How Mean is Your Pit Bull? : Contest Conclusion!

Most of you are well-aware that And Foster Makes Five has been holding a contest for the past few weeks. In the contest, we accepted silly photos of your pit bulls (or other ‘dangerous’ dogs) at their ‘meanest’. Each submission counted towards 1 pound of dog food, which we will be donating to a local shelter. Simultaneously, we edited these pictures and shared them on our blog and facebook pages. The photo with the most shares and likes would win an undisclosed prize… well, it’s finally time to announce our totals, our winners, and just what the lucky champions will be receiving!

A few of you may not have heard about our contest until it was too late, but you still wanted to send us some snapshots of your precious pups. We LOVED seeing these photos. Seriously, we think that the AFM5 readers and followers have a disproportionate amount of adorable dogs. It’s just not normal!! While we did not have enough time to edit and add some of these late-comers before the end of the contest, we still counted them towards the totals for the food donation… which was 40! Woo-hoo 🙂 We will be rounding up and making a 50 lb donation to a local Pittsburgh shelter.. stay tuned for that post next week.

There were 29 competitors in the facebook sharing contest. Each like counted towards 1 vote, while each share counted as FIVE votes! Here are our top entries, with impressive numbers!

Winner: Forrest – 125 votes!

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Forrest is a big clown, who also happens to be a foster pup through LCPO, Georgia’s rescue! He is available for adoption, but until his forever family comes along, his foster family is loving every second of his adorable antics. He is approximately one year old, and was saved from death in the NYC ACC shelter system. He loves people, dogs, and cats, and while he is 100% house and crate-trained, he is a diligent student in obedience class. We love you Forrest! Thanks to his foster mom, Chrissa, for submitting this adorable photo.

Runner-Up: Oscar – 109 Votes!

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You may recognize Oscar as the resident Super Dog over at Tails of a Foster Mom! Our friend Rebecca rescued him after the adoption of her beloved foster dog had left her heartbroken, and the rest is history. She received an email about this boy (known as Half-Pint, at the time!) who was slated for euthanasia, simply due to lack of space, and she knew she had to make him a part of their family. His growth was stunted due to severe malnutrition as a pup. While that leaves him with an eternal puppy presence, he certainly doesn’t let it slow him down! He has made a perfect addition to their family, and serves as a great friend and greeter for their revolving door of foster pups!

Honorable Mentions

These two were not at the top of the list as far as votes are concerned, but they were nevertheless two of my favorite submissions, for different reasons.

Midnight

315646_364786986974775_721839060_nI have a soft spot for dogs (and their owners, of course!) who are pulled from NYC shelters, and Miss Midnight is no exception. She now lives out in Western NY, enjoying life as a country girl with her ‘big sister’ Babygirl, a rescued German Shepherd mix.

Norman

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This photo needs no caption. I just can’t get over this shot! It is too adorable for words. You may recognize that sweet face as Norman, from My Two Pitties, along with his feline friend Marty. Too cute!

We thank everyone who made submissions, as well as those who liked and shared. We couldn’t have made this donation without all of you! … Well, okay, we could have. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, and we wouldn’t have been spreading pit bull love throughout the interwebz while we did it!

You may remember that yesterday’s post featured our friends at CharlieDog and Friends. They are generously donating prizes to our contest winners! We couldn’t be more excited to partner with such an amazing organization. Be sure to check out yesterday’s post, and LIKE them on facebook. They deserve all of the support that they can get!

If you are one of the winners, please send your full name and mailing address to me (Stephanie) at: sel1490@gmail.com

CharlieDog & Friends: L.O.V.E.

“I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!”

-Buddy the Elf (…and Stephanie the Blogger)

Love #1? All of you. Can I just say how awesome our readers are?? You never fail to inspire me with your comments and support and even constructive criticism. This blogging community has become such a treasured and vital part of my life, and I don’t know what I would do without all of you! It is so special to be able to share my passions and find others who can relate.

Love #2: CharlieDog and Friends

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Charliedog and friends is a company that is doing amazing things for the plight of unloved and unwanted animals. Their approach? Start small… as in, with the smallest of animal lovers.

Almost every family experiences the begging and pleading from their children for a new four-legged family member. But what if those children were not pestering for just any pup, but for a shelter dog? I can’t say it any better than they have eloquently described it themselves, so I will be pulling much from their Mission Statement page:

”  Our mission is to help rescue organizations change the way people think about, and go about, getting their family pet.  It’s to make sure the animal shelter is the first (and, hopefully, only) stop on that exciting Saturday afternoon, when children and adults get in the car and set out to find their new best friend, brand-new leash in hand.

