Time to End BSL. It’s Discrimination.

In December, 2010 I adopted a dog named, Phil.  The same dog who is asleep right now in a tangled mess of sheets in my bed. The same dog I have been obsessed with since the day I brought him home. He is a pit/lab mix and I didn’t even consider the “pit” part of him when I saw him on Pet Harbor and decided to drive to Animal Control to visit him. I love Labradors. It was the Lab in him that caught my eye, but the pit bull mix part didn’t deter me in anyway because I had no preconceived notions about pit bulls. I guess I wasn’t paying much attention to mainstream media news that love to portray pit bulls as inherently mean and aggressive dogs who want to do nothing but tear your limbs apart.

With all dogs come the possibility of a bite if the dog is mistreated, teased, or trained to be aggressive. And we know that pit bulls are the most abused breed out there. Every day I am so grateful that I didn’t let ignorance prevent me from bringing Phil home. But when I ask myself if my decision would have been different if I’d been paying a little more attention to the negative portrayal of pit bulls in the news headlines, and I wonder if Phil would be sleeping peacefully in my bed right now. I’m not sure. And that scares the hell out of me because Phil had already been with Animal Care and Control for a couple months by the time I got to him.

In fact, when I brought him in for his veterinary check-up shortly after adopting him, the Dr. told me she was surprised he was kept that long. I was crushed. Over-crowded kill shelters don’t give dogs a lot of time to find homes. And most of these shelters, especially city shelters where I found Phil, seem to be filled with mostly pit bulls, a breed not everyone is willing to bring home. (But I know from experience they are missing out on a great breed of dog.)

As a pit bull owner, I am really concerned about Breed Specific Legislation. BSL does nothing but make it harder for dogs like Phil to find homes. I didn’t know about BSL when I brought Phil home. I didn’t know there could have been external factors preventing me from having Phil as a pet, a companion. Phil has been an amazingly loving dog to me for six amazing years and it infuriates me to think that some city ban, or insurance policy, or association could have told me Phil wasn’t allowed to stay with me.

But yet, some people have to adhere to ordinances placed by people who have never known a pit bull personally (I am sure of this because to know a pit bull is to love a pit bull) and as a result, great dogs never make it out of shelters alive.

People who support BSL believe it is an effective way to prevent dog attacks by basically profiling and discriminating against a specific breed. Even though that “specific breed” has no “specific look” because it includes over five different breeds, including mixes, the legislation continues to ban dogs whether that particular dogs is a danger to society or not.

The term “pit bull” is actually an umbrella reference to include up to five different breed of dogs and mixes. There is no set rule to determine if a dog is actually a pit bull. If a dog looks strong and has a big head, it most likely will be deemed a pit bull, thus decreasing the odds that dog will find a home, despite how sweet and loving the dog may be, and also puts the dog at risk of being a victim of BSL.

BSL wreaks of mistaken identity and unfair judgement that cost innocent dogs their lives. Phil doesn’t know that being part pit bull means he’s supposed to be mean because all he wants to do is cuddle with his blankies and give sloppy kisses.

If the town I live in passed BSL they could legally force me to muzzle my dog any time he is in public despite the face that he has never bitten anyone as long for as I’ve had him.

If you’re interested in learning more about BSL and why it’s not effective, please visit the link below.

http://www.realpitbull.com/laws.html

And if you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter or Animal Control. Please don’t be put off if your shelter has an influx of pit bulls because despite being given the same generic breed name, all of these dogs are so different in looks and personalities.

 

My baby taking an afternoon nap in his mama’s bed

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Don’t Just Read the Label. See the Dog!

The shelter I volunteer for caps how many pit bulls it will take in at one time.  I understand their reasoning for doing this, even though I don’t like it, but this practice won’t change until the stereotype changes. Dogs labeled “pit bull” take longer to adopt out because people are scared of them. Or their insurance won’t cover them. Or their city has banned the breed. (Technically, “pit bull” isn’t a breed. It’s an umbrella term that unfairly covers multiple breeds and mixes.) 

One of the pit bull mixes sitting at my shelter right now is named Gipsy, and she’s such a wonderful dog. If all goes right today, I will be with her in a few hours, playing with the tennis balls she loves so much. She is playful and sweet and loves human interaction, especially if that human has a tennis ball in his/her hand.

The second she walks into one of the yards, she’s searching for a ball, and if she doesn’t find one, she’ll walk to the fence and sit patiently in front of the toy box she knows her beloved balls are, on the other side of the fence. And if you aren’t quick enough in getting there, she may cast you an anxious look as if to say, “WTF are you waiting for? You know I only have fifteen minutes out here.”

