Remember What I Said…. (warning: Triggers for Animal Lovers)

…way back when about adopting animals out?

Turns out, doing it over the internet isn’t the only bad way to do it.

Someone couldn’t train their Staffie (who like any 50 lb., 15 month old untrained adolescent dog was hard to handle) and sold her on the spot for 10$ (or 20$, depending on whose story you listen too). A few days later, she was found looking like this:

Caitlyn

Caitlyn3

The veterinarians estimated she had been like that for two days. Unable to eat or drink, the bloodflow to her tongue and part of lips cut off. However, some time in an hyperbaric chamber and cold laser surgery and it looks like she is is on the road to recovery. The Vets are hoping they will not have to remove part of her tongue and lips, but she is on solid food and the outlook is good.

Caitlyn2

And the police caught the unrepentant piece of trash who did it.

Court documents allege Dodson purchased the dog, which was known as “Diamond” at the time, for $20 on May 25. A witness who said she sold him the dog told investigators Dodson approached the woman who sold him the dog and said he had taped the dog’s face with electrical tape because she would not stop barking. The witness said Dodson was laughing about the claim, court documents state.

Dodson also reportedly told the witness he had chained the dog in his front yard but that the dog had broken free and escaped, the affidavit states.

The dog was found the following day, Wednesday morning, on someone’s doorstep with electrical tape wrapped around her muzzle.

Hopefully this waste of genetic material will get the full sentence of the law and be banned from ever owning another animal.

Hopefully from veterinary care Caitlyn will go to a rescue who will find her a forever home with kind, responsible human beings.

So again folks; if you must adopt your pets out, *never* give/sell them to random strangers.

Never Give an Animal Away Over the Internet

Warning: Triggers for pet lovers.

This weekend, animal lovers in Quincy, Massachusetts dedicated a park bench to Kiya, a pit bull who is better known as “Puppy Doe.”

Kiya’s original owner was moving and decided to give her away on Craigslist, posting a “free to a good home” ad. Kiya was taken by a woman who then “flipped” the dog, selling it to someone else.

Months after her owner gave her away, this dog…

Kiya

…was found in a park looking like this:

9/19/13- Appeal for help in fatal 'Puppy Doe' dog torture case.

…with injuries so horrific, so purely sadistic, she had to be euthanized.

(What kills me about abused dogs is they always look so confused, like they can’t figure out what they did wrong that someone would hurt them this way. They don’t understand.)

Nor is she the only case of people cruising Craigslist and similar sites for animals to profit from or abuse.

http://our-compass.org/2012/04/11/free-to-a-good-home-craigslist-dog-killer-sentenced-in-west-virginia/

http://www.wave3.com/story/20320106/craiglist-animal-abuse-suspect-pleads-guilty

http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/10/questions_after_accused_kitten.html

http://www.cbs46.com/story/17758400/dog-flipping-could-be-a-concern-for-pet-owners

Several groups have petitioned Craigslist to end pet adoption on their site, but they refuse.

If you must give your pet away (and sometimes financial circumstances or family issues dictate that):

1. Give yourself time to find them a good home. That means the pet is the first factor in your decision and the first thing you are making plans to deal with. Don’t get woobly and clingy, “Oh, I just can’t deal with it…” now. You will not be doing them any favors. Immediately start the process. Do not wait until the last minute and then give the pet away to the first person who e-mails you. If you do not have a friend or family member who wants your pet, you need a month, at the minimum, to find your pet a good home.

2. Contact a no-kill shelter. Often you will be put on a waiting list as they adopt pets out and room is made for your pet. (This is part of why you need to give yourself time.)

3. In the meantime, approach local rescue groups. There should be at least a couple. See if they can foster and place your pet. Or if they can find a home while you hold onto her or him. (Another reason why you need time.) Work these two angles at the same time. No one in either the shelter or the rescue group is going to be upset if your dog or cat finds home through someone else.

