Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Feature! Shelter Dog of the Week

This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly installment. This is my shelter dog of the week. These dogs are from the Contra Costa County Animal Services Center in Martinez, California.

Speak's first Shelter Dog of the Week is Sheba. I first noticed her on the Martinez Animal Shelter dog listings. I spent some time with her today. She wasn't too interested in me.

The other dogs that pass
ed by were much more interesting. It's understandable and a little sad, too. She doesn't share her kennel with another dog so she doesn't have any interaction. But she did take a moment to completely cover my face with kisses.

Little is known about her. She had some rather large healing wounds on her back and side. She's estimated to be approximately 13 months old and clearly not aggressive and had plenty of affection to give. She doesn't like giving balls back, so "fetch" is one game you won't be able to play with her. Here's a much better picture of her from the shelter's website.

They were busy at the shelter today so I didn't get to spend time with these other two, but I thought they were worth mentioning. Sheba's neighbor in the adjacent kennel was a big boy named Brutus.
He wasn't a barker and just seemed to want some attention. He's about two years old.

Finally, there was Star. She, like Brutus, just seemed to want a little attention. She had a very skinny body so she must have been neglected. What an adorable face on this one.

It's still heartbreaking to know that not all these dogs will make it. The Martinez shelter is NOT a "no-kill" facility but please remember that ALL shelters would be "no-kill" if only they had the resources.

Best Friends Reports on Abandoned Dogs in Missouri

From Best Friends Animal Society:

Day One Complete for River Valley Rescue

As the morning sun begins to shine on the bare branches surrounding the Missouri Ozarks, the bay of a dog echoes across the fields ringing in a new day for nearly 150 abandoned dogs.

The night before, a trio of three dedicated rescue workers—Rich Crook, Best Friends field team leader; Kelli Ohrtman, Best Friends field communications officer; and Elizabeth Wainwright from the Missouri Department of Agriculture—sat huddled around a table at Ruby Tuesday’s in Southwest Missouri discussing plans to remove the dogs from the property the following morning.

An Ambitious Day

Capture. Assess. Identify. Tag and kennel. The process seems simple enough. It’s the execution of that process over 100 times in a row that complicates things. That and winning over the shy dogs that have learned nothing good comes from humans—and dealing with the occasional escape artist.

Best Friends was on site to help stabilize a situation that careened out of control after the kennel owner, who did not have a breeder’s license for his River Valley Puppies Kennels, set fire to the property after state officials arrived to take over custody of the dogs.

Working alongside Noah’s Wish, a California-based animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to rescuing and sheltering animals in disasters, the teams spent the day wrangling and caring for dogs.

Dispersed across 100 partially fenced acres, the teams used food to attract dogs to them, traps to ensnare the more shy ones, and stealth maneuvers to sneak up on others.

Says Ohrtman, “Groups of dogs would be huddled together in a field sleeping. We would sneak up on them, put cables around their necks, they’d wake up and we lead them away.”

And if that didn’t work, a leftover quesadilla from Ruby Tuesday’s was certain to do the trick.

Sammy: Liver and White Springer Spaniel, First Time On A Leash

Curled up on a cement slab in a deep sleep, Ohrtman tiptoed up to the slumbering dog and carefully looped a leash around his neck. Having lived most of his life in a cage, the sensation of a leash was new to him, and one he did not like.

Says Ohrtman, “He stopped struggling after he realized we weren’t fighting back. Then he began to shake, flopped over and froze.” Team members gently pet the dog and talked in soothing voices to try and reassure the terrified animal. Then ever so gently, they tipped him into a kennel, took off the leash at which point he got up and was fine.

Sissy: German Short Hair, Pregnant and Emaciated

Sissy is a young liver and white German shorthaired pointer. She’s carrying a sagging belly full of unborn puppies on a too skinny body that shows every rib.

Sissy found herself contained after she wandered into a trap in search of food. After being transferred to a kennel, Sissy surprised her captures by bolting out the kennel door as it was opened to provide fresh water. And even though her antics required workers to chase her down for a second time, Ohrtman remarks, “She’s very sweet. And who could blame her for not wanting to go back into a cage.”

