"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 29, 2013

Pit Bull Problems

I'm often asked about my love of the Pit Bull breed(s).

Why do I love them?
How did I come to love them?
Was I always drawn to these dogs?

Growing up, my family had many dogs of many different breeds. 
But I'd be lying if I said that we ever had a "Pit Bull." I'd also be lying if I said I'd ever wanted to have a "Pit Bull" ... or that my parents would've ever allowed us to have a "Pit Bull."

It's not that my parents were "bad" people... they just didn't know any better. Therefore, I didn't know any better. I was never "against" Pit Bulls, but I also wasn't "for" them, either. Mostly because... I just didn't know much about them. 

But what I *knew* about them... all that I *knew* about them... was based on what I'd *heard* about them.
And it wasn't good.

Back then, I'd never heard anything positive said about "Pit Bulls." 
No one I knew ever had a "Pit Bull." 
No one I knew ever wanted a "Pit Bull." 
No one I knew had ever even encountered a "Pit Bull."

Therefore, even though I never "judged" these dogs, I honestly never thought much about them. And I certainly never thought: "One day... I'll grow up and save them."

So... when did this change for me?
Well, it was in 2009, and his name was Rudy. 

By then, I was 24 years old, and I'd met many other "Pit Bulls." So... I knew a little more about these dogs, and I cared a lot more about them. But even still, at the time, I wasn't using my voice to help them, nor was I using my rescue efforts to save them.

Until... I met Rudy.
He was the one who changed everything.

Ask any "Pit Bull lover." 
Many of us weren't always "Pit Bull lovers."
Instead, it took one dog... one "Pit Bull" ... to change everything. And almost every "Pit Bull lover" can name who "that dog" was for them.

For me, "that dog" was Rudy. 

I'll be honest. I didn't fully trust him at first. 

Not because he was a "Pit Bull," but because he was a dog who had been chained, beaten, and starved for his whole life. I didn't know him... he didn't know me. I was unsure... he was unsure. I didn't know what to expect... he didn't know what to expect.

But I saved him, and he knew it.
So he loved me, and I knew it.

Rudy came to me as a "rescue dog." As with every other rescue dog I take in, I was simply planning to bring him back to health, and then find a family to love him forever. 
Of course, I soon realized... I could never let him go.  

Because he was the "Pit Bull" who would change my life.

At the time, I didn't fully realize just how much he would change my life, my mission, my future. I also didn't realize just how much unnecessary judgment I'd face, as a result of that decision... simply because, I loved a "Pit Bull" ...

Before Rudy, I'd saved many dogs, and I'd always been praised by others for my love of dogs, for my rescue efforts, for my commitment to my cause. But when I saved Rudy, and I began to rescue other "Pit Bulls" like him... that's when the public scrutiny entered my life:

"OMG Ashley!!! A Pit Bull?!"
"Why would you?!"
"How could you?!"
"What the hell are you thinking?!"

Initially, I was utterly shocked, and offended. I'd done nothing wrong. In fact, I was trying to do something "right."

I didn't rescue Rudy, simply because he was a "Pit Bull." I didn't trust Rudy, simply because (or in spite of the fact that) he was a "Pit Bull." I didn't love Rudy, simply because he was a "Pit Bull." 

Instead, I rescued Rudy, because he needed me. I trusted Rudy, because he trusted me. I loved Rudy, because he loved me. 

He was the most amazing, incredible, loving dog I've ever known. And... he just-so-happened to be... a Pit Bull. 

Soon, I realized that very few others were willing to rescue Pit Bulls. Therefore, I started saving more of them. Clearly, it was a choice I made, based on my experience with Rudy. I wanted to save others like my baby, the dogs who had no other hope. 

But it didn't take long for me to understand the weight of my decision. 
When I started rescuing Pit Bulls, I suddenly realized that I was now "different." 
In the minds of many, my rescue dogs were not "dogs" at all.
Instead, I was saving "monsters." 

This realization changed me, in so many ways. I was hurt; I was angry; I was disgusted. Suddenly... I was on a mission... to prove every critic wrong. Because they WERE wrong.

That being said, I don't save "Pit Bulls," simply because they're the only dogs worth saving. I save "Pit Bulls," because these dogs are equally deserving, equally amazing, and equally loving, when compared to any other dog (maybe moreso?). Plus, they're the most judged, most misunderstood, and most hated breed in existence. And very few other rescuers can/will save them. That's where I come in...
I mean... if you were hated, based on nothing more than how you look, wouldn't YOU want someone to stand-up for you?? I know I would...

I could go on for days about how incredible the Pit Bull breed(s) are, but please... don't just take my word for it. 