4. The last resort is to surrender your pet to the local city/state animal control/pound. Then advertise them on Craigslist and the local paper and Petfinder and everywhere you can, saying, “Here is a great pet, and you can get them at the Main Street Animal Shelter.” With all of three of avenues of adoption, going to shelters and rescue groups, people are being screened,  paying to adopt and leaving an entire record of personal information behind. You will not find sadists cruising these venues.

5. Another thing you can do while dealing with these groups is to place flyers in veterinary offices (that’s a big one a lot of people miss) and pet stores. The people who contact you, get as clear a picture of your pet’s future life as you can, ask about children, other pets, how much time they will spend with your pet, ask who their veterinarian is (that a nice indicator question). Insist on seeing their home. If you do decide to give them your pet, ask to see their driver’s license and take that information down. Some people also charge a “rehoming fee” as another means of discouraging pet flippers or abusers. Be nice, be apologetic (“I’m sorry, but this is my dog and I want to be sure she is well-cared for…”) but firm. True pet lovers will understand and be open to that. If anything feels hinky, say you will think about it and walk away. (Again, why you need time to do this.)

There are ways to make sure that your pet is safe and happy in their new forever home, you just need to take time and be conscientious.

If there is a tiny ray of sunshine out of all this, it’s that many states, including Massachusetts, have toughened their animal cruelty laws and judges are not being shy with handing those sentences down.

Now I will try to cheer you up a bit: I was fostering a pit bull who was a very sweet girl, but L.A. was in the grip of Pit Bull paranoia and nothing was coming through for her. So some friends in Oregon said they would take her if I could get her up there. My car certainly was not going to make the trip, so I flew her up. This was post 9/11, so of course TWA was inspecting everything. I got stopped at the check-in counter by two security guys.

“We’re going to have to ask you take the dog out of the crate mam’.”

“Oh O.k.”

“What kind of dog is that?”

“She’s a pit bull.”

One security guy looked at the other. “That look like a dog to you?”

“Yup, looks like a dog to me. Have a nice flight.”

The Devil Dog

As I sit here, reassuring the Pit Bull mix cowering under my chair from the fireworks kids are setting of in the neighborhood, I think it’s time to whip out my “Pit Bull’s are not evil, they are just not for everyone” speech.

I’m not going to sugar coat this, and obviously I’m not going to condemn the breed to hell everlasting.

How could I?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have worked with American Pit Bull Terriers (and their mixes) off and on for over 15 years. In the 1990’s, I was one of the few people in the Los Angles area that would take them on as foster pups. I have taken on ones that were abandoned pets, living wild and former bait dogs out of dog fighting rings.

When people say, “it’s not the dog, it’s the owner” that is the truth. What many fail to add is that Pit Bulls are not right for every owner, no matter how good their intentions may be.

Pitties (or “Pibbles,” as some aficionados call them) are intelligent, active, sweet, intensely loyal and attached to their owners.

(Very attached. They will follow you around the house. Wherever you sit, you will have a 35 to 60 lb foot warmer. I had one that when I went to the bathroom would sit outside the door and whine. That is one of the reasons why Pit Bulls are a tricky breed. You can’t keep them in the backyard and only come out to feed and water them. Any dog would suffer under those conditions, but that will seriously mess with a Pittie’s head. They *have* to be an integral part of their pack/family for their emotional wellbeing.)

They are also a dominant breed.

Now dogs are all individuals and some will be more more easy going and some will be more dominant. I have encountered easy going Pitties, dominant Labrador Retrievers and a flat out aggressive Shit-Zu. I have known a mellow Chihuahua. My hand to the Gods.

But in terms of breed traits, Pitties, Rottwielers, Boxers, Dobermans, Akitas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Amercian Staffordshire Terriers, Shar Peis, Siberian Huskies, Malamutes and several others are all dominant breeds.

