Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Side of a Vick Dog

Some organizations have called the Vick dogs and other fight bust dogs "killing machines". "They are bred for unstoppable violence", it's been said.

One thing folks that DON'T work with Pit Bulls, live with multiple Pit Bulls or have experience living and working with fight bust dogs (meaning they don't really understand them) fail to point out that Pit Bulls are biddable, willing to please and listen to what their owners want from them. Leo here wants to please and do the right thing in his pack.

Leo also LOVES to play with other dogs. He will listen to me in a flash when I say, "e-a-s-y Leo". He has been one of the best dogs with this lil pup Opal. She LOVES his puppiesh, full of life and happy to be a alive attitude. It's almost as if he's enjoying the time of life he missed - being a puppy. He's now having the fun of being a kid that he missed when he was younger. A very important part of a dog's growing up is learning social structure.

I want to mention that to have good, safe and fun play like this it's best to manage your dogs and be a leader to them. Set them up for success. As said above Pit Bulls take direction well. Use that. Use it to guide them. Dog to dog play is fun when well managed and supervised.

Thanks Leo for coming from where you did and you're still so willing to show our lil one the ropes. What a good hearted soul!

Play on......and be who you are Leo ......we love you just for that.......


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A New Day for Pit Bulls

We are so proud to see Recycled Love's Sweet Jasmine make the cover of Sports Illustrated. We think they do really wonderful work. To see one the these wonderful dogs make it on the cover of this mag along with a fantastic article by Jim Gorant is truly a new day for Pit Bulls and also makes for a wonderful Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Size Doesn't Matter

Well at least in the case of Dexter and Opal our littlest addition.
Here they are livin it up - Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have a Merry Pit Bull Christmas

We are definately a bit slow getting this out there but we hope you will check out our Calendar for 2009. It would make a great last minute Gift for all of the dog lovers in your life!

We want to take this opportunity

to wish all of our wonderful friends

both old and new a

Holiday season filled with Happiness and Joy.

We couldn't do what we do without your love and support!

The Our Pack Gang





All of the dogs that have come into our lives this past year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Name is Charlotte

I came from a bust earlier in the year. Leo got to do a blog so I thought I'd do one too. I'm a therapy dog just like Leo. I wasn't one of Michael Vick's dogs but that shouldn't matter to anyone right? I'm as wonderful as Leo and I do a great job making people smile and forget about their troubles.

My new people are wonderful to me. I have my brother named Ben who I live with. When we all watch TV I get a pink blanket and Ben gets a blue one. So I'm really good at being a family companion as well as a therapist. This is a picture of me and my brother being silly.

Here I am doing my job.

I'm hoping that all will see our souls inside of us and what wonderful family companions we truly are, even if we're from a fight bust, abuse case or the person who owned us before has a famous name.

The name shouldn't matter.

The place shouldn't matter and what the media says about whether or not we're pets or not (who says they're experts in behavior anyway)

what matters is the lil heart that's beating inside us, like any other dog.

Much love,


Monday, December 8, 2008


I work with people that have to go to a certain type of hearing because their dog got into trouble. Usually the trouble is lack of containment by the owner. Broken fences, doors or gates being left open, improper leash handling or no leash at all are just a few of the situations that can get your dog into trouble.

In rescue I work specifically with Pit Bulls. In my training business I work with all breeds specializing in dog to dog aggression. There is no “safe” breed to just let out and about in the hood. All dogs and all breeds of dogs will get into trouble without guidance and leadership. A common client I work with regarding this issue that get into trouble or are about to are Lab owners! Some folks think, “well he’s a Lab, he loves everyone, he would never do anything wrong”. Huh! Dogs + no management = trouble. This goes for all dogs of any breed. And we’re not talking BAD people here and we’re not talking criminals or bank robbers owning Pit Bulls. I’m talking about all breeds with very wonderful, kind and productive people that own them that think their dog can manage himself outside on his own. Huh, again!

Pit Bulls will often get more press and more blame than other breeds so it’s very important that you keep your dog safe and secure.

This is not a training tip but a life saving tip. Please go in your yards and check your fences. Lean on them and make sure that they safe and secure with no escape holes or places where your dog can dig out under.

