Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ambassadog Spike

Everybody loves Spike. Now even more people get to love him, as he's earned the title of Indy Pit Crew Ambassadog.

IPC has some events, like the Pet Expo, that we are able to bring dogs to. A couple of months ago, we built a "Kissing Booth" for this event, to help showcase the true nature of pit bulls- extremely affectionate and friendly dogs. Turns out it was a major success. We got about $400 in donations, over 2 days, just from the Kissing Booth (there was a donation jar attached). The concept was perfect, and people ooohed and ahhed over it, and were greeted by dogs like Spike, who had proven themselves to be extremely people friendly, and eager to meet as many of them as possible.

Above are a few pictures of Spike, the ham, being slutty with his affection at the Kissing Booth. He even caught the eye of a local animal lover (former news anchor) who has a show on one of the local stations called Pet Pals TV. She loved Spike and kept coming back and filming him giving her kisses (and her dog too) at our last event. He was even featured on her show (only for about 3 seconds, but it was still cute).

In January, Spike will be joining the ranks of the other Ambassadogs and getting his Canine Good Citizen certificate. After that, we will begin training for him to become a certified therapy dog. This is something I'd been thinking of doing with him for awhile, because of his love for everyone he meets. After the recent passing of a friend, who spent her last few months in hospitals, being treated for cancer, it became clear to me that this is something that I want and need to do with him. If I can spend a few hours training my dog to bring a smile to someone's face, who is dealing with cancer, or another life threatening illness, I just don't know how much more rewarding it gets.


I feel like Bella needs a shout out. When I was unemployed, thinking we'd be finding a home for Bella (kidding myself) and had a lot of time on my hands, I wrote a blog for her. Whatever, there were very few jobs out there, and my search was my first priority, but unfortunately it still left me with a lot of extra time each day. A lot.

Anyway, since I'm not updating that anymore, I figured I'd update here with some pics as to why we love her so much.

"Mama Bella" has so much patience. She has not yet met a dog she doesn't love (and between all of our fosters, our friends' dogs, and their fosters, she's met a LOT of dogs). She's a great dog, and I'm so thankful for her.


Snickers got me in trouble. Not really, but kind of. I came across this girl on Facebook. Another pit bull advocacy group had posted her, and like I said, I see hundreds of these posts everyday (it can get pretty depressing). The word "Indiana" in the description, caught my eye.

Snickers was living outdoors in a very small kennel, with just a decrepit dog house (see pic) for shelter, about an hour north of here. Her neighbor, a saint of a lady, named Tracy, had been going over and feeding her and making sure she had water (not a block of ice), and bringing her comforters to keep warm. This was 3 days before Thanksgiving. The weather was predicted to drop to below freezing temperatures. I gave Nichole the info, and though we were dog sitting Bert, and a friend's 2 pitties for several days over the Thanksgiving holiday, told her that we'd foster Snickers.

Nichole, being as crazy as I am, agreed. She did us one better and agreed to keep Snix at her house until the dog sitting dogs had gone home, and she had passed her temperament test. So we went up to Muncie to go get her.

Tracy had asked Snickers' owner if she could take her, as she'd found a rescue interested in helping her. The owner literally went and got a leash, and handed her over. Ironically, Snickers' collar says "princess," though she's lived outside most of her life. Tracy is truly a saint. Like I said, everyday she trekked over, let herself in the kennel and besides feeding and watering Snickers, she tried to give her some attention. She took her dogs over there, and they wagged and play bowed from outside the kennel, and Snickers showed nothing but interest in playing. Same thing with her 4 year old daughter. Tracy knew this dog, though having no human contact or socialization, was proof that nurture isn't usually indicative of a dog's temperament and personality. It's a lot of nature.

Snickers did well on her temperament test, but was sent here with orders to get as much socialization with people and dogs as possible, since she missed out during her formative months as a puppy and being an adolescent dog now (about a year or so old), it is important to instill good behavior in her. Bella and Spike have happily been "schooling" Snicky on how to play appropriately, and on the rules of the house. These dogs make my job as a foster parent a lot easier, because dogs learn so much from other dogs.

We're meeting a potential adopter tomorrow (with several other MHI fosters), and have a few more things in the works for Snickers, if she's not the right fit for the family tomorrow. More to come.


Ah, my Dutchie. This gorgeous girl was also pulled from the kill shelter, in Gary, IN. The wonderful volunteer who coordinates rescue for animals in this shelter posts pictures and descriptions daily, of dogs in need. When I saw Dutchie's description, it spoke to me. She was friendly with people, but extremely scared and shut down at the shelter. Scared dogs in a shelter setting typically do not live to see the outside. They're usually the first to be passed over, and ultimately euthanized when the shelter runs out of space.

Since Bella was the exact same way, I wanted to see about helping this dog. I got the ok from Nichole, and Mended Hearts pulled her. When I picked her up from Nichole's (her husband had gone to pick her up), I got her out of the crate and took her to the back door, to let her outside to potty, before we ventured to my house. She immediately sat at the back door. Sure it was a fluke, I took her out back, let her do her thing, and then asked her to sit for me. She did.

