Archive | March, 2012

A Very Busy Weekend

30 Mar

We have a very busy weekend! If the weather holds up tomorrow, we will be walking with our friends at Big Apple Pittie Pack Walk. Lucy and Bird sure hope it doesn’t rain! We are also busy prepping Sunday’s spring Bully Project Classes in Ft. Tryon Park – prepping treats, organizing handouts and goodies! Here is a little video to recap what Bully Project has done over the past couple of years…

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Letters from Lucy

29 Mar

Hi Everyone. Lucy here.

I wanted to tell you what I’ve been up to, since Bird got to last week. To be honest, I haven’t gotten to do quite as much as her, Daddy’s been leaving me home a lot working a lot. But one thing Daddy took me out for was a fun visit to our best friend Stephen’s! Stephen took all these great pictures of our fourth foster My Boy Bill. He took a lot of pictures, but this one is my favorite:

See how well he captured me us? Stephen was holding this thing and it kept on flashing at us – I had to get up real close to it so he would let me sniff sniff around it, so I could make sure it was safe for my Dad. Once I told him that it was ok, I let Daddy be in the pictures, too.

But I still insisted that Stephen take as many of just me as possible. He was more than happy to oblige!

I’m also very excited about this upcoming weekend! We have a walk with the Big Apple Pittie Pack on Saturday. Our pack walks have become one of my favorite things – we get to meet lots of new people and dogs, and I get to explore new places.

And then, on Sunday, the Bully Project‘s free training classes for pitties starts back up again! I’m sad that I can’t go to training, but Daddy says that I don’t need this kind of training as much as some other dogs do. He says that we need to continue training with some more advanced things like tricks and agility and therapy dog training. Besides, he needs to be able to help work with all of the other people and dogs in class, so they can learn as much as I have!

I can’t wait to tell you about our exciting weekend in another blog post next week! Stay tuned!

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday

28 Mar

"Surfing the web for some hot bitches."

Kids! It’s Time for School!

27 Mar

I’ve been a bad doggy mom! As I was spreading the word locally about the upcoming Bully Project classes, I realized that I have not attended a class with Bird in over three years. Some might say, “Well, we took puppy class, lots of workshops and even a stint in agility. Isn’t that enough?” Well, not for my Bird. She loves to learn and participate in classes. I have always felt guilty that I never continued agility training and trialing. Bird started out as a terrified young dog when approaching the agility equipment. It took lots of patience, guidance and lots of yummy treats but she quickly learned that the pieces of equipment were not scary at all – they were actually fun. Agility was a pure confidence builder! Now, years later, she gets amped up when she sees an A Frame.

Feeling guilty, I rallied a few of my “dog friends” and we signed up for an all-day workshop, “Fit To Be Tricked,” being offered by Frankie Joiris and Chris Ott at Westchester’s Port Chester Obedience Club. Both instructors are super impressive – Frankie and her dogs are superstars in the dog acting world (her dog Stamp was a star in Angelina Jolie’s Salt) and Chris is an agility legend! Although I was excited, I was concerned I was being too ambitious.

The class, designed by Frankie, Chris and Physical Therapist, Ria Acciani, MPT, focuses on trick training that will improve a dog’s abilities in performance (agility, obedience, freestyle, etc). Although none of our dogs “perform,” it was open to dogs of all training experience.  After watching a video of their class, I was excited!

And what an experience! Not only because of the cool tricks and behaviors we were beginning to learn, but because Bird and I were a team again! I hope to continue working with Bird on these tricks (jumping through smaller and smaller hoops, Bird walking on my feet, Bird catching hoops around her head and much more). Check out our dogs two thirds of the way through the class:

What I learned is that all dog/owner teams need some class time – whether it’s a brand new sport like agility, a refresher manners class or fun tricks seminar. This surely helps building our relationships with our wigglybutts! And, if you live in a multi-dog household, it is important to have some one-on-one time. And classes are the perfect opportunity for that.

I think our next class will be a Noseworks class! My question is: do I take Bird or Goose?

Classes can be especially great for pitties and their owners to help strengthen the bonds between them and the dog’s confidence. Pit bulls, just like my Bird, can do agility and other sports, too. Just check out these videos:



So take your pittie to class!

Adoptable Pittie of the Week: Stella

26 Mar

This week’s Adoptable has quite the story. She’s been through quite a bit in her life and, despite it all, is a total lovebug and deserves a home of her very own. To the people who’ve known her the longest, her name is Rajah. At Hi-Tor Animal Care Center, where she lives now, her name is Stella.

A beautifully tiger-striped girl, Rajah started life as a member of a happy family. When her parents parted ways, she sadly became orphaned. But luckily for her, a friend stepped up to the plate for her and got her a new home of her very own! But, yet again, due to extenuating circumstances, Rajah was abandoned, literally, in the home she shared with her new owner.

