Archive for March, 2012

River Update

When I look at my two rescue dogs, I often wonder what they had to go through before they were rescued and eventually ended up as part of our family.  Naively, I hope that at some point they were loved and that unfortunate circumstances led to them needing a new home.  I hope that my hugs and kisses weren’t the first they received.  Although they were discarded by somebody, I hope that they never had to suffer.  Their background and their history is a mystery . . . a part of their past that has no impact on their future.  Sadly, with River, we really don’t have to wonder, his medical history tells a story of cruelty and neglect. 

In early January 2012, a true hero rescued River near the Colorado River, where River was clinging to a rock.  The extent of his medical history tells a heartbreaking story.  River endured more than any one dog should ever have to.  He was emaciated, heartworm positive, suffering from hypothermia, and one side of his body was covered in deep, gritty wounds and scratches. His injuries suggested that he may have been hit by a car.  River had a fractured hip, a broken toe, and had BB pellets embedded deep in his chest from where he had been shot at some point in his prior life. 

River in His Early Days

He received daily hydrotherapy for his necrotic hip wound and we believed he would need surgery to repair his fractured hip and afterward, he would need heartworm treatment.  A few days after his rescue, River collapsed,  and stopped breathing. This led to the discovery that River suffered from a heart condition called an atrioventricular block (or AV block), which impairs the conduction between the chambers of the heart. Although it was unclear what caused this condition in River’s case, we knew that it could be exacerbated in any incidence of high stress or excitement, which could potentially lead to another collapse.  We reached out to the community for support and boy did you all step up!!  River received an overwhelming amount of support from our community.  We were touched when supporters donated money and toys to keep River mentally stimulated while recovering.Initially, because of the extent of his medical issues, we thought it would be best for River to remain at the vet’s office.  His constant need for medical treatment and the need for him to be in a very calm environment made it difficult to find the perfect foster home for River.  The best scenario would have been a home with no other dogs (River couldn’t afford to get excited or play) and nothing too stimulating (small children, etc.).  This had nothing to do with River’s temperament; it was a matter of necessity given River’s heart condition, including his heartworm positive diagnosis. Fortunately we have great news to share … River will not need additional hip surgery!!  This means that River is ready to start his heartworm treatment.  Unfortunately, to date, River is still in boarding and this is not an ideal situation for him to receive heartworm treatment.  The kennel is not conducive to the calm environment he needs to undergo treatment.

River’s wounds have healed nicely and his hair has grown back!  He has gained about 13 pounds and looks great.  His heart condition seems to have disappeared and we suspect that consistent food, shelter, and love might be the cause of the disappearance.  Our trainer suspects that he was a chain dog due to his lack of manners.  Although we don’t have to wonder about River’s history, we can use it as a guide to help him in the future.

Smiley River!

River needs to find the ideal, calm foster or adoptive home.  River isn’t fond of cats, but he can go with another dog, one who can help him learn manners and won’t get him overly excited as he will be going through heartworm treatment in the foster home.  He seems eager to learn and is food driven.  He is already learning his basic commands and doesn’t react to barking dogs while on walks.  He is just happy to be out of his kennel enjoying his new life!!  Do you think you might be River’s guardian angel??  If so, fill out an application here.

River Loves to Romp in The Grass.

 

–Ofelia, Love-A-Bull Volunteer

 

Does Southwest Airlines LUV the Pitties or Pity the Love?

Updated: Jul 17, 2014 9:32 AM

Guest blog post by Meghan Turner, Love-A-Bull Co-Founder.

On a recent trip from Austin to KC, I was flipping through the most recent issue of Southwest Airlines’ Spirit Magazine. You can imagine my surprise to spot a letter to the editor responding to a story highlighting military dogs (Update: link no longer available, original title “A Brief But Lucky Encounter”) – including the beloved Sergeant Stubby. Even better, the letter was written by one of my friends in the Austin animal community (and fellow pittie guardian/advocate), Susan Hightower. Susan is a long-time volunteer for the Austin Animal Center, an Adjunct Professor of Animal Law at the University of Texas, and a proud member of Love-A-Bull. Susan’s letter politely but firmly corrected the writer, who described Sgt. Stubby as a “bull terrier,” not a “pit bull” type dog as we know him to have been, and provided a positive plug for all dogs lumped into the “pit bull” category as the wonderful family members we know them to be. Spirit Magazine replied that Susan’s letter had “duly clarified” the topic. I was practically cheering in my seat, nudging my neighbor and showing her my own pittie (proudly – and a bit geekily – displayed on the cover of my iPhone). It’s the little victories, right?

