Don’t VICTIMIZE My Breed!

We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t Bully my Breed!” in regards to pit bulls and other types of dogs that are typically the recipients of stereotypes. I get it… people are tired of their dogs being the subject of misinformed accusations and outright lies. However, I’m here to tell you that while I get the reasoning behind it, that’s NOT what we should be saying. Confused? Stick with me.

What well-intentioned ‘advocates’ don’t realize, is that by reminding people not to bully their breed, they aren’t actually changing minds and opening hearts… what they are really doing is reminding those fence-sitters (the people who don’t know much about pit bull dogs, or haven’t established a position on them) that there are a lot of people out there who don’t like them. And if a lot of people don’t like these dogs, why would they want to adopt one? There has to be some truth behind it, right? Of course, we know that isn’t the case, but you wouldn’t convince them of that, not by that statement alone anyhow.

By reminding people that pit bulls are more likely to be euthanized in shelters, we also remind them that there must be something ‘wrong’ with these dogs.

By exaggerating how many pit bulls are abused and used for things like dog fighting, we remind them that there must be something ‘different’ about these dogs.

By talking about how pit bulls are so much better than other types, we remind them that there is something ‘unique’ about these dogs.

By comparing pit bull bite estimations to those of smaller breeds, we remind them that it is okay to judge all dogs based only upon breed.

By talking about how great all pit bulls are with kids, we remind them of all the dogs who were supposed to be, and weren’t.

By saying that “it’s all in how they’re raised!” we remind them that dogs who weren’t raised well, don’t deserve a chance.

By coming across as wacky pit bull people, we remind them that there is something ‘strange’ about us, and our affinity for these types of dogs.

posi6

Think about the day after the Super Bowl: nobody wants to buy the loser’s T shirt. The same can be said for shelter dogs. Sure, bleeding-hearts and the people who are embroiled in the day-to-day sorrows of animal rescue are going to be best-sold on the sob stories. But what about the real families, the college students, the retired couples? THOSE are the people to whom we want to market our adoptable dogs! And what are they looking for in a pet? They are looking for an addition to their family, a pup that will sleep in bed with their kids and go on hikes every weekend. They want a dog they can take on vacation or whose silly antics will entertain their friends at a party. The average, awesome family is not going to be interesting in taking on a dog with ‘issues,’ so why do we keep marketing our dogs to people just like us? We are ‘protecting’ our dogs from people who may not be perfect by first application-perusal, but all of that might be nothing a little information and conversation can’t fix. And while we are denying applications based on age or income or lack of experience, other amazing dogs are dying every day in the shelter. Guys, we as a society of animal rescuers, are protecting our dogs to death.

posi1

Research has shown that any instance of negative marketing has a tendency to result in psychic numbing. When we frame our dogs as an overwhelming problem or negative abstraction, rather than individuals who bring value to our communities, the public is always going to turn the other way. They will walk away from your marketing thinking ‘This hurts” or “This is unpleasant” as opposed to imagining the added benefit to their lives with a new family pet.

posi4

In professional marketing, there is a saying that ‘Sadness repels, and happiness sells.’ Let’s start taking a positive approach to marketing our adoptable dogs. Think about the products that possess marketing tactics that draw you in. Do their advertisements make you feel guilty for not purchasing their product, or rather make you imagine how much better your life would be with that product in it? Of course! And aren’t there about 1,257,832 reasons our adoptable pups would make fantastic pets? Then why aren’t we focusing on that?! It’s not as if we can’t come up with amazing reasons to adopt! In order to find adopters who are truly a great fit for our pups, we need to focus on selling our dogs, not their stories.

posi2

Let’s stop unintentionally doing such a disservice to our dogs. Let’s stop marketing to ourselves, and instead focus on all the reasons the public would be lucky to have our adoptable dogs in their lives. There are only about a billion to choose from!

posi5

posi3

His, Mine, and Ours

Gaige, through and through, is a Daddy’s girl. Maybe it’s because she (wrongly) believes that he was the one that saved her life. I’ve written about how we came to the ‘decision‘ to keep her, and also written about the bond that they share. Let’s just say that I know where I stand in J’s life, and that’s in a line behind quite a few other women (Gaige, Holly the Camaro, etc etc). I know that to get Gaige to do what I want her to do, I’m most successful if I just ask Jonathan to make the request. What a diva!

His

His

Then there is Tonka. I wrote a long letter to him here, where I explained our whole past and all he has done for me. He is my heart dog, to put it lightly. Some may call it separation anxiety, but I prefer to consider it mutual adoration. He mirrors my movements and shadows my steps, moving through life as though we were connected by an invisible string. A flick of my wrist or a nod of my head is often all that I need to communicate my wishes to him. From the beginning, he has been uniquely intuitive of my next step or impending mood. Talk about a confidence booster… he makes me feel as though I hung the moon! (Or at least keep the treats, right?)

