. It’s our job to share this gift with others.

By Jasmine Grimm
Photos by Beth Cardwell Photography