It always amazes me how much dogs live in the moment. They take in every moment they have when outside. They don’t worry about when they’ll be taken back to their kennels, surrounded by other scared and anxious barking dogs. They just enjoy the time they have outside doing what they love.

It makes me reflect on how much time (moments) people waste worrying about what will happen three minutes, three hours, or even three years from now. Dogs don’t do that. They savor the moment they’re living AS they’re living it.

I hope all dogs in shelters find homes real soon because they’re all so deserving. We get dogs from all kinds of despicable situations – dogs picked up as homeless strays, dogs taken from neglectful or abusive homes living in vile conditions, dogs used as bait dogs, dogs who’ve been tied to a tree their entire lives. There are so many heart-wrenching scenarios and it’s so heart-warming when they finally find a loving furever home. But the dogs I wish for the most are the ones who have the most decks stacked against them – the pit bulls.

Gipsy shouldn’t be waiting so long for her furever home. She’ll make a loyal and loving pet for any lucky family out there. But instead of walking by her kennel, like so many people do, someone has to actually look and see her, instead of the label card hanging outside her kennel stating “pit bull mix,” and pass her by.

Gipsy is lucky to have ended up at my shelter because we are a no-kill shelter. So she will be with us however how long it takes for her to find a home, but so many pit bulls out there aren’t so lucky. They have no idea their time is about to run out. 

If you’re thinking about getting a pet, please consider adopting at your local shelter. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills.

Check out this cutie below. Gipsy knows how to play, (see how agile she is!) but she also knows how to chill. Plus, she’s got the best darn eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog.

Don’t Bully My Breed

I got into an argument today with a stranger on Twitter about BSL – Breed Specific Legislation. BSL is legislation cities can pass directly targeting a specific breed of dog. Some ordinances completely ban a breed from an entire city (Denver and Miami has done this).

The person I was exchanging words with was in support of banning pit bulls (which technically isn’t a breed).  “Pit Bull” is commonly used as an umbrella term for dogs with boxy-shaped heads, are stocky, appear strong in stature, and, of course, look “mean.” The term “pit bull” generally covers a few types of breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Bull Terrier.

If found as strays, or rescued from abusive and neglectful situations, these dogs will be categorized as “pit bulls” and with it, in some situations, a death sentence will be imposed upon them because not many people, it seems, are willing to bring home a dog labelled “pit bull.” Most of these dogs will never leave the shelter they are dropped off at alive. 

BSL is another obstacle these already abused and misunderstood dogs have to endure when trying to find a home. At the local shelter I volunteer at  there was a pit/lab mix named Sable. She was a loving dog who wanted nothing more than to have her belly rubbed and to play with a hose. A family wanted to take her home, but found out their home association didn’t allow pit bulls. Sable would have to wait nine more months before she would finally leave the shelter.

But while she was there, I’d hear other volunteers ask, as they’d pet Sable through the cage with her body pressed against the bars, savoring the attention, “Why are you still here? You’re so adorable. Why are you still here?”

I remember wanting to yell, “Because she’s a fucking pit bull! And people are afraid of pit bulls no matter how sweet they are!”

Of course, I didn’t yell that. I didn’t say anything. I walked away, pissed that there is yet one more obstacle these poor dogs have to fight to find a home. Sable was forced to spend her days in a kennel instead of a home because of BSL. And that isn’t fair or right.

I was arguing with this person on Twitter that BSL kills pit bulls because it makes it harder for them to find homes. When pit bulls don’t find homes, they die. My shelter is a no kill-shelter, but if it wasn’t, Sable would have been put-down. Killed. And she deserved to live. They all do. Thankfully, Sable did find a home, but most are not so lucky.

To me, BSL is straight-up discrimination. We are blaming not just one breed of dog for the aggressive actions of a few dogs, who were made to be mean, but five breeds. How can that be right? I’m always leery of media reports of pit bull attacks because how do they know for sure it was a pit bull? Since “pit bull” is already categorized to include five breeds, throw in mixes, and it’s nearly impossible to know for sure the exact breed of dog.

The probability is that the media doesn’t know for sure the dog is a pit bull. But that doesn’t stop the headlines that target pit bulls, because those headlines sell newspapers. Those headlines get people’s attention more than “Some Type of Mix Dog Attacks Man on Train!”

I think pet owners should be held accountable for what their animals do. A dog doesn’t just maul a person out of the blue. There are signs of aggression before that happens, and I’d bet everything I have that it was the owners who made those dogs that way.

I adopted a pit bull mix. I didn’t have to train him to be the sweetheart that he is. He came to me that way. Dogs labelled “pit bulls” are not born mean. They are loving dogs who deserve to live. They deserve homes.