Mine

Mine

tonk4

Helping me study

 

Finally, we come to Georgia. I think what we both love most about her is that she adores us both equally. She listens (or doesn’t listen) to us both at the same regularity (or irregularity). She sometimes comes to us when she is called, but it has less to do with who the caller is, than it does what sort of treat we have in our hand. You could say she is only food-motivated, but we prefer to think that she just doesn’t play favorites. She also believes that we each taste equally delicious, and kisses abound for both. Happy Gotcha Day to the only dog that loves us both with equal passion and fervor! You came into our lives (approximately?) one year ago today, and our lives have changed forever! You were the little brown dog we never knew we needed, but who desperately needed us. You have made our family complete, and only deepened our passion for helping the underdogs of the world. You are gentle and sweet, yet playful and goofy. No dog could we replace you, and we know that Gaige and Tonka agree. You are our clown, our cuddlebug, and even our home defender, and we wouldn’t trade you for all of the riches in the world!

DSC_0018_2DSC_0034

Ours!

Ours!

As always, many millions of thanks to A Positive Promise pit bull Foundation for bringing this superstar into our lives!

So, we wanna know. Do your dogs play favorites? Are you the queen bee in your house, or does Dad rule the roost?

(Disclaimer: We all love all of our dogs equally, and take equal responsibility and ownership for all 3!)

Helping an Angel Find her Wings

One of our concerns when we made the decision to adopt Georgia, was that we wouldn’t be able to make our mark in the world of animal rescue. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth! Without all of the time I was devoting to her training and ‘rehabilitation’, as well as marketing her and working to find her perfect adoptive family, I am able to spend that much time volunteering in the rescue in other capacities.

8

A few weeks ago, J and I were able to assist this sweet little angel on her path to a forever home!

3

And when I say ‘angel,’ I mean spit-shined halo, fluffy wings, and stars in her eyes… this girl was about as close to perfect as I’ve seen! She was totally house-trained, mellow yet affectionate, and incredibly obedient. She was friendly with our cat and gently curious with the dogs (we chose not to allow them to meet face-to-face).

2

She came from a shelter in Tennessee, along with the name Darcy, and 8 adorable puppies! They had been in the shelter since May, and the shelter workers and volunteers were desperate to get the little family out.

4Thankfully our rescue, A Positive Promise, stepped up to bring her and the pups to safety. She made sure that we were able to feel the full effects of her gratitude!

1We picked her up on a Saturday in State College (We are!) and brought her home for the evening. She snuggled right in bed with me, slept soundly through the night, and was ready to go only once I’d gotten out of bed the next morning. We loaded her up in the truck and made the trek toward OH, where her foster (to-adopt!) family would be meeting us!

Darcy's puppies, with their fosters!

Darcy’s puppies, with their fosters!

She has been in their home for a few weeks now, and after a little bit of a bumpy start, the future is looking bright for all involved! I have been counseling her foster family on the benefits of the two-week de-stress, as well as positive reinforcement training, slow introductions to their other dog (another APP alum, Ringo, a handsome deaf pittie!), and issues with mild leash-reactivity. They are so dedicated to helping make Darcy (now Ruby!) a happy member of their family. She is truly in ‘heaven’ and definitely seems to be in love with her brother. I call it a match made in heaven!

9

5

6Let’s send lots of positive thoughts and warm-wishes their way!

 

Animal Farm Foundation: Adoption Approach

Happy Sells!

There is a saying in animal rescue that ‘no one buys the loser’s T shirt’. This is in reference to sports events like the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup. Every year, paraphernalia that reflects the champion team is sold out in stores and online. While the losers are realistically only #2 in their profession, their items go unsold.

In our industry, some rescues and shelters have a tendency to approach the marketing of their animals as though they are ‘selling’ them to one another. As animal advocates, we are always interested in saving the underdog, the victim, the innocent, the project. However, the majority of our society is looking for a happy, well-adjusted animal that can be added almost effortlessly to their family. We need to consider our audience, and market our dogs accordingly. Don’t focus on a dog’s past, or make assumptions based on scarring or physical manipulations like ear-cropping… the dog who needs a home has probably recovered more quickly from enduring any supposed ordeal, than you have from imagining or hearing about it! They just want to know when lunch is! Focus on their adoptability, and all of their characteristics that should make potential adopters fight to make him or her a member of their families.

Finally, remember that there are unfortunately still individuals out there who are misguided in believing that shelter and rescue dogs are somehow ‘damaged goods,’ and less-desirable than purebred or pet store pets. By only highlighting the sob stories of our available pets, as opposed to their many appealing characteristics, we are reinforcing the negative stereotypes some hold in regards to shelter animals.

The goal for every advertisement and marketing opportunity should be to make your reader imagine how much better their life could be with a new pet in it!

Austin-Humane-Poster

Protecting or Killing?