Thankfully for Rajah, her friend who found her a new home the first time heard that she needed help again! She’s been spreading the word far and wide about this cutie, now named Stella. She’s 3 years old, is fully vaccinated and spayed, and has a very calm, mellow temperament. And she’s friendly with other dogs, as we can see in this picture:

So please share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you or anyone you know might be interested in adopting sweet Stella, please contact the Hi-Tor Animal Care Center ASAP. Click here to email them or call (845) 354-7900.

The Dog That Started It All (or The Hardest Part of Love)

23 Mar

Up till this point, I have only briefly mentioned my first foster dog. Lately, several people have been asking me about it, and I think it’s time I talk about it.

Nearly a year ago, I decided to become a foster parent, so I got Lucy leashed up and went to the local shelter. I wanted Lucy to be there for obvious reasons: any dog I took in had to get along with her. That was pretty much my only requirement. We met three dogs. The first was too dominant. The second, too shy and stand-off-ish. The third, well, as “Goldilocks” as it sounds, she seemed just right! It was settled that I would leave her at the shelter overnight, and pick her up the next day.

Lucy & Foxy

Small disclaimer here: Foxy is not her real name. I have decided, for the sake of all involved, to change and/or omit names as much as possible for this post. My intention in telling this story is not to offend, upset or insult anyone, but simply to tell a story that I think needs to be told.

When I first got Foxy, she was 6 months old. At about 25 lbs, she was truly a pocket pittie, probably mixed with some sort of hound breed. She had been abandoned on the street and was found by a family who, even though they couldn’t keep her, cared enough to surrender her to a shelter where they knew she would be well taken care of. The shelter put her through the basic rounds: vaccinations, spay, microchip, etc. She had just been spayed several days before I met her, so she had to wear a t-shirt knotted around her (when not wearing her e-collar) – I thought it was adorable, really.

Foxy

Well, I quickly realized that Foxy wasn’t quite as perfect as Lucy – nor was I expecting her to be. On our walks, when she would so much as smell, let alone hear or see, another dog, she would start barking at it. A pittie-looking dog with hound bark? Bad combo, right? Obviously, I kept her as far from other dogs as possible while on leash, but I simply couldn’t figure it out. At home, she and Lucy were best buds: sharing toys, beds, they would even walk beautifully together while on leash. But with any other dog while on leash, she became so fearful.

I found out the term for this issue was called being “leash reactive.” And in many instances, this is something that can be counter-conditioned. Just watch this video from Dr. Sophia Yin:

But in New York City, the streets are so unpredictable. There was no controlled environment for me to safely to put these practices into effect on my own. Regardless, within a couple of days, I was contacted by a potential adopter. I was sad, because Foxy was getting along so well in my home and I was quickly developing a relationship with her, but so thrilled that Foxy could possibly get a family of her own and I could help save another dog. The adopters came over later that day to meet her. I was very frank about Foxy’s issues, and explained that she would need considerable training. Because of the immediate connection they felt with her, and their being financially stable, they told me they were ready to commit to working with Foxy and make her feel safe and secure through love and training. After only six days, Foxy was moving on. I sent along with her some instructions, as well as recommendations for dog walkers, groomers, etc.

Foxy

A week later, the dog walker they had hired (one of my recommendations) called. Foxy was being returned to the shelter immediately; there had been an incident. Over dinner, I was given the whole story: the walker was running late from a previous walk. They had a choice to either let Foxy wait, despite not being fully house-broken yet, or attempt socialization and bring the current dog to Foxy’s parents’ home and walk the two together. In my book, the wrong choice was made. The walker introduced the two dogs indoors off-leash, and then, after a bit, leashed them both up and went to leave.

As they were walking out the door, the worst happened. To make it as simple as possible, suffice it to say that it involved dog teeth on human skin & flesh, significant damage to walls and doors, and sufficiently terrified owners. It was a disaster, for lack of a better word.

Foxy lived at the shelter for three weeks, and underwent many behavioral evaluations. Options were weighed, but nothing seemed certain for her anymore. I strongly felt that what happened was not her fault, and Foxy deserved another chance to find the owners that were right for her. She needed someone in a suburb, with a yard for her to run and play, and enough resources to help her learn not to be afraid anymore. So, Foxy came back to live with me and Lucy, and it was like nothing had changed.

Lucy & Foxy

Playtime interspersed with naps interspersed with training sessions. I adjusted my schedule so that I could take Foxy outside during times when there were not a lot of people and dogs out. We walked a special route where I knew we would not encounter many dogs, and I was diligent about keeping a watch out so that I could prevent issues before they could develop. Foxy always wore a gentle leader head harness and a second leash attached to her collar. I had control over her every move, and she was happy for it – I showered her in treats from the time a leash went on until they both came off.

