Victor

Last week I went to the animal shelter I volunteer at and was meant with tragic news. A dog that had been with us for over a year had died some time during the night. The news was devastating, but not shocking. Victor had been going through medical issues for a while. The shelter had been asking volunteers for months if anyone would take him in an a permanent foster so that he could live out whatever life he had left in the comfort of a home. The problem was that Victor needed to be in a home with no other pets. Most volunteers, like myself, have pets at home.

It was sad to watch Victor spend his days in a loud and crowded shelter. It’s a stressing place to be. No place for any dog, let alone a sick, older guy. He was nine. He had come to the shelter when he was eight. The circumstances to how he ended up with us are not fair at all. Victor had been living a good life with his owner on property the owner managed. Then a new landlord came in, took one look at Victor (an American Bulldog) and said that dog’s got to go. Suddenly Victor found himself in a shelter where he stayed until the day he died.

Victor didn’t bite anyone. He didn’t attack anyone. He did no harm. Yet, still he got locked up. That’s what a shelter is to a dog. Even shelters like mine, who treat their animals with loving care and give them all the medical attention they need, are still prisons to these dogs. Shelters are not supposed to be permanent homes, but way too often, too many dogs die there. Either naturally due to medical/age reasons. Or by euthanasia because there is juts not enough space for all of them.

But there would be if more people got involved to help with this overpopulation epidemic this country has. I saw a picture on social media last week of a line of people waiting to foster dogs before hurricane Florence came. My first thought was, where are all these people when local shelters and animals controls have to kill dogs for lack of room? Why is the thought of a dog dying in a hurricane so much worse than a dogs getting a needle or the gas chamber that people flocked to line up to take these dogs in? I’m glad they did, but where are they all the other times a dog’s life is in danger, which is every day?

Maybe because there’s more hoopla with a hurricane. People feel like they’re doing a bigger deed when they foster or adopt a “hurricane dog” as opposed to just a regular dog from the local shelter. I remember when Hurricane Harvey happened and many local shelters, including my own, took in many of those dogs left abandoned and people came out in droves to help out.

Again, it’s great that they do that, but where are they when dogs are killed every single day? It is beyond frustrating. You’re not a bigger hero when you save a hurricane dog as opposed to a dog sitting in a kennel with the clock ticking against it. Most dogs run out of time. Maybe shelters have to be more vocal about what will happen to these dogs if they don’t get out. The shelter I volunteer at is no-kill. I have that luxury of knowing the dogs I come to love, like I did Victor, will get all the time they need to find a home. But they’re still racing against the clock because the older a dog gets, the less likely a person will adopt them. And as in Victor’s case, sometimes your health takes you before you find a home.

Victor deserved better than taking his last breath alone in a kennel. He deserved to be in a comfy bed or snuggled on the couch with his human who loved him, but he was cruelly taken away from his human. He just wanted a home with a bed and lots of hugs and kisses.These breed-specific-laws and breed discrimination has to end. Victor wasn’t a danger to anyone. He was a shelter favorite.

Victor was a goofy, gentle, and playful dog, despite the pain his condition put him through. Make no mistake, Victor was loved where he was. It’s hard seeing his kennel empty and will be even harder to see his kennel with another dog in it because for over a year I have been used to seeing his beautiful face. Miss you. Love you.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter. Please don’t go to breeders or pet stores while shelter animals die.

 

 

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Give a Shelter Dog a Look

I was talking to a fellow volunteer at the animal shelter tonight and with a very somber tone she told me that fifteen of her friends have gotten their dogs from breeders, some just recently.

She was disappointed because everyone who knows enough about her to be considered a friend, knows that she volunteers at a dog rescue. Yet, not one of those friends had inquired about any of the dogs at the shelter.

She expressed to me her disbelief that her friends had not considered giving a home to a shelter dog since millions of dogs are killed each year because shelters run out of space to keep them. “They all want purebreds,” she’d said hopelessly.

I knew what this woman was feeling. I have friends, family, and neighbors who got their dogs from breeders, and I have a hard time with it too. I know everyone has the right to get their dog wherever they want (a breeder or those dreaded pet stores), but it’s so hard to understand why a person wouldn’t jump at the chance to save a life.

When you’re involved in rescue and see these amazing animals that are so deserving of loving homes, as well as being around other volunteers who also see adoption as the only option, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole part of the population that has never stepped foot into an animal shelter or have any consideration for their lives.

People in rescue think about the lives of these animals all the time and want to save them all, and it’s easy to assume everyone else does too, because…why wouldn’t they? These are homeless dogs we’re talking about.

Yet, there are people who think shelter dogs are broken and dirty and don’t live up to the status they feel having a pure-breed brings. Not everyone is like this, but I’ve seen and heard stories about enough of them to know there is sometimes a stigma attached to rescue dogs.