Also, don’t leave your dog in the yard unattended he may do the “Great Escape” deal and slowly dig his way out in sections.

Marthina McClay, CPDT

Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer

Certified Tester/Observer for Therapy Dogs, Inc.

AKC Certified CGC Evaluator

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


There was a time in this country when only whites were allowed to use public bathrooms and drinking fountains along with many other restrictions on public transit systems, in restaurants etc.

I'd like to think that we as a society are passed that now. We don't profile and generalize race and there's equal opportunity for all.... progress!

I liken the earlier profiling of the 1900s to some shelter's "solutions" I've seen in response to some recent fight busts. The solution is to euth fight bust dogs and in many cases not even fight bust dogs, just Pit Bulls which are just dogs, without even evaluating first.

Some folks don't see Pit Bulls as dogs. I'm not even talking about the everyday person that doesn't have enough info to make an educated judgment, I'm talking about the very organizations that are funded and supported to care for dogs. In some areas only certain breeds get a real chance even with people who are often at least somewhat educated in canine behavior. This has actually now become a question of human behavior because we all know in good common sense it's not the dogs fault. When someone that's responsible for the welfare of dogs puts down Pit Bulls uniformly without looking first, something is very wrong with human behavior not dog behavior because just by simple odds alone NOTHING is ALL bad. Come on!

I would like to ask if they have actually lived with a properly evaluated-as-an-individual-fight-bust-dog. Have they seen that dog flourish with proper management around their own animals and their family. Have they watched that dog learn good manners and give back to his community.

I understand it's uncomfortable to try something new where you're not sure of the outcome. BUT - That's what animal welfare is about. It's tough work and if you're interested in learning dog behavior to further help dogs YOU MUST take chances and explore to learn behavior. No learning takes place in a safe little net.

With all the recent success with the former Michael Vick dogs you would think that someone would think twice - hmmmm,maybe I should just check this guy out first know...... ????????????

Yep, gotta have balls folks or you're not gonna save a rats behind. You have to stick your neck out everyday to help. I see rescues do SO much hard work on a shoestring and the wonderful volunteers that give their valuable time to help those that help the dogs. I see more guts in our Pit Bull dogs than I do in some of the people that "care" for them.

On the same note, I'd like to say THANK YOU to L. A. for taking 5 dogs form a bust and putting them into rescue......thank you for letting them on the bus!

Yes, a lot of work....I have a dream that it's not all for not.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Day at the Park

Hi All,

My name is Noel , that's me with my sister, she has the speckled nose, her name is Holly. we are currently guests at the Humane Society Silicon Valley where we are hoping to find a new home. I wanted to take this last day of the Thanksgiving weekend to tell everyone how thankful I am for all of the people who try and make our stay at the shelter as fun as possible. And a special thanks to the Mike and Ali for letting me go on an outing today. Today I got to go to the park with my friend Mary from Our Pack. She forgot to bring her camera so we don't have any pictures of me at the park but it was such a nice day and so much fun to get out of the shelter for part of the day, I just wanted to share some of the things I saw and did.

I haven't been for too many car rides so at first I was a little confused by everything going by so fast without me walking. I got used to it quickly though. Then we came to this place that Mary told me was the park and we were going to see lots of new dogs. There were lots of things to smell in the grass, I think they said there were gophers or something that was digging up the grass. I wanted to eat some sticks but they wouldn't let me. There were two little pups at the class and I got to demonstrate good calm manners. I got to go for a walk with a dog named Buddy who was having trouble relaxing but he seemed to do well with me. I got to meet two new friends, this is Texas.
She was calm like me and we got to go for a little walk together and they were all impressed with how well behaved I was.

Then I got to go over to Hailey's house and meet her. We went for a walk too and smelled the grass and the flowers and then I got to go and play in her back yard, There were so many good smells and the sunshine felt so good. Here's Hailey on her fancy chair thing, I'd never seen one of them but I even got to lay in it for a bit. I really liked her, she used to live at the shelter too before her mom adopted her. Now she is a Therapy dog and helps her mom with foster dogs that come to stay at her house.

