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…

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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ConGRADulations!!

Ok, so I first need to start out by saying thank you. Really, what did I do to deserve such kind, caring readers? You all had such considerate and wise things to share with me after my post yesterday, and it was appreciated more than you know. I really needed to feel some support, and I was given that and more! It also showed me just how invested so many people have become in Georgia’s journey, and it is so nice to know that we have an army of people behind us. I owe you all a favor! xoxo
As if the excitement of yesterday’s post wasn’t enough, I need to share with all of you another big announcement… there is a graduate in the house!!

DSC_0001Miss Gia graduated from obedience school this week! Yay! She has always been a well-mannered dog, but we thought that taking her to a structured environment for training, would help increase her comfort level around other dogs, and also teach her parents (!) a thing or two 😉 It certainly served its purpose, and was an activity we have looked forward to every Wednesday night for the past 8 weeks.

Part of the graduation ceremony was a fun ‘competition’. I may be a bit biased, but Georgia was quick to show her talents with each event. She did the most ‘sits’ in one minute, and was also most willing to respond to our cues, even when only signaled or only spoken! What a good girl. Are you surprised? We weren’t.

The funniest moment of class, was when they had us walk our dogs with the leash in only one hand, and in the same hand, we carried a small margarita glass full of alcohol water. This was to show how well our dogs walked on their leashes, without pulling. Georgia did very well with this… that is, until the end, when she did a full SHAKE, which of course caused me to end up covered in water! Silly girl.

My favorite part of class was at the end. One of Georgia’s classmates was a beautiful young boxer named Rose. Rose’s family consisted of a mother & father, two young boys, and their little sister. The family was so kind and wonderful, but they had heard a lot of negative things about pit bulls. Apparently, Georgia was the talk of their dinner table each night after class! Although the oldest boy usually accompanied Rose and his mother to class, because it was graduation night, the whole family came. As we walked in, we heard the younger boy ask, “Mom, is that the dog you always talk about?” The mother had told us a few times how Georgia had completely changed her perceptions about pit bulls, and that she was just the sweetest and most loving dog. We tend to agree. 😉

The little girl was sitting off by herself, watching Georgia closely, yet cautiously. When we came to a break in the class, I introduced myself and asked what her name was. She softly told me her name was Grace, and we started to talk a bit back and forth. I eventually asked her if she wanted to meet our dog, Georgia. She was a bit hesitant, and so I told her how much she LOVES kids, especially our nephews, who are about her age. She came over, slowly at first… and well, I think I’ll just let the next few pictures speak for themselves 🙂

Can you spot a blurry tail?

Can you spot a blurry tail?

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Pittie kisses

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Tummy rub!

I believe that this is when she started asking Jonathan what those 'things' on her tummy were for ;)

I believe that this is when she started asking Jonathan what those ‘things’ on her tummy were for 😉

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Maybe pictures don’t quite do justice to the moments they shared together, but the whole class got kind of quiet, and watched the two with soft smiles. There’s nothing quite as sweet as children and dogs.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Not only did I sign up for company to stay with us, but we will also be watching two puppies for a friend! We will be busy, to say the least 😉 I am excited for puppy breath and puppy tummies and puppy noises!! A few of my favorite things.

Pit Bulls and Dog Aggression: Dispelling the Myth

If we hear the term ‘pit bull,’ in the media, it is not uncommon for it to be used with a negative connotation. If you are reading this post, you probably know about a million reasons that these stereotypes are untrue. In fact, perhaps your ‘vicious’ pit bull is curled up, sleeping on your lap as you read…

Regardless of the many facts and statistics we can spout in regards to our breed’s positive traits, even ardent supporters of these dogs can recognize that some pit bulls are aggressive to other dogs. Of course, we all know tons of pitties that live happily with other pooches. Usually, these dogs have been well-socialized and slowly introduced, and live with owners who are cognizant of dog behavior and management… as is typically the case with ANY peaceful multi-dog household, regardless of breed. As we have always shared on this blog, it is so important to judge each dog on a case-by-case, individual basis. That is the only way to be fair to the dog in question.

The question remains, are pit bulls unique? As a pit bull lover and long-time proponent of the ‘breed,’ the words I am sharing may sound contradictory to my self-proclaimed title. Some of you bully breed lovers out there may feel that I am doing a disservice to the dogs, and simply perpetuating the stereotypes we work so diligently to dispel. If you are in that category, I ask you to stick with me… While I do not want to perpetuate any myths, I also think that it is vital to be objective and honest with anyone when discussing our pitties, whether they are lovers or haters.

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Are Pit Bulls Unique?

It is important to note that dog-aggression is a completely normal canine trait, present in virtually every breed in varying quantities. The fact is, this is a very common behavior in numerous breeds, including and especially working dogs and terriers. To compare, the recommendations offered by reputable pittie rescues are mirrored in websites and books, and by trainers, that focus on any other breeds of working dogs and terriers. These breeds include Jack Russels, Akitas, Huskies, Boxers, Ridgebacks, Australian Cattle dogs, Shar Peis, Poodles, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Chows, Tosa Inus, Rottweilers and many others. We can all read this list, and probably come up with many dogs we know, in each breed, who are incredibly friendly and receptive toward other dogs. (Tonka, the boxer cross, anyone?!)

In some cases, those who dislike pit bulls have used this trait to condemn them and even to justify breed specific legislation, including bans. For me to get into all of the reasons why breed specific legislation is ridiculous and ineffective would take about 5 long posts, but it is important to explain that if we allow banning based solely on breed of dog, we are enabling these bans to spread to any other breeds, due to past precedence. If you have a problem with pit bulls, and vote in support of BSL for that breed, you are one step closer to legislation that will allow your Boxer or Cattle Dog to eventually be taken from you.

It is not how dogs are raised, but how they are managed, that matters most.

*It is not how dogs are raised, but how they are managed, that matters most.*

Additionally, dog-aggression is a trait that can often be managed. Many dogs that come from cases of neglect or abuse, will not display positive reactions to other dogs. However, through repeated positive exposure to other well-mannered dogs, they may learn that there is nothing to fear in interacting with other pups. It is common for even bully lovers to say that it is how a dog is raised that matters most in their dispositions. However, this is not entirely true, and can be downright dangerous when evaluating rescued dogs. A dog with an abusive past can still be successful with other dogs and people, even if their past would suggest otherwise, given proper training and management.

The important message that we need to convey to those that are unfamiliar with our baby bullies, is that there is nothing about the pit bull breed that makes them any more unsafe or unpredictable than any other type of dog.

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While many reputable pit bull rescues recognize the breed’s potential for dog-aggression, it is important to note that dog aggression is a completely separate genetic trait than aggression toward humans. Though it is unfortunate that some dogs may have been bred to be aggressive toward other dogs, even they have always been bred to be loyal to their human counterparts.