Once I got her home, I asked basic commands of her, and learned that she knew everyone of them, even how to "speak" on command. Man. This was someone's dog, and likely for a long time. She's about 5-6 years old. The gal at the shelter said that she never had an accident in her kennel. She would hold it for the 12-14 hours in that the staff was not there, and always potty outside. This poor dog was so terrified and shut down at the shelter, because she'd been someone's pet and likely lived in a home her entire life.

That was very upsetting. She was picked up as a stray. Was it because she had a family, but maybe they'd lost their jobs and couldn't afford to care for her anymore, so they'd let her take her chances, hoping someone might find her and take her in, because she was such a good dog? I realize that might be a bit romanticized, and possibly way off base, but having recently been unemployed for a year, in a bad economy, I could picture it.

Dutchie quickly stole our hearts, and those of everyone she met. We took her to several adoption events at Petco, and the Luv-a- Bully March (where she is in a Headless Horseman costume, above and below) and found that she loves children. Some wouldn't come near her, because of her cropped ears and 60lb frame, but those who did were rewarded with giant face licks. Not only did we see she liked kids, we witnessed her very appropriate behavior with them.

So when a gal contacted us about another dog we had in rescue (who didn't end up being a fit), we recommended Dutchie. The gal had a toddler, and had owned pit bulls before, and was very sad when she "lost them" in the split from her ex. I took Dutchess to meet her and her daughter, and it was literally love at first sight. The gal's previous dog (a Golden Retriever) had been so inappropriate with her daughter, that she welcomed Dutchie's gentle and slow manner around her child. Dutchie lies in the nursery during feedings, diaper changes, and play times. She truly is a great example of a pit bull being a family dog.

Her owner recently became and Indy Pit Crew volunteer, and has discussed wanting to get Dutchie her Canine Good Citizen certificate. And yes, I've told her many times I wish I could clone her, so all of our adoptable animals could have such great homes!

Bert and Ernie

Bert and Ernie are our first success stories, as foster parents! These brothers came to us about 6 months ago, at age 6 months. Indianapolis Animal Care & Control (IACC) found them tied to a light pole, covered in bite wounds. It was evident that they had been used as bait dogs. The gal who runs the shelter put out an urgent plea for these pups to get pulled into rescue, so that they could get to a vet (IACC isn't staffed with a full time vet, and does not have the funds to tend to a lot of injuries that animals sustain when brought in), or they would be euthanized, as they were clearly in pain.

The "bat signal" was sent up, and luckily I was still close to my laptop at all times (as I was still unemployed and job searching), and saw the plea, and wanted to help. Wheels were put in motion, and literally while Ryan and I were heading to an event with Spike for Indy Pit Crew, we got the call that if we would take the pups, we'd need to come get them immediately to get them to a vet, or else.

Ryan dropped me off in Hamilton County for the event and flew to the south side to pick up these boys. They were terrified and covered in blood and bite wounds, but still wagged their tails to see him. He remembers carrying them into the vet's office, one under each arm. Here's them in the truck on the way. The pic is blurry, but you can see how swollen and covered they are:

Once we got them home, we had to bathe them with a medicated shampoo, per the vet. Since they were so covered, everywhere, that was their best bet in fighting infection and helping their wounds to heal. This was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do. I was fighting tears and murderous thoughts while very gently trying to bathe them so I didn't cause further pain on their open wounds. Bait dogs are used by dog fighters for their fighting dogs to "practice on." They're usually puppies, smaller dogs, older dogs, really anything these people can find/steal to bring in as bait. They will often tape their mouths closed, so they have no means of defense against being attacked. These boys were the lucky ones, who somehow got away, and with non-life threatening injuries.

We named them Bert and Ernie, and quickly introduced them to our pack, as they would need a lot of socialization with correct dogs, to help them understand that not all dogs would want to or try to hurt them. Bella played a major role in helping these boys, as her maternal instincts kicked in and while she loved to play with them, she often schooled them in what was appropriate play and behavior, but in a gentle way, so they learned to trust and respect her. My pack did at least as much good in helping these boys than Ryan and I did with showing them love, and making them feel safe.

Fast forward a few months- Ernie got adopted by an awesome guy who is a friend of Nina's. He actually owns the sister of Nina's dog, Coal. Dia, his diva dog, loves people, but is pretty selective on who she is friends with in the dog world. I heard he'd been at the shelter looking for a playmate for Dia, and hadn't had a lot of luck with Dia's selectivity. I reached out to him and offered to bring Ernie to meet them, because Ernie's personality turned out to be super laid back, playful, but very submissive and easy going. We met, he walked up to Dia, wagged his tail, and flopped at her feet. The rest is history!

Worth mentioning- Big Ern (who we think may be part American Bulldog, b/c he's HUGE now) got his Canine Good Citizen Certificate a few months ago, and is welcome at Indy Pit Crew events as an Ambassadog!

