A Day as a Pit Crew Therapy Dog



Whenever I talk about my dog, Baby, being involved in a reading program with elementary school children, I quickly have to explain that, “No, Baby isn’t trained to read, the kids read to her!”

Baby is in her first year on the Pit Crew working as a therapy dog and — without question — her favorite activity is visiting schools where she is surrounded by children. She howls with anticipation and prances excitedly when we approach the building and she soaks up every bit of attention she gets from the kids and faculty.

This past year we’ve been frequent visitors to the after school reading program at Pecan Springs Elementary School, where the kids and teachers have come to recognize Baby and the other Pit Crew dogs as welcome friends.

Thanks to the Andy Roddick Foundation’s wonderful Summer Learning Program, Baby and the other Pit Crew dogs were invited to come read with the kids each afternoon during the program this summer.

Baby at elem school reading_2 7.17.2014

The kids read to Baby at the Andy Roddick Summer Camp.

The visits go something like this: We arrive just after lunch time, when the kids are settling into classrooms to read. Each dog is assigned to a classroom. The children get to choose a book and cannot wait until it is their turn to come over to read to Baby!

As they read, many of the kids take special care to show Baby the pictures in the book before they turn the pages. Baby rests calmly on her blanket and listens, without judgment, as the children read their chosen books. We’ve learned about sea creatures, Clifford, Shrek, and the solar system, and heard lots of other stories!

After everyone has had their turn to read to her, we usually end up surrounded by kids who are eager to learn about Baby. The kids ask all kinds of questions — “How old is she? What treats does she like? Does she know any tricks?” We often end up talking about respectful ways to handle pets, pet health and safety, dog-training, the importance of tags (ID and rabies), and other important things to know when caring for a dog.

Baby gets the massage she was waiting for.

Baby gets the massage she was waiting for.

I’ve even showed the kids a demonstration of how to “scoop the poop” using some of Baby’s bright pink Mutt Mitt bags (we used my keys as the item being scooped, so it was a completely clean demo!). And sometimes the kids just snuggle up next to Baby, resting, petting her, and relaxing for a few minutes before moving on to the next class activity.

Now that the summer program is over, Baby has a new reading blanket and we’re looking forward to fall when we can return to the school and reconnect with our extended family of friends at Pecan Springs!

To learn more about The Pit Crew, visit our website.

HuffPost does positive pitties

Excerpt from Huffington Post Green (see this week’s logo appearance below)

HuffPost Green is launching a week-long, community-driven effort to bust the myths and raise awareness about pit bulls, a maligned “breed” that often bears the brunt of dated, discriminatory legislation that can make it near impossible for these dogs to find a forever home. You can follow along with HuffPost Pit Bull Week here, or on Facebook and Twitter where we’ll be using the hashtag #PitBullWeek.

HuffPost’s animal welfare editor Arin Greenwood starts off this week with an article titled “10 Stereotypes About Pit Bulls That Are Just. Dead. Wrong.” She addresses some of the more commonly heard myths about these dogs and provides a brief answer to dispel some of those thoughts.

Sure at some point we’ve all read the posts, seen the cute pictures, and watched the comments pour in through social media ‘dispelling pit bull myths’ and we each have our own beliefs and reasons behind why we advocate for pit bull type dogs.

But as social media has been such a brute force in pushing ideas (both negative and positive) — seeing a somewhat well-known media entity launching a campaign, even if only for one week, shows something. What is that “something?” Well, it’s still to be determined. We’ll probably see both (1) an outpouring of support for pit bulls and (2) a backlash against them all across the internet over the next few weeks.

If you choose to participate in any discussions, please consider how your words might be received and if you are helping to spread a positive message, with constructive dialogue and accurate information.

We try to keep this in mind with everything that Love-A-Bull shares with the world, to support one of our primary goals — to help advocate through education. Make friends with people and appreciate their interests. Stereotypes, fears, and misconceptions are often simply a lack of knowledge.

Already there are some really great (read: adorable and I mean seriously adore-a-bull!!!) pictures and stories of pit bull type dogs feeding into HuffPost from their own editors and from across the web — and there are only more to come this week.

3rd Annual Strut Your Mutt in Austin!

JOIN the Love-A-Bull Team for Strut Your Mutt 2014!!!

Get ready, get set, get your pooch warmed up…it’s time for Best Friends Animal Society’s Strut Your Mutt in Austin! Join us for a leisurely morning walk to help raise money for homeless pets and shelters in our local area, then celebrate afterwards at our ultimate doggie festival.

Love-A-Bull is very excited to again participate in this annual nationwide fundraiser with our own Team.

Last year Strut Your Mutt raised nearly $1.7 million for participating animal rescue groups around the country. This year, the goal is $2 MILLION! Since Austin alone raised over $105,000 last year, the 2014 goal for Austin area participation is $125,000.