We hope every child that loves a CharlieDog toy loves the spirit of that toy, the spirit and the story of the once-homeless pet that inspired it.  And when the day comes — and it will! — to start pestering the parents for a dog or cat, we hope that child will say, “I want a homeless pet.”

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The unique, hand-crafted toys themselves are made in America, and based on real-life shelter and rescued pets, and now they help homeless pets get to their forever homes. In addition to their toys, they make colorful, playful, patterned bracelets that mimic pet collars, simply embroidered with the word ‘Adopt’. Talk about a conversation starter!

67485_474802525912793_176412963_n 549843_466402763419436_1926436812_nThe above pups are real-life rescue dogs Ruko and Adolla, pulled from New York City kill shelters just before their time was up. They continue to do good by touching the lives of children as treasured stuffed animals.
 
Their website calls this pup a little red-nose pit bull from PA... it MUST be Gia, right?!

Their website calls this pup a little red-nose pit bull from PA… it MUST be Gia, right?!

We can’t wait to make a little red pocket pittie addition to our family! (Remind you of anyone?!) As if all of that isn’t enough to send you running to their website to share and make purchases, CD&F isn’t just talking the talk barking the bark… they are also walking (no-pull leashes & harnesses in hand!) the walk in their every-day lives. $5 from each and every purchase goes directly to rescue shelters across the country.

”  We promise never to waste your money.  We’ll pledge to spend it thoughtfully and directly on on-the-ground rescue needs — exactly how we would spend our own money.  Vet care for sick or injured animals.  Transport costs (gas and tolls) for pets who have been rehomed, but have no way there.  Direct sponsorship of individual dogs or cats in shelters.  The people behind CharlieDog and Friends have seen local rescue in action (we volunteer ourselves) and we can tell you: it’s awe-inspiring, and because it’s a job that tears at the heart, it needs constant funding. We’ll never donate to large, bloated animal welfare organizations, that — despite their size, and without a doubt — do good.  Rescues need more help. 

My friend Suzy Allman is the brains, brawn, and (especially inner) beauty behind this amazing group. If you’ve fallen in love as quickly as I did with her heart, which she so openly shares through her words, then show her some love by following her blog and liking their facebook page. She is essentially an angel for animals… not only is she running this amazing yet fledgling company, she is a blogger, writer, NY Times sports photographer, and shelter volunteer, but she also provides free transportation for ‘super urgent’ rescue dogs out of New York shelters in her spare time. Wow.

Perhaps my favorite kernel of light from the CharlieDog website is as follows, because it so closely resembles my own mission when it comes to unwanted animals (here):

”  It’s hard for us to see a homeless animal without thinking of our own pets — safe, warm, loved, living a life that we know they need, and deserve.  It kills us, and we’re not alone.  We’re in the company of millions. CharlieDog and Friends believes we all want the same thing for our animals: a soft place, a loving place, a place where scraps sometimes land on the floor and it’s okay to pick them up with your tongue.  A special spot in the heart of a family.  ”

The dogs in shelters are no different than the dog resting at your feet, guarding your front door, or curled up beside you on the couch. (Cats too!) They deserve the chance to prove that. By supporting CharlieDog and Friends, you are giving those deserving animals the opportunity to find their forever families.

While CharlieDog and Friends is entirely deserving of a post all their own, I will be back tomorrow to talk about how their toys just might pertain to some of you! Stay tuned…

Doggy Daycare

I have been debating whether or not, and then how, to go about writing this post for a few weeks now. I want to express a special thanks to my friend Juliana at Peace, Love and Fostering for her encouragement on the subject.

Some of you long-time readers may be aware that a big part of the reason I decided to quit my job last fall was to begin fostering. I wanted to take on a dog that perhaps wasn’t a huge challenge, but who would have some special behavioral and training needs that might require more time and attention than the average foster. Now that Georgia has become an amazingly confident and secure member of our family, I have found myself to be a bit bored without a career and unfulfilled without clear goals.

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A key challenge in the job search, is our location. I graduated from Penn State University in 2011 with a degree in Animal Sciences, and was very proud to complete this in only three years. My plan was to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales for animal products. I was blessed with a few appealing job offers in various locations throughout the country, but life had other plans for me… I met Jonathan, who would be moving back home to the Pittsburgh, PA area to work for his family’s business. This location has proven to severely limit my career search. We are just far enough outside of the city that for me to commute that distance would require a fairly high salary, in order to justify the time spent away from our home, the fuel, and the wear and tear on my vehicle, to name a few.