When it comes to adoption policies, even the most well-intentioned among us can be hurting the dogs more than we are helping them. So often, we enact policies based on rare events that may or may not ever happen. (Ex: No adoptions in the ***** area code, because many dog fighting crimes occur there.) This also occurs when shelters and rescues make blanket policies in regards to the ages of children in the home… remember, dogs can’t read birth certificates! As much as we want our dogs to be judged as individuals, we need to make sure we are offering our adopters the same opportunity. In these cases, we are ruling out an entire group of potential adopters, in order to protect our dogs from the few that might have cruel or misguided intentions. When it comes to dogs facing time-limits in open-admission shelters, these types of policies are essentially protecting the dogs to death.

adoption ad

Every Application is an Opportunity

Remember to approach every adoption application with a positive attitude. A willing adopter is a potential to get a dog into a home, and out of your rescue or shelter, which opens up another spot for a dog on the street or in poor condition. If nothing else, an application that may not seem perfect at the onset may be an opportunity to educate! For example, someone who says that their dog will be left out on a chain may not understand the consequences of this. By educating them, at best you have an opportunity for them to learn and improve their approach to dog ownership. At worst, you avoid the conversation and deny the application, which causes them to go to a shelter or breeder with less stringent application processes. The dog they adopt may live its life on a chain, all because you didn’t take the time to approach the conversation. (And who’s to say that some time spent on a chain is worse than euthanasia or life in a shelter? But that is a conversation for another time…) If nothing else, their application may not be appropriate for the dog they are applying to adopt, but perhaps there is another dog in your organization that would suit their needs. Just because your dogs may be safe in your rescue or your No-Kill shelter, does not mean that there are not many other dogs facing euthanasia in shelters in your community… why is one life any more precious than the others?

Pet-Adoption_Bandit_840x400

Every Adoption is a BIGGER Opportunity

By maintaining communication with your adopters, you are able to help them resolve any issues they might be facing with their new family member before it becomes a seemingly insurmountable problem. Many rescues, which often have more available resources than some municipal shelters, employ a 3 day, 3 week, and 3 month check-in policy. Furthermore, these conversations are an opportune time to advocate that they share their positive experiences with your organization with their friends and family.

Marketing

Through the grants Animal Farm Foundation makes available for marketing, many of the advertisements in this post have been made possible! There are lots of creative ways to showcase your adoptable shelter, rescue, or foster pets. In the name of finding homes for available animals, feel free to use their ideas to be inspired. Don’t get caught in the trap of selling to people like US!

austin-humane-society

Intrigued by this post? Visit Animal Farm Foundation’s Marketing page to learn more!

A Very Important Pittie!

Introducing Frannie!!

Christine Ann Photography

Christine Ann Photography

Those gray hairs on her muzzle? I like to call it frosting… it just means her kisses are sweeter!

At approximately 8 years old, Miss Frannie is a bit of an elderbull, which makes her appealing on a number of levels! First, she is a polite and well-trained little lady. You will not need to worry about cleaning up carpets or replacing chewed shoes, as she knows how to be on her best behavior. Not only is she a mature girl, but she has also been with our rescue long enough that we know what her strengths and weaknesses are. You are essentially adopting a dog that comes with a complete owner’s manual, people! One of the things that makes LCPO so special is that they vow to be your partners for the life of your dog, and therefore are readily available for any questions or concerns that you may encounter throughout your time as a dog owner. Not only are they available for contact, but they look forward to hearing from you! Additionally, Frannie does not represent a 10-15 year commitment like a young dog might. Because of her energy level and age, perhaps she would be a good addition to a family that is new to dog ownership, or someone who themselves is not a young pup! At the same time, Frannie enjoys a good romp outdoors and lives to play with her toys. While she enjoys a cozy cuddle on the couch, don’t expect her to be a boring housemate! She is the type of dog whose activity level can easily accommodate most family lifestyles. Frannie comes with a complete health history and screening. You can be confident that this pup is healthy and ready to be your happy companion for the rest of her days.

Frannie loves:

  • Cuddle time and comfy places to snooze frannie95
  • TOYS, and lots of them frannie6
  • A little bit of fetch and play frannie94
  • Children and the young-at-heart frannie5
  • Cross-fit! (Not joking!) frannie7

The type of people Frannie needs:

  • A family: Frannie is an easy girl who really loves respectful children. Her easy-going nature makes her a great fit for a family that is on the go, as she is content to stay cuddled at home, as long as she meets her daily requirement for some play time and snuggles mixed in! Her consistent background in training makes her a polite family member, who will not add much to the workload. frannie3
  • Young Professional or Student: Frannie doesn’t need a ton of time or training like a younger, more active dog might. She is crate-trained, which means that she will be comfortable snoozing away the day while her owner is at work. Perhaps you know that you would be a committed dog owner, and while you are planning to stay where you are for an indefinite amount of time, you can’t make the 10-15 year commitment that a pup would require… if so, then this might be the girl for you! frannie4
  • Senior: If you enjoy lazy mornings spent sipping coffee and reading the paper on your front porch swing, a light walk around the neighborhood, followed by an afternoon nap on the sofa, then Frannie is absolutely on the same wavelength! She is settled, wise, and quiet, and she will make her gratitude known for the rest of her days! Truly, giving Frannie a home to enjoy the rest of her days will be a dream come true for our girl. frannie91
  • Singles who want a companion: You know you want to help out a rescue dog. You know that you want a friend to keep you company so you don’t feel compelled to text your ex. Frannie is the girl for you! Not only is she happy to sit with you while you sip a glass of wine (or beer!), pig out on popcorn, and watch late night movies, but she would also love to accompany you on walks and be your wing-woman. Her goofy smile is sure to attract all kinds of attention, and she isn’t above dressing up in costume to help you find the (second) love of your life! frannie2

