"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, October 30, 2011

The Anti-Bully Dog

Last Christmas, Joe Dwyer got one of the best gifts he could have hoped for. A package containing 80 letters arrived at his doorstep from students at the Martin Luther King Jr. School in Jersey City. The Sixth through Eighth Grade students wrote to thank Mr. Dwyer and his therapy dog, Shelby, for visiting them earlier in the year. The duo were at the school to present "Bullying From a Dog’s Point of View," a program to combat bullying in schools.

"Actually only one or two of the letters were addressed to me. The rest were written to Shelby," says Dwyer, a motivational speaker, life coach and dog trainer.

Dwyer shares with students how Shelby, a pit bull, was found tied up near a gas station in the middle of the winter. She was freezing, starving and scared, and both of her back legs were injured. Once discovered, Shelby was taken to the Bloomfield Animal Shelter where she lived for five months before being adopted by Dwyer, a shelter volunteer.

The Dwyer family saw her through two major leg surgeries that involved long painful recovery periods. And she wasn’t with them long when they realized that she had a special gift.

"We took her for a walk one night and encountered a man in a wheelchair outside the senior housing in our town. As we approached he called to Shelby. I was hesitant at first because we had just adopted her, and I didn’t know how she would react," says Dwyer. "But Shelby walked right up to the man and put her head on his knee. He petted her and started to cry. Then he thanked Shelby for helping him to forget about his pain for a little while."

Today, Shelby works as a therapy dog and is certified through Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs Inc. She and Dwyer visit nursing homes, senior centers, hospitals, homes for special needs adults and children and a juvenile detention center. Shelby is also working on becoming a bereavement dog helping those who are mourning the loss of a loved one. Disturbed at the growing trend of bullying in the school system, Dwyer also saw an opportunity for Shelby to inspire young people to live better lives.

"I share with the students that despite all of the good that Shelby is doing she is still discriminated against – she has been turned away from a number of institutions – because she is a pit bull," says Dwyer, author of Shelby’s Grace (Perennial Press Publishing, 2010), that tells the story of how Shelby overcame abuse and the impact she is having in the community as a therapy dog. "Profiling is also a trait of bullying, so it helps me to address that issue with the students in a proactive way."

Shelby’s first anti-bullying assignment was at the Jersey City School where she got a standing ovation from 200 students. Since then she and Dwyer have taken the program to eight other schools in North Jersey.

Hope Koturo, a reading specialist at the Martin Luther King Jr., School, says that Dwyer’s program enables students to really hear the anti-bullying message.

"Many of our students were deeply moved by Shelby's story. They were able to connect her story of abuse to that of judging and bullying fellow students," says Koturo. "These students say that after hearing Shelby's story they would no longer judge people based upon their looks, but on who they are on the inside."

Visit Shelby's website to buy her book.

For more information on the "Bullying From a Dog’s Point of View" program, visit www.proclaiming-treasures.com/bullying.html

By Vera Lawlor

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Video du Jour

       Pit bull spends a day at Lawrence Intermediate School,
                    teaching tolerance through a dog's eyes.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Truth About Pit Bulls

The societal misconception about Pit Bulls truly blows me away. In the minds of many people, there are dogs... and then... there are Pit Bulls. They're almost viewed as a completely different species.

Well... I've got news for ya. They are canines... just like every other dog. That's a fact.

Many people have never even met a "Pit Bull." Yet, when asked about these dogs, those same people will provide a bold, descriptive account of "the Pit Bull" and his "personality." Aggressive. Vicious. Deranged. Dangerous. Unpredictable.

Remember... the vast majority of these people have never actually witnessed this behavior, because they've never even been close enough to a Pit Bull to substantiate --or eradicate-- their claims.

So, the question becomes: what's the basis for these Pit Bull testimonies? How can someone be so certain of this knowledge, when they've never even had an encounter with a Pit Bull?

The simple answer: the media.

In order to thrive, the media needs stories... and not just any stories. Sensational stories. Stories that grab your attention. Stories that get people talking. Stories that get you to tune in, read, and share their stories... with others who will tune in, read, and share those stories. That's their job.

