Sunday, March 11, 2012
Pit Bull Strays Into Ventura Students' Hearts
When a pit bull terrier walked onto the Mound Elementary School in Ventura, a group of kids took notice. Now, it seems, he also walked into their hearts.
Chauncy, whose name means "friend" in urban slang, is now safe from euthanasia and awaiting adoption at the Canine Adoption and Rescue League's kennel in Santa Paula.
"I didn't want to hear about the dog dying," said Nicholas Thompson, a 10-year-old who helped raise money to send Chauncy to the rescue league. Nicholas said he thought Chauncy would be a really good dog for someone, calling the dog "very nice and energetic."
A janitor at the Ventura school discovered the dog Dec. 23. The pit bull terrier was hanging out in front of the Mound Child Development Center, which provides child care on school grounds.
Chauncy must have slept overnight at the school, because the next morning when teacher Rosalie Peake arrived for work, he was there.
"I fell in love with him," she said. "He's a really sweet, really intelligent dog. When I let him in my car, he jumped in and put his head on my shoulder."
Peake said she drove around the neighborhood trying to find Chauncy's owners, to no avail. With three dogs of her own and no other options in sight, she drove the dog to the county animal shelter in Camarillo that night. It was Christmas Eve.
Somehow, Chauncy survived five weeks in the shelter, even though unclaimed pit bull terriers are often euthanized after a couple of weeks.
"Five weeks is unusual," said Monica Nolan, animal services director at the Camarillo shelter. "If we know we've got a really good pit bull, then we'll try to hold it if it stays healthy."
The three breeds of dogs commonly referred to as pit bulls make up 21 percent of dogs in the shelter, and 58 percent of them eventually will be euthanized. The shelter euthanized 812 pit bulls last year.
Peake and her students kept tabs on Chauncy. They hoped his owners would claim him or he'd be adopted by a new family. But when weeks passed with no luck, they knew they had to do something to get Chauncy out of the shelter before he was euthanized.
Peake started contacting rescue groups and her students got to work raising money to pay for Chauncy's boarding, vaccinations and medical bills.
Sixteen kids in the center's leadership group made posters with drawings of Chauncy and phrases such as "Please help Chauncy! Please he needs a chance!" They also recruited their classmates to raise funds.
As of Thursday, the students had collected $300 in donations from parents, students and teachers, Peake said. Nicholas and four of his classmates — Miles Lagomarsino, Gavin Zollar, Brendan McCormick and Aidan McCormick — formed the core team that helped raise the money.
"I didn't think it was fair for him to be put down to sleep," said Brendan, 10. "It's not fair for a dog to not have a home."
Chauncy will be held for a few weeks at the Santa Paula kennel, in the hopes he is adopted, said Mary Saputo, Canine Adoption and Rescue League president. The black-and-white Staffordshire terrier mixed breed is about a year old, she said.
If Chauncy doesn't find a home in Ventura County, he'll be transported to a Save the Pets foster home in Eugene, Ore., said Maripat Davis, who's coordinating his rescue and runs the Ventura County-based animal rescue group All for Love.
Meanwhile, the students are continuing to raise money to help rescue other pit bull terriers in danger of being euthanized in Camarillo, said Ambar Flores, the center's leadership teacher.
Chauncy's story has taught Brendan the value of working hard for a cause, he said.
"I feel good because I saved a dog's life," he said.
Contact the league at 644-7387 for more information on Chauncy.
By Hannah Guzik
Photo by David Yamamoto