Special Needs:

  • All dogs have unique and individual requirements for their happiness… just like all people! Frannie’s quirk is just that she would prefer not to live with other animals. She currently lives in a foster home, where she is separated from two dominant dogs and a few cats by baby gates, and kenneled when her fosters are out of the house. Most importantly? She is happy to simply ignore other dogs when out and about, but would just prefer not to share her space with other pets in the home. And who can blame her?! She has more than enough love to go around!

frannie1

Frannie is located in North Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit her Petfinder profile to learn more about her! If you have any questions, please get in touch with me (Stephanie!) at sel1490@gmail.com

Frannie at Cross Fit – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRzucoFjRKs&feature=youtube_gdata_playerHappy

Prancing Frannie video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dDt06Hn8oo&feature=youtube_gdata_player4

Wheeling’ with Frannie video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE0LGGg8bQM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

——————————————————

Now some of you may be wondering why I am sharing Frannie with you. Poor Frannie has been with our rescue, LCPO, for over a year, through no real fault of her own. Yes, she would prefer to be an only pet, but she is wonderful with children. She is completely house and crate-trained, and a dream for even any new dog owner. She enjoys time spent with her ball outdoors, but is low-key enough to relish time spent relaxing on the couch. Frannie is lucky enough to be in a foster home that adores her, but her foster family must crate and rotate her in order to keep her separate from the other animals in their home. This, coupled with their hectic work schedules, means that Miss Frannie spends 21 of 24 hours each day in a kennel.

So while Frannie’s “life” is not on the line, is this really any way for an animal to live? Is she thriving? Sure, she is certainly happier than she would be sitting in a shelter, or worse. She gets lots of love and affection, play time, and proper nutrition. However, isn’t her life just as important, just as “urgent” as the other dogs sitting in shelters?

I, along with the other Team Leaders at LCPO, am working diligently to help find Frannie a forever home, but because of her length of time spent with the rescue, I knew I would need to come up with an approach that was more creative than the typical facebook post – petfinder -blog combo. I set out on google to see what smarter minds than my own might have come up with.

I was astonished to find that Frannie is not alone in her plight. Not even close. In fact, some might say that while her situation is less than ideal, it is better than many. One such post was about a female black lab who had entered a No-Kill shelter as a two-month old puppy, and was celebrating her EIGHTH birthday there. Yes, 8 long years spent in a shelter. Thankfully, through the goodwill of cross-posters and bloggers, she finally found a happy forever home to spend the rest of her years. This home was selected from a list of many, many qualified applicants, all of whom referenced the blog as the source of their referral.

However, it makes me wonder… why does it take celebrity to make some of us apply to adopt a dog? This dog had been posted for years, and it took national headlines and media attention for anyone to apply to give her a chance. Not just that, but once the spotlight was on her beautiful jet-black face, she had a plethora of eager adopters signing up to ‘win’ her lifelong loyalty and affection. Where had these people been for the past 8 years? If they were eager and equipped to take on a dog, what had prevented them from doing it, and why now? Why this dog? The only difference I can see is her new-found celebrity status.

I am begging you to help me make life better for Frannie. She has so much love to give, and I know in my heart that the family who ends up with her will be so thankful to have her in their lives. She is a really, really special one, friends. Please take a few seconds out of your day to share for Frannie. It would mean the world to me.

This makes my heart so happy <3

This makes my heart so happy ❤

Blazing New Trails with Animal Farm Foundation

I first became aware of the Animal Farm Foundation internship program through my blogging idols at Love and a 6-Foot Leash, and Peace, Love, & Fostering. Each of the bloggers participated in one of AFF’s informative and life-changing week-long internships, and I was so moved by the experiences that they graciously shared. Prior to that, I of course had heard about all of the great things AFF is doing to advocate for ‘pit bull-type dogs’. I just knew that if I got involved, it would forever change my perspective on all things dog… from training, to rescue, to adoption, and more.

hike_04

Photo from Peace, Love, & Fostering

I don’t want to give too much away up front, but I will say this… I am attending the AFF Language and Advocacy session next week. You can read more about what I can expect, here. I am so excited! I am also nervous. And, I am a little bit bummed that my experience will only be the 3-day version, as opposed to the week-long. However, I anticipate that this will be a great way for me to get my feet wet, and maybe even have the opportunity for a longer experience next year.

