"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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When Grandma Doesn’t Know Best

Changing misperceptions often happens one person at a time

By Kirstyn Northrop Cobb  (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

We all know that there are misconceptions about pit bulls out there, and as people who love them we know that it is our job to change minds. But what if the critics are your own family members?

My grandmother is terrified of dogs. Not just dogs, all animals. Dogs, cats, bunnies, mice, you name it. I’ve seen her not go out into her yard because there was a squirrel in it. She was never pleased with the fact that I have dogs, and it just got worse when I rescued my first pit bull dog.
He was just a baby when I brought him home. A little guy who needed rescuing, and how could I turn him down? She knew that I brought a new puppy home. I wasn’t going to tell her that it was a pit bull. She didn’t know what one was anyway, all she knew is what she heard on the news. But someone told her. I still don’t know who, but one day, she confronted me. “Is that dog really a pit bull?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. And then she sat down and cried. Yep, cried. “But you have a daughter. How could you do that to her? What are you going to do when that dog rips her face off?” Those were her exact words. I said, “We’ll be fine”.

She didn’t let it go. She called and called and begged me to reconsider. She asked my husband how could he let me do this? (I would like to point out something here: “Let me do this”? Really? Anyone who knows me knows that there is no “let me do this.” I’m going to do what I’m going to do and that’s that.) She called my mom. Maybe my mom could convince me to change my mind. Maybe my mom would have my daughter stay with her, and then she would be safe. My poor 85-year-old grandmother was up at night worrying and was losing sleep.

Eventually, as time wore on, she must have realized that the dog was staying. The calls were less frequent and eventually stopped. After my little pit bull, Gus, lived with us for about four years, I figured that it was safe to bring it up again. So one day, I said to her, “You know, we’ve had this dog for about four years now and nothing bad has happened.” She replied, “Well, maybe your dog is OK.” And I responded with, “Well, then by default, they’re not all bad, huh?”

She conceded.

And that’s what it’s all about. Changing minds one at a time. And if we can change my grandmother’s stubborn mind, then one by one, we can repair a damaged reputation.

American Bar Association Steps Up For Pit Bulls

The American Bar Association (ABA) is committed to establishing model ethical codes, among the many support services that it provides for the legal profession. It is the largest voluntary professional organization in the world, and its resolutions provide reference and guidance not only for practicing attorneys, but also for the formulation and drafting of legislation and local ordinances.

On August 6th, the House of Delegates of the ABA passed a resolution that calls for breed-neutral dangerous dog laws that focus on the behavior of dog owners and their pets rather than breed, breed types, or breed appearance as basis for laws intended to protect the public from dangerous dogs.

I am proud to say that Best Friends senior legislative analyst Ledy Vankavage, who currently serves as the chair person of the Animal Law Committee of the ABA, was instrumental in the passage of the resolution and took the lead in its drafting, along with Katie Barnett, also from Best Friends, Kara Gilmore of the National Canine Research Center, and Rebecca Huss of Valparaiso University Law School. Ms. Huss, it should be noted, was the court-appointed guardian and special master of the dogs rescued from the Michael Vick dog-fighting ring and played a key role in saving their lives.

Breed-based laws, such as the pit bull ban in Denver, Colorado, are legally inconsistent with the bedrock principle of due process because visual breed identification has been proven to be highly unreliable and because such laws ignore the actual behavior of the dog or the potentially irresponsible behavior of the dog owner. Breed laws result in the pointless killing or relocation of thousands of perfectly well-behaved pets who pose no danger to anyone based solely on appearance while leaving genuinely dangerous dogs of other breeds or appearance at large in the community.

Breed-neutral laws, on the other hand, encourage the early identification of irresponsible dog owners who encourage aggressive behavior and known canine behaviors that precede bite attacks and hold owners responsible for preventive action, such as secure property fencing, leashing in public, and other appropriate precautions to protect the public.

The public and the animals affected deserve laws that actually protect them. We are heartened by this common sense resolution by the American Bar Association.

By Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society

Pit Bull Adopts Abandoned White Lion Cub

A white baby lion cub named Jojo was taken away from her mother shortly after she was born in July to have a naval infection treated. When her caretakers at a German zoo tried to reunite baby Jojo with her mother, Nala, she rejected her daughter.

So German zookeeper Jeanette Wurms took Jojo home with her. And to the surprise of Wurms, her male pit bull mix has become a father to the highly endangered white lion cub.