No Name: Black and White Springer Spaniel, Possible Health Complication

Just as the team was ready to call it a night, a Best Friends team member stumbled upon a black and white bundled curled into the corner of an old barn. “We’re worried about this one,” she says. “The poor thing has a large lump on the side of her face. And she was so easy to catch—scared, but very gentle and sweet.”

Day One Ends, Day Two On The Horizon

And so, the first day of wrangling dogs comes to a close. To be repeated again tomorrow. The crew left with approximately 50 dogs still on site and yet to be captured.

Says Ohrtman, “It’s a really chaotic and tragic situation.” The burned down buildings are still smoldering. And the dogs are covered in grey ash.

She adds, “Ninety percent of these dogs are friendly. They just need to be in a safe place and they’ll come around just fine.”

Integral to the success of the rescue effort are the organizations who are taking the dogs to adopt them out. Some of these groups include:

• No More Homeless Pets, KC
• English Springer Rescue of America
• Central Missouri Humane Society in Columbia

How You Can Help

• Volunteers are not needed at the puppy mill site, but people interested in helping can make a donation for the care of the dogs by visiting our Facebook Cause.

• Never purchase a dog over the internet without inspecting the property from where the dogs were raised.

Man Breaks Puppy's Legs, Faces Felony Charges

From Oakland Animal Services:

Man Charged with Two Counts of Felony Animal Abuse February 27, 2009

Posted by oaklandanimalservices in News.

Pomeranian puppy suffers broken front legs.

The Oakland Police Department arrested Kem Eap on February 20, 2009, for breaking both front legs of a four-month-old Pomeranian puppy. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office has charged Eap with two felony counts of animal abuse. Oakland Police Department’s Criminal Investigation and Oakland Animal Services are investigating the incident.

An anonymous caller informed the Oakland Police Department of the injured puppy, and both police and animal control officers responded. Baby Chloe, who was found hiding under a television set when officers arrived, was unable to use her front legs and had to depend on only her hind legs to stand.

Baby Chloe has now had extensive surgery to repair her fractured legs. Friends of the Oakland Animal Shelter, a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to helping improve the quality of life for shelter animals, is collecting donations to pay for Baby Chloe’s surgery and for the veterinary care of other injured shelter animals. Donations can be sent to Friends of the Oakland Animal Shelter at PO Box 3132, Oakland, CA 94609, or online at

“We are focusing on assisting with the investigation of this case and ensuring that this puppy makes a full recovery from her serious injuries,” states Adam Parascandola, Oakland Animal Services Director.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Sheboygan man, 29, gets jail for abandoning pit bull in a snowstorm

This sick story comes from today's Sheboygan Press:

A 29-year-old Sheboygan man has been sentenced to 60 days in jail for abandoning an emaciated pit bull by tying it outside during a snowstorm.

Chouncey A. Love, of 1937 N. Eighth St., Apt. 1, tied the dog to a stake in an alley near his home the morning of Dec. 9 as a snowstorm dropped 10 inches of snow on Sheboygan. The dog was rescued after a neighbor spotted it.

According to court records released Thursday, Love was sentenced last week and ordered to pay $2,731 restitution to the Sheboygan County Humane Society, which nursed the animal back to health. He was convicted on misdemeanor counts of intentionally abandoning an animal and bail jumping after pleading no contest as part of a plea agreement.

A criminal complaint said the pit bull was rescued quickly after a neighbor saw Love tie the dog outside and leave.

The complaint said the 26-pound dog was barely able to stand, and Humane Society Shelter Manager Carey Payne said at the time the dog had a body score of 1 on a scale that ranges from 1 to 9 and should be 4 or 5 for a healthy dog.

Love said he left the dog in the alley assuming someone else would notice it and contact authorities or the Humane Society, the complaint said. He told police the dog belonged to a friend whom he had not seen for a month.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obamas Closing in on First Dog

From the LA Times

Some fans of Portuguese water dogs aren't so happy about the Obamas' interest

3:58 PM, February 26, 2009

Portuguese water dog First Lady Michelle Obama's highly publicized interview with People Magazine, which started dog lovers everywhere talking about the possibility of the president's family bringing home an energetic Portuguese water dog, was big news yesterday.

