The Problem with Pitties

It matters not what one is born, but what they grow to be.
- Albus Dumbledore

3-13-14(1)I recently wrote a post on why I love (accurate) breed profiling.  I briefly mentioned pitties (A.K.A., pit bulls), but didn’t really go into depth about them as a specific “breed” of dog. Right now pit bulls are a polarizing breed.  Lovers or fighters?  Vicious or victims?

As I’ve previously written, I’m all for accurate breed descriptions, or profiling. Name things accurately. Describe things correctly. As Dumbledore pointed out to Harry Potter, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”  Sage words.

Polarizing things, such as pitties, puts them in angel or devil categories, each side slinging skewed statistics and unrealistic qualities, towards the other:

  • Their jaws lock on their victims/There’s no such thing as an aggressive pittie
  • The pit bull terrier is the breed of choice for criminals./Pit bulls are the best family dogs.
  • Pit bulls will readily fight other dogs/Pit bulls are the most social dogs out there

Who’s right?  The problem lies within the fact that we only have two choices within to categorize pits: angel or devil.

In 1820, Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous Ivanhoe, a medieval romance set in 12th century England.  One of Ivanhoe’s characters that doesn’t get a lot of credit is Isaac of York, a Jew.  In 12th century England, where the story is set, Jews were basically a pariah. Hated and maligned, and apparently quite capable of witchcraft against Gentiles, according to the ludicrous thinking of the period.  They had mostly, if not always, been portrayed in western fiction as evil, base and cowardly.  After a bit of time, a small, select group of people began to loathe the treatment of Jews in literature, and portrayed them to be enlightened people, who were innocent beyond reproach (even Rebecca in Ivanhoe was treated as a pinnacle of beauty and innocence).  Obviously neither description of Jews was accurate – any large group of people cannot possibly be all good or bad.

Then comes Isaac.  Sir Walter Scott did something amazing when he created the character of Isaac:  he allowed Isaac to be base and elevated. Kind and cruel.  Able to be callous one moment, and show extreme tenderness the next.  In other words, Scott made him real.  To my recollection, this was the first time in history that Western culture had portrayed someone Jewish as, well, neither angel nor devil.  He was merely human. He was just like other humans.  And we judge humans on a case-by-case basis, not by gender, by ethnicity, or by…well, anything other than who the individual is.

2-10-14 (2)

Consider Isaac when debates about pit bulls come up.  The best thing we can do for pitties as a “breed” is to allow them to land somewhere between angel and devil, just like any other breed of dog living being.  Pitties are not perfect. Please don’t put that label, so full of pressure, on them.  Pitties are dogs, no more, no less.  Just like every other dog, they have their quirks, and they have their amazing redeeming qualities.  Most importantly, they are individuals, not to be defined as a one-size-fits-all breed standard.

I am admittedly a pittie fan.  Being a trainer, I am familiar with these dogs. I’d say roughly 60% of my clients own pitties/pittie mixes, however, I have never been bit by one. They can be very timid sometimes, and occasionally very submissive, but stand-offish is not a word for them.  Sometimes shy, sometimes boisterous.  Always a riot, though.  Typically, they’re the type of dog who’d apologize for apologizing too much.

I’ve worked with a few clients who had dog-reactive pit bulls, but then again, I’ve had 4 pugs in the last week who were dog reactive.   Pitties are not suitable for every situation, but then, no dog is. But I’d confidently say they’re appropriate for most situations. I will not lie and say they are without fault; believe me, they can have faults, just like every other dog.  But they have heart. They have loyalty.  They seem to be willing to try to do what ever you want them to do. They are a dog. I personally do not own one because, unfortunately, that would be illegal in my home city of Lakewood.  But hopefully I will be able to in the near future.  I’ve kinda developed a crush on pitties, you see.

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This is why Darwin Dogs is so vocal about ending breed specific legislation (“BSL” or “Breed Bans”), and are aggressively pursuing an end to them..  As our mission statement proclaims, we are dedicated to peacefully and logically examining the necessity of Breed Specific Legislation in various cities, starting with our hometown of Lakewood, Ohio.

So instead of serving the Kool-aid of “Perfect Pitties” or the poison contained in the BSL’s, it’s time to give the victims of the BSL laws what they deserve: the opportunity to be looked upon with all their glorious faults and beauty.  In other words, just a regular dog. Perfectly imperfect.

Please help us in our fight against stereotypes, such as BSL.  For more information about how you can help, please check out All Breeds Lakewood, which is comprised of a handful of Lakewood citizens who have banded together to end breed discrimination and promote dog safety in our city.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

How Lakewood’s BSL Came To Be

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

Roux

Name: Roux
Breed: Pittie Mix
Crime: Letting a thief into her owners’ house in their absence, and then snuggling with the cops who arrived after neighbors alerted authorities

There’s just something about Lakewood.  A city where a population of 52,131 is somehow comfortably held on 5.5 square miles of land. And we peacefully co-exist!  We have a small-town mentality that feels almost like modern Mayberry.  We are a tolerant city, where we don’t merely look past our differences; we celebrate them.  We thrive on knowing each other, not merely being “just neighbors”.  We truly feel a sense of community that goes beyond what most cities’ capabilities.

That’s why when, on July 21, 2008, we were all so shocked when a law was passed in our city.