“Lejon looked after her with me from the first day,” Wurms, a lion keeper at the Stukenbrock safari park, told The Local.de. “Licking her clean, and lying next to her when I was giving Jojo her bottle. Since then we have become a very special family.”

Lejon, whose name means lion in Swedish, spends much of each day playing in the garden with Jojo. “I had to take the decision to hand raise the tiny cub, to give it a chance at life,” said Wurms.

And what a life Jojo is enjoying with her new family.

“Lejon is so patient,” said Wurms. “Jojo scrambles all over him, jumps on his head, bites his fur. But he doesn’t mind — he’s a very patient surrogate.”

Article by Diane Herbst
Pictures: Animal Press/ Barcroft Media

Monday, August 20, 2012

Homeless Pit Bulls Helping the Blind

By Charlene Sloan, reposted from Broadway Barks (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

Pit bulls receive a great deal of negative media attention, which over time has darkened public view of the breed. Pit bull advocates struggle to get positive stories heard over the roar of the nearly constant negative hype. To highlight the positive aspects and historical significance of the breed in American history, pit bull advocates often reference famous pit bull owners, such as Fred Astaire, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Helen Keller. Pit bull detractors refute the assertion that Keller’s dog was a pit bull, and while there may be no way to verify either claim, photographic evidence indicates that Keller owned at least one pit bull, and possibly several. However, whether she owned a pit bull or not is not the key point. Helen Keller had many dogs throughout her life and she believed in the healing power of their companionship. Stricken by illness as a baby, she was left both blind and deaf and struggled to communicate and understand the world around her. As she worked to overcome her challenges, Keller quickly recognized the comfort and healing that companion animals provide. She said, “My dog friends seem to understand my limitations, and always keep close beside me when I am alone. I love their affectionate ways and the eloquent wag of their tails.” Keller understood that dogs are intuitive, social animals that respond to human emotions and crave human companionship. Keller’s relationship with her dogs demonstrates the symbiotic bond between canines and humans—she provided her dogs with food, water, exercise, and love, and in return they offered her unconditional love, loyalty, and therapeutic companionship void of judgment and replete with patience. Broadway Barks recently visited the Royer-Greaves School for the Blind and witnessed a truly amazing program demonstrating how this therapeutic bond between dogs and humans is as strong and as necessary as ever.

Helen Keller pictured with two of her many dogs. People debate whether these dogs were pit bulls; However, both dogs possess many qualities of the bully breeds such as body size, shorter legs, muscular build, shortened muzzle and short neck, and a broad head shape. A cursory visual examination would lead many people to classify these dogs as pit bulls today.

On a sunny and warm spring day in small-town Paoli, Pennsylvania, pit bulls visited the students of the Royer-Greaves School for the Blind and offered therapeutic nuzzles, encouraging tail wags, and gentle kisses. Socializing with teachers, dog handlers, and each other, as well as interactions with the nurturing and attentive pit bulls, gave the students companionship as well as auditory and tactile stimulation, which is integral to their development and well being. The students enjoyed feeling the dogs’ soft ears and wet noses and tongues. Some of the students petted the dogs from head to tail, discovering the shape and size of each dog. The dogs thrived with each gentle pet the students gave them, and the extra attention and belly rubs provided them the socialization and companionship they need. It was a win-win situation for every human and canine involved. Along the way, many minds were changed about pit bulls and, for some, the importance of the human-canine bond was rediscovered.

The Main Line Animal Rescue Therapy Pit Bulls
From left: Vinnie, Dresden, Annalee, Kimmy, and Jerri
Alan Davis, Black Rhino Studios

In the school courtyard, the students sat on benches and at picnic tables while handlers guided the dogs to each student. All the students are blind, and many have multiple physical or developmental disabilities, such as autism, which make standard human communication difficult. However, the dogs dissolved the communication barrier as they laid their heads on the students’ laps for extra pets and scratches behind the ear, or sat patiently while the students caressed their faces to make sense of what they were touching. The handlers ensured that the dogs interacted with everyone, and they made several rounds; however, quick bonds were forged, and the dogs often gravitated to the most challenged students, guided by instincts not yet fully understood by humans. As for the students, their reactions to the dogs varied. Some students began the session a little hesitantly, but after meeting the first dog their faces brightened and happy squeals of laughter rang through the courtyard. Other students began the visit agitated or restless, but became calm and contented after petting the dogs.