While it has become clear that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find an actual career in this area in the animal industry, I made the decision to at least find a job that could keep me busy and allow me to be around animals. With my extensive management experience, I began looking for a job managing a doggy-daycare facility. Unfortunately, in this job climate, eve management jobs proved to be difficult to find. However, many places offered the opportunity for advancement, and so I decided to interview for an entry-level position at a well-known doggy-daycare chain. While I had anticipated my interview here with excitement, I was so upset and disappointed with my experiences that I felt the need to share those events with all of you, in an honest way.

When I first entered their facility, I was greeted by a reception area that was visually pleasing and welcoming. It was beautifully decorated and appointed, and conveyed a sense of the rugged outdoors with a log cabin design.  Soft, natural lighting, large windows, bright photos, and cheerful music brought a ‘homey’ feel to the space. With large screen televisions and marketing posters, it was clear that no expenses were spared in the design of this area. As I waited for the employee who would be conducting my interview, I watched owners bring in their dogs, and got to interact with a few of them. I felt extremely confident that this was the type of job I was meant to have! What dog lover wouldn’t love coming to work in an environment like this??

Fast forward to my tour of the rest of the facility. As I crossed from the reception area into the back of the building, I was greeted by dogs barking at such a loud volume, that the employee conducting the tour had to yell to be heard. The ceilings were quite high, and this area was dimly lit by fluorescent bulbs. It gave a dark, dingy feel to the environment. The dogs (up to 100 at any given time) were housed in metal cages, with one of those PVC/nylon beds that sat up off of the floor, and a blanket or two. The walls were a thick concrete, and very little natural light came into this half of the building.

Once our tour of the kennels was complete, the manager began to discuss with me their philosophies. I was barely able to veil my cringing when she dropped words like; “Ceasar,” “dominance,” and “discipline”. While I became quickly aware that their philosophies were so obviously not in line with my own, I was still prepared to give them a chance. Perhaps when I got out to the play yard, what I saw would be different than the words she conveyed. She then went on to explain that dogs were separated by size (not play style or age) into designated play areas, and that each play yard would hold up to 75 dogs at a time. While they preferred two employees to supervise at this number, they only required one. For the record, each play yard had an indoor and an outdoor area, each of which was only visible from that location. This meant that if the supervisor was indoors, they could not see the dogs that had chosen to go to the outdoor space, and vice versa. Each supervisor was required to carry a squirt bottle full of water, which was used to ‘discipline’ the dogs. She claimed that the water bottles were never to be squirted more than 3 times in an hour, and were used to break up fights, discourage rough play, and quell ‘dominant’ behavior. Ugh. Although one of the ‘claims to fame’ on their website, is that they don’t charge you for play time like most boarding kennels, she also made it clear that we were not to play with the dogs, pet them, or give them any attention, as this could lead to fights. Conversely, she told me to be sure to treat all of the dogs like I would my own…

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It was now time for me to go out into the play yard, where approximately 50 dogs were congregating. I was told to make a lap around the perimeter of the play area, in order to ‘establish dominance’. Of course, this made little sense to me, but as I was being evaluated, I did as I was told. I then watched in frustration as the ‘Assistant Manger’ (second in command for the whole facility) sprayed the dogs in the face so many times within an hour that I lost count, for transgressions that ran the gammet from barking to bumping into her to nipping to humping. Of course, with that many dogs in the space, even this aggressive form of punishment was used ineffectively, as she was rarely able to correct the dogs while they were in the act, and would then spray them in punishment after they had already stopped. As I spoke with her, she told me that she had only been working there for 6 months, and had already been promoted to this position. In addition, she had never had or been given any training in animal behavior, aside from the same diatribe I’d heard during the aforementioned interview with the manager.

In all (3) of the play yards I entered, I gently pointed out that there was no fresh water, as the bowls were empty, and so it was then filled by the assistant manager. Wouldn’t something such as competition for meager necessities contribute to fighting? Furthermore, in the same play yards I saw dogs that were seniors, arthritic and hard of hearing, being jostled around by juvenile great danes and lab mixes who were tumbling and wrestling.