Instead, go to a shelter, and meet a Pit Bull. Contact an animal rescue group... and ask to walk a Pit Bull. Seriously, go freaking love-on a Pit Bull. 

Trust me... it just takes one... to change your perspective.And that one "Pit Bull" ... just may change your life. 

*Written in loving memory of "the one" who changed me, Rudy

By Ashley Owen Hill, founder of Lucky Dog Rescue

Thursday, May 2, 2013

To Hercules With Love

     In 2010 and 2011, I featured a story about the most amazing duo I've come across - a sweet little girl, Kylie and her beloved pit bull, Hercules. Those posts will forever be my favorite story that I will share on this blog. If you have not had the pleasure of reading them, they are here: first one, second one. Tonight, I read some news that I have been dreading ever since I first discovered this sweet pair. You see, Hercules has been battling cancer for five years. He has been holding on for so long, even after losing a leg, but he does not have much fight left in him. Hercules has touched hearts all over and he will never be forgotten. Here is the post from the photographer who introduced the world to a beautiful girl and her dog and the astounding bond between them.

My good friend Hercules, the pit bull, has about 2-10 weeks to live. Cancer is getting the best of him and his time with us running out. Many of you know him, have met him at events or know him through the portraits of him that I have taken in the last few years. He has marched in several Luv-a-Bully marches, first with 4 legs and then with 3 legs and served as an “ambassadog” at many rescue events around Orange County.

I met Hercules in 2009 at a Luv-a-Bully march in Brea. The march was a gathering of about 200+ pit bulls and their owners to dispel the public opinions that pit bulls were mean fighting dogs and protest BSL (Breed Specific Legislation). Dr. Paula Terifaj (now the owner of DogSpa) asked me to photograph the event and that is how I met Hercules and his family, Kylie (now 5) and mom Leslie. I snapped some photos of Herc and Kylie at the event and a few months later Leslie contacted me, in a panic, to do portraits of Kylie with Hercules because Hercules had cancer and she did not know how long he would live. Kylie was two then and Leslie was afraid that without photos Kylie would not be able to remember Hercules when she grew up. Since that time, the bond that Hercules shares with his girl Kylie has become a personal photographic project for me. The images of Kylie and Hercules together have touched many people and helped to change the negative perception some people have of the pit bull breed. The portrait work has served as a medium to communicate the true nature of pit bulls as protectors and kid-loving, furry balls of love.

I know a lot of pit bulls!!! Of all of them, Hercules is the most loving, the most patient, and the best ambassador for the breed I’ve ever met. His work here on earth is just about done. I’ve captured some memories with the photography we’ve done, but it’s still so difficult for Kylie and Leslie to deal with the loss they will grieve someday very soon. I have been trying to think of something to do to help them and then today it hit me . . . I know we are all busy people, but I would like to make a simple but heartfelt request . . . send Hercules and/or his girl Kylie (who is now 5) a card or a note before he goes. Wish Hercules the best, send hugs, send notes of gratitude for allowing us to see what dedication and love is all about. Tell Hercules how brave he is to have fought cancer for 5 years. Tell Kylie and Leslie how you admire that they have cared for him so well these five years while Hercules had numerous treatments to keep his cancer at bay.

I have tried to remember all of the people that Hercules has touched in his life, but I’m sure there are so many more. Feel free to share this message with anyone you know, that might know Hercules or be interested in his story. Tell everyone about him and spread his story far and wide. He’s a good dog and good pit bull and he’s leaving a big ‘ole pawprint on my heart and the hearts of many.

I have also posted this on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lspetportraits

Please send cards and love to:

Hercules c/o FOCHP
26423 Scott Rd.
Menifee CA 92584

Thank you so very much for caring about the breed we love.


P.S. If you haven’t already read it, Roni Raczkowski wrote a wonderful article about Hercules and it was published on the Best Friends site and went viral a couple of years ago. http://bestfriends.org/News-And-Features/News/Are-You-There,-God–It-s-Me,-Hercules/

P.S.S. For those of you who do not know, a portrait from 2012 of Kylie and Hercules are featured as the month of July in the Unexpected Pit Bull calendar http://theunexpectedpitbull.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=50

One of the first portraits of Hercules and his girl Kylie (Summer of 2010). This image is up on display in several Orange County location, has traveled all over the internet, and has been seen by thousands of people.

Here are some shots from the session we did last summer. Some of these images are featured in the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar 2013.


This portrait was shot on April 24th. Hercules still seemed to be feeling OK but he was a bit slower and got tired a bit quicker. He still enjoyed being with his girl and I got more than a few kisses from him.

When I was done shooting I handed Leslie the camera and asked her to take a photo of me and Herc. I am so glad I did. Thanks Leslie for everything.