Summary:

No person may keep, harbor or own pit bull dogs or canary dogs in Lakewood, Ohio, with exceptions for dogs in the city on the effective date. A dog may be allowed to stay provided it has a microchip for identification, has been sterilized, the owner has liability insurance of $100,000, and the dog is properly confined or secured. Failure to comply could result in the removal or impoundment of the dog. The owner may also be charged with a misdemeanor. (Source: animalaw.info)

In other words, our tolerant, diverse city passed a law outlawing …diversity.    A law passed based upon how an individual looked, rather than what their actions entailed. How did this happen?

Well, that’s hard to say.  I truly don’t believe that our council members hate dogs.  Perhaps they saw an increase in dog bites in general, or just merely became aware that dog bites happen, and made a reactionary response to the problem, rather than a rational response.  I say “reactionary” because the logic utilized in this ban doesn’t make any sense.

Let me explain.

Right before the ban was passed in July 2008, Lakewood Observer published this article on May 25, 2008 by Brian Powers (former Lakewood councilman who pushed the pit bull ban on Lakewood).

The “article” – which reads as if written by a drunk college frat boy cribbing from Wikipedia the night before his 50 page paper is due – would be humorous if it hadn’t been written by an individual with the ability to pass laws based upon the content of said late-night cribbing session.  For example, the article states that:

“Every legitimate study conducted in America, including the study by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, has demonstrated that pit bull bites are more likely to result in a fatality than bites or attacks by any other breed.” – Brian Powers

 

Please define "legitimate study".

Please define “legitimate study”.

No citations of any kind were included with any of Powers’ “facts”.  Trust me, I looked.  And looked and looked.  I then searched and Googled my heart out.  All I came up with was this quote:

The CDC strongly recommends against breed-specific laws in its oft-cited study of fatal dog attacks, noting that data collection related to bites by breed is fraught with potential sources of error (Sacks et al., 2000) – ASPCA Policy and Position Statements

 

Absolutely no justification nor citation for anything in Powers’ stance on BSL, as stated in his article in the Lakewood Observer, merely contradiction on every point.  Powers’ somehow became the spearhead of a movement with devastating consequences based upon…nothing.  No facts. No logic. No research.  Merely a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem. Sound familiar?
Ask a doctor about vaccines.  Ask animal care professional about pitties.

Ask a doctor about vaccines. Ask animal care professional about pitties.

I wanted to write a post picking apart Lakewood’s ban on pit bulls (and the Powers’ article), but it’s like cotton candy: made of nothing but spun sugar and air. Fragile, falling apart if examined at all. Not a shred of logic, science or reality.
 Apparently Conway worked as fact checker for Lakewood City Council in 2008.


Apparently Conway worked as fact checker for Lakewood City Council in 2008.

  As Greg Murray Photography, a staunch supporter working to #endbsl put it:
“I read this interview of then councilman Brian Powers every month. He was a councilman in Lakewood in 2008 when BSL was passed. These terrible and heart breaking answers are some of many things that drive me to advocate for pits.
‘Question: All breeds of dog bite. Are pit bulls really more dangerous than other dogs?
Brian Powers Answer: Unfortunately, yes, pit bulls are very dangerous. When a labrador, collie or other dog bites, you might end up with a bruise or, in some cases, a puncture wound. When a pit bull attacks, you may end up maimed for life or, in many cases, dead.’
bigly so
Greg Murray has asked via his Facebook page:
“If you have children and a pit in your home, you are a terrible parent. Let Lakewood [City Council] know what it’s like to have children and pits in the same household. Here are the emails for council and the mayor. Please write them now.
Sam.OLeary@lakewoodoh.net, david.anderson@lakewoodoh.net, john.litten@lakewoodoh.net, daniel.omalley@lakewoodoh.net, tom.bullock@lakewoodoh.net, cindy.marx@lakewoodoh.net, ryan.nowlin@lakewoodoh.net, Mike.Summers@lakewoodoh.net
Let me note that some of the people listed above DO NOT support BSL. But we still need to email all of them.”
Well said, Greg.
Name: Lucy Breed: Pittie Mix Crime: Blanket Theif and Serial Cuddler

Name: Lucy
Breed: Pittie Mix
Crime: Blanket Theif and Serial Cuddler

But while many of our council members do not actively support the BSL, I ask why they aren’t speaking out against it?
I strongly encourage not only contacting your Lakewood representative, but visiting All Breeds Lakewood, a group that is dedicated not only to ending BSL, but enriching the lives of pet owners in the City of Lakewood by not only ending discrimination against dogs based upon breed, but strengthening the scope of our current dangerous dog law to target actual dangerous dogs.  Further, making sure through dog safety outreach programs, education and services, our dogs are not put into dangerous situations.
Only a fool would think that legislating against a given group would make an entire population safer.  It’s time to end Lakewood’s breed specific legislation.
Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

First Do No Harm

“The physician must … have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm” - Hippocratic Corpus

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Clients frequently ask me for advice with regard to their dog’s health, and I will answer them honestly (the biggest of which is that yes, your dog is overweight.  Now do something about it.) However, I have a very limited knowledge base of most things having to do with a dog’s physical health.  It’s not my area, and there are plenty of well-qualified individuals who can answer questions beyond “How do I clip my dog’s nails?”.  That’s where your vet comes in.

Choosing a Vet

Choosing a doctor or vet can be a very difficult thing.  It’s almost as dramatic an undertaking as choosing a pediatrician.  You are placing the health and welfare of your dog/child in the hands of someone else, essentially asking them to Pilot your dog’s/child’s health.  It can be scary handing over control.  So take your time when choosing your dog’s doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before your get the perfect doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before you get the perfect doctor.