I’d like to help break this. If you’re reading this, and you have never considered rescuing a dog, please do. Give a shelter dog a try.  I promise, it will quickly become the best thing you’ve ever done.

I have a pit bull mix that I adopted. I would say pit bulls are my favorite breed, but really, rescue is my favorite breed.

Please rescue your next pet.

 

This is Sevvy. She’s a dog who has been at my shelter for almost two years. She is great with people, but has issues with other dogs. Still, she is so deserving of a loving home because she is am absolute sweetheart.

When searching for your next pet, please don’t overlook the ones who may not be perfect on paper, like Sevvy. She may need some extra work and patience to overcome her dog aggression, but she is definitely worth it.

Thanks for reading.

Why You Should Adopt Your Next Pet

I write a lot about shelter animals on this blog. They’ve been a passion of mine since I rescued my pit bull mix, Phil, from my local Animal Control facility seven years ago and started volunteering at my local humane society.  I advocate for people to get their pets from shelters, as opposed to pet stores or breeders, because I’ve seen first hand the many dogs in need of homes.

Human failure is usually the reason these innocent babies end up in shelters and the reason for these dogs’ pain, so humans should be the reason they are saved. We owe them that.

For every scared dog, there is a human who brought fear into its life.

For every dog needy for attention, there is a human who never showed it affection.

For every dog emaciated, there is a human who let it starve.

The place I got Phil is an open, public facility. They have room to house 300 dogs, and last week they sent out an SOS all over social media that they are full, and they put out a list of super urgent dogs–dogs that are days or even hours away from being killed.

Last month, this facility was in the same situation they’re in now. They were full and begging for people to adopt or foster their dogs. The public came through, and there was a record number of adoptions for January.

Lots of dogs were saved.

But then February crashed the party and adoptions slowed, while the line of people surrendering their dogs to the facility splayed out the door. If eleven dogs were adopted, twenty-nine were left at the shelter by their owner.

This is another way humans fail these dogs–they give them up. Shelters are filled with animals people no longer want. The most common reason is the dogs’ families no longer have time for them.

It’s heartbreaking because after a life of living in a home, these dogs are left in a stressful, crowded place, filled with barking dogs. These confused dogs have no idea what is happening or why they are there.

Some dogs simply shutdown.

I’ve been monitoring the Animal Control’s Facebook Page to keep up with the status of the most urgent dogs, and it seems I’m not the only one. There is an entire community of people networking for these dogs. It’s so inspiring to see and gives me so much hope that more people are seeing that dogs in shelters are not broken, and they are deserving of a home.

Millions of dogs are killed every year. Please adopt your next pet. If financial reason are keeping you from adopting, please consider fostering. Shelters and rescues pay all expenses. If you’re concerned about getting attached to a dog and then having to  say goodbye, I understand. I’ve considered that, too. But I decided my temporary heartbreak is worth saving a life.  If fostering isn’t an option for you, volunteer at your local shelter, or support them by donating.

Phil wants the rest of his furry friends to find their furever homes, too.

 

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Rupert, A Shelter Dog

A week ago, I received the best news. One of the dogs that had been at my shelter for eight months was finally adopted. I was ecstatic. I cried a mixture of happy and sad tears.  Happy tears because this little guy, Rupert, was so deserving of a loving family (they all are), and sad tears because I had developed a special bond with Rupert.

I was his handler for over five months of training courses. He wasn’t a very good student and together we failed the first Basic Training class, but in the second go-round we were head of the class. 🙂

Rupert had come to the shelter as a rambunctious 7 month old boxer/pit mix whose previous family used drugs in lieu of proper training to keep this energetic puppy under control. This lazy approach wasn’t effective, but with a lot of work from all the shelter volunteers, Rupert learned his manners and became a very polite little boy.

Three days ago, Rupert’s new family returned him to the shelter. I was shocked because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking this sweet baby home only to have second thoughts. But despite the tremendous strides Rupert had taken in his behavior, a chaotic life with young kids may have been too much for him. When Rupert saw the children playing he most likely got overly-excited, and when he decided he wanted to play too he scared one of the kids.

That was all it took for Rupert to find himself back in the confines of his little kennel. I went to see him today. He doesn’t seem too phased by what happened. Maybe he thinks he was just away on a mini-vacation. I hope that’s the case. The last thing I want is for this little guy’s morale to break. I’ve seen dogs shut down in shelters and it’s an awful sight to witness.

Until the day some other lucky family discovers this gem of a dog, I’ll enjoy whatever time I have left with this sweet baby and give him all the love I can.

If you’re considering getting a pet, please visit your local shelter. So many wonderful animals, like Rupert, are waiting for their furever home.

 

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