But, my thrill was short-lived, as I turned a few pages and saw this story about workplace politics (Update: link no longer available, original title “My Boss is a [Blank]“). The story itself couldn’t be more innocuous, but the subheading made my heart sink: “Is your boss a pitbull or a prince?” Assuming “pitbull” (sic) was intended to be the derogatory descriptor in that comparative word pair (although, Ozzy can be pretty convincing), this word choice is a stark and disappointing reminder that there is still a commonly held negative association attached to the vernacular label “pit bull.” Just when I had put Sarah Palin’s comparative slur behind me, here is another example of how offensive semantic associations have an unfortunate degree of staying power. The language that we use (and that the media uses) is an important part of changing perceptions when it comes to championing our pitties (check out Stubbydog’s recent blog post on this very topic), and as much as I wanted to enjoy my experience flying with Southwest, this took a big chunk out of the respect that they had earned in my book just a few pages earlier.

Evidently, this issue was not “duly clarified” for Southwest’s Spirit Magazine after all, and more work needs to be done. Journalists and writers need to realize the heft of their word choices – by consciously or unconsciously promoting a message that pit bull type dogs are mean or aggressive (or heaven forbid, slave drivers that make you work overtime), they are undercutting the sweet and loving image that is much more the reality. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but until “pit bull” is not synonymous with fighters and bullies, we will continue to treat it as a HUGE deal.

Ya listening, Spirit Magazine? Give the pitties the LUV they deserve.

Pit Crew Training Begins!

On Saturday, March 17, a group of canine good citizens started their training to become members of the all-pittie therapy dog program, Pit Crew.  Seven Pit Crew candidates and their people were ready to get started!

Titan Holly, aka Wink Sugar Rita Jewels Sakari
From top left: Titan, Eva, Holly (Wink), Sugar Skull, Rita, Jewels (with Leaps N’ Hounds trainer Crystal Dunn), and Sakari.

Class is being held on Saturdays in south Austin at the home of the Enlightened Warrior Program.  Crystal Dunn of Leaps N Hounds is the fantastic trainer working with the group.  The purpose of the course is to prepare the dogs and their humans for experiences they will likely have when working as therapy dogs.  As with the Canine Good Citizen test, not everyone passes on the first try — this is a tough program!  But it is so worth the effort, as the Pit Crew does great work!  Take a look at the Pit Crew’s page!

Bluebell Everyone introduced themselves, and it turns out all of the dogs in the Pit Crew training program are rescues and have stories to tell.  Crystal kicked off the training after the intros, beginning with “sit” and “down” to see how everyone has mastered the commands.  Titan was quick to offer a paw or two!  Sugar Skull does a great job, using only hand signals (she is completely deaf)!  Watch her in action: Sugar Skull sit and down.  Another great sit and down came from Jewels.  And Eva gave us sit, down and more!  Even young little Bluebell, who was auditing the class, with her co-founder and Mom, patiently waiting her turn (see picture on right), got in on the action and did a nice sit and down move.

Next the group moved outside with Crystal leading the way.  The pups were about to be put through their paces.  Outside, the group had to run a “mine field” of distractions, including toys, treats and other interesting objects.

Rita prepares to run the obstacle course Bluebell runs the gauntlet!
Above left: Rita prepares to run the obstacle course; Above: Bluebell’s turn to run the gauntlet!

The pups also did some walking on a loose leash so that Crystal could size up their leash walking skills.

Eva waits patiently for her human.

The Pit Crew hopefuls also had to show their patience and manners by sitting and staying while their humans walked away, and then after their human returned, doing a friendly meeting of a stranger and their dog.

Finally, the dogs were exposed to the types of equipment they might encounter when working as therapy dogs.  The equipment included people using a cane, a walker, a crutch, and a wheelchair.   Watch Holly (aka Wink) encounter medical equipment for the first time.  Here you can see how Sakari checks out the medical equipment, too.

After all the outdoor activity, our vivacious pups were starting to fade a bit.  No wonder!  Nearly two hours of outside training is a lot to take in!

Back inside, the canine crusaders’ reactions to loud noises were tested with pot and pan lids being banged together, and their patience was tested with clingy, loud people fawning on them.

Holly (aka Wink) all tuckered out

All in all, this was a very good group and instructor Crystal was pleased with her students.