Top left to right: A student gives Jerri a treat; MLAR founder Bill Smith with Dresden as she puts her chin on a student’s lap; Annalee leans her head against a student’s leg. Bottom left to right: Vinnie leaning in for petting; Dresden licks a young student; Vinnie stretches to reach a student’s extended hand.
Alan Davis, Black Rhino Studios

The dogs come from the Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR) in nearby Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Many people believe MLAR is the finest animal rescue in the United States. MLAR boasts several hundred volunteers, more than a thousand animals adopted annually, a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic, innovative training and educational programs, and nearly sixty acres of fenced pastures and walking trails.

MLAR Residents
Alan Davis, Black Rhino Studios

Some of the pit bulls came to MLAR from abusive situations, and a few of them suffered horrendous injuries requiring surgery and extensive treatments, yet they remain loving and gentle animals that want nothing more than to sit in someone’s lap and share their companionship. The staff and volunteers at MLAR train the pit bulls (and all the other dogs in their care) in basic obedience skills such as “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down.” But what is so incredible about these therapy pit bulls is that beyond their obedience training, they have no specific training as therapy dogs—they just instinctively know what to do. During our visit, several of the dogs gently approached the students and then leaned forward as if to urge the students to pet them. A young female pit bull named Annalee sat next to one student and leaned against her, which seemed to calm the student’s rocking.

MLAR Facilities
Alan Davis, Black Rhino Studios

As one might imagine, a group of students, teachers, dogs, dog handlers, and photographers can get pretty loud and chaotic, but the pit bulls remained calm, gentle, and focused on the students through all the excitement. Several of the school’s staff and assistants said their views of pit bulls changed since the beginning of this program. They admitted to thinking of pit bulls as dangerous menaces, but now they see them as loving dogs with an extraordinary gift for relating to people with disabilities. Royer-Greaves Executive Director Dr. Joseph T. Coleman admits that he was hesitant about using pit bulls as therapy dogs, but was willing to try anything to help his students. From the school’s courtyard, right in the middle of the pit bull and student action, Dr. Coleman shared with Broadway Barks how his mind was changed about the pit bull breed: “I’m kind of floored by the whole thing because I was one of those people who had the typical mindset of what a pit bull is—something you avoid, something you stay away from—but I was really in awe of how gentle and well-behaved the dogs were and how well they interacted and how they allowed the kids to approach them…it wasn’t my typical mindset of a pit bull.” Dr. Coleman believes in the program’s benefits so much that the pit bull visits have been made a permanent “pet and play” activity at Royer-Greaves.
Suzanne Kane, a music therapist at Royer-Greaves, believes the Pit Bull Therapy Program enhances the quality of life for many of the students by providing an emotional connection, in addition to the sensory stimulation offered by the experience. As she describes the dogs, “They are something tangible; they are alive, warm, and non-judgmental of the students. The dogs and students don’t have to share words or language to share affection…it’s a lot like music.” Even Ms. Kane, a dog-lover herself, was leery about the pit bulls at first: “I was one of those hesitant people. For eight years I brought my dog in, a Belgian Malinois, and she was my dog and I knew she was OK. But then they said they were bringing in pit bulls and I was nervous, but they were very calm and gentle; they were very good dogs. It definitely changed my idea of the breed.”

Royer-Greaves students with the MLAR pit bulls
Alan Davis, Black Rhino Studios

The Pit Bull Therapy Program at Royer-Greaves was the brainchild of the creative and dedicated founder and Director of MLAR, Bill Smith. Smith proposed the idea of having rescued pit bulls visit with students at Royer-Greaves because he knew that a program like this would be successful and that the pit bulls would be a perfect match for the students. As he states, “Our staff gets to know all the dogs for a few months before they are allowed into the Pit Bull Therapy Program. The dogs are handled in veterinary visits, we work with the dogs on basic obedience skills, and we practice taking toys and food away from the dogs to test their temperament. The dogs are also tested with cats and other dogs, too. No dog enters the program until we know they are perfectly suited.” When asked how he thought of the idea of taking pit bulls to the school for the blind, Smith simply said, “I used to drive by [Royer-Greaves] all the time, and I just wanted to do something to help them.”
After talking with Smith, it is obvious that he truly cares about people and every one of the animals that come into MLAR’s care. As Smith himself stated, “We have an incredible staff, we have all these volunteers, and the only thing I still have total control over is the placement of the animals. I have to meet and talk to every person who takes an animal out of this shelter and everybody knows it…Once an animal enters our program it’s a partnership, and we feel like we are responsible for them forever.” Even though Smith is willing to care for these animals for as long as they live, it is MLAR’s goal to get them all adopted out. All of the pit bulls in the Royer-Greaves program are ready to be adopted and, as with all the animals at MLAR, they have had basic obedience and good socialization training, which is why people from all over adopt their pets from MLAR.