Even Mrs. Obama's press secretary's comment that the Obamas "have not selected a breed.... Mrs. Obama likes the Portuguese water dog, but she is only one of four votes" wasn't enough to stop tongues from wagging about the allergy-friendly -- and somewhat uncommon -- breed.

"Porties," as the dogs are often called by fanciers, don't need the publicity that such high-profile owners would bring, says Stu Freeman, president of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

Many of the breed's fans don't want to see it saddled with "101 Dalmatians Syndrome" -- a phenomenon often reported by animal rescue professionals who find large numbers of people rushing out to buy the "it" animal of the moment. Once the animal grows and the reality of its needs -- for instance, Dalmatians, while unquestionably adorable, are a high-energy breed whose exercise requirements are too much for many owners -- become clear, the animals wind up dumped in shelters. "There's always the danger of something like that," Freeman told the Associated Press.

And the AP reports on another fear of Portie fans:

[Elena Gretch, a dog trainer and owner of two Portuguese water dogs] worries that if the Obamas choose the breed, puppy mills will sprout up. The dogs cost $1,800 to $2,500 and aren't as common as other popular breeds. They're prone to hip dysplasia, so finding a good breeder is important, she said, and the dogs don't often end up in shelters for adoption.

The dogs also require a lot of attention, grooming and outdoor exercise. "It's agile, it's a great swimmer, it loves to be outdoors," said Gretch, founder of the pet care and training service It's A Dog's Life in New York City.

But Portuguese water dogs are usually not great for first-time dog owners, said Freeman, because it takes experience to train them.

"These are dogs that if you don't keep them busy, they will be busy and do something you don't want them to do," he said.

Readers responding to Michelle Obama's comments about the future first dog yesterday were split on the idea of the Obamas bringing a Portie to the White House. What do you think -- is this the wrong breed for the first family, or are some Portie fans just trying to keep the breed all to themselves?

-- Lindsay Barnett

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The HSUS Flinches

The Best Friends Animal Society website is reporting:

February 23, 2009 : 8:44 PM ET

The Humane Society of the United States on February 23 issued an interim policy recommending all dogs be evaluated as individuals, and is calling a meeting of leading animal welfare organizations concerning dogs victimized by dog fighting.

Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer and president of the Humane Society of the United States, suggested the meeting of major stakeholders in Las Vegas to work through the associated issues. This meeting is in response to concerns expressed by Best Friends Animal Society in December 2008 regarding HSUS policies related to animals confiscated in dog-fighting busts.

Pacelle said the meeting, scheduled for April, will include the participation of national stakeholder organizations that deal with pit bulls. The meeting was in the planning stages before Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Jr. ruled that 145 pit bulls, including approximately 70 puppies, confiscated from Wildside Kennels in Wilkes County, North Carolina, would be euthanized without evaluation to determine suitability for placement.

The new interim policy announced by the HSUS, pending the outcome of the meeting, recommends that local law enforcement and animal control evaluate such dogs as individuals rather than as a category before any decision is made regarding their future.

“We expect government, corporations, and individuals to constantly re-evaluate how they deal with animal issues,” Pacelle said. “Likewise, we regularly review our own policies and procedures here at HSUS, and we think it is important to talk with professional colleagues in the movement to examine issues related to the disposition of fighting dogs.

“I am pleased to discuss these issues with personnel from Best Friends and other organizations interested in the welfare of pit bulls.”

Julie Castle, director of Community Programs and Services for Best Friends said, “There had been more than enough airing of feelings and outrage that the dogs were not evaluated prior to being summarily euthanized. It was time to hit the reset button on this in order to move things forward in a constructive way. Mr. Pacelle was open and receptive to what we had to say and we are looking forward to our meetings in April.”

Best Friends, through its campaign, “Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dogs,” is looking forward working cooperatively with HSUS, according to Castle.

The campaign is aimed in part at educating the public and the media about pit bulls in order to help save the breed’s reputation. “Our goal is to bring positive change to lives and image of pit bulls,” she said.