The cool concrete was the best reward after the hard work!

On right: Holly, aka Wink, takes a well-deserved break.

Stay tuned to see if all the pups make the Pit Crew at the completion of their 7-week course.  Well done everyone!  Meanwhile you can check out more video of this class here.

Thank DOG, Fionna is Safe!

When I got the dreaded call that Fionna had been missing for almost a day, my heart sank.  I am not going to lie, initially I thought we may never see her again.  She was lost on the evening of March 14, 2012.  Her foster had gone out of town and left her with friends.  They, in turn, had done what we always ask people not to do: they left her unattended in the back yard.  How she got out is a mystery.  There are no holes in the foster home’s six foot fence.  So, someone either opened the door or she jumped the fence.  We tell people over and over:  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED IN THE BACKYARD. 

Pitties love people.  They are naturally inquisitive by nature — not to mention athletic.  If they can find their way out, they will.  This story could have ended very differently, if not for the many Love-A-Bull volunteers who physically pounded the pavement handing out thousands of flyers, and the wonders of social networking.  As I myself began my search, started to see the flyers going up, watched people coming together, I began to have hope.  When I would knock on a door to inquire about Fionna, and a family member would answer and say “Oh, thank you, we already have that flyer,” I knew we had turned a corner.  We had started to saturate the area with information.  Then, the tips started to come in . . . and, they were aggregating in the same area.  Our girl was out there, and she was alive.  Monday night was a terrible thunderstorm.  With each thunderous bolt of lightening and the pouring down rain, I tossed.  I would shut my eyes tightly and whisper “please be o.k. Fionna . . . please.” 

Sarah and her roommate, Mimi, are doglovers. Sarah has a pittie mix herself, and follows Love-A-Bull on Facebook.  So, she knew Fionna was missing. Mimi, on the other hand was blissfully unaware of Fionna, but won’t hesitate to help a lost dog in need.  So, when she saw a big, dirty dog running across five lines of traffic on Braker Lane, not too far from Mo-Pac, she knew she had to do something.  Fionna was sprinting across traffic like it was a field!  Oh my heavens!  To think, how many times had she done this over the six days she had been missing?  Did she have a guardian Angel?  Well, she did that day, and her name was Mimi!  Mimi followed her into a gas station, and got her cornered!  There was a fence behind her.  She paused for a second.  Was she crazy?  This dog was big.  What was she doing?  She gathered her strength and was able to corral her into her car.  She immediately called her roommate, but she didn’t tell her what she had in the car– she was afraid she would go nuts, if she knew she had a pittie (being the big Love-A-Bull fan that she is!).

Mimi pulled up at her house, and Sarah did go nuts!  Why?  “Fionna!” Sarah said.  “I know this dog!  Everyone is looking for her!”  You see, it was the perfect confluence of factors: ‘Mimi, the savior’ and ‘Sarah, the Love-A-Bull fan!’  Sarah couldn’t contain her excitement!  They immediately contacted Love-A-Bull, and she was back where she needed to be within the hour.  Thank Dog for Mimi and Sarah!!!

Our Heroines!

Fionna was ill several times through the night and was very dirty, but is otherwise doing fine!  Thanks again to all our super awesome volunteers who never gave up on Fionna.  And a huge special Thank You to Mimi and Sarah!!  Our Heroines!!!

Taking Care of the Pack

This past December, Love-A-Bull learned of the Buentello pack from San Antonio, Texas.  They contacted us for help because their landlord threatened to evict them due to their families’ two pit bull type dogs.  These dogs were being used as service dogs to assist with mobility and physical and emotional security for their eight-year old son who has Autism/PDD and their four-year old son who had both his lower legs amputated as a result of a birth abnormality. Fortunately, Love-A-Bull was able to help the Buentellos keep their dogs. You can follow-up on the details of their story here.

Unfortunately, the story does not end there. The Buentello father has been diagnosed with cancer and was given an estimate of two months to live. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy to try to extend his life a few more months.  In addition to the difficulty of coming to terms with this unfortunate situation, they are struggling financially, as they do not have life insurance or money to cover medical and funeral costs. They are trying to raise funds to help cover these costs. Please help them take care of their pack by helping them reach their goal by donating here.