4335eaebb20d749acefa6967a9516209

I will be attending as a representative of LCPO, the rescue group where I volunteer. They are also the ones that pulled Georgia and eventually placed her with us as a foster. I hope to soak up as much knowledge as possible, in order to bring everything back to our hard-working team of leaders and volunteers. I am sure that there will be so many others in attendance that possess infinitely more knowledge and experience than I. I can only hope that some of theirs will rub off on me!

Surround yourself with the dreamers the doers the belivers the thinkers

 

Remember that I started this week discussing adventure, and my goal was to put myself in environments and with people that made me reach for more… I would say that this endeavor is going to be just that! I can’t wait to share it with all of you on here.

agility_04

Another great photo from Peace, Love, & Fostering’s AFF Internship experience

OH! And Happy 4th 🙂 I hope you all enjoy it (safely!) with your pups!

Photo source: Pinterest.com

Photo source: Pinterest.com

 

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.

contest01 contest02 contest03

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!

DSC_0023

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…

Your Dog

I wait behind these cold, dark walls. Staring eagerly through the bars.

Wondering what I have to do… How to align the stars?

Thurston waits patiently for his forever home at the Staten Island center of NYACC

Thurston waits patiently for his forever home at the Staten Island center of NYACC

You have your faithful dog at home: Obedient, loyal, and true.

He is your partner, defender, and friend. He is so special to you.

What makes him different? What sets him apart? Do I not deserve the same?

I could be adventurous, devoted, and smart. I could be deserving of the same name.

Moxie is a frightened lady that wants to love volunteers at the Stark County shelter in Canton OH, but doesn't know how to trust. She needs a friend.

Moxie is a frightened lady that wants to love volunteers at the Stark County shelter in Canton OH, but doesn’t know how to trust. She needs a friend.

You grant him a spot at the end of your bed, a collar with jingling tags.

He gets a good dinner, fresh water, & treats; with thanks, his happy tail wags.

You see my photo and read what I’m about, but you don’t know who I want to be.

Take a chance on my life, on my paws, on my heart. Please, take a chance on me.

Jeffey has earned himself amazing evaluations from the staff at the Brooklyn ACC in NY, proving how much he deserves a loving family.

Jeffey has earned himself amazing evaluations from the staff at the Brooklyn ACC in NY, proving how much he deserves a loving family.

I could learn to be quiet, cuddly, and calm, or brave and defensive of you.

I could be athletic and strong and compete, I’m ready to begin anew.

Nookie was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and has spent the past 6 months living in a cage in a NY vet's office. He needs someone to show him what living is really about!

Nookie was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and has spent the past 6 months living in a cage in a NY vet’s office. He needs someone to show him what living is really about!

Some look at me and imagine the worst: assume I’m discarded for reasons severe.

But all that I want you to understand, is that your dog could have ended up here.

Your dog that you know inside & out, could have wound up stolen or lost.

He’d find his way to a place like this. In the kennel, without thought, he’d be tossed.

This boy has displayed excellent manners during his time at the Manhattan ACC. Though he came in as a stray, he is made for life as a part of a family.

This boy has displayed excellent manners during his time at the Manhattan ACC. Though he came in as a stray, he is made for life as a part of a family.

In the chaos of the shelter, would his voice be understood?

Amid his confusion and his fear, would anyone see the good?

Without a thing that is familiar, would he still remain the same?

Would he get a fair chance, or would your dog they blame?

Naji's good looks are only the cover of an amazing book... this girl earned a wonderful rating at the Manhattan shelter in NYC.

Naji’s good looks are only the cover of an amazing book… this girl earned a wonderful rating at the Manhattan shelter in NYC.

I know that you’d do whatever it takes, to bring your pup home, safe & sound.

So why do I wait forever it seems, my fate resting on the clock in the pound?

All I am trying to convey to you is that I’m no different than the pup in your bed.

The one that runs, guards, and plays fetch… The one who gets to live instead.

This is Howard. Despite glowing volunteer recommendations, and a winning personality, as well as stellar interactions with children, cats, and dogs alike, he was put to sleep due to a lack of interested adopters.

This is Howard. Despite glowing volunteer recommendations, and a winning personality, as well as stellar interactions with children, cats, and dogs alike, he was put to sleep due to a lack of interested adopters.

Though my stay is up, my life not worth your time,

Please help the others who wait, for they have committed no crimes.

They could be brave, quick-witted, & sweet.

Play with your children & sleep at your feet.

They are just like the dog that you call your best friend.

Their lives lie in your hands, for you to defend.

Our Georgia girl. Once a shelter dog, slated for euthanasia, she has proven to be a wonderful companion and part of our family.

Our Georgia girl. Once a shelter dog, slated for euthanasia, she has proven to be a wonderful companion and part of our family.

I’ve always felt that a part of the shelter problem lies in people placing their own dogs up on pedestals. We adore our pets, and so therefore we believe that they are above all others. However, the bottom line is that so many of our dogs would not show well in shelters, and so many shelter dogs have the capacity to make amazing family pets. We need to start imagining the dogs we see in shelters as our own dogs, so that there is a higher value placed on their lives.