So, what makes for a sensational story? Well, consider Hollywood. What celebrity news makes the headlines? Scandals. Drugs. Affairs. Drama. The cover story is never about the sweet, responsible starlet who quietly goes to work and back home every day. Why so? Because innocent isn't interesting. Innocent is boring.

Instead, devastation, destruction, and chaos are desired by the media. And if these things don't exist... trust me, they'll create their own story...

Does a story about a sweet, loving Pit Bull, who enjoys playfully running through the grass, qualify as "sensational?" Not so much. But what about vicious, killer animal roaming the streets for blood? You betcha.

Consider this: millions of dog bites are reported each year... by dogs of every different breed. Many of these bites cause severe injuries, leading to hospitalizations and surgeries.

But how many of those stories do you actually see on the news? Well, let me rephrase that: How many non-Pit Bull bite stories do you see on the news?

When a Pit Bull bites someone, it almost always makes the news, with a headline such as "Killer Pit Bull Attacks Human." But what about the Golden Retriever down the street, who bit a child and sent him to the hospital? Well, that one never made the news.

What about the Chihuahua who mauled a kid's face... did you ever see this headline: "Vicious Chihuahua Mauls Child." Nope... that's not a "good story" either.

If and when these non-Pit-Bull bites are reported by the media, it's never front page news, and the dog's breed is rarely listed at all, simply stating: "Dog Bites Child."

In fact, dog bites are so common, that the average bite from the "average dog" isn't considered news-worthy at all... regardless of the degree of injury to the person, or the number of other bite occurrences by that particular breed.

But why aren't these other incidents covered in the news? Well, any media reports about non-Pit-Bull bites would only reduce the "sensational" aspect of their "Pit Bull attack" stories. And trust me, they don't want that to happen. So, in order to maintain the Pit Bull's "vicious" reputation, the media neglects the many other dog bite incidents by many other breeds. Does this seem honest? Justified? Trustworthy?

So, you may be asking, "Then, why the Pit Bull?" Well, that's the deeper issue here...

Sadly, the inherent loyalty of the Pit Bull has been exploited by humans for sadistic pleasure and personal gain. Dog Fighting. Baiting. Chaining. Protection. Neglect. Abuse. Thus, the Pit Bull's "reputation" is a direct result of the cruelty to which they're subjected.

However, the truth doesn't matter to the media, because that "Killer Pit Bull" reputation and their assumed "vicious" nature makes for a pretty darn good news story...

The media never shares the back-story of what happened to the dog before he bit someone. Even though... that piece of information is the most critical part of the story.

Pit Bulls are arguably the most abused, misused, and tortured breed in America. (Keep in mind that the term "Pit Bull" is actually used to describe at least 3 different breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.)

Their strengths are exploited by humans to make these dogs weaker; their weaknesses used to make humans stronger. Therein lies the problem... the truth behind their "bad rap," and the stimulus for the vast majority of Pit Bull bites and "attacks."

But the media never asks the most critical question: What happened to this dog... to cause him to bite someone? I may not know everything, but I can guarantee you this much: something happened to him.

Maybe this dog was chained and neglected for years, with only a few feet of space to call his own. Never able to run, play, or be a dog. So, when someone enters that limited space, the dog may feel threatened, and his natural fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. But guess what? That heavy chain prevents the "flight" option. "Fight" is all he has, and he bites because he fears for his life.

Maybe the dog was trained to fight. Maybe he was praised for attacking others... and brutally beaten when he didn't obey those commands. Maybe he has lived his entire life, so terrified on a daily basis, that he can no longer trust any human contact. Maybe he thought that biting was his only chance to live another day...

Regardless of what happened, the back-story is never told. More disturbingly, when talking to the media, the dog's owners will always claim that this dog was a beloved family pet, who just suddenly "turned" one day. I'm always amazed that people actually believe these owners.

Let's take a stroll down Common Sense Lane for just a sec...

So... these people claim that they were a "good family" who loved their dog? Of course they say that!!! Do you honestly expect that they'd tell the media: "Well, we beat the crap out of our dog every day for years, and one day, he finally fought back."