Use your resources and referrals.  Do you like your dog’s groomer?  Ask who they recommend for a vet.  Did you adopt your dog?  Ask the shelter who they like to use. Don’t forget to ask your friends, or even post on Facebook to get some recommendations.  You may notice a trend of vets whose names frequently pop up, either good or bad.  Choose wisely.

Just kidding...you can change

Just kidding…you can always change vets if you need to

So you’ve got a recommendation, and you’ve made your first appointment.  Think of it as a first date.

column_010-dog-memes

Things to look for:

  • Clean offices.  No, I don’t expect the floors to be spic and span, but if there is anything other than dog/cat hair on the floor (is that dried blood?!) step away from the reception desk.  Keep stepping.  Right out the door.
  • Friendly staff.  If reception makes you feel like a jerk for just checking in for your appointment, then how do you think you’re going to feel when you call them later asking a “dumb” question about your dog’s symptoms?  Yes, they may be very, very busy, and you may have to wait to have your question answered, but you should never be made to feel stupid for caring about your dog’s health.  Expect respect, for both you and your dog.
The staff here is a joke

The staff here is a joke

  • Easy set-up.  For those of you with dog-reactive dogs, you know what I mean.  It can be difficult working with your dog’s reactivity while out on a walk and another dog is across the street.  It can be very difficult in a crowded waiting room.  If the waiting room is over-crowded, approach the staff and ask if there is another option (waiting outside, or even better, a small room where you can wait).
  • Good communication.  Ask your vet a question, you should get an answer.  Note I did not state you should get the answer you are looking for. However, you should not feel shamed or stupid for asking questions.  You and your vet are a team both working together to keep your pet happy and healthy.  So if you don’t understand a procedure, or a medication, or symptoms, ask your vet.  They should give you an answer in terms you can understand.
  • Good “dog-side” manner.  Yes, your dog is scared, and perhaps you are, too.  Your dog might not like the vet at first.  Allow for some time to get a good relationship between your dog and your vet.  Watch your vet: do they seem comfortable working with your dog?  Do they take safety precautions when necessary (such as a muzzle or another person to assist)?  Those are good signs.
  • And sometimes “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.    If your vet knows everything, know that they don’t.  It’s okay for them to say they aren’t sure, or don’t feel qualified to make a diagnosis.  Remember, first do no harm!  Knowing your limits (even as a vet) is a good thing.

And makes for wonderful BBC mock-umentaries.

Finally, be aware that any vet can be subjected to biased reviews, undeserved slander, and malicious attacks.   The very nature of their practice unfortunately includes taking animals to the Rainbow Bridge.  Understand the difference between a poor practice and poor circumstances.

4b4134082daceed3ba1de68721569bfe

Damnit Jim, he’s a doctor, not a time traveller!

Choosing a vet is a very personal thing. You are asking someone else to care for the health and well-being of a very important part of your life:  your pets.  It’s okay to take a pass on a vet just because you got a “strange vibe”.  Listen to your gut, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have questions, and trust your instincts.  Your pet will thank you with a long, happy, healthy life.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

When the Levee Breaks

Now, cryin’ won’t help you
Prayin’ won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks
Mama, you got to move
- Led Zepplin, When The Levee Breaks

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Orion peed on the floor last week.


I’m not going to say it’s my fault, because I let him out, I saw him go, and I let him back in.  Besides, I’m not a big fan of blame.  I’m surely not going to blame Orion.  He’s a dog. What happened was this:

I took Sparta for a walk.

I know what you’re thinking.  How on earth could taking Sparta for a walk result in a mess on the floor from Orion.  Was Orion trying to get back at me?  Answer: No.  Dogs don’t work that way.  Here’s the blow-by-blow.

1) I know Orion is a super-hyper dog with a lot of energy.  If I don’t help him get rid of that energy in productive ways, it turns into nervous energy.

monkeyboy-oklahoma-oThat’s a bad thing. Orion had a lot of energy that morning.  I’ve been pretty busy, and haven’t been giving him quite enough outlets during the day.  Yes, we still hiked, but he’s a dog who needs a LOT of physical activity to be at his best. And while each day he had enough exercise to skim the energy off the top, I didn’t empty his cup, if you will.  Unfortunately, that builds up over time.

2) Orion has a nervous temperament as well.  He’s like a skittish racehorse. And when he has some shock to his system (like my taking Sparta for a walk before him, which is our usual MO), he literally can’t hold it anymore  Like a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  Yes, the child has been potty trained, but if you add too much excitement, nothing is stopping the flood.

Or as I refer to it, The Fountain of Youth

Or as I refer to it, The Fountain of Youth

3) I forgot who my dog was.  Orion has a bit of separation anxiety, especially with Sparta.  I know Orion initially self-soothed by, uh, eliminating in a high stress situation.  Yes, we worked on that, and he’s been amazing these past few years.  But this is a behavior you manage, rather than cure.  Orion hasn’t eliminated in the house in a very, very long time. I just happened to create the perfect storm for him.

So what should I have done?

1) Paid more attention to his need for activity.  Yes, I was busy, but that’s a reason, not an excuse. If I blow the engine on my car because I was too busy to change the oil, I don’t get a pass from the mechanic who has to replace my engine.  I’m the one who got the car/dog.  It’s my responsibility to change the oil/exercise the car/dog.  No excuses. Figure something out, or, in my case, clean something up.