(Chows-Chows are also classed as a dominant breed, but in my experience, their attitude is “I don’t give a fuck about anyone but my owner.”)

Not “aggressive” breeds. Aggression is a fear response and any dog can be made fearful and “aggressive.” These dogs are dominant. You can’t create dominance. Just like someone people are born leaders and some people can’t even control a student project group. You can’t create that innate force of personality. At least not in a dog.

A dog like most Golden Retrievers, for instance (most of the sporting breeds, in fact), is easy going. You are in charge and she/he is happy with that. If it seems like the alpha (ideally the dog owner) is slacking, they aren’t going to push the issue.

Dominant breeds are very aware of the pack hierarchy and if they feel the alpha is not doing her or his job, they are going to try to take over. That doesn’t mean they will attack their owners. It means they are going to start pushing boundaries and throwing their weight around.

We tend to think of dogs as barking loud, tail-wagging, very obvious in what they are feeling. But the truth is dogs are very subtle. When a pet dog challenges his/her human’s authority, it is usually in subtle ways the inexperienced owner will often miss until there is a big problem.

If they are not supposed to be on the couch, they will get up there. They will start listening to their owner’s commands selectively to outright refusing them. They growl if someone comes near their food. They get pushy about being in front. Not excited pushy, “I’M in charge” pushy. The difference is subtle. (There are other even more subtle signs of a change of attitude.) To the inexperienced, it will all come off as being playful or so minor it’s not worth getting worried about. At first.

But if the dog feels the pack is being threatened, they will put themselves as the first line of response.

This is where the big problems start. Dogs live in our world, but some parts are still a mystery to them as dogs are to us. Dogs can’t tell if that boisterous stranger coming into your house is an intruder or your cousin. If the dog they meet while walking is a potential friend or a challenger. When the owner is the alpha, the dogs take the situational cues from the owner. If you are relaxed, they will be relaxed. When the dog is the alpha, they make the decision if the person or dog is a threat or not. That should never be. No family dog should feel they make the decisions for the pack. As the alpha, it is the human’s job.

Family dogs should NOT be trained as guard dogs. Training a family pet for human aggression in a normal household is a recipe for disaster. There is a reason retired police dogs are *never* adopted out to the general public.

Dogs rely on body language to communicate between themselves and they are hoping we pick up on the cues. We are just now starting to be aware of what must be to them their most obvious “words.”

Dog Language

Oftentimes, we do not see even those.  I was walking by a park one day when I saw a group of people watching this stray “dangerous dog,” as they called him, racing around the park. What they did not know was the Boxer was relaxed and going into play-bows. He was not dangerous at all. He just wanted to play. I played with him a bit, collared him, read his tags and got someone to call his owner who came right over. If someone had approached him aggresively because they thought he was “dangerous,” they would have made him afraid and a scared dog is an unpredictable and potentially aggresive dog.

When encountering a new person or another dog, if the owner of a dog is inexperienced they can miss the tension in their animal and say “Oh, his tail is wagging, he’s hap…OHMYGOD!”

And it will happen in a heartbeat.

Once I was walking Taeda and Pilot (my Boxer/Dalmation mix) on their leads, and someone in the neighborhood had their Pittie off lead. The dog naturally ran over to us. He came up to Pilot’s nose and both of them went tense. Their tails were wagging softly, but they were stiff legged, ears forward, alert.

For a second. I swear to the Gods, it was a literal second.

Then they went at it. To this day, I do not know who lunged first, it happened so fast. And dog attacks and fights happen *very* fast. (And Taeda jumped in too because, hey, this is her pack. )

The approaching dog’s owner and I managed to drag them apart and no one was worse for wear.

But the truth is both the other dog’s owner and I fucked up. The owner should not have had his dog off lead and out of his control. And I should have stepped in front of my dogs and said “No!” before the dog reached us. (And that will work a lot of the time.) I was not the first line of response. I did not control the situation. I did not do my job as alpha.