If the town you live in is considering BSL or currently has BSL, please do all you can to stop or end it.  It is wrong. And it kills. These dogs need more people to advocate for them. They don’t need any more adversaries. They already have enough of those.  If you can, adopt a pit. Give a “pit bull” a chance. I can say from experience that you won’t be sorry.

 

Sable, the chocolate lab/pit mix and my baby, Phil. Two “pit bulls” who found loving homes. I wish they all do.

Save Two Lives. Adopt a Shelter Dog.

When I adopted my dog, Phil, almost five years ago, I didn’t have a specific breed in mind during my search, (although I’ve always had an affinity for Labradors, all labs, Black, Chocolate, and Yellow). So, it was no surprise when I went scouring the Internet for shelter dogs, and my eyes fell upon a beautiful yellow lab mix, that I was instantly smitten and knew he was meant to be my baby.

The fact that Phil’s other breed was pit-bull (please note, pit-bull is technically not a breed, but a broad generalization to include dogs like, American pit-bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and Staffordshire bull terriers, and other terriers) didn’t even factor into my decision to truck down to the shelter and pick up my new bundle of joy.

Phil being part pit-bull didn’t deter me from adopting him, but it also didn’t play a role in my choosing him, either. I wasn’t making a stance of any kind. It wasn’t a conscious decision to rescue him because of his breed. I wasn’t aware most pit-bulls never make it out of shelters alive.

I didn’t know, at the time, that pit-bulls were the most euthanized dogs in the country. I didn’t know much about pit-bulls, apart from what I had heard in the news every now and then. But surely one can not reasonably judge an entire breed over the actions of only a few. (And the actions of those few were without a doubt instigated by neglectful and abusive human beings.)

But I was wrong.

I was ignorant at the time of the very real, and very strong prejudice against pit-bulls. I didn’t know, the day I took Phil home with me, the powerful stigma attached to this wonderfully loving dog.

According to a 2012 article by Save a Life Harbor Animal Shelter, in Los Angeles alone, two hundred pit-bulls are killed each day. ASPCA estimates that 3.9 million dogs (all breed of dogs) end up in U.S shelters every year, with only 35% of those getting adopted, and 31% being euthanized.

Latest data from ANIMAL PEOPLE shows that pit-bulls make up 60% of dogs euthanized every year. Easily over a million adoptable pit-bulls are killed each year because of ignorance, prejudices, insurance refusal to cover pit-bulls, and discriminatory bans on the breed.

This is a horrible shame.

All that I didn’t know about the unfair treatment toward pit-bulls, before I adopted Phil, that I know now, has made me a huge advocate for pit-bulls. I fight for this breed because I have to. I wasn’t looking for this job, and I didn’t ask for it, but I’ve turned out to be pretty damn good at it.

puppymill protest                                            dont shop adopt

big puppymill protest

*On a side note, ASPCA estimates that 70-80 million dogs are pets in the United States. That’s beyond the amount that could give EVERY single shelter dog a home, as well as the millions of strays in other countries. So much money is spent caring for animals in shelters. If America would only open their homes to all the homeless dogs here, then shelters can spend their resources on flying abused and hungry strays in from other countries, because the numbers show we have enough homes for them, too.

Please note, most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills. Please stop supporting these awful places. Adopt don’t shop.  Thanks!

P.S – Here’s a pic of my scary pit bull mix…..Shhhh…don’t wake the baby.

phil adorable nuzzle on blankie

Give a Pit Bull a Chance

In the summer of 2013 I started volunteering at an animal shelter near my house. Volunteering my time with animals was something I’d wanted to do for years, however my lack of good health had gotten in the way. But as soon as my body allowed, I hurried at the chance to focus my attention on something other than myself. I had suddenly felt normal again.

Since that summer, I have gone from volunteering 1 1/2 hours a week to 8 – 10 hours, and hope to commit more of my time in the future because I love what I do.

There is a dog at the shelter I have bonded with named Sable. I go to see her on days outside of my “scheduled” shift because she has created for herself a permanent place inside my heart. She is an amazing dog who has been at the shelter longer than she should be because unfortunately for her, she is part-pit bull. She isn’t unfortunate because there is anything inherently wrong with the breed. Sable is unfortunate because there is everything inherently wrong with the stigma humans place on pit bulls.

Just this past week, Sable was twice passed-up because she is part-pit bull. I was told one woman took a fondness of her while watching Sable through her kennel, but when told of her breed, the woman balked that she would never take a pit bull home, and then moved on to the next kennel. And then there was a family who were very interested in giving Sable a home, but found out their apartment complex has a no bully-breed dog policy. This is a big reason why pit bulls and pit bull-mixes are the most-highly euthanized dogs in the country – they are discriminated against by both people and businesses. Statistics vary, but the most solid report is 2800 pit bulls are killed each day. That’s over a million a year.