2) Control the situation. So the amount of activity in our house has been down, meaning I was already setting Orion up for failure.  So I added on top of it.  I know he’s used to going for the walk first, and was ready to go!  Except, I reneged on him.  And rocked his little world.  That merely added to the stress he already had from lack of activity.

giphy (12)

 

3) Know your dog. This is Orion, not Sparta, who hasn’t gone in the house since, like, ever!  I know his triggers, and as I work with him, they trigger him less and less, but still, he has them.

So this week I’ve been proactive.  His amount of activity per day has been increased.  I’ve gotten him accustomed to being along in the house first, while I take Sparta for very brief walks, (like out the front door, down the driveway and then back) so he gets used to the idea and isn’t traumatized by it.

So now when I’m presented with two dogs who are each waiting for their (separate) walks, each with a lot of energy, I’m able to manage the situation better.  I hold up a leash and let them know I’m ready for my first solo dog walk of the day with one of them.  And rather than this reaction from each of them:

giphy (13)I get this.

giphy (14)Orion knows now that just because he isn’t first doesn’t mean he isn’t skipping his walk.  And I know now that good enough is only good enough for so long.  Now I’m very careful to make sure I get rid of all of Orion’s energy.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

Generally Speaking

All generalizations are false, including this one.

Mark Twain

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

I went out to a local Thai restaurant a few weeks ago.  I brought home the leftovers, and when I ate them the next day, ended up getting food poisoning.  I decided that this was very dangerous to the health and safety of the general populace in my area, so I decided to take action.  I’ve started a petition to ban Thai restaurants in my city.  Public safety comes first.  That’s why I’m including any Chinese, Japanese and Cambodian restaurants in my proposition as well:  I’m mean, they’re basically the same food, right?  And I’d rather nobody had to experience what I went through.  It’s a known fact that people are more likely to get food poisoning from these styles of cooking than any other type of cuisine.  I’m going to include Indian food in the ban as well.  Better safe than sorry.

If you’re reading this and shaking your head, wondering if I’ve gone bonkers, you know how I feel now reading about breed specific legislation.

And both manage to avoid all rational thought.

And both manage to avoid all rational thought.

Yes, technically I did get sick from some Thai food that I ate…but my fridge malfunctioned and the food was left at room temperature for waaaay too long.  Essentially, because I did not harbor the food properly, it turned against me.  I didn’t take care to ensure it was in a safe environment, and against all precautions, ate it.  And paid the price for it.  However, I’m pretty sure that if I had chosen to eat the meatloaf that was left in similar conditions, I would have ended up with the same results.

I have indeed gotten food poisoning through no fault of my own – twice.  But considering how often I eat out (2x or more per week), having food poisoning a couple times in my life is a pretty amazing track record.

Let's stay positive about this.

Let’s stay positive about this.

Claiming that a breed of dog is inherently “bad” is about as sane and rational as declaring an entire cuisine poisonous based upon one bad experience, regardless of who is at fault. So I question the mentality of banning an entire breed, let alone lumping several in together because they “look alike”.

Currently, in the city of Lakewood, Ohio, the law reads:

 ”As used in this section, “pit bull dog” means any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, any dog of mixed breed which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of such breeds, any dog commonly known as a pit bull, pit bull dog or pit bull terrier; or a combination of any of these breeds. ” – LAKEWOOD, OH., ORDINANCES § 506.03(b)

Excuse me….did we just legislate against something using the word “appearance”?  Zucchini may have the appearance of a cucumber, but it ain’t the same thing. (As a matter of fact, my abhorrence for zucchini runs so deeply I had to spell it 5 times before finally running to spellcheck for assistance.)

Zuchini...zuchinni? Abomination That Masquerades As A Cucumber?

Zuchini…zuchinni? Abomination That Masquerades As A Cucumber?

 So lawmakers have opened that horrible floodgate of legislation based on appearance – one I thought we had finally closed years ago.  Do we really want to re-open that can of worms?  I didn’t think so.

Pit bulls (which are actually many breeds lumped together to form a “group”) have plenty of faults: most of which arise from the fact that they are dogs.  They are just like every other dog.  They can be sweet, they can sometimes be annoying.  They require Piloting, Activity and Work (or what we refer to as “PAW“) just like every other dog.  Mostly they’re interested in whatever it is that you are eating, and whether or not they can get a belly rub from you.  They will defend, they will run away.  It all depends upon the dog.

Members of Lakewood City Council are starting to realize the toxic nature of these laws.  jSam O’Leary, councilman for the City of Lakewood, has this to say:

“Lakewood’s BSL unfairly punishes a breed for the actions of irresponsible owners. Lakewood should hold the responsible party accountable: the owners of a vicious dog. When we legislate based on fear instead of the facts, we end up with policies that are ineffective, unfair, and fail to protect our neighbors and pets. Lakewood’s repeal of BSL is long overdue.”

I’m against judging a dog by their looks.  I like judging dogs by their actions.  Based upon who they are, not what they look like.  I believe in accurate breed profiling.  But most of all, I believe that the sum is worth more than the parts.  Case by case determination of what constitutes a “vicious dog”.  Repercussions for irresponsible owners.  I favor education over legislation any day.

 

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Rescue

 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” – Emma Lazarus

boy

Before you get any further, realize that this is going to be a polarizing article.  I’m not here to make friends, I’m not here to write about the “feels good” topics of puppies nor stories of bonding with your dog.  Today I write for a completely different reason, and I truly hope you understand why.