Well I guess that was about it. I was pretty tired after all of the excitement and slept all the way back to the shelter. I told Holly all about it and maybe she will get to go next time if we haven't found a home yet. Thanks again to everyone who gave me this special day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we at Our Pack have a lot to be thankful for. We have some wonderful dogs who went into happy homes. Some of them even have jobs.

We are very thankful that we have had the opportunity to help the dogs and give them a chance to be what they truly are inside no matter where they came from. We also want to thank the many wonderful people who have helped us to show these dogs for the loving creatures they are.

When I say give them a chance I mean allow the room and provide an environment that brings out what a their basic personality is. We can train dogs for behaviors but temperament is a very different thing. No one can positively reinforce me for loving my child for instance to GET me to do it, I just do.

In temperament correct Pit Bulls we have just that, a love that is not trained into but comes along with his heart. It's a love for humans that seems to go untouched even though our lil guys have met some of their darkest hours.
THEY are so thankful to have US which sometimes is startling and amazing when some have been let down so thoroughly by humans. I'm thankful for this. It's truly a Thanksgiving from both sides.

Here's to a safe holiday and I hope you can go home and hug your Pit Bull and give'm a big smooch, he'll be thankful!

Marthina & Mary

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's hard being a Pit Bull Parent

You've decided to bring a pit bull into your life. You have read all you can about the breed and talked to people in the know. You take him/her to training to become a breed ambassador. You don't go to the dog park but make sure that you socialize properly with other dog social friends. You've got your wiggle butt with you wherever you go and they are thrilled to meet new friends at ever turn. Strangers approach...."awe, what a cute dog, what kind of dog is it?" as they reach out to pet your friend who is sitting politely at your side ..."A Pit Bull" you proudly exclaim.....and then you get the look; eyes widen as they pull back their hand as if they were about to touch hot metal. "Aren't they viscous", "aren't you afraid he is going to TURN on you at any moment?", "they have locking jaws don't they?" and on and on and on...or they see you coming and cross the street because of course you are just waiting for the next victim to walk by so you can be in the paper as the next big story!!! But you smile, and patiently explain that most of what they hear is rumor or exageration or that the big stories on the news are often not even pit bulls. Some people listen, some just shake their heads and walk away thankful they have escaped with their lives intact. But we know how tough it is and we just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for trying, for presenting your dog in the best light possible, for loving him, for caring for him and being such good pet parents! During this Thanksgiving week, we are thankful for you! We've created the pattern above to help you with your journey, check it out at Cafe Press!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"These dogs are not pets".....huh????

My foster mom was reading this article today about another big fight bust and this is what she read to me:

Huge dogfighting ring broken up in Harris Co., DA says
"These dogs were bred specifically to fight," Smith said. "And they were inbred back and forth. They are not pets."
My name is Leo,

I’m sure many of you have read my story and this makes me very sad.

I think I make a very good pet. I love my mom and my sister Hailey
and my brother Dexter

and I even try to be nice to Daisy who isn’t always too thrilled to have me around but she tolerates me.

I work very hard at the Cancer Center helping the patients forget their troubles for a few minutes at a time

And I’ve even gone to school to visit some kids?

Have I done it too well? Did people forget where I came from? Didn't they learn anything from my case? I wasn’t “raised” to be a pet, but I’ve tried really hard to become a good one.

Why won’t these other dogs get the same chance? Didn't we make a difference at all?


Former Michael Vick dog, Now a loving pet. (or so I thought)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Love Allows Intelligence

I was working with a dog that came from a fight bust today. I was giving him things to do that he had never done before. I was doing Target Training with him where you get the dog to touch the palm of your hand with their nose. Then get them to touch a paper such as a post-it with their nose. He had a look on his face like, "why do you want me to touch the paper?" My own dogs have worked since puppyhood and look forward to the fun and rewards of training and "get it". This guy was perplexed and didn't understand the correlation YET in performing the behavior and getting the reward. His mind had not been used this way as he had only lived in a yard on a chain across from another dog or in a wire pen in a mindlessly dull, boring and unstimulating environment. This became more evident to me as we trained along. His fabulous intelligence had been blunted by people who had another purpose for him other than working to win something and using his brains to do it. I could see they didn't care that he was inherently VERY smart other than to abuse his willingness to work for his person. It's strange how you can see the type of owner of a dog through the dog's eyes.During the training for a moment I became sad for him. That his formative years were wasted on someone's intentions that brought about nothing for this dog's betterment.After a bit of training though I was so amazed as I always am at a Pit Bull dog's ability to WANT to GET it. To want to play the game and not just play it but play it right, to please, to be good in my eyes. What a treasure someone threw away! I'm SO lucky! He touched the paper.