If any of these dogs have captured your heart, please contact me for more information about fostering or adopting: sel1490@gmail.com

An Extra Special Pup-date!

By now, all of you lovely readers probably know that Georgia came to LCPO because she and her 6 newborn pups were slated to be euthanized in a shelter in Georgia. This all happened just days before Christmas, so it was an incredibly stressful and chaotic process. However, like all of their many rescue stories, the happy endings are so worth the effort put forth by the rescue and its volunteers. The adoptive family of one of Georgia’s pups reached out to me a few weeks ago, and I am so thrilled to share their story with all of you.

Everyone who knew Georgia when she first came to LCPO, marveled at her strength and courage. She was a super-skinny YOUNG mama, who had been through hell with her babes. In spite of all of the chaos that surrounded her, she was kind and sweet with everyone she met, from shelter volunteers, to transport drivers, and of course, the volunteers and foster from LCPO. She was a devoted mom, but she seemed to understand instinctively that these people were here to help. Her life was about to change in some BIG ways!

Baby Enzo

Baby Enzo, formerly known as Everitt.

It eventually came time to find forever homes for each of the pups. The story below is told to me by Kristen, a lucky lady who came to adopt Enzo, who was one of Georgia’s lucky pups. How adorable is that face?!

Although Kristen possessed extensive experience with fostering, volunteering and rescuing animals from the age of 20, she had a very negative connotation in her mind when it came to pit bulls. To put it bluntly, she wanted nothing to do with them, and believed all of those silly stereotypes we all work so hard to erase.

Kristen had a Saint Bernard who she says was her ‘life, and protector in the house’. She and her children lived alone, and having gone through some really hard times, Yogi was all that they had. He was always nearby for cuddles and kisses, but was also fiercely protective of his family.

Unfortunately, in July of 2010, Yogi passed away suddenly from an unnoticed massive brain tumor. Yogi had been a perfectly healthy pup all of his life, and so his sudden passing left his family especially heartbroken. Kristen was crushed. She was never going to get another dog, because she knew that none could compare to her beloved Yogi.

The next summer, Kristen saw a rash of burglary in her neighborhood, and even had the horror of being robbed herself, when someone entered her garage at 2 AM. This was enough of a wake up call for her to realize that she needed to protect herself and her children, and she felt that a big dog would be the best way to do it.

She searched relentlessly for a dog that would meet her family’s needs, and soon realized what a plethora of pitties were waiting in shelters and rescues. She was still hesitant to have one around her children, but she then came across Everitt! She loved that his markings reminded her of Yogi’s, and she soon became obsessed with reading as much as possible about the little heart breaker. In her own words, Kristen says that Everitt’s face slowly began to change her mind, and her heart. “I decided maybe I had been a chicken, and a jerk, and maybe they were really ok…maybe.”

Soon, she submitted her application to LCPO, and eventually went to meet two of Georgia’s pups, one of whom was Everitt. She noticed that Everitt was the less dominant of the two. It wasn’t love at first sight, to be sure. “While he was cute, he still wasn’t Yogi, but he would work,” Kristen said, with resignation.

385991_311495042222151_915899660_n

Kristen was the first adopter to take a puppy from Miss Georgia, and she felt so badly that she couldn’t help but cry. However, the foster at the time assured Kristen that Georgia had a home after the pups were gone.

Can you believe this shot?! That is Mr. Enzo himself! What a good mama she is <3

Can you believe this shot?! That is Mr. Enzo himself! What a good mama she is ❤

Kristen took her word for it, and took home little Everitt- soon to be dubbed “Enzo Yellow Valentine”. (Can you guess who else had a hand in that name?!)

She says that Enzo was a smart pup from the very beginning, but always very serious. It took him a long time to show off his clownish antics (boy, does that remind me of someone I know!) His quick witted nature also lent him to be a bit of a hand-full, as he could be pushy and also wary of strangers. Kristen had plenty of moments where she doubted her decision, but as they continued to work, with Enzo testing her every step of the way, they started to form an unbreakable bond.

64811_10200702545671102_701285413_n

This BIG boy eventually turned one year old, and all of a sudden he became almost angelic. Kristen proudly shares his talents, “He knows all his commands, comes when he’s called, and goes to “time out” when he’s been bad. He rings a bell to go outside, talks to me like Pee-Wee Herman, snuggles, wiggles, and would die to protect our family. This dog rocks. He is so funny, and such a giant oaf (my 6lb baby now weighs 68lbs). He is always on alert, and I know I always have to be on point when he is around new people. (Nobody’s allowed in this guy’s grill, he likes to be wined and dined a little first:). I made the right choice, probably will again, and am proud to say that Enzo’s running a very close 2nd to my Yogi, and he’s just getting started. Thanks Georgia!!!”

Enzo practices his 'leave it'... to perfection!

Enzo practices his ‘leave it’… to perfection!