Love-A-Bull would like to help reach that goal by raising at least $3,500 to fund our training and therapy programs, spay/neuter services, community education, and to help continue saving the lives of animals in Austin which will ultimately impact the number of pets entering and leaving the shelters.

You can sign up to join Love-A-Bull’s Team here to help raise money and walk with us on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at Mueller Lake Park.

Can’t join us on the walk? You can still help us raise funding by signing up to be a Virtual Fundraiser or donating directly to our Team Captain. No matter how you decide to participate you’ll be helping us get closer to reaching our goal!

Help us start fundraising to reach our goal and, if you can, join us on the walk! As always, thank you for all of your wonderful support. We couldn’t do what we do without YOU!

Donations of any amount are appreciated! Here are some ideas for what these funds can help purchase, just to get you started:
– Heartworm and flea protection for one dog for one month
– New leash and collar or new bed for one dog
– Vet wellness check for one dog
– Spay/neuter for one dog
– New crate for one dog
– Mange or allergy treatment for one dog
– Vet check, heartworm treatment, spay/neuter, vaccinations for one dog
– Orthopedic surgery for one dog with bone or joint injuries

Pints for Pits: Celebrate Hope

Thank you to everyone who joined us to help celebrate this special anniversary edition of Pints for Pits and also those who helped support our event virtually! Through online donations, merchandise, special pint glasses, and raffle tickets — we not only met, but surpassed our goal of raising $5,000 to celebrate Hope and allow her legacy to live on.

We want to thank Opal Divine’s Marina hosting us for the 2nd year in a row and Thirsty Planet Brewing Company for helping to sponsor the event! Also a special thank you to our stupendous Love-A-Bull Volunteers and guest volunteers from Pints for Pups.


Pints for Pits: Celebrate Hope commemorated our dedication to Hope’s Fund. Just over a year ago, a sweet little coffee-colored girl entered our lives and changed us all. Her name was Hope. While Hope touched all of our hearts, just as touching was the outpouring of support we received to help her. In Hope’s honor, we created “Hope’s Fund” to provide medical care for abused and neglected dogs that come into the Love-A-Bull program.


Check out all the pictures here: “Pints for Pits: Celebrate Hope”. Photography courtesy of Amanda Wintenburg Photography.

About Hope’s Fund:
Just over a year ago, a sweet little girl entered our lives and changed us all. Her name was Hope. She was rescued by Love-A-Bull after years of severe abuse and neglect. Although our little girl was a fighter, she just couldn’t pull through. We don’t know much about her past but what we do know is that she received nothing but love, kindness, and support since the day she came to us.

While Hope touched all of our hearts, just as touching was the outpouring of support we received to help her. In Hope’s honor, we created “Hope’s Fund” to provide medical care for abused and neglected dogs that come into the Love-A-Bull program. These funds cover anytime from basic medical care such as vaccinations and spaying of our adopt-a-bulls, to more serious health issues such as extreme abuse or neglect resulting in starvation, heart damage, cancer treatment, or x-rays, ultrasounds, or surgeries for broken bones or trauma injuries. Each dog that comes into our rescue program receives top notch care from a select few Austin veterinary clinics that offer discounted rates to our organization. This medical fund allows us to continue our work.

Pit Crew Wins Award from CTAN

Congratulations to the Pit Crew!

Cari Crowe (Pit Crew Team Member), Crystal Dunn (Pit Crew Trainer), and Skyler Lightfoot (Afterschool Program Director)

We won a Breakfast of Champions Award by the Central Texas Afterschool Network for our work at elementary schools in Austin!

This certificate of appreciation truly goes to the dedicated Pit Crew dog and handler teams that give their time to visit schools in our program regularly. They commit their time to reading clubs, art clubs, festivals, and more.

Pit Crew won this award in recognition for their professionalism and their commitment to humane education and dog safety in schools – an effort in the making  for almost three years. Of course, having some of the cutest, smartest, and sweetest dogs anyone could ever have the pleasure of snuggling is also key.

Mike Martinez, Council Member and Mayoral Candidate, expressed his deepest gratitude for programs like ours today.  He commented on the great influence they had on him as a child:  “Pardon all this passion… I am a product of what you all do.  Thank you.”

Cari Crowe, Council Member Mike Martinez, Crystal Dunn

Pit Crew is on a roll – this makes our second award nomination this year! In April, Hope Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides assistance for those affected by family and sexual violence,  also nominated us for our work with their women’s shelter.  It was honor just to be suggested for such a high regard and we look forward to our future with their organization.

Thank you to everyone in the Pit Crew for your continued dedication to dogs, the community, and our team. You and your dog are doing great things!

Is your Pit Bull or Pittie Mix exceptionally social and sweet? Consider joining us! Visit the Pit Crew page for more details. The next class begins Sunday, June 8th, 6:30 pm at Zoom Room Austin. Space is still available!