Or "We chained and starved our dog for his entire life... and one day, the neglect just got the best of him." Or "Our child was taunting the starving dog, who then bit her out of hunger, fear, and self-defense." Or "We trained our dog to protect our home, and now we're angry that he tried to do what we asked of him."

If a family actually admitted that they were guilty of animal cruelty, there would be consequences. So, of course they blame the dog! Then, the law blames the dog, and the media blames the dog. And sadly, society blames the dog... for what humans did to him.

People actually choose to believe that this Pit Bull just "turned" on the family who fed them, loved, them, and cared for them all their life. Is that rational? Of course not! But it makes for a better story, doesn't it?

So, that's what the media feeds us... and everyone is falling for it...

If you'd like to hear from someone who has A LOT of experience with Pit Bulls, well... here I am. I've been bitten by a lot of dogs in my life... Labs, Chihuahuas, Spaniels. But out of the thousands of dogs I've worked with, I have never been bitten by a Pit Bull.

In animal rescue, I deal with the worst of the worst... and these Pit Bulls come to me in the most broken, fearful, and vulnerable state. If a dog is going to bite someone, it'll most likely happen when they're in that fragile, uncertain state... only because they are terrified.

And yet-- not one of those Pit Bulls has ever bitten me. I work with them daily --many of them. Do you honestly believe that I'd put my life in danger every single day?? And if they're truly so vicious, wouldn't I have been bitten or attacked by now? If they were really so dangerous and unpredictable, surely I'd be at greater risk than anyone else... dealing with so many of them on a daily basis... right? And yet, nothing has happened. Hmm...

The truth is: Pit Bulls aren't any more dangerous than other large breeds, and they aren't any less loving or deserving than any other dog. Wouldn't you choose to believe someone who actually knows these dogs... over someone who has never even met one???

I don't fear them, so they don't fear me. I love them, so they love me. That's critical. Because when fear is present and love is absent, any dog can become terrified.

Every breed of dog is capable of biting and harming someone, and these bites can happen for many different reasons: excessive energy, improper training, lack of socialization, unmet needs, abuse, hunger, neglect, and fear.

When a dog senses your fear, they assume that they should be fearful, too. They don't understand that you actually fear them... they just sense an abundance of nervous energy, causing their defenses to go up as well. Therefore, they become every bit as terrified of you... as you are of them. So when you move toward them with uncertainty and hesitation... they fear for their safety, which can cause them to bite you. This is true for any dog.

The most feared dog... is the Pit Bull. People tend to fear Pit Bulls more than any other breed. But does it seem logical that those same people don't fear other large breeds --who are equally strong
and capable of harm-- such as Boxers, Shepherds, Labs, and Standard Poodles? Does this make any sense whatsoever?

So, why do they fear the Pit Bull? Because of the media. Because of dog fighters. Because of misconceptions and lies and abuse. Stop buying into these stories! Stop blaming these dogs for dog fighting! Stop believing the lies you are being fed!

The media has a lot to gain from these stories: ratings, readers, and money. Dog fighters have a lot to gain from dog fighting... and even more so, when society blames the dogs, instead of the people.

But ask yourself this: What do I have to gain here? If you think I'm getting paid to write this, you're wrong. If you think someone is paying me to save these Pit Bulls, you're wrong. If you think I have anything to gain by presenting the truth and seeking justice, well... you're wrong.

Actually, I have a lot to lose here... everything, really. If I'm wrong about these dogs, I risk my reputation, my work, and quite honestly, my life. But... I'm more than willing to put everything I have on the line... because I know that I'm right, and I know that they're worth it.

The media has everything to gain... and nothing to lose. I have nothing to gain... and everything to lose. So... the question becomes: Who do you choose to believe??