There are an (estimated) 7.6 million cats and dogs who are homeless (approximately 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats.).  Nowhere to go, and since nobody wants them, they end up in shelters.  Of that 7.6 million, 2.7 million of these animals are killed, simply because they are the criminals whose only crime was having no place to go.  Most are harmless.  Some are innocent puppies and kittens.  All are scared.  None deserve death for the crimes perpetrated against them by some humans: not providing for them, not caring for them, and abandoning them.  They literally have nowhere else to go.

We’ve heard of their plight, and have offered assistance to them; not just domestically, but abroad.  Russia, South Korea, among so many others.

Stray dogs from the Sochi Olympics.

Stray dogs from the Sochi Olympics.

Dogs being saved by Americans from South Korean meat market.

Dogs being saved by Americans from South Korean meat market.

It doesn’t matter where the dog is from; all we see is an animal in need, and animal struggling to survive.  An innocent who needs our help.  I love how passionate animal rescuers are about this.  We go the extra mile (or thousand) to bring these animals to sanctuary here in the USA.  We make generous donations to fund these rescue missions.  We make room in our already-crowded shelters for them.  Somehow we make it work. Dog is dog is a dog is a dog, as Gertrude Stein might have written.  It doesn’t matter where that dog is from; it matters that it’s a living being in danger and in need.  We open our already full hearts and let them in.

Which is why I’m so confused.

On Friday, Donald Trump issued an executive order which, as the New York Times worded it,

 ”…indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”

 

You may be Republican or Democratic.  You may be neither, preferring another party altogether.  What you cannot be is untouched by the repercussions that this will have.  Homelessness isn’t something that is country specific.  It’s not something that only applies to pets.  It’s a human issue, too.  And it ends just as tragically for humans as it does for companion animals.

The body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, found washed ashore near the Turkish resort of Bodrum. The boats carrying the boy's family to the Greek island of Kos capsized. His 5-year-old brother and mother also lost their lives. DHA/AP

The body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, found washed ashore near the Turkish resort of Bodrum. The boats carrying the boy’s family to the Greek island of Kos capsized. His 5-year-old brother and mother also lost their lives.
DHA/AP

Are you shocked? Are you angry?  Are you upset that I’d post such a picture?

Good.

Because those of us who are active in rescue need to be active in all forms of rescue.  If we can’t be pro-active, we need at least not hinder those who are seeking asylum.  Because innocent victims of war, famine and poverty can be human, too.  And because if the thought of dogs suffering in China makes you more upset than the thought of a child huddled in a bombed-out town, I seriously question whether you are human yourself.

The argument that some immigrants and refugees may be dangerous is also moot.  I’ve rescued many, many dogs. And guess what?  Some of them were dangerous.  But not a lot. Not even a fraction.  I was more than willing to risk the (very) few dangerous ones to save so many other lives.  And yes, there was always the risk of getting  bit, but it was worth it.  More than anything I’ve ever done.

So by now I’m sure I’ve lost a few of you.  Maybe a lot of you.  But this isn’t a political post.  It’s a humanitarian post.  We are all connected, regardless of where we came from.  So many times on the Darwin Dogs’ Facebook page I’ve asked my followers what is your favorite breed of dog, and the overwhelming response is always “mutts” or “mixed breeds”.  It’s the diversity in the dog that makes it so wonderfully unique, so strong, so much healthier.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

We need our diversity in this wonderful United States of America. It keeps us strong and healthy.  It bonds us together and is what built this great nation.  Accept the unique, the strange, the *gasp* differences between us as something to be celebrated rather than vilified and feared. That quote at the top of this article, the one we all know it from the Statue of Liberty?  Most of us didn’t know it was written by a woman named Emma Lazarus.  How fitting the name, “Lazarus”, to come back from death.  They are just words until we take action to make them a reality.

In closing, remember the compassion that drives us to rescue.  Remember why we do it: to end suffering.  Let’s just remember that suffering isn’t something that is limited only to animals, and let it be proven that dogs don’t have the monopoly on love.  There’s the saying about trying to be the person my dog thinks you are.  Even above that, try to be the person your dog would be:  color blind and full of only acceptance and love, no matter what your circumstances or where you came from.

keep

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training Rescuing in Cleveland, Ohio

Limitations

   The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.

  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sparta guarding our house against, um, ...what was it you were guarding against, Sparta?

Sparta guarding our house against, um, …what was it you were guarding against, Sparta?
Brittany Graham Photography

My Sparta.  The most beautiful, obedient dog I’ve ever worked with.  Over 100 lbs. of pure physical poetry. She’s the type of dog who we can leave the Thanksgiving turkey out on the counter right above where she’s sleeping, and she’ll leave it alone (we do).  She will follow any command, no matter how scary, because she trusts us (she does).  In short, she is practically a machine when it comes to her obedience.  It’s sorta creepy, now that I think of it.  Sounds like the perfect dog, right?  Except she has one big problem.  As my husband likes to say, she reads too much Guns and Ammo.

Sparta is a Shepherd/Rottie mix (not a guess, but verified truth), with emphasis on the Shepherd.  Ah, suddenly it clicks why she’s so obedient.  Shepherds have been used for many years for a myriad of reasons: search and rescue, guide dogs, drug dogs, war, peace, agility and everything in between.  I truly believe that while they may not be the smartest dog (looking at you Border Collies and Poodles), they are probably the most willing to accept whatever training you wish.