In the meantime, I reached out to everyone I could. I emailed bloggers (this is when I met Love and a Six-Foot Leash, who were more helpful to me than they could ever really know), I called and emailed professional trainers requesting free or low-cost training sessions, and reached out to several other shelters and animal sanctuaries to see if they had a better fit for Foxy than anyone in New York City could. No other shelter would even consider her – she had a bite history, after all. Only one trainer offered to help, and their idea of that was to “test her threshold” by taking her near a dog park. Not even the renowned trainer affiliated with the shelter would come over for 15 minutes.

Lucy & Foxy spooning

I felt exactly like so many dogs we hear stories about – abandoned. It seemed like the entire animal welfare community, for one reason or another, had completely turned their back on me and Foxy. But I kept at it – our schedule remained the way it was, and we continued to work as much as we could, but not much progress was being made. Then, it happened again.

We were out on a walk, and somewhere on our block, a dog was in a window…barking. It’s not like I saw a dog far away down the block and could simply cross the street. There was no escape, and Foxy was quickly spiraling out of control. I got her into a somewhat-secluded spot where I attempted to regain her focus with high value rewards (the typical fare: hot dogs, cheese, turkey chunks), but nothing was helping. I was so concerned on getting Foxy to focus on me, I didn’t notice the woman walking toward us, but Foxy did. She only caught the hem of the woman’s dress, thankfully. But a horrible image flashed through my mind: what if that were a child and not a dress?

Lucy & Foxy

My first foster had been a complete failure, and not in the “foster failure” way that we all hope for. What I dreaded from the start had become the reality: I had to bring Foxy to be euthanized. The danger she posed to me and my neighborhood (since no one else would take her) was too great. There was no way around it. Being the only humans in her life, Jennifer & I had to take her to the vet ourselves. Even though it was something I never imagined doing, I knew it was the right thing. In their post “Goodnight, sweet Blue,” Love and a Six-Foot Leash said it best, “no matter how much you want to help, you can’t fix every dog.” I couldn’t fix Foxy, and no one else was going to try. So the only thing to do was to say, “Goodnight, sweet Foxy.”

There was another reason I had to make this decision: the reputation of the pit bull breed. Would having a leash reactive dog in midtown Manhattan really affect change in the perception of these dogs? Would adopting Foxy out again to a family that couldn’t handle her issues be a positive influence on people? I wish I could have created the perfect world for Foxy to live in for the rest of her life, but that’s not reality. We have the cards we’re dealt, and we can only do so much with them.

Our last night

When I got home, I took Lucy out for her walk. When we were done, I collapsed on the floor, hysterically crying. Despite knowing I had done the “right thing,” I felt so wrong. It took a little while for me to come back out of the black hole I dug for myself, but I grew to understand why Foxy’s story had to unfold the way that it did. And then Lola Bird came into my life, and I realized my fostering journey was very far from over…

From the Muscle-y to the Scruffy…

22 Mar

It’s Bird again and I am finally recovered from a fun weekend! Lots of  chews and sleeping this week!

I loved hanging with the big boys and girls on Saturday and I thought our day was over until…Mom’s friend, Erika and her scruffies randomly walked by! Erika is a doggie celebrity: not only is she huge supporter of animal shelters and animals in need, she is the star of a NYC reality show called “Doggie Moms”! Seems like Mom has known Erika a while and even helped her adopt her Westie named Cubby.  According the humans, our walks weren’t over.

Mom was excited to take this pic:

We went back uptown and met some other dogs and their humans at the Boat Basin. This time, I was the LARGEST dog! Dogs are always welcome.

How cool is that?  Only sad part is that it’s closed during the winter. Here are Cubby the Westie and Ginger the Yorkie:

I also met a cool dude name Sig who was totally dressed for St. Patty’s Day!

 And, this guy, Keiko has his own wheels, too!  Someone mentioned I could fit into a doggie jogging stroller, but I don’t think that’s ME!

A good time was had by all and we will surely do it again!

Wordless Wedneday

21 Mar

Tales From A Terrier (The Scruffy Kind)

20 Mar

Another Pittie Pack Walk! We had fun, as always! I never tell my sister, Goose, where we go or what we do because she would be jealous! I don’t think my older sister, Rosie, would care either way.

Waiting for the pitties to arrive!

We started out at the Riverside Park near 59th Street and walked all the way up to 86th Street. I was sad to see that Pinky’s adoption wasn’t perfect but was so excited to see her with Siobhan from the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals. She was not only dressed in green – but looked like a dinosaur!

Pinky is ready for the party!

Mac is a new member of the Big Apple Pittie Pack

I saw some familiar faces like Remi – who is still looking for the squirrels even near the river! Havi, who likes to carry stuff, and Gertie, who has a gentle leader on like me. And, of course our pack favs were there, too…Emma, John and their human baby! I think my favorite new pack walker was Mac, an older gent who was as sweet as can be! And, he is a very lucky dude. He has a rare-ish tick-borne disease and his adoptive parents happen to include a dog and cat doctor!