However, the fate isn’t much better for the pit bulls who do manage to live because this breed is probably the most abused dogs on the planet. With the internet and social media, it’s hard to escape the images of the consequences of dog-fighting. And you know what? It should be hard to escape these images because they show the reality of what horrible and cruel human beings create. And we need to see these images every…single…day because these gruesome acts occur every…single…day.

Sable has no idea how close she had come, this week alone, to finding her furever home. She is unaware of any “pre-determined prejudice” against her. She’s as happy-go-lucky of a dog you’ll ever meet. When I am with her, her body language doesn’t scream out “poor me” or “nobody loves me” or “why am I still here!”

Sable lives in the moment, as most dogs do. When I make my way toward her kennel, (she’s about five runs down from the entrance) and she’s curled up sleeping sweetly on her bed, I’ll squat down quietly and whisper, “Hello pretty girl. Are you ready?” Sable jumps at the sound of my voice and wags her tail madly because she knows it’s time to play in the yard. She’ll lick my face through the cage and then spin her body toward the doggie door, waiting impatiently for me to open the run.

Aside from being part-pit bull, Sable is also half-lab, and it is the lab-side of her that’s been showing a lot this summer as we’ve been playing with the hose. Sable absolutely loves water and I dare anyone not to crack up while watching her leap high to catch the water sprinkling in all directions. She never tires of jumping into the fountain of water I create by sticking my fingers against the opening of the hose and spraying it toward the sky, splashes form all around us.

Sable’s favorite game with the hose is when I spray the hose directly at her face and she tries to catch the water with her teeth. Spending these days with her is the epitome of what summer should be – hot, laughter-filled, care-free days playing with a hose.

When it’s time to put the hose away, I dry her off on a porch in the yard with a towel. Although she will attempt to lunge toward the pool a couple times, when I give her a stern “no,” she knows play time is over and lays quietly beside me and lets me dry her off. I think she enjoys the gentle massage as I rub the towel over her body. Dogs love being pampered…maybe shelter dogs the most. Before I bring her in, we lie across the porch, Sable cuddled against me, and we rest in the shade of a gorgeous summer day.

When I take Sable, or any other dog in the shelter, out, they leave their kennels behind. Each dog is completely committed to enjoying every second out of their cages. They don’t waste precious moments worrying about when their time will be up, and they’ll be back in their small cages with nothing but a bed, a bowl of water, and a nyla-bone to occupy their time.

Once outside in the yards, the dogs are too busy having fun living in the moment to waste their time lamenting about where they’ll be twenty minutes from then.

People, who almost always carry our heavy burdens with us everywhere we go, can learn so much from these loving animals.

Below is a link to a video of me and Sable playing with a hose.

To know a pit bull is to love a pit bull.  sable with ball and tongue

Sable smiling Sable with ball

Sable with tongue out

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. Animals at shelters are not broken. They are not “dirty.” Most puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills where their mothers live in horrible condit Please visit thepuppymillproject.org for more information.

Also, if possible, please don’t overlook an animal just because he or she may be a pit bull or pit bull mix. I know first-hand these dogs make great companions and are loving and loyal animals. I’ve had a pit bull-mix for five years and there is no better dog out there – well, maybe Sable runs a close second. 🙂

“Mommy” Promises To My Dog

To Phil,

I promise I will love you and care for you always.

I promise I will never dump you at a shelter when you get old.

I promise to give you at least 147 kisses a day and just as many snuggles.

I promise to comfort you during thunderstorms and never leave you alone on the Fourth of July.

I promise to always roll down the car window at least halfway so you can stick your head out, no matter how hot or cold it is (unless it’s raining. I know how much you hate to get wet).

I promise to give you my sundae bowl when I am finished so you can lick it clean (as long as it isn’t chocolate).

I promise to never get stingy with the amount of peanut butter I smear on your bone.

I promise to always add a little table food to your meals because I know how much you love steak.

When we’re on a walk, I promise to let you sniff as many trees and bushes as you want, but I will pull you away when you start sniffing other dogs’ butts. (I know that’s how you guys roll, but it’s really gross.)

I promise to replace old and worn blankies with new blankies because I know how much you love your blankies.

I promise you an endless supply of tennis balls.

I promise to be an advocate for pit bulls because you’re a pit bull and you’re awesome.