Written by Best Friends staff

Now, before we start jumping for joy and making peace with the HSUS let's remember how much it took for them to just flinch. And they have only flinched. They haven't actually done anything yet. It's a possible step in the right direction. Just save your cheers for when there's something to actually celebrate.,

from the Houston Examiner:

The Great Pit Bull Debate: A Great Success

February 23, 12:32 PM
by Amber Biddle, Houston Dogs Examiner

I almost entitled this as In Conclusion, but I chose A Great Success instead. Why? Because I don’t believe this is a subject that will ever stop being debated in our country, but also I do believe this debate, no matter how ugly it got, was a tremendous success. I believe that all who came to the table in this particular debate brought something valuable. Everyone brought either expertise, experience, statistics, or opinion. This debate has been fun, critical, educational, and for some, eye opening. One of the biggest things I learned was that the mere subjects that I discussed in my column were only scratching the surface of the plight of the American Pit Bull Terrier. There are more than two sides to this fence.

There seemed to be one common thread, however, that is my muse for this article. All those who took the time to comment, regardless of their experience or opinion, are passionate about their animals. Pit Bull or otherwise we all love this animal and feel compelled to defend this animal and it’s mixes to the death. And that, my friends, is one of those beautiful things about life we all seem to forget. We are truly blessed to be graced with any dog in our lives. Any and all dog breeds are subject to abuse in this country which merely adds fuel to any dog lover’s fire. As I continue to hear stories of “pit bulls” in the news I do find myself wondering the history of the dog and whether or not it is in fact pure pit, or mixed, or a pit at all, however, that doesn’t really matter when I am overwhelmed at the treatment of the animal and the living conditions with which it has been living. As a participant in animal rescue and rehabilitation, this always was and still remains my biggest concern. I am sure no matter how much time I and my colleagues spend rehabbing dogs, there will always be a need for rehab. But we do it because we love them and we know they too can love.

So in honor of the dogs, as well as all the dog lovers who participated I would love to share with you some foundations that you may find you would love to participate in or donate to yourselves. Many of you already do this, so PLEASE share your own ideas in the comment section.

Pit Bull Rescue Central

Noah's Ark Animal Samctuary

Animal Charities of Americe

Sunday, February 22, 2009

PBS' Nature Hits a Winning Note

PBS recently aired an episode of Nature called "Why We Love Cats and Dogs". Based upon the title alone wouldn't make it noteworthy, but one of the segments will absolutely tear your heart out.

It's called "Jerry Gets Sick". Here's's description:

Jim Nelson and Rene Agredano’s dog Jerry was the CFO (Canine Fun Officer) in the business they ran from their home office. But when Jerry became ill, Jim and Rene decided to sell their business and their house — and they hit the road with Jerry.

It's a must watch. If you don't come away from this segment without tears in your eye then you just ain't a dog lover. Click here to watch the full segment on the PBS Nature website.

Mickey Rourke's Beloved Dog Dies

Being a PETA spokesman doesn't exactly make MIckey Rourke my favorite person in the world but as a person who loves his dogs so much you can't help but sympathize with him.

From ABC News:

Mickey Rourke's Beloved Dog Dies Days Before Oscars
Star of 'The Wrestler' Sits Down With Barbara Walters for Annual Oscar Special
Feb. 18, 2009

Mickey Rourke, who is nominated for a best actor Academy Award for his role in "The Wrestler," always thought that he'd get a second chance at success in Hollywood.

Oscar-nominated actor says 'The Wrestler' is the hardest movie he's ever made.
The 52-year-old actor told Barbara Walters that his performance as aging professional wrestler Randy "the Ram" Robinson represents the best work of his career.
"It's the hardest movie I ever made, and it's the best movie I ever made, with one of the best directors that I ever worked with," Rourke told Walters for an interview to air on her Oscar night special.

Rourke, who thanked his dogs -- "the ones who are here and the ones who aren't here anymore" -- in his Golden Globes acceptance speech, said goodbye to one of his best friends this week. Rourke's Chihuaua Loki died early Tuesday morning, his representatives confirmed to ABC News.