Two wonderful organizations, the Royer-Greaves School for the Blind and the Main Line Animal Rescue, have joined together in The Pit Bull Therapy Program to better the lives of both humans and dogs. Smith and the staff and volunteers at MLAR knew the wonderful therapy work that pit bulls could do, and the staff of Royer-Greaves, although nervous at first, trusted MLAR in an effort to enrich the lives of their students. It worked. Just as the students of Royer-Greaves might be harshly labeled and misunderstood, the therapy pit bulls have had to overcome extra challenges in their lives and in the perceptions people have of them. Instinctively, these children and animals connect on a deep and meaningful level—the dogs provide socialization and stimulation in a comforting, non-judgmental way, and the children give love, affection, and attention to dogs that have often been abused or tossed aside. It’s hard to know who’s getting more out of this relationship, the children or the dogs, but we can all learn something from the way they reach out to help and comfort each other.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Video du Jour

Riddled with Media hype and sensationalism, half truths, and fear mongers and
their propaganda... the average American couldn't know less about Pit Bulls.

Everything the media and haters conveniently omit when making their point about
this breed is here: Pit Bulls, when responsibly owned, are service dogs, frizbee champs,
companions to children and the elderly, they are comedians, atheletes, dinner dates,
 running partners, and good old fashioned family dogs.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Deaf Pit Bull Performs Shakespeare, is Saved From Euthanasia

This summer's Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival has produced an unlikely star: a deaf pit bull named Michael who narrowly escaped euthanasia.

The 6-year-old American Staffordshire terrier has turned out to be a hoot in his role as Crab the dog in the Bard's comedy, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," festival organizers and audience members said.

Michael plays a miscreant of sorts who doesn't care to please his owner, they said, and his varied spontaneous reactions to his owner's laments on stage frequently prompt laughter.

Among other things, Michael has scratched his head, chewed on a foot or thrown apathetic glances at the audience when Crab's owner, Launce, played by Kevin Crouch, pours his heart out.

Joan O'Lear, of Tahoe Vista, Calif., remembers the night she watched as Michael spotted a tiny service dog in the front row.

"He honed in on her and whined at the perfectly timed monologue that the actor was giving about how even the dog didn't care about his plight," she recalled. "It was so funny. The Shakespeare play was good, but Mike added the crowning touch."

Michael's real owner, Michelle Okashima, of Incline Village, told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza there's "a great chemistry between Mike and Kevin that makes their stage time together electric and believable."

Not bad for a dog who was scheduled for euthanasia in July 2006 in Reno after he was found running loose and no one claimed him.

Okashima said she's grateful for his last-minute rescue by Nanette Cronk of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe and his selection for the play.

Michael and another dog were chosen to play Crab out of 11 dogs that auditioned. Michael appears in two or three plays a week, performing in three scenes for a total of about 15 minutes each night.

"What are the odds they would pick a pit bull?" Okashima told The Associated Press. "All the time they face rejection in our society. I was shocked he got the part. I really appreciate the fact they gave him a shot."

Michael has posed no problem other than the time he jumped offstage in dress rehearsal because a woman smuggled a Shih Tzu in her purse inside the theater, she added.

Michael also is a registered therapy dog who visits hospitals, schools and veteran's homes. He also has been used to raise money for cancer research.

"He got a second chance, and I believe in giving back," said Okashima, an employee at Scraps Dog Bakery in Kings Beach, Calif.

Unlike his role in the play, Michael aims to please people in real life. "He's a wonderful guy, real sweet. I call him my big lump of brown sugar," she said.

The festival, held on the beach at Sand Harbor near Incline Village, continues through Aug. 26.

By Martin Griffith

In Dog We Trust

5 reasons why dogs truly are man's best friend.