Now I am not going to try to tell anyone how to train their dog. I am not a professional dog trainer and to be honest there is no “One plan fits all.” As I said, dogs are individuals and some dogs react better to some approaches and techniques and some dogs react better to others. Some dogs benefit from a dominant approach, while others do better with a more coaxing, “buddy” approach. Some respond better to hand signals and others to verbal commands. Some dogs are food motivated and some affection-motivated. (They are ALL reward motivated.) The shy, avoidant Taeda and the outgoing, pushy Pilot require very different approaches.

And they are subtle approaches. I assert my dominance with Pilot by making her down-stay while I get her food, place it in front of her and then wait for my permission to eat. She has to wait for me to go through doors first. When she gets too worked up in play (she is not allowed to growl at me, even in play, and some dogs do just playfully growl in play), she has to surrender the toy to me and wait until I think she has calmed down enough to play again. And of course, she is rewarded for good behavior.

And I never have to become physically violent to assert that I am in charge. Just subtle acts like that, maintaining the rules at all times (with dominant dogs, slacking in the rules means you are slacking in authority), combined with a constant “I got this” attitude works.

And when the pack hierarchy is set, she can have more fun because she is sure about her family and knows I am watching out for her and taking responsibly of taking care of things. I can have more fun because I’m not so worried about her being unpredictable.

But that is what works for her. Taeda (the actual Pit Bull mix) requires more coaxing and reward and less dominance. It took two years just to get her to where she could ask for affection. Pushing her around like Pilot could actually make her regress.

The point of all this is that some dogs are not for inexperienced dog owners and Pit Bulls, like all of the dominant breeds above, are not. If your only experience with dogs is feeding and playing with your family’s collie or retriever mix growing up, you are not going to be able to read and deal properly with a  dog that challenges your authority. It takes experience and that takes a long time to build. I have always been a conscientious (I like to think so anyway), loving dog owner. But when I had my previous dogs, Rutger, Kuluk and Gerard, I wish had known then what I know now. And I am still learning.

The reason that Pit Bulls get so much attention is because they are so common and easy to get. Pit Bulls are not a registered breed with the American Kennel Club (American Staffordshire Terriers are but American Pit Bull Terriers are not), so they (and Pit mixes) are plentiful and cheap to obtain. That’s why they are used in dog fighting rather than the larger Rottweilers who have just as much dominance and a much more powerful bite force (about a hundred pounds more than Pit Bull). A Rottie pup costs $1,200.00 minimum. A Pit Bull/Pit mix you can get for 50$ from the guy down the street. To many bad people, Pit Bulls are disposable.

The ready availability of Pit Bulls is their worst enemy, even for those outside the fighting rings. Someone shelling out $1,200.00 for a Rottweiler has spent time researching, considering, preparing for this dog. Often times, dog breeds run in families so they may have been raised with these dogs or have friends with these dogs so they have a good idea of what they getting and what they are doing. This dog is an investment to them, and they are more likely to care for that investment.

Someone who has no idea what they are doing, just getting a dog on a whim, to feel macho, whathaveyou, gets Pit Bull for $50 and then either gets bored with them or does not know how to handle them and chucks them in the backyard (or gives them to someone else who could possibly be even worse). They have nothing invested in this animal. And that is why there are so many Pit Bulls and so many of them are problem dogs. It’s not that the dog is evil, it’s just too many of them land in the hands of people who are not experienced enough or invested enough to have such a dog.

And that is besides the people who get these dogs for their machismo ego and abuse them, or respond to the challenges to their authority with physical abuse.

(But you can’t make assumptions based on lifestyles. I used to take my dogs to a dog park in Long Beach, and there was a guy who came the same time we did. He had the low riding caddy, the tracksuits, the gold chains, just the picture of “the gansta.” And he had the sweetest, most well-behaved, well-socialized gunmetal grey Pittie named “Blueberry.”)