Look at the pics of these dogs and how the looks on their faces capture their willingness to work.
What a gift!

Marthina McClay, CPDT

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some Positive Pit Bull Press

I didn't write this but it was just too good not to share!

Stray Pit Bull Saves Woman, Child from Attacker
November 5, 2008

A dog came out of nowhere and stopped a knife-wielding robber from accosting a mother and her young son on Monday afternoon. (Pet Pulse Illustration by Tim Mattson)

PORT CHARLOTTE , Fla. -- The wandering 65-pound Pit Bull mix might have seemed menacing to some passerby, but one woman will always remember him as her "guardian angel."
The dog, which authorities think is lost and not a stray, successfully thwarted a robbery attack on a mother and her 2-year-old son, who were held at knifepoint Monday afternoon.
The Florida woman, who has been identified by authorities simply as "Angela," was leaving a playground with her toddler son in Port Charlotte when a man approached her in the parking lot with a knife and told her not to make any noise or sudden movements.
Angela didn't have to do either to protect herself and her child -- a dog mysteriously ran to the scene and charged the man, who quickly fled.
"I don't think the dog physically attacked the man, but he went at him and was showing signs of aggression, just baring his teeth and growling and barking. It was clear he was trying to defend this woman," Animal Control Lt. Brian Jones told Pet Pulse.
"I don't know what this man's intentions were, but it is very possible this dog saved her life."
The exceptional part of the story, Jones said, is that the dog had never met or even seen the people it quickly jumped to defend.
"You hear about family dogs protecting their owners, but this dog had nothing to do with this woman or her kid," Jones said. "He was like her guardian angel."
After the alleged thief ran away, Angela quickly placed her son, Jordan, in the car and tried to drive off. Before she could, though, the dog jumped into her backseat, waiting with her for the police and animal control officers to arrive at the scene.
The dog was transported to a local shelter and if his owners don't step forward within five days, Jones said, Angela and her family plan to adopt the savior she named "Angel."
Animal control officers and shelter workers believe Angel is lost, and not a stray, because of his good health, sturdy weight and mild temperament.
"It's funny, that someone's irresponsibility could have saved someone's life," Jones said of Angel's possible owners.
For Angela, it doesn't matter where the dog came from, just that he was there when she needed him most.
"I don't know what his [the thief's] intentions were -- I don't know why he did it, but I'm glad that -- we call him Angel -- I'm glad that Angel showed up because I don't know what would have happened," Angela told NBC2 News.
For a small town with a population of 46,452, animal control officers were kept busy Monday afternoon. Jones says they department also responded to a report about a boa constrictor in a church parking lot.
The snake found its way into a car engine and was able to be removed without being harmed. It took three people to move the massive, seemingly random placed snake.
"It's funny, because we aren't a big place," he said of the Gulf Coast town. "And we can go for four or five months without the media contacting us about a story. It's been a busy week."
Officers from the responding county sheriff's office canvased the area and were unable to locate the suspect described as being in his 20s, tall and dark haired.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is this what Michael Vick had in mind?

Not sure if this is what he had in mind but to us he is a winner in every sense of the word. Leo, one of the infamous Vick dogs, playing with his best buddy on a lazy afternoon! We sure enjoy watching them! Hope you do to..

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pit Bulls and Profiling

Here's a lil guy from a Los Angeles shelter.

