Catching Flies…

As pit bull advocates, we often find ourselves in a position where we need to stand up for the dogs we have come to know, and thereby, come to love. In fact, this can be true for many things in life. When we have a passion for something, be it political stances, social policies, child welfare, or religion, we are occasionally thrown into situations where our loyalty is tested. In what circumstances are we willing to defend that which we believe in?

It is important to me that people judge my dogs as individuals.

It is important to me that people judge my dogs as individuals.

For me, I believe loyalty to be one of my best qualities, and this is something that I am very proud of. I am a devoted friend, wife, sister, daughter, and pet owner, sometimes to a fault. I am not a fighter, I am certainly not intimidating or imposing, I don’t have a celebrity status to influence those around me… but because I enjoy writing and am always honing my abilities, I carefully choose my words as my greatest defense against those that try to tear down the people and things I care most about. At the same time, it is important to me to maintain a gentle approach. I am a firm believer in the old saying that ‘you catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar’. Because of this, even when faced with someone who disagrees with me, I try my best to remain calm, yet assertive, and to avoid accusations. I do not believe that anyone is going to absorb what you say, if you are offending them while you are saying it!

With all of that being said, I learned a valuable lesson last week that I would like to share with all of you.

Our friend J. over at Peace, Love, & Fostering shared this post on their facebook page last week. If you are interested in dog training, as well as the changes in perception our society is making in regards to dogs and dog ownership, it is certainly worth the time spent reading it. I would be interested in your honest, respectful, perspectives. (If you plan to do so, I would appreciate it if you would read it before you read the rest of this post, so as not to be influenced by my opinions!)

My reaction to this post was multi-faceted. I read it and felt such a strong relation to many of the points the writer introduced. She shared many important thoughts that are, in my opinion, so necessary to convey to well-meaning animal lovers. At its most elementary, the piece was about the science behind force-free dog training, why it is more effective, and how many of those who claim to love dogs and advocate for them, are really just muddying the waters when it comes to what is best for the dog, and conveying that to the public.

For those of you that do not know, force-free training is essentially just that: an approach to dog training that enhances your relationship with your dog, avoiding physical manipulation or intimidation, while reinforcing behaviors through positive association.
 
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What upset me so much was not the content, but the writer’s approach. In my perspective, she has this incredible opportunity to convey a point. She is obviously intelligent and talented as a writer, and please understand that I respect her for this. She put a lot of effort into this article, as was evident by her extensive source list. She has a unique perspective on the subject, which could produce positive waves of change in the worlds of dog training and ownership. However (and perhaps, BECAUSE of how valid her argument is) I absolutely shudder at her approach and tone. She continually criticizes and downright ridicules anyone with a different perspective than the one she feels is ‘right’… even if their perspective just comes from a naive and uniformed lack of knowledge or understanding. She is essentially condemning anyone that utilizes force or tools of punishment in an attempt to produce changes in a dog’s behavior. While I absolutely agree that there are better ways to train our dogs, and that our dogs DESERVE a better approach, my question remains: What dog owner would *ever* went to take advice from someone so condescending? And, with such a valid argument and the unique opportunity of a vast audience, shouldn’t that be her goal? I respect her perspective, but I worry that those who may be on the fence and considering a transition to force-free training, will read her article and be so turned-off that they refuse to remain open-minded. To me, her approach simply was making the rest of us who are proponents of force-free training look like judgmental wackos!

In one particular selection, she criticizes those that support forceful training: “but they seem thoroughly intent on attacking anybody who suggests otherwise”… which is exactly what her article does. It attacks anyone that disagrees with, or misunderstands, force-free training. If she believes that a forceful approach is ineffective with dogs, why does she employ such force when communicating with her own kind??

My stance is this: Whether the topic is politics, racism, poverty, etc… If the point of a diatribe is to truly bring about change in the uninformed or ignorant masses, why would you ever take a position of judgmental arrogance? You are not going to change any minds with that approach, and are then effectively just talking to hear yourself speak, or to hear others who already agree with your position, compliment you for it. Whether or not your argument is valid, if you take a judgemental and aggressive approach, the intended audience will never be open to receiving it in the manner in which it was presented.

At the same time, I found myself wondering if perhaps the writer’s purpose was not primarily to evoke a change in readers’ perspectives, but instead to garner attention and inspire conversation. And if in fact that was her goal, perhaps that is not all bad. If she can get the attention of the masses, perhaps some of them will be more willing to listen to the more moderate, respectful arguments that support and share her same perspectives.

Furthermore, there is something to be said for blogging, in that it is an emotional release for writers. Sometimes we have something on our hearts, and we need to express it. Occasionally we need to open up the floodgates, and let the words organize our thoughts and our hearts, without censoring every emotion or editing every accusation. While I believe that when our blogging has a purpose, we have a responsibility to put that goal first at all times, I also know that sometimes we need to write what is on our hearts, as it comes to us.

The bottom line is that when we blog for advocacy, regardless of the subject, we hit a strange paradox: while our blogs serve as an opportunity for self-expression and self-discovery, I believe that we also have a responsibility as advocates for the cause. Certainly, some of us more than others (we will get there someday!), are standing under a spotlight as the poster children for our causes. All we can do is keep our missions in mind, and hope that our words are received in the way that we intend them… I have certainly made mistakes and omissions in things that I have written, but I am sure to stay open-minded, while processing all of the feedback I receive.