I promise I will weigh all potential dating partners with you in mind because the woman of my dreams will love you as much as I do. (That is a requirement and is non-negotiable.)

Lastly, when it’s your time, I promise I will not make you endure unnecessary pain and suffering because I’m not strong enough to let you go. I will kiss you goodbye and keep close to my heart the memories you leave behind…..

And never will I forget the day I brought you home from the shelter…the day you rescued me.

phil cuddle   phil 8 phil bed 4 phil blanikie phil in a blanket phil sleeping

When looking for a pet, please consider adopting from a shelter. There are millions of wonderful animals looking for a home. Most of the puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills. For more information on puppy mills, please visit the Thepuppymillproject.org. Thank you.

To Love You Like a Dog

I have loved and I have been loved. I know love. There is no greater feeling. There are all kinds of love and I can’t live without any of them. I need the way my mother loves me or my brother, my sisters, nieces, nephews, my friends, and of course, a partner.  But what about the love of a dog?

A little over three years ago I decided I needed a pet, a dog. While growing up my family always had a dog and it was time for another one. I didn’t know what kind I wanted. All I knew was it had to be a shelter dog. So I took to the Internet and scrolled through page after page of dozens of dogs – too many dogs – who needed homes. One by one, I browsed every page, every face, and then I saw him. A tan and white Pit bull mix. His name was Phil and he stopped me. I had to meet him. He was in a shelter in the city. I live in the suburbs.  Surely, there were shelters closer to me. Yes, there were, but Phil wasn’t in any of those and there was something about him. So I grabbed my shoes, my wallet, and my best buddy and off to the city we went.

My friend and I walked into the shelter and instantly were greeted with loud barking from the many nervous and anxious dogs crammed into rows upon rows of kennels lined up in the room – a doggie prison for sure. I rushed inside and hurried down the aisles, peering into each cage, looking for the dog from the Internet who had captured my heart.

The rest can play out like the greatest love story of all.

I was walking so fast I almost passed up a cage where all I could see was the back of a dog and then he turned his head sideways. I stood still and for a few seconds we just looked into each other’s eyes. I smiled. I had fallen in love and from that moment on he was mine.  He was quiet and calm, unlike the other dogs, and I still ask him if he knew his momma was coming for him that day.

I hurried to the front desk after instructing my friend to “stand guard” to make sure nobody else takes him. After telling the lady sitting at the computer that I wanted Phil, she asked, “Have you taken him out yet?”

“Um, no, I haven’t.”

“Well, you have to meet him first to know if you get along,” she stated, with an obvious tone, but the joke was on her because I didn’t need to meet him cause I just knew. But not wanting to argue, I waited for them to set us up in a room. He came to me as if he knew me. I felt it, too. Even the volunteer commented that he’d never seen Phil take to anyone like that before. I’m aware that could have been a sales pitch because there were a lot of dogs there who needed homes, but maybe I’m a sucker because I believed him.

Yes, I thought to myself, it’s as if we are truly meant to be.

After some completed forms and a short interview, I opened my car door, as well as my heart, to my new four-legged, furry companion. Days later, the same volunteer would call and say, “I’m just checking to make sure you’re still in love.” I was sitting on my couch and glanced beside me to where Phil lay and smiled. “Yes, I’m still in love.”

And three years later our love is still going strong.

A dog’s love is irreplaceable. He is always happy to see you. Whether you left the house for a quick spray tan or a three day road trip, he will wag his tail while greeting you at the door, knocking down anything that gets in his way. He’ll let you take funny pictures of him at all times of the night and never complain when you post them on Facebook or Twitter (even if you didn’t get his “good side”). He will always be up for a ride in the car or a walk in the park, but is also just as willing to be a couch potato with you, never leaving you to feel like a lazy bum by yourself  – a true team player.

He will wait patiently on the other side of the door when you accidentally shut him out. He will let you drench him with your tears when you need a good cry without ever leaving your side. He will rush to get between you and anyone, or thing, he perceives as a threat, with complete disregard for his own safety.

Best of all, he will love you unconditionally and lick your face when you need it the most because dogs know; they always know.

I was 35 years old the first time I experienced “love at first sight” and it was with a dog. Sad? Probably, but it turned out great.

Since then, only one other person has ever stopped me in my tracks, with just one picture, the way Phil did. I looked at this woman and just knew, the way I knew with Phil. It was in her eyes. In her smile.

And I wonder if someday we will look each other in the eyes, smile, and just “know.” And maybe, I’d have to call a friend over to “stand guard” so nobody else takes her.

More than ever before, I want to love someone like a dog. I don’t want to be a dog, I only want to love you like one.

IMG_20130714_114347IMG_20140326_181548