Pooh and the Gang

Ah, Spring is in the air.  People are adopting.  It’s one of the best times of year for adoption because people are invigorated.  The weather is beautiful.  People are thinking about jogging at the lake, and taking advantage of Austin’s other beautiful outdoor activities.  So, it was fortuitous for Love-A-Bull that we got a call about a momma pit bull and her five puppies that were desperately in need of help.  Momma is heartworm positive, in need of some desperate dental assistance, and missing most of her fur from a bad flea infestation.  In spite of all that, Momma is lucky.  Why?  A kind woman took her in and rescued her.  She couldn’t afford her medical care, or to keep the pups, but did the best she could, and after making over fifty phone calls seeking assistance, found us!  One rescue even told her that they would take her dog, if she paid them $700.  Hmmm.  Anyhow, we have gotten Ms. Momma all the medical care she needs so she can keep her, and we will keep a close eye on her in the future.  Now, onto finding homes for her adorable five kiddos.  It’s Spring!  Anybody want a new friend?  For more information on Pooh and the Gang, and our other pitties up for adoption, check out our adopt-a-bulls.

Pooh

Piglet

Eeyore

Tigger

Rabbit

No Spring Break for these Studious Pups – it’s Canine Good Citizen Test Time!

 

School For Dogs!

Last Saturday, four eager pups and their humans headed to Southpaws University to take the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. The test is administered monthly at Southpaws Playschool.  The CGC test was first introduced by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989.  Designed to stress responsible ownership and basic dog manners, the test rewards successful examinees who demonstrate good manners at home and in their communities. Sounds reasonable enough, but this test is tough, and requires that dogs meet all 10 elements which test interactions with humans and other dogs:

1.   Accepting a friendly stranger

2.   Sitting politely for petting         

3.   Appearance and grooming

4.   Walking on a loose lead

5.   Walking through a crowd

6.   Sit, down on command, and stay

7.   Coming when called

8.   Reaction to another dog

9.   Reaction to distraction; and

10.  Supervised separation

For details of each element, see http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/training_testing.cfm.

Humans may encourage dogs verbally and with hand signals, but no treats may be used to coax behavior.  Each dog must successfully complete all elements of the test in one try to be passed.  A dog may re-try only one of the 10 test requirements listed above and still pass. But, the good news is, the test is administered monthly at Southpaws, and the dogs may come back and take it until they pass!  It isn’t uncommon for nerves to get the best of a dogs’ humans, and often the test is not passed on the first try.  Once your canine pal passes the exam, he or she is rewarded with a certificate from the AKC.  Successful completion of the exam is often a prerequisite to becoming a therapy dog.

So, on a rather rainy Saturday, the four CGC certification hopefuls were Huey, Titan, Bella, and Jewels.  Everyone was excited and there was nervous energy in the air!   Who, if any, had the right stuff to become a CGC-certified pup?

Candidate #1 – Titan

Titan!

Titan is a gentle giant who hails from East St. Louis.  Exuding the mental toughness needed to conquer the CGC drills, Titan was all business — and yet gentle as a lamb — as he made his way through the test.  As a young adult, Titan has in his three years become quite the hunk, weighing in at a masculine 94 pounds.  Accompanying Titan through the exam was his friend, Emily.  Laying down a nearly stellar performance, Titan’s Achilles’ paw was that pesky “down” command (he only started learning that one week prior to the test).  Titan and the judge talked it over, and Titan said he is going to polish just a couple of elements up for next time so that he is perfect.  See?  He’s all business.  We expect to see him back in action at next month’s test.  Way to go, Titan, you are nearly CGC-ready!

Titan tests for Appearance And Grooming

Emily Loose Leash Walks Titan!

Candidate #2 - Bella

Bella!

Bringing her sweet disposition and sassy blue bandana to Saturday’s event was Bella, a lovely girl of approximately three years of age.  Bella also brought along her human, Todd, who tells us that Bella has no formal obedience training.  Well you wouldn’t know it based on her dazzling performance!  Bella was attentive, patient, and above all, sweet.  Her lovely disposition never changed, even when faced with the daunting element “walking on a loose leash.”  This element was a little trying, and so Bella is going to give it another go soon.  We can’t wait to see this girl again, because with her sunny attitude, she would make a fantastic therapy dog.  You go, Bella!

Bella Tests for Reaction to Another Dog.

Candidate #3 – Jewels

Jewels!