I am genuinely interested in hearing you reactions to this article! I would appreciate it if you would all stay respectful, but I do want to know… did you agree with the writer’s opinions? What about her approach? What was your initial reaction, and how did that compare with your perspective once you’d read my own? As advocates for pit bulls, how do you think we can best approach those that don’t understand our dogs? I value your opinions!

Hang in there... it's almost Friday!

Hang in there… it’s almost Friday!

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

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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Licking Discrimination

We hope everyone is enjoying the weekend! We have had 10 entries to the ‘mean’ pit bull photo contest, and we are so excited to see such adorable photos of our readers’ pups. This means that we are up to 10 lbs of food to be donated to a local shelter… which is not nearly enough! So keep them coming, friends.

We realized that in our attempt to dispel myths about pit bulls, we were doing a huge disservice to all of our other bully and misunderstood breeds. With that being said, we want to open the contest to anyone who has a breed of dog that experiences persecution as a ‘dangerous dog’. This might include dobermans, rottweilers, german shepherds, etc… whatever loveable dog you have that gets uncomfortable stares or rude comments from time to time.

To brighten your weekend, I thought I’d share one of our first reader submissions… this is a fellow celebri-blog-dog, Leroy! His mama is the author of Leroy and Company, and he is a fellow LCPO rescue dog! Let me know what you think, and please, send me those photos. You’re helping homeless dogs, people!

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Challenge: Changing Stereotypes

Guess what today is? Our 100th post! And we think that deserves something special, don’t you?

Many of our blogging friends (including my BBF* Morgan at Temporary Home, Permanent Love) have found unique and creative ways to simultaneously increase readership and blog involvement, while also giving back to their local shelter communities.

Morgan & Maggie from TH, PL

Morgan & Maggie from TH, PL

*BBF: Best Blogging Friend

They call it ‘Kibbles for Comments’ or some similar idea, where the more involved their readers get, the more food they donate to their local shelters. How cool is that?! We wanted to copy them follow in their charitable foot steps, but with our own unique twist…

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So we wanna know: what is the ‘meanest‘ thing your pit bull does?? Let’s change some stereotypes, people! For each photo you send me, with info about what is happening, I will make a graphic like this, and share it on the facebook page. Who knows; maybe one of your photos will go viral! AND spread pit bull love at the same time. Simultaneously, you will be earning one pound of dog food, which we will then donate to a local shelter. You have two weeks to send in your stuff, so let’s get started! This is a super easy way for you to make a difference. My email address is sel1490@gmail.com, and I can’t wait to see how creative our readers and blogging friends can be.

If you don’t have a pit bull of your own to use for the photo, borrow one from a friend, or better yet; head to your local shelter and spend time with one of their adoptables! They could use the social interaction, and I’m sure they’d be happy to be your model.

All Creatures Great & Small

Pit bull lovers are a crazy bunch. We are doctors and lawyers, teachers and truck drivers, stay at home mamas and college students. The only defining thread in our lives is that we have come to know and love our pit bull-type dogs, and stand strong to defend them. We face discrimination with a quiet yet strong presence, armed with facts and figures, stories and snapshots.

Only recently, I have come to realize that I myself am occasionally guilty of discriminatory thoughts. It has nothing to do with breeds, per se… but I have been ‘size-ist’. I have a strong preference for big dogs, and while I know better, I’ve always looked down the tip of my nose at tiny pups and their owners. I thought that their experiences of dog ownership must be vastly different than my own… while we are off doing adventurous activities like hiking and swimming, they probably do terrible things like:

-Dressing their dogs up in costumes

DSC_0090 DSC_0023-Spoiling their dogs like their children

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Easter egg hunt for our dogs... that's normal right?

Easter egg hunt for our dogs… that’s normal right?

-And carting their dogs around with them everywhere they go

(It has taken us 3 months to find a vacation rental that is dog-friendly… and I refused to go, otherwise.)

So, maybe we aren’t as different as I thought?

Now, don’t hate me just yet. These were never conscious thoughts, and certainly nothing I’d ever said out loud. But I am recognizing and admitting my flaw… and it is all thanks to a little pup named Harold.

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I always had the idea in my head that big dogs had fun personalities: they were ready to play and run and fetch, but also content to cuddle up on the couch for a snooze. While I was happy to meet a little dog, I imagined that owning one could never be as ideal. They would be less active, but also less snuggly, more independent but also prone to anxiety. Essentially, I was an idiot a jerk uninformed all of the above! And it is all thanks to Harold, who is essentially, just like my big dogs, in a conveniently sized package.

IMG_0903We spent a few hours together last week, while his mama (an incredibly talented videographer) had some meetings. I fell in love. It was entirely my pleasure to have him pal around with me. He was playful and sweet and cuddly and silly… everything that anyone would want in a pet!

IMG_0890So while I still believe that Harold is a special dog, I also now realize my hypocrisy… big or little, brown or blue, pit or poodle… a dog, is a dog, is a dog!

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As if all of that wasn’t enough to make you fall in love with Harold, check him out, live and in color (and sound!) HERE. It will seriously make. your. day. His mama brilliantly captures what life is like when you’re a (little) puppy.