Kamerion Wimbley is an NFL defensive end and former first-round draft pick who uses his 6'4", 255-pound frame to manhunt any quarterback lining up against the Tennessee Titans. Yogi is Wimbley's dog. Stocky and affable, he's a 6-year-old American Staffordshire terrier and his owner's most consistent workout partner, joining Wimbley on distance runs three or four times a week. Here's why the partnership works so well.

1. Dogs Keep You Guessing
One minute Yogi is trotting along at a spirited clip in the woods behind Wimbley's home; the next, he's off like a hellion, bolting up a trail or doing laps around a clearing. Hard as it may be to keep up, following those canine whims can turn into an interval workout. "When we're playing football, it's not always the same tempo," Wimbley says. "Some plays are over in 4 seconds, and others extend to 15." Enrich your own endurance workouts by varying your exertion levels.

2. Dogs Don't Have YouTube
Video games. Stuff to fix around the house. Minutia brought home from work. There are plenty of reasons you can give for postponing a workout—and none apply to a dog. Tempted to spend your evening catching up on an episode of Dallas? A pooch will keep those priorities straight. "Dogs are really into routines," Wimbley says. "I get on the computer a lot—and if it becomes time to go, he'll be sitting there waiting for me. If you're not ready, your dog will let you hear about it."

3. The Focus Is Fixed
Day in and day out, a committed workout partner—human or canine-can challenge you to improve your performance. At the very least, he'll push you beyond your usual limits. "You're more likely to complete a workout if you have someone there holding you accountable," Wimbley says. "It's the same way with animals. Yogi's an athlete dog. He's built for working, so he and I feed off each other's energy. He'll motivate me: If he's going hard, I'm going to want to go hard as well." More often than not, that's half the battle.

4. His Meal Is a Model
Wimbley hopes to one day enter Yogi in dog shows. Much like playing in the NFL, that goal requires conditioning that's difficult to achieve through workouts alone. Diet is critical. As an athlete at Florida State from 2002 to 2006, Wimbley didn't just blindly raid the dining hall. "We learned the benefits of each type of food," he says. "You want to ask yourself, why am I eating this? What does it do?" He became versed in the gospel of good nutrition. "It was fascinating to find out how the quality of the energy you put into your body translates into your performance, whether it's on the field or in the classroom." Those lessons apply to Yogi too. Wimbley carefully reads dog food labels to make sure the food has quality ingredients, and he serves Yogi portions that correspond to the dog's weight and muscle mass. In the process, Wimbley reinforces his own habits. "I try to buy us both natural, organic food. No artificial flavors or fillers. No by-products for the meat source. I shop around the edges of the store and avoid the stuff in the middle—the food that has been tampered with."

5. There's No Quit
Sometimes it pays to act like a puppy. "Dogs can pretty much outrun humans, at least where distance is concerned," says Wimbley, "and they want to please, so they'll keep working." When Wimbley got Yogi in the winter of 2006, he was at a critical moment in his career and appreciated the pup's tirelessness. "At the time I was training for the combine, so we'd go for miles. We'd even do two-a-days together." After 6 years, Yogi's tenacity has become an inspiration for Wimbley, both physically and mentally. "I try to model my game after him," Wimbley says. "His unwillingness to yield when it comes to competition, and the way he has fun the whole time while doing it." Still, Wimbley is quick to warn potential owners against bringing a dog into your life until you're sure your activity levels will align. "You need to really study breeds to know which ones are the best for you and your lifestyle," he says. "Some dogs require a lot of exercise to be happy and healthy—and if you're not helping them burn that energy, they're going to find ways that may not be the most desirable."

By Neil Janowitz

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kevin Bacon Takes a Synchronized Dive with Pet Pit Bull Lily

When it comes to Kevin Bacon and his dog in the water, there are no degrees of separation: In this adorable video on PawNation, Bacon and his pet pit bull Lily show off their synchronized diving-board skills.
In the video, filmed by Bacon's wife, "Closer" star Kyra Sedgwick, Lily and the actor approach the swimming pool as Bacon narrates the goings-on.
"Divers are approaching the board in the tandem canine-human diving event. Going to attempt a dual dive." He glances down at Lily. "Ready?"

And in they go! With a little luck, there'll be a new category in the next summer Olympics for them to join.

By Randee Dawn, TODAY contributor