I will say that the majority (though certainly not all) of the dogs I saw, seemed reasonably content. Some even seemed to enjoy the chaos, in a frantic sort of way. But the most traumatizing to me throughout my experiences that day, was yet to come.

According to corporate policy, for a dog to be admitted to the doggy day care program at this facility, they must go through an ‘interview’ process. I imagined this to be something similar to the behavior evaluations we hear about in shelters across the country. This particular facility even had a whole room designated for such a purpose! Their website claims that before new dogs enter the play yard, they are introduced to two congenial dogs one-on-one. However, the manager at this particular location told me that they found this to be too ‘time-consuming’ and a ‘waste of time’ and so they just didn’t do it. At all.

I watched as a dog who was there for his first day, whose owner had been told that he would receive an ‘interview,’ was introduced. And by introduced, I mean he was propelled into an environment that even our Wonderdog Tonka would probably not have been physically able to handle well. This dog was a male german shepherd, probably right around one year old. He was brought up to the gate of the largest and most crowded play area, on a leash. I then watched as one worker physically pulled him into the play area from the end of the leash, while the leash/collar combo tightened in a noose around his neck. Another worker was literally pushing him from behind, to the point that his haunches were up underneath him. The employees regarded this situation without concern, as if it were a daily occurrence… forcing a dog into an uncomfortable situation was obviously not out of the norm.

This dog very clearly wanted nothing to do with the play area… why, you might ask? Perhaps it had something to do with the 40+ dogs swarming around his face, biting and barking and displaying all manner of inappropriate and overbearing greeting behavior. As this poor dog was physically forced into an uncomfortable and intimidating environment, no attempt was made to reassure him, or even to encourage the other dogs to back off of the new visitor. It was almost as if these people had no ideas about body language or dog behavior… oh wait. Maybe it’s because they don’t. They had no training in dog behavior or body language, and had been instructed this way by their own supervisors.

To me, it is only a matter of time, if repeatedly exposed to uncomfortable situations such as this, before this dog becomes reactive and aggressive towards other dogs. And I can’t say that I would blame him in the slightest. But you can bet that some of the employees probably would… and who knows what forms of correction punishment they would consider reasonable. Who knows if his breed would get brought into the equation should something happen that was altogether preventable…

As though the issues with the facility, philosophies, and protocol itself were not enough, the way they treated their employees is not conducive to a pleasant working environment. And you can bet that dissatisfied employees are going to be more likely to take their frustrations out on the dogs, or at the very least, not fulfill their job requirements thoroughly. As an interviewer, I was kept there for 3 hours without pay. I was required to scrub kennels with a toothbrush and cold water while being ‘supervised’ by yet another assistant manager who was clearly barely out of high school, as she gossiped with another employee. I was told that call-offs for any reason could result in termination, unless accompanied by not a Doctor’s excuse, but an emergency room excuse. Being even three minutes late would earn a demerit, regardless of the circumstances, three of which would result in termination. All employees were required to work nights, mornings, weekends, and holidays, and it was made clear to me that requests for time off were not guaranteed. Scheduling was never consistent, and so it was not likely that you could rely on a regular weekly schedule, nor guaranteed that any employee would hit a set minimum of hours. On top of all of this, there were no benefits offered to employees, and the rate of pay was between $8 and $9 per hour. Yes, it was the same for someone with a GED and dog experience limited to pet ownership, as it was for someone with a college diploma and advanced dog handling and training experience. The bottom line is, I worry about the quality of the employees that would accept a position in such an environment.

They were surprised when I turned down the job offer (of course I cited the commute, and not all of these reasons I have shared here) but hopefully all of you readers are not.

I do not know exactly why I am choosing to share this story with you. It certainly is not to garner sympathy for my job search. While I would love to get a job that will enable me to feel like a more productive member of my family, and of society as a whole, I am lucky to be married to a man that works incredibly hard to provide for us and supports me in all of my dreams and goals… even when they are less than profitable. It is not to bash a specific chain of doggy-daycares, either. If it were, I would have shared their name, which I will not be doing. I guess what I hope we all can learn from this, is that we need to be cautious when we entrust the care of our animals to others. I can only imagine that the owners of the dogs I supervised have no idea what they are putting their animals through. So often, dog owners misunderstand their animals; a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog, and neither does boisterous barking or panting. To me, it is the job of places such as this to be the voice for the dogs, and aid in the communication between pet and owner.