However, I’m a firm believer in breed profiling.  It’s called “breed standard” for a reason.  Imagine going into a car dealership and saying I need a car, but having no idea what you want.  Mini-van, Corvette, Jeep?  What will you be using this car for?  If you don’t know what you want, you won’t know what you’re getting.   Pound puppies can follow some form of breed standard as well. If you adopt a Pit/Aussie mix, prepare for a lot of enthusiastic cuddling.  A Basset/Poodle?  Probably a lot of sedentary mind games, like chess. Not always the case, but a good general rule. Of course there are Frankendogs.  The dogs that you have no idea what breed(s) they can be.  Simply find out who they are, rather than focusing on what they are.  (Hint: here’s an article that can help with that.)

Back to Sparta.  She’s predominantly Shepherd, and boy does she show it.  Obedient, trusting…every command I give her, I feel as if her response is Sir, yes sir!  No, I didn’t make her that way; she just is.  The problem?  Shepherds were originally bred to guard livestock (not manage it….that’s you, Border Collies).  She has it ingrained in her DNA to guard her pack, flock, family – whatever you want to call it.  And she will do it with her life.

There’s an old joke about Shepherds:  How many Shepherds does it take to change a light bulb?   First you secure the perimeter.    That is exactly who my Sparta is.  That can make living with her in a very dense population a bit of a challenge.  If a zombie apocalypse were ever to happen, she’s the dog you want.  However, a walk through Downtown Mayberry?  Yeah, that’s some Piloting that needs to happen there. Yes, it can be done, and I do it, but I realize that I will be Piloting her and answering her questions very frequently.

 Is that a threat? No, Sparta.  Should we reinforce our rearguard?  No, Sparta.

I’m not angry with her, I’m never punishing her.  I’m merely answering her (legitimate) questions. However, I know my limitations, as well as hers.

I recently (foolishly?) decided to completely renovate my bathroom.  My family was out of town for about a week, and I thought it to be the perfect time to do it.  However, I needed some help.  I called a friend of our family, Sam, who generously came over every day to help me tear apart the bathroom, put in a new sub-floor, new tile, new vanity, new everything.  Obviously, very involved, and a lot of noise to go with the project.  Sparta happens to not like Sam.  I don’t care if she’s best friends with him or not.  She’s allowed to ask the question:

Can I kill him?
No, Sparta.  Not today.
Okay, then.  I’ll be in the mudroom if you need me to kill him.
You enjoy yourself there, Sparta.  And put down the Guns and Ammo magazine.  How about some Vanity Fair mags for a bit?

Problem is, she will be asking that question frequently.  Sometimes Sam might need to go downstairs by himself.  Sometimes he might need to come in and out of the house while cutting tile.  In Sparta’s mind, each instance is always a separate question.  And yes, she will immediately accept the answer, but only if I give it.  And right there is our limitation.  What if Sam runs downstairs, just one time, and I don’t notice, and don’t answer her question?  Sparta would do what comes naturally to her: defend the flock.

So instead of constantly being on alert for Sparta, she has spent a relaxing week at my mother’s house.  She got to play with her “cousins”, Louie and Kiwi.  More importantly, she had little to no questions to ask while she was there (thanks, Mom!).   When she comes back today, she will notice that there is a new bathroom.  Odds are, she’ll want to check it out to make sure there are no threats to our family in there (Sir, no Sir!) and all will be right with our little pack.

Sparta stoically securing the perimeter

Sparta stoically securing the perimeter
-Brittany Graham Photography

 

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

Rescued or Rescuing, All Dogs Bring Joy

 “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”
M.K. Clinton

 

Here at Darwin Dogs, we have a special affinity for those dogs that go above and beyond.  Yes, all dogs are heroes (from the quiet comfort they give when you’re grieving a loss, or just the strong companionship they give to those who feel shut out from the world), but some are able to really show their heroism in some truly remarkable ways.

Jenny Holt,  who described herself to me as a mother and dog owner, described a story to me.  As she put it: “I’m an Italiophile (is that a word?) and love to go on vacation there whenever possible, so when I heard about the earthquake last year, I paid attention. Then I read about Leo and Sarotti, two earthquake rescue dogs, how they helped villagers trapped after the quake and also how some dogs tried to warn them of the impending tremor. “

The story of Leo and Sarotti is incredible: finding children who had been trapped in the rubble of destroyed towns after the children had been buried for close to a day.  Finding a child in seconds after searching had been looking for hours to find a lost child.  No wonder Holt was captured by the heroics of these dogs.  As she put it:

Dogs are simply amazing. They shower us with so much affection, provide loving companionship and go out of their way to help and rescue others. It is this unconditional love that dogs have for humans that make them wonderful in so many ways. Your furry animals are not only smart, but also have several desirable qualities that make them so special. They are loyal, affectionate and intelligent. Pooches also possess an incredible sense of duty and compassion that make them perfect rescue animals.

Whether dogs are being rescued or save fellow canines and humans from perilous situations, heartwarming tales of them are concrete evidence of an infinite amount of love and affection that they have. Read and enjoy the wonderful stories of how dogs have helped in many different cases from leading troops to safety in wars and catching a spy to recovering lost pets and delivering badly-needed medical supplies to remote and impassable areas.

A much-needed read on a tension-filled day such as today.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

About Scrappy…

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

- Neil Gaiman

Scrappy and Aleeyah

Scrappy and Aleeah

I think we can all agree that 2016 was a dumpster-fire-shit-show.  To end all shit-shows.  We were all glad to see it end, and we’re ready to start 2017 with that gleam in our eye: hope that we can, and will, do better.  Hope that we can make positive changes in our lives and in the lives of others.