So if you are looking for your first dog, steer away from dominant breeds. Get a dog that is going to be more forgiving of your mistakes, that doesn’t require quite so much focus and structure.

And before you vilify the breed, remember that there are well over a dozen breeds that are just as dominant/”aggressive.” They just tend to get better care than Pit Bulls and don’t get the exposure Pit Bulls do because there are not as many of them. If we wiped every Pit Bull from the face of the planet, one of them would rise to be the next “devil dog.”

(There is also the factor that most people, including those in the press, don’t know what Pit Bulls look like. Pilot is a Boxer/Dalmatian mix, yet all the time I get asked if she is a Pit Bull. This has made me *very* careful about her training and socialization: She is a breed ambassador for a breed she does not even belong to.)

EDIT: In this I missed the human and canine socialization that is required with dominant breeds. Owners of these breeds must make a contentious, routine effort to socialize their dogs so they will not be so pack-possesive and learn to be more open with people and their pets.

If dominant breeds sound like more work, it’s because they are. But the rewards are great.

My Thundering Herd

If you ask a dog owner about their dogs, you will never get a brief answer. Augustick was so kind to inquire, so here are my girls and their stories.

Pilot Pilot

So elegant, so noble. So not her.

Pilot is the big brindle & white one. I found her wandering down the street as a stray in 2006 when she was six or seven months old. All long legs and floppy ears. Malnourished and covered in fleas, but happy as a lark. I turned her into the pound and when no one claimed her I took her back. There was just so much to her that pointed to a great dog, too great to have such a short life. At the time I was researching the pilots of Wilmington Harbor during the American Civil War, thus she became Pilot. At first I thought she was four or five months old, but after getting fed regularly, she put on 12 pounds in ten days and all her puppy teeth dropped out. The lack of food had delayed her maturing. She is now a 60 lb. bundle of high energy love. As my vet says, “she runs wide open.” She once sprained her tail wagging it too hard. That’s the kind of personality she is: No half measures. She is a Boxer mix, probably with Dalmatian as despite technically entering senior-citizenhood (she turned eight this year) and getting walked for an hour everyday, she still has more energy than most two year old dogs. (And the spots under the white parts of her fur were another tip off. Those became more prominent as she aged.) She’s a big doofus, but loves people and thinks everyone exists to love her.

She’s also my stubborn little rebel. She is the dog who *knows* she is not supposed to nose around the counter, but the instant my back is turned…

PilotNaughty

She gets down as soon as I tell her to. And she sits and waits to go out and has to down-stay to eat. It’s the game of pushing what she can get away with.

She’s my wild woman. My bud, my pal. My bestie.

PilotBuddy

Unfortunately, having been jumped a few times in her youth by dogs whose owners would not train them, socialize them or keep on a leash, she is now not very good with other dogs that challenge her. We went through extensive training and socialization, but even then the trainer said she has to be supervised in play. That she and Taeda get on so well (even to the point Pilot will let Taeda roll her) is one of the reasons that Taeda was a keeper.

 photo PilotTaeda2.jpg

“Look mommy! I have a friend!” (Note the tail blur.)

Taeda is the smaller, red dog. She is a Pit Bull mix who was living wild in the woods around the apartment complex for at least four months. She was so shy of people no one could get near her. No one even knew what gender she was. I just called the dog “Tyler” and fed her/him everyday when Pilot and I went on our morning walks. Eventually “Tyler” began following us though our walk. Dogs are pack animals and I think she was just so lonely she just wanted some company, despite being so scared. We went early, while it was still dark, so much of the time I could not see and often not even hear her. Stealth dog. They followed so close I would accidentally hit them with my heel as we were walking, but she would shy away if I put my hand out. So we just had a silent shadow following us everyday. At one point, the neighbors had animal control set up a trap for her. For some reason, I woke very early (like 3am) that morning and took Pilot out. We found “Tyler” in the trap. Because she was a Pit mix and so scared of people, it was a death sentence. Animal control would hold her for three days to see if any owner claimed them and then put the dog down. I let her out. After that walk, she began playing with Pilot. Eventually it got to the point where she would let me pet her and I was able to get a leash on her and bring her inside.