If you are a frequenter of a doggy daycare or dog park, please be sure you are not confusing your dog’s body language as excitement, when in fact it is nervous energy. At the same time, I spent a few hours at another, independently owned, doggy daycare in the same week, and my experience there was vastly different. So I want to know; have our readers had better experiences in dog parks and doggy day cares? Have you had some that are worse? I want to hear about it!

Throughout college, Tonka was a frequenter of dog parks like this one

Throughout college, Tonka was a frequenter of dog parks like this one

We Need Your Help! Contest: Continued…

Hi there friends! We hope everyone had a great weekend 🙂 We got to spend lots of time outdoors with our pups… including an impromptu swim in the pond! I didn’t take my camera along, because as I said, it wasn’t exactly planned… dogs will be dogs, and all of that 😉 We were walking along on a sunny Sunday, and I guess the dogs had more adventurous activities in mind.

In other news, our contest is still in full swing, but nearing an end! For those of you that are late to the party, we are accepting photo submissions of your ‘dangerous’ dogs at their ‘meanest’… you know, licking you to death, stealing the covers, and aggressive snuggling. The usual.

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Submissions must be received by Friday, April 26th, and can be sent to me at sel1490@gmail.com. Most importantly, each submission will earn ONE pound of dog food, to be donated to a local animal shelter! Further, these photos will be placed one our facebook page. The most liked/shared photo will be our winner, and that will earn you and your pup some pretty cool prizes! Basically, your dog will be famous, and that means your adoring fans at AFM5 will send you swag. Does it get any better than that? I mean seriously, you’re helping to feed homeless dogs, while spreading pit bull love, and all you have to do is document your adorable dog being adorable. Easy, peasy.

To learn more about the precious pups you see here, head on over to our facebook page! (Right hand side of your screen!) While you’re there, be sure to vote for your favorites. If you’re wondering why, it’s because one random sharer will earn a prize as well!

While we our LOVING the photos you’ve sent us so far, and we have been completely blown away by all the squeezable, lovable, kissable faces and sassy, sweet antics, our current count is only up to 21… which equates to only 21 pounds of dog food! We know the local shelters need more than that, so please help to recruit for us!

Along those lines, we want our readers to help us select the local shelter where our food donation will be made. Let us know!

Animal Friends

The Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh

Orphans of the Storm : This is a smaller, local shelter (no-kill!) that is where our niece-dog Chese (pronounced Kaysa) came from!

Tonka, Popster, and Chesa!

Tonka, Popster, and Chese!

Animal Protectors: This is where we got our kitty cat, Bella!

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Butler County Humane Society: This is where it all started! I started volunteering here when I was just a little girl.

Let us know who and why! Ready, set, go…

Contest Continued!

A few new photo submissions to share! We have to admit, our readers seem to have a disproportionate amount of incredibly adorable pups. Head over to our facebook page to participate, learn more about each submission, and vote for your favorites… there just might be something in it for you! Have a great weekend, everyone 🙂

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Wordless Wednesday: Outdoor Adventures

As the weather improves, we are so enjoying the time we are able to spend outside with the pups. In fact, it is one of my very favorite things to do. Did you see the photo of all of us on the facebook page? That’s my idea of a perfect Sunday!

I am also enjoying the opportunity to improve my photography skills. It means so much to me to be able to document our pups as they grow and learn and change. I only wish I had gotten started sooner!

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This might be my favorite photo ever

This might be my favorite photo ever

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How Mean is Your Pup?

Do you guys remember the challenge we talked about last week? We want you to send us some photos of your ‘dangerous’ dogs (pitties, dobermans, rottweilers, GSD, mutts, etc!) at their ‘meanest’. We will then turn the shot into a fun graphic with text, and share it on here, as well as on our facebook page. Not only will this help to spread awareness for these misunderstood dogs, but each submission will equal one pound of dog food, which will then be donated to a nearby animal shelter, courtesy of And Foster Makes Five! What more could you want? Helping animals, in two different ways… it doesn’t get much easier than that!

So please send us your best shots! Submissions should be sent to sel1490@gmail.com, and must be received by Friday April 26th.

In the meantime, here are some of the awesome submissions sent in by our friends and readers thus far. Which one is your favorite, and why?? We wanna know!

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Recognize the ladies in this photo, and the pups in the next? You should! They’re from Temporary Home, Permanent Love!

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Thank you guys so much for your submissions thus far! It is such fun to see adorable photos of your pups, and find fun ways to express their personalities. The homeless shelter pups will be even more thankful!