Looking back at 2016, there were a few key moments that stand out for me, but the biggest one was when so many citizens answered a plea for help.  A little girl with cystic fibrosis was about to lose her best friend.  Her grandmother explained that the dog was a pitte, and that she had unknowingly brought a banned dog into her house when she allowed her son and granddaughter to move in with the dog.  The dog and the sick girl, Aleeah, were bonded, and that bond was important, because Scrappy is what helped Aleeah sit through her daily treatments for cystic fibrosis, a disease that will ultimately claim her life at a very young age.

So we fought.  Against Breed Specific Legislation; against discrimination, and against a disease that will take a girl’s life.  And against everyone’s best hopes, we won. Scrappy and Aleeah were allowed to stay together!  Clemency was granted for Scrappy (from a crime he never committed), but still!  A pitbull was allowed in Lakewood, Ohio!

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

We came together as a community to protect our most vulnerable citizens:  our children and our animals.

Almost a full year went by, and then I saw this:

 

Yup...it's Scrappy

Yup…it’s Scrappy.  On Craigslist.

Needless to say, I was absolutely horrified.  We had rallied around Scrappy and Aleeah, believing that we were fighting The Good Fight.  Believing we had won The Good Fight.  Our petition on Change.or had received almost 150,000 signatures and gained international attention.  Now it was all for nothing.  A worthless fight for a dog whose owner was rehoming him.

Or was it?

Certainly Scrappy is still in need of saving, but what about those of us who fought for him?  What did we fight for?  An end to BSL.  And end to the false stigma of the “aggressive, bloodthirsty” pitbull.  To show that pitties are a breed of dog, and just like any other breed of dog, capable of incredible highs and terrible lows.  In other words, to make a difference, that’s what we fought for.  And did we win?

Absolutely.

We rallied against an unfair and unjust law and we won.  We stood together as one, with a common goal and we won.  We managed to get a pitbull into Lakewood, a city with a strict and discrimintory law against dogs like Scrappy.  And yes, Scrappy is most likely leaving, but we didn’t fail.  We won.  And we did it: together. We’ve shown that many calm but firm voices standing together in our conviction can be stronger than discrimination.  Than ignorance.  We proved that we are a strong community and that we can, and will fight for those in our community.

We did it together.  

Because Scrappy isn’t leaving due to his behavior.  He didn’t maul a small child (sorry to disappoint you supporters of BSL).  He didn’t do anything negative.  He was a positive example of what a pit bull is:  a dog.  He’s a dog who loves his little girl.  He’s a dog who doesn’t know (yet) that he’s about to be re-homed. All he knows is that he has a job to do, and he will continue to do it as long has he can: love his family, take care of Aleeah, and just be the best he can be.

It can be difficult not to pass judgment on his owner, but let’s also remember this: she went to bat for Aleeah’s dog.  She hired an attorney to fight the BSL.  She fenced in her yard as per the law director conditions of keeping Scrappy in Lakewood.   She did the best she could with what she had: a dog that she didn’t pick out, that was dumped on her. So while this hurts me that his owner won’t be keeping him, this doesn’t reflect badly on pitties.  If anything, it’s just another stunning example of how pit bulls are still the dogs that love and will be loyal to their families, regardless of the amount of loyalty that they receive from their owners in return.   So rather than allowing this to be something that drives a wedge in our pittie community, let’s turn it into something positive.

We got a pitbull in Lakewood, and he behaved exactly as a pitbull would: with love and devotion.  Thank you, Scrappy, for all you’ve done to unite us, and for all you’ve done for your little girl, Aleeah.

Keep calm

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Lakewood, Ohio

Open Letter to Tom Collins, Puppy Mill Broker

Companies should not have a singular view of profitability. There needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility…

– Howard Schultz

Robin, don't be a douche

Robin, don’t be a douche!

Hi Tom.  (You don’t mind if I call you “Tom”, right?).  I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced..  I’m Kerry Stack.  Dog lover, animal rescuer, Supernatural fan girl.

dog dean

A German Shepherd and Dean Winchester in a ’67 black Chevy Impala. It’s on my Christmas list every year.

One thing you may not know about me is that I’m passionate about animal rights. You may be asking yourself what the purpose of this letter is.  Well, to put it bluntly, I’m truly hoping you can convince me that you are passionate about animal rights as well.

I’m aware that you run “Pick of the Litter” pet store in South Park Mall in Strongsville, Ohio.  Let’s just say that the results of a  search for reviews of your establishment have been less than stellar.  Reports of sick animals.  Stories of puppies stuffed into fish tanks.  And of course, the allegations that your animals are coming from puppy mills.  Knowing how the internet can sometimes be more of a lynch mob than a school of thought and logic, I think it’s you deserve to get a fair shake, and have your say.

So I ask you:

Why the fish tanks? With pine chips?

Yeah, I know puppies can be destructive little twerps sometimes.  As soon as you clean up a mess from them, they are off to make another.  And given your choice of (ahem) profession, I can see why you would need to keep them contained.

In fish tanks? On pine chips?

Two  dogs, one fish tank.

Two dogs, one fish tank.

Where are these guys supposed to run?  Play?  Not inhale sawdust?  I understand that you are in the business of selling dogs for profit, but is the most profitable way to sell them is to stuff them in fish tanks?  I’m aware that other puppy mill brokers pet shops such as yours (ahem: Petland) need to keep track of their inventory puppies, and that it’s better than the wire cages that Petland utilizes….

But that's like saying the guy on the left is cuter.

But that’s like saying the guy on the left is cuter.

Inhaled and ingested wood chips, small, confining fish tanks for puppies?  Seriously, you can do better.

Tanks!

…and that’s not a challenge.