Article by Ashley Owen Hill, founder of Lucky Dog Rescue in Meridian, Mississippi & the Co-Founder of the facebook app, Pet Pardons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pit Bull Lovers Hiking for Change

The last year at StubbyDog has been an exciting time of growth. Not only have we seen our organization grow, but more importantly the impact of our work. Each day we hear from more people about the many different ways that our work and our community has helped change public perception and improved the lives of pit bulls. Today we’re excited to announce that we are taking our outreach one step further with our very first location based satellite group, The StubbyDog Trekkers, based in Saratoga, CA.

Formerly known and the South Bay/Saratoga APBT Hiking group, this amazing group is comprised of nearly 400 pit bull lovers (and of course dogs). This partnership is a very exciting way for us to have an on-the-ground presence to continue our work to change perceptions about pit bulls and spread the word – one hike at a time — about what amazing companions pit bull type dogs can make.

Plans for the new StubbyDog Trekkers include:

• Hikes with pit bulls and other breeds and their handlers
• Fun photo cards with info and facts about pit bulls to pass out to other hikers and curious passerby
• Partnerships with non-dog hiking groups to spread the fun and the knowledge
• Hike-a-thons and other fun and educational events
• And a series of educational articles on StubbyDog.org about how other people can start pit bull hiking, walking and social groups across the nation.

As StubbyDog Trekkers organizer Tracey Tate Cutler so nicely put it, the partnership and outreach will all be in further pursuit of, “the goal of helping create a world where people no longer view pit bulls as a special category of dog – but, instead, as just a dog.”

Visit the StubbyDog Trekkers Site.


Why Do Pit Bulls Have a Bad Reputation?


Making a Difference

A victim of inbreeding, this little pit bull inspires her
guardians to try and change things for the better.

                                     By Julie LeRoy (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

A simple walk into a gas station changed my life. A couple was standing there holding a little white and black pit bull puppy with a huge under bite, a tilted rib cage, a crooked spine, a fused neck, feet and ears that didn’t match each other, and a tail that looked like an accordion. They were trying to find a home for her, and we later learned she was purchased for $50 from a backyard breeder. With four dogs at home, I got into a texting match with my husband. He kept saying “no” until finally his last text back said, “Do what you’re gonna do because you’re gonna do it anyway.”

I never looked back.
After a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, the unusual dog that we later named Cuda became an integral part of our family. By chance I caught a news clip announcing a dog with a curved spine had won the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.

“I can top that,” I thought when I eyeballed Cuda.

We entered her into the contest.

To promote her we created a Facebook page and began a 10-month long campaign that quickly turned into a life-changing experience. By contest time we had grown to 4,700 fans.

Cuda carries the physical traits commonly associated with inbreeding, including weak rear “hocked” legs and her tiny size. X-rays show she has an enlarged heart and the vertebra in her neck and tail are fused. Still, despite her appearance, she shows no sign of pain.

Since adopting Cuda I have learned a lot about breeding. I learned that inbreeding and line breeding happens when breeders are trying for a certain color or other traits. When a litter is born, the “good stock” is removed, while the puppies that look like Cuda are culled (destroyed), usually inhumanely because humane euthanasia costs money. I have learned this is common practice for many breeders. This causes increased health problems. For example, some breeds can no longer flatten their ears to indicate apprehension; some coats don’t lift in fear or aggression. Heart problems, breathing problems and disease run rampant in dogs – sometimes even those considered champions.

There is one good thing about Cuda’s unhealthy appearance; she doesn’t invoke “pit bull fear” in people. Her appearance affords me the opportunity to educate people on the breed and expose people to the horrors of inbreeding. People who once thought shelter dogs were damaged have told me that Cuda changed their mind. As a result, these people are more apt to adopt shelter dogs.

The response she brings out in people is overwhelming. She makes people want to find out more about pit bulls. We decided to have her DNA tested, and Cuda came back a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She is truly part of the world class.

In case you’re wondering, Cuda never won the contest, but we did. As a recent transplant from New York to North Carolina, we had a hard time making friends and were so lonely. Through the common love of pit bulls and all dogs, we have made a network of friends we love. People thank me for rescuing her, but it is she who rescued me.