It was reported by the shelter that he had a "fighting history". He had "scars consistent with fighting". A vet also said he had "old and new scars". One old wound in particluar was suspicious which is still visible.Gosh, maybe he got attacked by a wild animal in his yard or got out somehow on the street and was attacked by another animal. Maybe he got caught up in fencing. Who the heck knows. I don't like labels that skew what I'm looking at. Nor do I really care whether or not he actually was fought or not. I thought he should be evaluated on his own merit. While it's true that some dogs can be too damaged from abuse, all dogs, including ones with "fighting histories" should be judged based on WHO they are NOW and not based on WHERE they were. And the scars, they are a big hmmmm to me after seeing what I've seen. Some dogs without any scarring at all still have to be evaluated on their own merit as well. They could have more issues with dogs than dogs from busts,or they may not!!So this whole thing about putting down Pit Bulls from busts because they're too dog aggressive,just because they've come from a certain property, is just not pracitcing good behaviorism. It's based on conjecture and breed profiling with no real evidence that a dog cannot be put in a good home.

The Success of Michael Vick's dogs was not a fluke. It is based on the good temprements of the dogs. Sadly many fight bust don't get that chance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thank you Michael Vick???

Yes, you are reading the headline correctly, but thanks to this case and the landmark decision to give rescues a chance to work with these dogs, other fight bust dogs are also being given a chance at a new life. No big names involved here, no presss and notoriety, but deserving dogs nonetheless. Can you tell from the pictures which of these came from a raid? How can we not give them a chance at a normal life in a loving home?
THIS is what it is all about.
As we work with the bust dogs we come to find out that they are, oh no, oh my, uh oh, they're just dogs.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

So....You want to get a puppy.

I want to preface this by saying that I am not anti-breeding, but with breeding comes responsibility. Too often that is not what we see. Here is an all too familiar story of where those puppies come from that are advertised in the newspaper:

This is Cally. She was 5 years old and had at least 5 litters of puppies. I would guess she helped her owner earn some extra cash in the process. Were they advertised "home raised" ? Did she ever get to leave the yard before she outlived her usefulness and ended up at shelter along with her mate who was so badly infected he could barely walk? Did she ever play or go for walks? Did she have any toys or get to at least romp in the yard? Her demeanor told us the answer to all of those questions was NO. Many people tried to work with her and gently expose her to new things. She made progress but every new experience caused her stress. She was depressed in the kennel and would barely eat unless someone hand fed her. We took her for walks and tried to get her to see new people as a happy experience. One young man looked at her for the longest time. When we asked him what he saw his answer was: "sadness... all I see is a very sad soul" Who would adopt her? Where are we going to find a home for a frightened pit bull with saggy boobs who had never got to experience life? How long would she linger in a kennel until she slowly gave up? In the end the decision had to be made. She got to spend her last minutes on the couch with the people she had learned to trust who loved her dearly. There was no pain, no fear just incredible sadness as she silently went to sleep.
Run free sweet Cally.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still Thought Provoking after 7 Years