599199_10200702559591450_1754276605_n

While I can’t say that their story surprises me at all, I do love hearing about how Georgia’s life has touched others so deeply. Enzo reminds me so much of his mama! Every day I learn more about her, and fall more in love with her spirit. I hope you do, too! Thanks for sharing your story, Kristen. We wish you all the best with Enzo!

531154_10200702554391320_1696493873_n

406386_4625927611271_566028291_n 14005_10200675728560691_1825107834_n 1906_10200675731520765_1347009204_n 

The Kind of Post I Never Thought I’d Write

My friend Morgan, over at Temporary Home, Permanent Love, wrote a really difficult piece last week (here). While she struggled with sharing the contents with her readers, it gave me the courage to share with all of you something I have definitely been procrastinating. Usually when I begin to write a post, I am anxious to get my thoughts out on paper the screen, because it is clear to me what the ‘mood’ will be… sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes serious, sometimes silly. Rarely, is a post such a mix of emotions. And I don’t really know where to start. So I guess I will just say it, and hope that you, my readers, will be gentle and understanding… at the very least, I hope that you will read through to the end before you judge. Here goes nothing.

Georgia's first night in our home

Giving kisses

We. Are keeping. Georgia (. or ! or ? or ?!)

Where We are Now

We are thrilled! Georgia has become an integral part of our family, and of our pack. She came to us a worried little bundle of rolls and wrinkles, who didn’t know how to play, was scared of raised hands, and would rather be alone than in the company of others. She was so intimidated by other dogs, that she would snarl and snap if they came too close… but we learned pretty quickly that she really was all bark, and no bite. These days, it is rare to find her anywhere but cuddled up on top of you, and when she is not cuddling, she is wrestling and bitey-mouthing and tug-of-waring with our pups over toys. She is truly like an entirely different dog. While I always held out hope for her improvement, Georgia now possesses a confidence that I truly never could have imagined that she would acquire. She wags her tail when passing even strange dogs on walks, is friendly with other pups at obedience school, and is happy to do anything we ask.

2georgia

Once upon a time, many people urged me to consider placing Georgia as an ‘only-dog’. While I appreciated their guidance, in my heart, I couldn’t resign her to that fate. I felt strongly that if we took things slowly, she would be able to face her demons and overcome them. Most importantly, in the back of my mind, I even believed that she would one day learn to find solace and comfort in the company of other dogs. Not a day goes by, that I don’t feel pride and satisfaction in the outcome we have all achieved together. Still now, months later, I make Jonathan come running into the room each evening, when I see the dogs curled up in a puppy pile, or sharing their toys. We ooh and ahh, and bask in the glow of our little pack’s happiness and contentment.

DSC_0080

How We Came to this Conclusion

When we had our first meet-and-greet (back in November, I think?!) Jonathan brought up the idea of making Georgia a permanent member of our family. I know I sound like a crazy person, but each time we took her to meet an adoptive family, she was petrified. Although I tried to deny it, for the sake of our sanity, neither of us could ignore the signs. She would cling to us, looking worriedly back and forth between our two sets of eyes, and sometimes even refuse to leave the car… it was like she knew we were considering sending her someplace else. We would try to make it a happy and pleasant experience, and I certainly don’t think we were exhibiting any negative body language that would deter her from feeling comfortable. Finally when we got home, she would velcro herself to our sides, following us even to the bathroom, and keeping her eyes on us at all times… ever our lazy couch potato, her anxiety even prevented her from sleeping soundly. Worse still, her digestive system would take a cruel hit, and it would take a few days for it to recover.

DSC_0023

Nevertheless, I was convinced that once we found a family that was an ideal fit, it would feel right. We had a number of meet-and-greets, and they were all unsuccessful for varying reasons. One did not work out because Georgia was not friendly with their dog. In a few instances, the adopters backed out just before the meet and greets, for personal reasons. One adopter, whom I had my heart set on, felt that it was just not the right time for her to bring home a new dog. Jonathan would always give me a million reasons why each family wouldn’t fit, but I would quiet his fears, and I remained optimistic that we would find a family that could give her everything she deserved.

DSC_0009

Finally, we found a family that was perfect on paper, and ended up being even more ideal in person. Jonathan and I woke up early one sunny, Sunday morning, and drove 4 hours (one way!) to meet them. To say we were invested and hopeful, would be an understatement. We met them, and it was a great match. Georgia was, of course, sweet and gentle with their children. She still clung to us, but the mother had experience with force-free training and the two week de-stress. It was all so perfect, and yet something just did not feel right. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach, and literally experienced a moment of sheer panic. My head started to spin, my vision tunneled… I needed to get out of there. We politely said our goodbyes to the family and the people from the rescue, and got in our car to hurry away. We both sat in momentary silence. It felt like someone was trying to take OUR dog away. It was in this moment, that I knew we just couldn’t let her go. On paper, everything was perfect, and there were no excuses that either Jonathan or I could come up with. But somehow, we were panicked at the thought of saying goodbye.