Blog post by Crystal Dunn of Leaps N’ Hounds, Trainer for Love-A-Bull’s Pit Crew Therapy Dogs.

Pit Crew Gets Artistic!

A few of the donated drawings from Coat and Tails.

A few of the donated drawings from Coat And Tails.

The Pit Crew dogs love to prove stereotypes wrong by showing how great this breed can be.   They travel to various organizations in Austin to provide comfort and giant pittie smiles to those who may not be able to have dogs.  They share their stories of overcoming hardships with people that can relate.  They visit schools to spread their anti-bullying message, and talk about empathy and dog safety.   And of course, they never miss an opportunity to just snuggle.

While the dogs are our stars, there are many unsung heroes that help support our program through donations, word of mouth, coordinating events, and volunteering.  Recently Bryce from Coat And Tails Pet Portraits added himself to our heroes list by donating some excellent drawings of our dogs, in support of some of our more artistic endeavors.  He even dressed our dogs in elegant attire, showcasing their gentle nature.  One could even say they are refined ladies and gents, except for a little drool.

Eva, the superhero.

Eva, the superhero.

First we brought our new art project to Allison Elementary in South East Austin, where the kids were ecstatic to put their stamps of creativity on the caricatures.  Next we visited Pecan Springs Art Club for some coloring fun.  While we talk about the importance of being your unique self and embracing creativity, it’s great to see the kids putting those skills to work. Thanks again to Bryce Dishongh from Coats and Tails Pet Portraits for his generous artistic contributions to the Pit Crew. And if you are looking for some great custom art in honor of your favorite dog, please check out Bryce’s work.

Do you have a Pit Bull or Pit Mix who would love to work as a therapy dog?  Enrollment for the next Pit Crew Training Class is now open.  Class starts June 8th at 6:30PM at Zoom Room.  Registrants who still need their Canine Good Citizen certification will have another opportunity to test June 1st, 6:30PM also at Zoom Room. Visit the Pit Crew page for more details or send your questions to or

Blog post by Crystal Dunn of Leaps N’ Hounds, Trainer for Love-A-Bull’s Pit Crew Therapy Dogs

25 Years Later and BDL Still Doesn’t Work in Miami-Dade

Another installation of The Bully PulPit.

Recently in, Miami-Dade, a county in Florida that has banned “pit bull type dogs” since 1989, a local reporter took steps to demonstrate what the animal welfare and justice communities have known for a long time: breed discriminatory legislation is an unenforceable, dull tool that does not really address responsible ownership within a community.

In the story, the reporter finds and buys a pit bull puppy within a matter of 30 minutes and $200. The people from whom she bought the puppy told her “nobody cares” about the ban, substantiating the National Canine Research Council’s warning that “[a]busive owners, scofflaws, and criminals will continue to flout the law, and to obtain whatever dog they wish” after Miami-Dade enacted BDL.

So why is BDL so unenforceable? One significant hurdle is the extraordinary cost. The article cited that, since 1989, Miami-Dade’s Animal Services have issued 4,857 citations and collected $1,798,846 in fines over the past 25 years. That might sound impressive, until you compare it to Best Friends Animal Society’s estimated costs of enforcement: $3,678,595. Per Annum. This means that the fines collected represent less than 2% of the estimated costs of actual enforcement.

The other major hurdle, which also ties to the financial impracticality, is the amount of manpower required. The folks at animal services departments across the county are already over-taxed; in this county, they have 5 personnel responding to approximately 4,000 animal cruelty cases annually. Assuming they work 5 days a week, every week of the year (no Disneyland for these poor souls), that means they have to respond to, process, and resolve 3 cases every day. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to pursue beloved family pets who happen to have a certain type of build. At least, it shouldn’t.

If states are the laboratories of democracy, then local governments might be considered the crucibles, and Miami-Dade’s 25 years have shown that BDL can’t stand the heat. I only hope that other the county, municipal, and state governments can learn from Miami-Dade’s lesson before pursuing such an irresponsible policy.

Texas-Sized Thank You!

Jeff holding the donated iPad

We would like to give a big heartfelt THANK YOU to the amazing folks at CPR – Cell Phone Repair, who donated an iPad to Love-A-Bull during this recent holiday season!

Once the owner of the Round Rock location, Jeff Babcock and Manager Robin Kratzer heard about Love-A-Bull’s need they got the ball rolling. Then Shane Mericle of the Southpark Meadows location joined them to make this generous donation happen.

Thank you so much CPR! This will be so helpful when selling merchandise at fundraising events and keeping track of inventory, as well as many other uses!

CPR can help with any kind of electronic issues. They specialize in repairing cell phones, smart phones, computers, laptops, game consoles, cameras, mp3 players and most any other gadgets. Locations in Round Rock at La Frontera and South Austin at Southpark Meadows (

Thanks again to CPR for making this a great start to the new year for us!