'(09-22) 13:28 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Marjorie Knoller did practically nothing while her dogs were fatally mauling a neighbor in a San Francisco apartment hallway, and later blamed the victim for her own death, a judge said Monday in sentencing the former attorney to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder. In rejecting a defense lawyer's request for probation, Judge Charlotte Woolard of San Francisco Superior Court said the horrific circumstances of the attack Jan. 26, 2001, far outweighed Knoller's previous crime-free record. Woolard said Knoller had not bothered to put a muzzle on her aggressive 140-pound Presa Canario dog before taking it out of the apartment. Knoller did not call for help, retrieve a weapon or dial 911 while the animal was mauling Diane Whipple for at least 10 minutes, the judge said. A second Presa Canario that Knoller and her husband and law partner, Robert Noel, kept in their apartment may have joined the attack.Whipple, 33, the women's lacrosse coach at St. Mary's College in Moraga, bled to death from at least 77 wounds. Knoller, 53, was paroled from prison in 2004 after serving about three years for involuntary manslaughter, but was returned to custody Aug. 22 after Woolard reinstated the jury's murder verdict. Knoller's husband, who was not home when the attack happened, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and paroled in September 2003.
Knoller testified at her trial that she did everything she could to save her neighbor. Woolard, however, concluded that she made only "minimal efforts" at intervention and "left Ms. Whipple in the hallway to die alone."She also said Knoller lied repeatedly in grand jury and trial testimony, has never expressed remorse and "blamed the victim" in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" 13 days after the attack. In that interview, which prosecutors played for the trial jury, Knoller said Whipple had ample opportunity to get back into her apartment and save herself.Monday's 25-minute hearing included a statement from Whipple's partner, Sharon Smith, who looked at Knoller and declared that more than seven years after "the worst day of my life and the last day of Diane's life, finally there is some justice."
Loaded weapons Knoller "valued her dogs over the lives of her fellow human beings," Deputy District Attorney Allison Macbeth told the judge. She compared the dogs to "loaded assault weapons" and said Knoller had allowed them to roam through her Pacific Heights apartment building with little restraint.Knoller, wearing orange jail clothing, looked straight ahead throughout the hearing and did not speak before being led away by guards. Her lawyer, Dennis Riordan, said afterward that she had numerous grounds for appeal. He cited the court's substitution of Woolard for the now-retired trial judge, Woolard's discounting of the judge's finding that Knoller hadn't known her dog could kill anyone, and a continuing dispute over the application of the murder law to such a case.The crime "is not and has never been murder," Riordan told reporters. He said Knoller's chance of success on appeal "depends on whether we get a judgment that's controlled by law or a judgment that's controlled by San Francisco politics."Prosecutors said it was the first murder conviction for a dog mauling in California history. Dogs owned by inmates Knoller and Noel had custody of the two Presa Canario dogs, which were owned by inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison. On the day of the attack, Knoller took the larger dog, Bane, for a walk on the roof of the apartment building and returned to the sixth-floor corridor when the dog bolted away from her and attacked Whipple as she was about to enter her apartment. Bane's 100-pound mate, Hera, charged out of Knoller's apartment and may have joined the attack.Second-degree murderA jury in Los Angeles, where the trial was moved because of extensive publicity in the Bay Area, convicted Knoller of second-degree murder in 2002 and found Noel guilty of involuntary manslaughter for leaving the dogs with his wife while knowing she couldn't control them. Judge James Warren of San Francisco Superior Court, who presided over the trial, reduced Knoller's conviction to involuntary manslaughter, saying he believed her when she said she had no idea Bane might kill someone.But the state Supreme Court ruled last year that Warren had used the wrong legal standard in overturning the murder verdict. The court said prosecutors seeking a murder conviction for dog mauling don't have to prove the owner knew the dog was likely to kill, only that the owner had been aware the animal was potentially lethal and had exposed others to the danger.The court returned the case to Superior Court to decide whether to reinstate the murder conviction. Warren, who has retired, was willing to handle the case, but the court's presiding judge, Davd Ballatti, instead assigned it to Woolard. He said Woolard could focus on the case, while Warren had other responsibilities in his current job as a private arbitrator.Warnings ignoredAfter poring through the trial transcript, Woolard reinstated the murder conviction Aug. 22, saying Knoller had ignored warnings that the dogs were dangerous and had seen them attack and threaten other dogs and people.If the conviction and sentence are upheld, Knoller will be credited with the nearly three years she was imprisoned for manslaughter, making her eligible for parole in about 10 years.Woolard fined her $10,000 and ordered her to pay $6,800 out of her prison earnings in restitution to Smith.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle'

It's amazing to me that after all of this time and how the dogs were clearly identified as Presa Canario's I still hear people talk about the "pit bulls" that attacked this poor woman. How damaging this case still is. How many times do we have to say that a pit bull does NOT weigh 100+ lbs? How many times do we preach responsible ownership and being aware of our dogs and what they are trying to tell us. They don't just "snap" and attack, they are always giving us signs and signals, we just have to be aware and listen to them.
After all these years...still so very very sad.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Memorial to Back Yard Dogs

There are many reasons to be sad and reflective on this anniversary of 9-11 but for some reason my thoughts have turned to the many back yard dogs I've loved and said good bye to in the past years. Dogs who were brought into this world because someone thought their dog needed to experience the "miracle of life", or to make a quick buck on the breed de jour without regard for temprement or health. Through no fault of their own they ended up spending their formative years tied to a tree or left alone in a yard with little if any contact by a loving person to call their own. They weren't beat, they had food to eat maybe even a dog how lucky can they be, but no one to guide them to become good doggie citizens, no one to give them a good rub down and say "good boy", "what a nice girl". Then one day they became too much trouble, they were digging holes or barking too much so they found themselves at a shelter. Now we have scared, nervous dogs of various breeds and mixes who are challenged to find themselves a home where someone will love them and help them get beyond their rough starts. How do you even evaluate if they are a good representative of their breed when who knows what they are. Shelter life is tough, foster homes are difficult to find and it's difficult enough to convince people how wonderful rescue dogs can be without also convincing them they want to take on an adolescent or older dog who has probably developed bad habits. How many people want to take on a project dog of unknown lineage and all of the baggage that goes with them.
Here's to you Spunky

and Connor


and Jackson
I hope you felt love for once. I know that each of you and so many others have taught me so much.
You will be in my heart forever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Ventures