He told Walters that "the dogs were there when no one else was there."

"I sort of self-destructed. … The wife had left, the career was over, the money was not an ounce."
When he was at rock bottom, he said he realized, "I don't have kids. The dogs became everything to me. The dog was looking at me going, 'Who's going to take care of me?'"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Man Beats Puppy, Breaks Ribs, Jaw

The following story and accompanying photo come from the February 8, 2009 Los Angeles Times.

Furious that his girlfriend had broken up with him and stopped taking his calls, Steven Butcher decided to take his anger out on the couple's small puppy.

"Every time you . . . don't pick up the phone, I am beating the dog," Butcher said in an angry voice-mail message he left for his ex-girlfriend. In a later message, as the dog yelped and cried in the background, he said: "You got some more of the dog getting beat."

When police officers arrived at Butcher's Reseda home, they found Nelia, the pit bull puppy, shivering in a sink with cold water running over her. The animal's jaw had been broken, her eye sockets had been fractured and several of her ribs had been cracked.

Butcher, 23, was charged and convicted last year of animal cruelty -- one of a growing number of serious animal abuse cases in Los Angeles, where police and prosecutors say they are taking crimes against animals more seriously than ever.

The Los Angeles Police Department has devoted five officers and detectives to a task force dedicated to investigating animal abuse and neglect. The county district attorney's office recently began training a select group of prosecutors to handle animal-related cases and is seeking tougher sentences for repeat offenders.

In the case of Nelia, the beaten puppy, police said her owner also threatened to kill his girlfriend during some of his phone calls. He was sentenced last year to 270 days in jail for animal cruelty, placed on five years' probation and ordered to undergo counseling. The puppy survived and was adopted out when authorities suspected that Butcher's ex-girlfriend might reconcile with him, police said.

The optimist may find the proverbial silver lining in the dark cloud by observing the fact that the pup ended up in her "forever home", but I ask you how much abuse must a Pit Bull take before it gets someone's attention? You've also got to wonder about the possibility of the girlfriend reconciling with this person. What is she thinking? Let's just hope they never end up with another dog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Dog Files

Kenn Bell is a man of many talents. He runs a company called GraphicPlanet Creative. While you can describe GraphicPlanet as a multimedia operation it wouldn't adequately express the multitude of needs they are capable of filling. They handle commercial and corporate videos, web creation, design and photography.

Oh, and Kenn used to be a comic book writer, too. But what REALLY makes him special is not juat the fact that he's a dog lover, but what he does with that love. He's taken his passion and turned it into "The Dog Files", a video show about how dogs affect, improve and enrich our lives.

All eight episodes are network TV quality hi-def productions and are available on the world wide web at

Monday, February 16, 2009

Michael Vick's Moment of Truth Not Far Away

Last week the Atlanta Falcons announced their plans on trading their rights to the infamous Michael Vick. Vick is still in prison serving his 23-month term for dogfighting-related crimes. He is scheduled to be released in July which, theoretically, means he could be back in the NFL for the 2009 season. There are a number of things that would have to fall into place for this to happen but it is not outside of the realm of possibility.

Now I know that to many dog welfare advocates and Pit Bull crusaders Mike Vick is pretty much persona non grata, but I have a different take on it. A few months ago I made this comment on the Bad Rap blog site:

"I know there are those who will disagree with what I'm about to say but I feel it needs to be said. I'm rooting for Michael Vick. I feel the man should be given a chance to redeem himself like he said he would at that press conference. I want to believe that he really is sorry. I want to believe he really has seen the error of his ways. I hope that he leads a successful career when he is released from prison.

The dogs given to BAD RAP are the perfect analogy. These were animals that would have been put to death if it weren't for BAD RAP stepping in and saying, "Wait a minute. These dogs shouldn't summarily judged as being beyond help. Just give them a chance." (or words to that effect).

I'm sure that there are many who feel that Vick he is a horrible person that did horrible things and should be thoroughly punished and should not be allowed to play football ever again. And while that sentiment is understandable I believe it would be unfair to have given those dogs a chance at redemption but not extend that same chance at redemption to Vick as well.