Shortly after Ernie got adopted, a great family inquired about Bert. They had fostered for the Humane Society of Indianapolis, and their family dog had died a few years ago, and they were ready for another dog. They had many questions about Bert, and I talked to them a lot about his situation, and his continued rehab (as he was still very fearful and apprehensive of humans and other dogs outside of my pack) We decided to let Bert decide. I took him to meet his new family, and while I could tell her was nervous, he seemed to be pacified by the tennis ball he kept running around with in his mouth, their giant fenced in backyard, and the 2 little people who seemed to be the most harmless to him (the family's 2 kids).

Bert still struggles with his fear, and it will likely be a long road for him to recover mentally. Luckily his family is doing everything we advise and Nina and I continue to work with him, to help reinforce that the world isn't such a scary place. More to come on Bert's progress.

For now, I love to look at this picture of them. Happy and safe.

It's been awhile/Update

I started this blog when I was unemployed and had a lot more time on my hands. I'd just started to get my feet wet with fostering, getting involved in Indy Pit Crew and volunteering my time to animal welfare.

I've been employed for almost 6 months, and it looks like that was about the last time I updated this! And yes, Bella has become a permanent member of our pack, our 5th dog. Are we a little crazy? Probably. But Bella is such a special dog. Her love for us, our other dogs, and everyone she meets (dogs and humans) is contagious and inspiring. She's definitely "earning her keep" around here as our go to for foster dog socialization (especially the puppies. Bella loooooves the puppies).

In the meantime, I've continued my work with Indy Pit Crew, and in fact have taken a role as one of the Community Outreach Coordinators. I reach out to venues about holding our low cost vaccine clincs, how we can be part of other community events, such as Pet Expo, and Speck's Pet Supplies Customer Appreciation days.

One of my self imposed "projects" has been finding pit bull friendly apartment/home rentals. Likely our biggest hurdle is finding housing for our volunteers/supporters who have pit bull type dogs, as many management companies have breed restrictions, against "aggressive breeds." I decided to grab the bull by its horns and reach out to every property management company in the city and see what their policies are, and if we could work with them on amending them. Thankfully, JC Hart had been thinking along similar lines, and we're working with them to roll out a new pet policy in 2011 that does not have any breed restrictions! This is especially huge, because they have about a dozen properties throughout the city and surrounding areas.

In addition, one of my best friends, Nichole, (who is an Indy Pit Crew board member, and who I have Ms. Bella Blue to thank for bringing her into my life- more on that later) recently started a rescue: Mended Hearts Indy ( She named me Adoption coordinator, which I love, and keeps me very busy. To date, and I believe she started the rescue around 8/15/10, we've had about 15 successful adoptions. And we have 2 solid potential adopters this weekend, so we hope to add to that number!

Being involved in MHI is very special to me. We pull dogs from Gary, IN (at the kill shelter, who Bella was pulled from), whose only chance is a rescue pulling them, as they don't adopt out animals (they don't have the resources to do so), dogs who our behaviorist (Nina- also an IPC board member, who volunteers her time doing temperament assessments at Indianapolis Animal Care & Control) recommends as outstanding candidates, (who may or may not get to see the adoption floor at IACC, because they are forced to euthanize for space reasons), and dogs who are brought to our attention, that are in dire need of rescue (usually I'm the one bringing it to Nichole's attention- which she loves and hates me for!), i.e are living outside in horribly cold conditions, or whose family just lost their house and have to move to a homeless shelter. "Mended Hearts" is an appropriate name, for sure.

I will update with our former and current fosters next.

***note- I will not post about anymore fosters who were only with us for a short time, because they did not pass their temperament assessment and were not stable, and thus would have been irresponsible to adopt out into society. Ammo and Brian were hard, as they were literally our first fosters, and had to be euthanized for these reasons. This is not to say I've forgotten them, because I haven't. But I choose to focus on the great examples of the breed (pit bull) or species (dog)- the ones we can help and who do make outstanding family pets. RIP Ammo, Brian, Newton.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

RIP Brian

Tonight was hard. We lost another foster dog.

Brian had to go in to be temperament tested again, as the one he had about 10 days after he was shot wasn't super thorough. It's procedure for the pit bull rescue, they have to go through rigorous testing, unfortunately, because pit bulls aren't allowed to be dogs and make mistakes, or they're deemed killers, put down and have their story in the news. ::shakes head::

Either way, he failed the dog on dog part of the test. This was surprising (as was the dog on dog part that Ammo failed), as he was crated in the same room as our dogs, and they all sniffed each other when they walked by his crate, and he theirs, without incident. The rescue founder tested him with 4 different dogs, but just couldn't pass him. It broke her heart too, and she told me today was one of those days she wanted to quit rescue. It's just hard. You get attached, even when they're not "yours."

He was a good boy. He was driving us nuts the past couple of days with his barking and being kind of in a butthead puppy stage, but we loved him. I miss his snuggly little face already, and am tearing up as I write this. But, as the rescue founder said, for every Brian, there are 599 other dogs who never get the chance to make it out of the shelter, or die on the street. At least he was treated for his shot wounds and wasn't in pain, he was fed, he was warm, and he was loved. Doesn't make it much easier tonight, but I know she's right.

Here's to you Brian Pants. RIP.