Hi, My name is Betty Boop. I am the first dog in an exciting new venture between Our Pack Pit Bull Rescue and Humane Society Silicon Valley. I am a young girl who came into the shelter as a stray and not too many manners. Everyone at the shelter loved me but didn’t think I would do well in the general adoption kennels. That’s where Our Pack came in. They had me meet two more dogs and thought I did a pretty good job even though I admit I maybe got a bit too excited, but they didn’t have a place for me either. Foster homes are really tough to find they tell me. Well thanks to the creativity of both the people at the shelter and the people from Our Pack they came up with a really good plan. I now “belong” to Our Pack, but I am still living at the shelter in my very special kennel until a foster home is available for little ol’ me. The Our Pack volunteers are making sure I get out every day and meet new people and see new things and my friends at the shelter make sure that I have a warm clean place to sleep. Today I even got to go to doggie school and had a play date with my new friend Dexter. It may not be perfect, but they say I’m doing really well and I’m determined to be a good role model for future dogs who may get this chance.

Thank you everyone for giving me this opportunity! I will try very hard to make you proud!
Betty Boop

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vick Dog Updates

Although we love to brag about Leo and all of his therapy exploits with cancer patients and kids at risk, there are other MV dogs out there and we'd love to see how they have come through the past year.
Animal Planet has a new show that will premier this Sunday August 24th. Here is a link to check out their preview page: Animal Witness
Leo and Our Pack will appear at some point as well as other dogs we have heard about in the news. The show should highlight the case and what has happened to the dogs since they were taken. I have no doubt there will be some graphic footage which may be hard for some viewers to watch, but the case is so important and has impacted how other fight bust dogs are viewed. These dogs were given an unprecedented chance to live normal lives. Have they succeeded?
Of course there are those that worry how they will be portayed. There is that fine line of showing them as viscious fighters or just teddy bears on the other end of the spectrum. There is so much more to these dogs, just as there are with all dogs. There are variations within the breed. Not all retrievers can retrieve, not all Labs can be seeing eye dogs, not all fighting dogs are good fighters. They are not the dog for everyone, but that is also true with every breed. Everyone thinking of getting a dog should do as much research as possible on whatever breed they are looking at. My hope is this will be an accurate view of what happened to THESE Dogs and that maybe just maybe in the future other dogs found in similar situations (and sadly it will happen) can be viewed and evaluated as individuals.
I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Monday, August 4, 2008

DNA, Hearts and Souls

Every Sunday morning Pit Bulls (and some other breeds of dogs) that want to shine up their leash manners around other dogs come to class to learn to have good manners around other dogs on leash. This class is done on a nice quiet little street in Los Gatos California. Some people come out of their houses with their coffee cups and watch with strong interest. Others walk by or come by on bikes. Some folks actually come by and start videoing the class. Photobucket

One very nice woman came by and watched the class one Sunday and mentioned that she was terrified of dogs. I talked to her about dog behavior and showed her using the class dogs what certain body language in dogs could mean. She was very interested in learning and continued to come to class every week.
Look at me
This Sunday was our Canine Good Citizen testing day. One of our CGC achievers was Maximus. Our very nice lady friend met this deliciously handsome and squishy kissable love boat and was amazed at how friendly, mannerly and truly wonderful he was. This seemed to melt her fears along with her heart.

So, DNA schmeeNA. Not saying it isn’t important and even critical to have this testing tool but until testing is perfected, more widely available and more economical, focus on the fact that dogs like Maximus continue to warm hearts and change minds is what it takes to build understanding about these amazing dogs.