I got to meet a great couple that not only have a great pittie named Little Bear but they have been fostering a great guy for a long time (too long of a time for me!).  His name is Carlos and he needs a home of his own. Please spread the word!

Carlos needs a forever home!

My mom got super excited because she got to meet Vero! Mom rescued this dog when she was barely 4 weeks old from the Pound here in NYC. Check her out before and after:

Vero - then Betty as a pup

Vero now with her mom!

All in all, this was a fun walk. I think Mom picked up on the fact that I started to recognize people and dogs. I would make a wiggly when greeting some of the regulars. I don’t make friends easily…I need to get to know you.  And, you know what, I met these people and I like them! I am going to end this post with a slide show of the walk but I have SO much more to say about the rest of the day, I will write again – part two will be posted later in the week!

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Spring Means More Bully…

16 Mar

Springtime Means More Bully Project!

Nothing gets me up early and missing my own dog run time with my pooches EXCEPT Bully Project! Last fall, I came up with a crazy idea of offering regular FREE training classes in my own backyard Fort Tryon Park. I went to a former colleague, Kelly, who started this amazing non-profit here in NYC to help end dog-fighting and encourage responsible dog ownership. I had volunteered previously at Bully Project’s classes in a different neighborhood and knew they had helped the community. I witnessed dog owners replacing rope around their dogs’ necks with the group’s free leashes and collars. Some people wanted resources such as low-cost altering but didn’t know where to go. Some needed help with mange, some needed guidance with training and manners. It was apparent that all of these people LOVED their dogs and just needed some help. One thing we didn’t do (and don’t do now) is judge. It’s so nice to see a program in action and working.
I must say, our Upper Manhattan experiment kicked some butt! We quickly put a dedicated group of dog professionals together and away we went! Ann King from Canine King offered “Tricks for Pits” to get the community involved. Tricks are fun, but obedience is boring. The teams were so excited after the two week class, they asked for more. So, Ann immediately offered up a 6-week obedience class. Yes, a free training class in NYC! Some dog owners would walk by and say, “Wish my dog had a square head!”

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We couldn’t have done the classes without the dedication of local volunteers (Tammy, Danita and Malerie). And, we surely couldn’t do it with Ann’s assistant for the class, John. He spends his day working with dogs at New Rochelle Humane Society and spent his days off working with us for FREE! How lucky were we? To wrap up the season, we offered a speciality class with Lydia DesRoche from Sit Stay Dog Training, who used Fort Tryon as her playground for her “Park Pit-Agility” class. In the three months, classes included young dog owners, old dog owners, puppies, seniors and a deaf dog.

Not only did the program assist these teams in enhancing their relationship, I believe we made an impact in the the community.  Every Sunday, park visitors and dog owners, would see a group of 10 pitbull-like dogs with their owners of every age and shade being “dogs.”

I got the “end of class blues” when it got too cold to offer classes. I missed seeing all the pitties and owners. Seeing the dogS learning tricks. I missed going to the supermarket and getting Shadybrook Turkey meatballs and string cheese for class. And I missed hanging out with folks like Ann and John on a weekly basis.  I think my recent obsession with taking photos – especially of pitbulls – replaced my Bully Project fix.

Well, Spring is right around the corner and in just over 2 weeks, we will be at it again! Same team, same place. New muscle-ly dogs. And, this time around, That Touch of Pit is in full-force – Josh will be along for the ride to assist. Last time, he brought Lucy who not only breezed through class but won over the hearts of many people. Ann was so impressed with Lucy, she offered to evaluate her for Canine Good Citizen after the class was over! And, as we all would have guessed, Lucy passed. She is one darn good canine! Josh and Lucy started a trend, and three other pitbull-like dogs were evaluated and passed their CGC tests.

This spring’s class immediately filled up right after we posted it so we needed to add a second class (I thank John and Ann twice as much now)! Last year, we put the classes together with string and a band-aid, some donated Gentle Leaders, extra martingales found in a closet. This time around, we want to offer all the right tools and enrichment for our teams in class. We are so lucky that the Deja Foundation is sponsoring our leashes and collars and Animal Farm Foundation has donated treats bags along with goodies.

But we still need more help! We would love to offer alternatives to prongs and chokers like Easy Walks and Gentle Leaders, in addition to some enrichment-type toys (Kongs, Bully Sticks and more) as giveaways to our teams. And most of all, we would love to continue this program throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall. The more donations, the more classes we can offer.

So, if you are able, please consider making a donation to Bully Project so we can help make these things a reality. Our mission to change the perception of pit bulls in NYC by developing responsible dog owners can only happen if we have the funds to back us up.   So please, donate what you can so that we can continue to make an impact in our communities!

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