DSC_0029

Why We Ultimately Made this Decision

Over the next week, the topic of saying goodbye to Georgia was never far from my mind. A Christian at heart, I prayed daily for clarity in this decision. It was almost uncanny (or, as my mother-in-law would kindly remind me, perhaps providencial) but throughout that week, we took Georgia more places than usual; the vet’s office, local parks, the pet store, etc. Each time we went out, more often than ever before, people came up to us and asked to hear her story. By the end of every conversation, each person kindly and gently left us with words that were eerily similar… “But she looks like she’s meant to be with you,” “it seems like she’s already made the decision for you,” and “I think she is right where she belongs“. Before he left for work in the morning, when he called me around lunch time, and when he arrived home at night, Jonathan and I would always discuss her future and our decision. While he was adamant that her place in life was with us, I couldn’t shake the worry of disappointing everyone. A people-pleaser by nature, I didn’t want to think about delivering the news to the prospective family, my friends at the rescue, and of course, to all of you here on the blog. I had made a commitment to fostering, and I was going to stick with it. I was NOT going to be one of those ‘foster-failures’. I am not self-centered enough to believe that you all follow this blog with such loyalty that you would take our decision personally. However, with my dedication to fostering, and my previous “rants” against becoming a foster-failure, my pride had prevented me from considering this option all along.

DSC_0017

I reached out to a few people about my struggle. One of them was my friend Morgan, and the others were friends from the rescue, Alanna and Casey. Everyone reminded me that I needed to put Georgia first. But what does that mean? To me, that was my greatest struggle… It had always been about Georgia for me, and in my mind, it would be incredibly traumatic for her to go to another family. At this point, she was finally integrated with both of our dogs in the house, and I was so proud of the strides she was making. She was completely settled into our family, and the thought of putting her into a whole new environment sounded cruel. When I thought about dogs like Gaige, I thought about dogs that were hardy and resilient. Put Gaige in any situation and environment, and she was likely to come out unscathed and happy. Georgia just isn’t that type of dog. She is sensitive and gentle, and always worried about having approval. You could even go so far as to call her emotionally needy… at least when compared to our little spitfire, Gaige. Maybe I was anthropomorphizing, but I thought that Georgia would be sitting in her new house, missing Jonathan, Tonka, Gaige, and me, and wondering what she did wrong. I couldn’t get her sad little face out of my head.

DSC_0014

Where did we go wrong?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. I know some of you, particularly those hardened foster families, have been reading this post and are rolling your eyes. You think I’m making excuses for keeping our foster, when in reality, I just couldn’t let her go. Guess what? Maybe you’re right. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that my decision was 100% selfless. What I can tell you is that I did not want a third dog. I especially did not want a third dog that wasn’t always fond of other dogs. But when I thought about Georgia, and Georgia alone, I kept coming back to this decision. It was the only one that felt right.

DSC_0001

After having Georgia as a part of our household since October, perhaps the problem is that we kept her too long. Especially being our first foster, having her with us for 5 months makes her feel like one of the family. At the same time, it only took a few minutes for us to fall head over heels in love with her, so maybe the length of stay had little to do with it.

Georgia says thanks!!

Another possibility is the investment of time and effort we made in overcoming her struggles. I know from my years spent competing with horses, that achieving a lofty goal with an animal is the surest way to form an unbreakable bond. We spent so much time breaking down Georgia’s walls and building up her confidence, that I felt we had become a team.

With his girls

 

Worse still, maybe I am just not cut out for this lifestyle. I hate to admit that to myself, but perhaps I am not capable of loving and letting go. Finally, ome of you may have guessed that Jonathan and I experienced some unsettling loss this year, shortly after Georgia came to our home. I certainly would be naive if I did not believe that this had an effect on our attachment.

DSC_0034

Yes, there are still times I feel immense guilt over our decision. Typically, that is when I am glancing into pleading puppy-dog eyes, staring out from behind bars, on my computer screen. But when Georgia was brought into my care, my commitment was to make decisions that were in HER best interest… not anyone else’s. I will always stand by the fact that I have done just that. This decision was not the ‘easy’ one. I didn’t make this decision because I needed Georgia in my life, or because I didn’t trust anyone to care for her the way we would. I made it because I believed in my heart, that this was meant to be, that she would be happiest with us. When Georgia faces a situation that is new or challenging, she always looks to me for guidance. Each day, she looks at me with grateful eyes, tail wagging gently against her sides, and I could swear she was thanking me from her heart. So while there are days that I wonder where we went ‘wrong,’ I can’t help by think that just maybe, this was part of someone’s plan all along… though whether that someone is Georgia or the Lord, I’m not sure we will ever know. Maybe there is a reason that God is dog spelled backward…

 

5EC88C3F-5F6E-4C7F-8C80-D3B7A6809D96

Disclaimer: I wrote this all as it came to me… no editing or deleting or re-reading. I needed to be as honest as possible with all of you, and I felt that was the only way to do so.