Malcolm X is one of my heroes. He was a drug user, a drug dealer, a pimp, and a thief before he went to prison, turned his life around and became one of the greatest heroes of the civil rights movement. People CAN redeem themselves, but only if they're given the opportunity.

Here's my crazy wish for Michael Vick. My wish is that he really has seen the error of his ways, that decides to champion the fight against animal cruelty when he is released from prison, regains his superstardom in the NFL, and uses his fame to raise awareness for the cause.

I know it's nuts of me to hope for such a thing, but wouldn't it be great if it happened? I think it's worth giving it a chance."

Vick may be released early into a halfway house so he may be exiting prison very soon.

Mike, you said in your press conference that you WILL redeem yourself. Well, talk is cheap. It's will soon be time for you to put up or shut up. I'm keeping an open mind but it's not going to stay that way for very long. This is your last chance. Don't let us down.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Speak! Changes Gears

I'd like to being this post with plans of a slight reset for this site. I have purposely avoided talking about myself in the first person. Instead of saying "I" visited a shelter, I'd say "we" visited a shelter. I did this because I didn't want this site to be about me. I wanted, and still want this site to be about dogs. I just felt that saying "we" all the time started to sound a little pretentious, and at times, a little dishonest to boot. So no more "we", just "me".

If you are a new visitor to this site I'd like you to know what this site is about, and what my values and beliefs are. A few months back I wrote a short essay on my personal blog that pretty much sums up my passion:

I have always felt that every creature, every species we share the planet with was put here to serve a purpose. There is a balance that exists in nature. Every creature exists because it has its own role to play in maintaining that balance. What is the role of dogs in the natural order? I have come to believe that dogs are here to be with human beings, us, that nature has uniquely intended dogs to be our companions.

Evidence exists that would suggest that wolves, from which all dogs are descended, have accompanied man as many as 15,000 years ago. The first pet wolves probably assisted their human masters with hunting and defending. Man has made pets out of all sorts of animals besides dogs. Amongst them are cats, fishes, birds, reptiles, rodents, and horses to name a few. Some even make pets out of insects. But it is the dog that has just the right combination of attributes that fit us perfectly.

Dogs possess just enough intelligence to be teachable but not so much that its needs for mental stimulation are too burdensome to reasonably provide. Dogs have a pack mentality with the capacity to accept humans as pack members and are protected and defended as such. Big dogs are strong enough to adequately defend against attackers but not so big that they require any kind of special housing. Dogs do not have special dietary needs. Dogs are genetically easy enough to breed into variations that fulfill specific needs like pulling sleds, herding livestock, or hunting rats. Nowadays, if we need an animal to provide assistance to the blind, or assist the police in catching a criminal, or detect drugs, explosives, or survivors in pile of rubble that we might not otherwise be able to find it is the dog that we turn to.

Sure, a cat can keep you company but will never protect you against an attacker. You can't pet a fish. Reptiles and birds aren't capable of thinking of you as family. You can't take a hamster or a rabbit for a walk. Don't get me started on insects. And while a dog can't plow your field or give you a ride like a horse can, a dog can still herd the horse and keep watch over it.

Dogs have been called "man's best friend" with good reason. They've earned it.

So now you know how I feel about them. Here are my specific values. I oppose the breeding of dogs and strongly encourage any potential new dog owner to consider adopting from a rescue or shelter and to not even consider a breeder. There are simply too many dogs filling too many shelters already. Overbreeding is perhaps the greatest enemy facing dogs today.

Pit Bulls have been the popular breed that the general public just love to hate and they need our protection. There is too much misinformation about them. They are subjects of far too much prejudice. They have been victimized by cruel, selfish people that only acquire one for the purposes of being a status symbol, or worse, being forced to fight.

PETA and the Humane Society of the United States are BAD. Their position on dogs rescued from fighting rings is that they are not worth the time and money to be rehabilitated and should summarily be put to death.

It is my belief that the solution to these issues first lie in education. People need to know the truth about dogs in general and Pit Bulls in particular. Misperceptions need to be changed. Let us network and educate each other and support each other. Man's Best Friend is worth crusading for, and it's a battle we can win.