Once I thought Cuda was invincible and had beaten the odds of her twisted little body, but reality hit hard just a couple of weeks ago. Cuda was diagnosed with diabetes. It is not common for a dog her age to have it, and I blame the inbreeding. Her veterinarian thinks that her pancreas is underdeveloped. We don’t know what her future holds, so we love her as much as we can and will do what we can to keep her as healthy as possible.

Along with friends we have made through Cuda’s page, we have created Cuda-Cares.org and are determined to change the way breeders do business. Our goal is to require breeders to become licensed through classroom education, inspections and cost to them. We know this will be a difficult task, but because of a little dog that wasn’t supposed to be, we know we will achieve it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Video du Jour

, ,

Warning! That Pit Bull Will Change Your Life

Adopting a pit bull did indeed change this family’s life – in so many amazing ways.

By Thaddeus Stringer (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

I grew up with dogs; they were always present, a constant in our home – mostly spaniels. In other words, the “right kind of dog” for the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia.

We were those fiscal conservative/social liberals you’ve heard about. We wore boat shoes, knew how to tie bow ties and seemed to be sent home from the hospital with blue blazers. We attended liberal arts colleges, pursued advance degrees and wore pastels.

We didn’t adopt pit bulls.

But after I graduated college and was about to finish law school, that’s exactly what my wife and I did. We adopted a pit bull. And we jumped in with both feet. We adopted a pit bull from a cruelty case.

We were told that adopting a pit bull would forever change our life.

For the worst:

“You have to have thick skin to adopt a pit bull!”

“People will cross the street when they see you coming!”

“Your family won’t understand!”

“Your life will never be the same!”

Turns out they were right. Adopting a pit bull did change our lives. Just not how they told us it would.

People did cross the street. They crossed the park, the sidewalk, the parking lot, too. They stopped their cars in the middle of the street. They came to see this dog, our pit bull Sarge. Our family started coming to events where he was making appearances. We met our neighbors. We met our neighbors’ family.

Our pit bull changed our lives.

We became part of a brotherhood that didn’t care if you were white or black, rich or poor, yuppie or hipster, fit or flabby. We were pit bull guardians and lovers – and we were in this together.

But we became more than just pit bull people: We became part of our community.

We walked with our dogs in Memorial Day, 4th of July and Halloween parades. We were a constant presence in schools across the city doing humane education with people we had no other reason to meet. With our therapy dog, we interacted with elders tucked away in nooks and crannies of the city that we didn’t know existed. We met amazing young men in a group home for abused teenagers. We had lunches at law firms, happy hours with bankers. We met them all.

We met friends. Friends who had pit bulls, friends who thought our dogs were cute, friends who we chatted up at the bar … we met so many new people – all because of our pit bulls.

We worked with vet students, college professors, corporate officers, scholars, advocates, social workers, teachers and politicians. We added more friends (both in real life and on Facebook … which led to more friends in real life) to our lives than we could have hoped.

So maybe we did need warning that adopting a pit bull would change our life. New pit bull families should be prepared for new friends and a wonderful community.

If someone had only warned us of all the good things that would happen to us when we adopted a pit bull … we might have adopted one sooner.

To see a previous post about Sarge, click here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Join the StubbyDog Pit Bull Awareness Day Challenge!

From our friends at StubbyDog:

October 22, 2011, is National Pit Bull Awareness Day – the perfect opportunity to make a difference for pit bulls. We are asking all pit bull lovers to take the StubbyDog National Pit Bull Awareness Day two-part challenge:

On our
Resources page you can find examples of the many different ways you can get involved from volunteering at a local shelter, to organizing your own pit bull pride parade. There are also instructions to making your own press release.
We are encouraging our entire community to contact their local media. We help you through the process by supplying you with our press release and handy tips for speaking to the media.

This is a great opportunity to help us make a difference in the lives of pit bulls, and we hope that you will take part in this great day.

If we all work together, we can make National Pit Bull Awareness Day a day when all Americans hear positive stories about what great companions pit bull type dogs can be!

Thank you for being part of StubbyDog. As our community grows, so does our impact!

Best regards,

The StubbyDog Team

Video du Jour

Born to be Wild! from For Pits Sake on Vimeo.