What are your responses to the allegations that your dogs lack fresh water and adequate health care?

According to Lisa*, who purchased a pup, the puppies are unable to use the hamster water bottles placed in all the cages.  Luckily she is a veterinary technician, because her puppy almost died from lack of care given by Pick of the Litter:

 

 I am a registered veterinary technician so I had fluids on hand I gave him. I just remember him being very lethargic and dehydrated. As soon as I gave him fluids and some food he perked up. And then I realized as I was trying to give him water in a bowl he was just putting his mouth in the bowl but he didn’t understand he had to lick. He loved licking my hands though so I started putting my hand in the bowl for him and that is the only way he would drink any water for over a week until he figured it out. So since I couldn’t be home 24/7 I would supplement him with the fluids. All you have to really do is go in there and look at the gums on the dogs and if they feel tacky or if you pull on there[sic] skin and it doesn’t go right back they are dehydrated. My dog had both of these signs.
Unfortunately, this lack of concern does not sound like the actions of a person who has an animal’s best interests at heart.  There have been numerous stories of peoples’ contracts with your business being voided because they took their puppies to a vet other than your own personal vet.
Consider the story of John & Cindy Yakim who purchased a puppy from Pick of the Litter in 2013:
 I didn’t check the background of this pet store at all. First mistake.  Within the first 24 hours she was dying do [sic] to pneumonia. They told us at the store to bring her back and a portion of her purchase price could go towards another dog. Of course we didn’t do that and took her to our own vet. Some $4000.00 later she got well.  The store told us as soon as we took her to are own vet any contract was on null and void. I love my dog very much but feel I would rescue one from a shelter all though if I didn’t purchase her she would have been left for dead and no records would show how many puppies die in there[sic] care. I also feel she was not the breed that they told us she was. The callous nature of the sales and facility should have been my first deterrent.   The girl’s name was Diane and was dating the owner at the time. They wanted us to bring her in and they would take her to there [sic] vet. Never once did they give a name. She was close to dying at our vets and once they heard that the deal was off ( in there [sic] words). If any paperwork from our vet would help your cause I could get. We are not opposed of using our name. I have heard almost the same story regarding this store. I am personally sad they are still open.

Who is this “personal vet”, and why are the the “health records” you provide from said vet  (according to at least 3 testimonials I’ve received so far) merely some scribbles on a note card, if they even exist at all? If your standards are high, then why would a second opinion from a new dog owner’s vet be of concern to you?  Are you unable to stand by your puppies’ health?  Because the list of illnesses and congenital defects found in the puppies you sell are staggering:

- ear infections
- giardia
- patellar luxation (knee problems that require surgery)
- parasites
- heartworm
- pneumonia 
…and the list goes on.  It would seem that any diseases that are common in puppy mills, your puppies seem to get.  Which brings me to my final question:

 

Where do you get your puppies from?

The answers I’m receiving from previous customers and even some of your own friends and acquaintances are truly disturbing

I interviewed Cathy*, a former friend of yours.  She had initially defended you (on the Darwin Dogs’ Facebook page) from the allegations made against you.  She soon realized the awful truth.  Here’s what she had to say only one day later:

I have know Tom for years. I believe he once had compassion and truly tried and wanted to help animals. Last night I argued with numerous people on sight defending him. Now I have never supported the aquarium “cages” it not healthy in my opinion. But long story short after defending the man I knew who truly had a heart of gold I reached out to a few people who have close contact with him. I myself haven’t seen him in at least 4-5 years. Today I was given confirmation he DOES in fact get his dogs from Puppy Mills. He has a broker who obtains them from the mills. He said everyone does it. He claims to have local breeders which is a blatant lie. Please understand that this was devastating news for me to hear. I trusted him, I believed in him and I defended him. But today my respect ended. Today I learned he has become a money hungry monster seeking fortune at the expense of these helpless defenseless dogs.  … So to get confirmation that Tom is in fact utilizing Mill Puppies to stock his store. It’s inexcusable! I am extremely sorry I defended him last night. I’m extremely sorry to now know he in fact is using Mills. Thank you for doing what you do. Awareness makes a difference!!! Like the awareness of a man I respected is now an enemy to me.  Again my apologies for my defending him. But the sources and information today come from people close to him that are well aware of his doings. I hope the protest is wonderful and raises questions for many and changes are made. Thank you.

There’s a pretty slippery slope when it comes to selling animals.  For a lot of unwary and unsuspecting soon-to-be pet owners, it can be difficult to determine if a pet you’re considering purchasing is from a puppy mill or from a reputable breeder.  In short, some pretty damning evidence and testimony has been uncovered regarding your business practices and the inhumane treatment of your “stock”, or as we refer to them: pets, animals, living beings.  We await your response, Tom Collins.UPDATE - On January 2, 2017 we started receiving some messages from supporters of yours, including the following.  Please explain this, Tom.

It's okay, he's "rescuing" them from puppy mills.  And by "rescuing" he means "brokering".

It’s okay, he’s “rescuing” them from puppy mills. And by “rescuing” he means “brokering”.  Thanks for the clarification, Lynnette!

On Sunday, January 8 from 12-3 we will be protesting against Tom Collins and Petland for their animal rights violations.  Please join us on Sunday, January 8, 2017 for a peaceful demonstration against such practices as listed above. Attendees are encouraged to wear animal rights clothing, and carry signs indicating their disgust and revolution of such blatant animal rights abuses.  For more information, please visit our Facebook events page.  Thank you.
 Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio
*Some names in this post have been changed for privacy