Jewels is as lovely as her name, and her doggie day care boyfriend Rascal would be the first to howl Jewels’ praises!  While Jewels was hesitant to reveal her age (she has suitors, you know), a source tells us she is around three years old.  Coming into Saturday’s challenge, Jewels had completed both the Love-A-Bull Basic and Advanced Obedience programs, and boy did her diligence pay off!  Jewels performed all 10 elements well enough to pass and become CGC-certified!  Her human Deborah was so proud, and both Jewels and Deborah looked forward to sharing the news with Rascal.  Jewels is on her way to try for a spot on The Pit Crew, Love-A-Bull’s all pittie therapy dog group.    WAY TO GO JEWELS! 

Jewels Sits While Accepting A Friendly Stranger!

Candidate #4 – Huey

Huey!

Huey is a handsome, and dare I say dapper, year-and-a-half-old boy who lives with Stephanie and Zach.  Huey is a recent graduate of the Love-A-Bull Advanced Obedience class.  Rarin’ and ready to go, Huey sported a fetching blue bowtie that Stephanie made especially for the big day.  Huey undoubtedly wowed the spectators with his good looks, huge smile, and can-do attitude.

Huey did a fantastic job!  Huey has only a couple of little tweaks to make to his repertoire and then he will be back to claim his CGC certificate.  See you soon, Huey!

UPDATE!  Titan came back and took the test again.  He passed with flying colors.  Proof positive that one only needs to keep trying.  Both Titan and Jewels are registered for the Pit Crew, which starts next Saturday the 17th.  We will keep you updated on their progress, as well as all the new Pit Crew trainees!  I know we are all excited.  In the meantime, I know everyone will keep working until all the pups pass!  It is only a matter of time!

Lisa McClain

Petunia Update!

 It seems like not too long ago that Petunia walked into our lives from Florida where she was rescued from a big fight bust.  We love getting updates from her foster Momma, Jen.  Here is the latest.

It is hard to believe that our Sweet Petunia used to be a scared little pancake pup.  Most of the time she is a happy, loving dog who loves spending her days climbing trees (yes, climbing trees) with her two human foster brothers…

Petunia Climbs A Tree!

…. playing tug of war with her two foster canine siblings, exploring smells and sights on our local nature trail and she has gotten bedtime cuddling down to a science.   You know Petunia is her true adventurous self when she has a huge grin with one bat ear sticking straight up and the other flopping half way down.   Like a Gremlin, beware of getting her wet.  Baths send Petunia into rocket mode.  She does the Fred Flintstone on my bed, leaps up in the air, lands awkwardly on the floor and then does figure eights at lightning speed around my house.  She ends this routine on her back, tangled up in blankets with her feet kicking in the air begging one of us to join her.   Of all the dogs in my house, Petunia is the lowest energy and besides her morning walk and evening rocket act she is super chilled out and likes to lounge on the bed, in her crate or getting some rays out in the garden.   Petunia is a snuggly little bed bug and makes me rouse her in the morning to go outside.  Once she’s done her business, she lazily walks back to the bed and jumps up in whatever warm spot a human has left for her. 10 am is a much more reasonable wake up time…don’t you think? 

Cuddle Time!

You will notice I said, “Most of the time…” above.  There are things that still freak Petunia out.  She is very comfortable in my house, at my Mother’s house and on her walks but new places with too much stimulation can shut her down.  I have to remind myself that until a month ago, she knew little about the world around us so we are working hard to make as many positive associations as we can with situations she is likely to face in real life.  Luckily, she is an inquisitive, adventurous little pup who loves, loves, loves her people so it isn’t hard to support her in her learning.  She is naturally curious and wants to learn.  I can tell you that she does not like parking lots, being near busy streets or a lot of cars.

An overly urban scene is not really her thing.  She will let you know how scared she is by shaking, making herself as small as she possibly can, refusing to walk and then if all else fails, she can get growly with nearby dogs.  Out on the trail or at home…basically anywhere where she feels confident, there is no such thing as a dog she doesn’t like.  She has learned very good manners and has partnered up with one of my dogs so he can show her how it’s done. 

I love Petunia and enjoy every minute with her.  As a foster mama, the hardest and conversely the most beautiful thing is letting the dog you have bonded with, stayed up nights with and nurtured go to her forever family but I know there are more dogs like Petunia that can bloom with the right care so I am committed to making room so I can be here when they come along.

Yes, I’ve shed tears and there are surely more to come as I sense that we may be close to finding Petunia that perfect match but I have absolutely no doubt that she will make some lucky family a wonderful dog, a companion for life.  There are many more things about the world that Petunia has to learn but I hope that we have given her a good base and that her new forever family will love her as much as we do.

If you are interested in adopting Petunia, check her out here.