Taeda2

My delicate flower. (She is actually. But this is was the first day inside the apartment and she was 35 lbs. of solid muscle. She’s since slimmed down.)

This is after she had settled in a bit.

Taeda

That’s when I discovered she was a girl. I switched “Tyler” to “Taeda.” Taeda is Latin for “pine torch/pine bough” and it’s part of the Latin name for the Loblolly Pine, which were the trees she was living under for months. And I have to tell you, that red is perfect camouflage for the woods. It is the same red of dried pine needles. The first time Pilot and I encountered her, we walked within five feet of her and only saw her when she got up to move away after we passed. That happened twice, the second time when we were looking for her.

Stealth dog.

Then she stayed in one spot in the house for four months. I’m not kidding. If she did not have a leash on to go outside, she went to the foot of my bed and stayed there.

I had never seen anything like it. It took months for her to start exploring the rest of the apartment, almost two years before she would ask for attention and over two years before she would compete for it. I have never encountered such a timid dog. She wasn’t terrified, it was never that extreme, just extremely shy and timid.

I don’t know what had happened to her before she came to us. I have fostered abused dogs before, including a Pittie that had been used as a bait dog in a fighting ring. She didn’t act like an abused dog, more like she had very little human contact. She had at least two or three litters before we found her (and it was a good thing we got her in when we did because she was going into heat again) but was only two years old or so and healthy. The way she stayed in one spot for so long makes me think she was physically cared for, but kenneled for most of her formative life. It’s possible that she was part of a fighting dog breeding program. (She is very fast and agile, which are desirable physical traits for the scumbags in dog fighting.) They started breeding her before she got to full size, before they realized she was going to be small. When they saw she was only going to be 35 lbs, they dumped her. (Gods only know what happened to her puppies.) That’s the prevailing theory anyway. I’m also close to a hospital/medical school/research center so it is possible she escaped from medical research facility.

The gentleman at their boarding kennel thinks it may not be so dramatic and that she simply may have been a feral dog for most of her life. Maybe.

And she was silent. Utterly silent. I began to worry that someone had cut her vocal chords (as some bad owners do to keep their dogs from barking), until one night one of the cats got near her food bowl and Taeda warned them off. That was a shock. She has a low voice for her size. But in two years, I have only heard her bark two or three times.

Really stealthy dog.

Taeda2

(These are early pictures, she is on a martingale collar now.)

And she groans when she stretches. It’s adorable.

Now that she has her confidence in the house, we are working on her confidence out of the house. It’s time consuming because I have to work with her one on one. (It’s hard to work on getting her confident while Pilot is hogging the limelight.) She’s clever,  more gentle and the best barometer I have ever had. If it is going to rain, even if the skies are clear at the moment, she has to be dragged outside.

*picture missing*

No! It might mist and I will be slightly damp!

But after sleeping rough for months, I guess she has earned the right to be persnickety about the weather.

But she is so sweet and when she is happy, she is the happiest being on the planet. She has this sort of running bounce (or bouncing run) that thumps her paws into the floor that really does make the two of them sound like a thundering herd. And she is just *so* excited to be loved. I’m still getting to know her.

So that’s me rattling on about my dogs.

PilotTaeda PilotTaeda2

PilotTaeda4 PilotTaeda3

My girls.

And then there are cats, of course: Sabre & Ghost.

Sabre and Ghost photo SabreandGhost2_zpsc6d180b2.jpg

Those are another set of stories. Sabre, found with a broken jaw and one dead eye under a hedge, and Ghost, pulled out from under a car in the last stages of hypothermia.

So anyone else want to talk about their furkids?