Congratulations to Maximus and to all of the new CGC recipients!
Maximus - Mr. CGC

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Happy Endings

Once upon a time there was a sweet little dog who found herself at the local shelter. She was one of those wiggle butts who says hey, pet me, come and see me with her entire body. Unfortunately she also had some spots on her skin so the shelter had to run tests to make sure she wasn't contagious. In the mean time most of her interactions were through the kennel but that butt never stopped wiggling.

Finally she was deemed to not be contagious but by then she was also full of unspent energy from waiting in the kennels. Let's just say that Heidi (which is what I had started calling her) did not have the best leash manners in the world. Can we say leash reactive??? In spite of this I convinced (ok, maybe begged just a little) Marthina to go and check her out. Gino the budda dog came along to see help with the evaluation. After a rough start she actually did quite well and into OurPack she came! She came into our foster program and we could all see her potential. She had great focus, when she wasn't doing the zoomies, and she won many hearts but she would take a special home who wanted to work with her and continue her forward progress.

Fast forward....a goofy choclatey brown pit bull named Choco and his mom and dad had been trying to find a new addition to their household. Look at this pooooor lonely guy. Well as luck would have it, they saw Miss Heidi's picture and thought they may make a good match.

Choco seemed to be head over heals for her

Thankfully his mom and dad were too!! It was such a good match for two goofy young dogs and fabulous pet parents.

We are thrilled to announce that Heidi is in her forever home...could it end any better!!

Thank you Alan and Celeste for giving our special girl such a perfect home!

pictures courtesy of Stephanie Lamm and Celeste Uy

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How did a schnauzer lover end up working with all these pit bulls?

Four years ago my beloved schnauzer had passed away. I really missed being with bigger dogs but my living situation didn't allow them so I decided to volunteer at the shelter. I signed up, went through the orientation and then the training began. In my naivete I assumed that I would be hanging around with poor perfectly behaved Labs and Golden Retrievers who through no fault of their own had ended up homeless. Hmm...well not so much. What I did find at that time were the not so perfectly well behaved labs and a fairly large population of pit bulls and mixes. Like so many others I had heard the horror stories on the news about maulings and admitted to the staff that I wasn't too sure about these dogs who looked so friendly on the surface. They advised me to read up about their true temperament and just take my time getting to know some of them before making any decisions. Well, as luck would have it I was asked to help with a doggie play group one quiet Sunday. My job as the only volunteer in the group was to go and get the dogs to bring them to the doggie gym. I may have been uneasy, but I was also stubborn and I wasn't about to admit to this much younger staff that I couldn't do that. As luck would have it they asked me to go and get Hailey. A young energetic but very sweet brindle pit bull. I went in her kennel and put the leash on her, she immediately felt that it was her job to let me know that her most vicious trait was her unabashed desire to lick my face which she proceeded to do. Back to the gym we went and she made a bee line to my lap, covering me with slobbery kisses.

Right then I made up my mind to just get over it and give these dogs a chance, and I can honestly say that they have not disappointed me. There is no other dog that can wiggle their entire body in such pure joy at the sight of a person who is going to share a few moments of love with them. It didn't matter that I wasn't going to be the one to take them home, I was there at that moment and that made them happy, which always made me happy too.

Fast forward a couple of years and lo and behold walking down the streets of Campbell was Hailey and her mom. After all of that time, Miss Hailey, much to the chagrin of her mom, jumped up on me and once again slobbery kisses were in order! Her mom is Marthina, and the two of us became fast friends. She brought me up to date on Hailey, who was now a Certified Therapy Dog, and living with a less than sweet but still very cute chihuahua/pug named Daisy. Soon we were partners at the shelter and saw that there were many other pit bulls who needed our help. After much discussion, and a ton of work especially on Marthina's part, OurPack, Inc was born.

I guess the point of this rambling is that if I hadn't decided to give this one dog a chance and get to know her as an individual animal who was and is so full of love, I would have missed out on all of the dogs to follow. I wouldn't have seen Dexter become Hailey's brother, or Carter and Rachel blossom in their new homes. I would have missed the smiles that follow Leo and Zoey and now Charlotte who began their lives living in the world of dog fighters and now bring joy to patients nursing homes and Cancer treatment centers. To me....that is a lot to miss.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pit Bulls & Picasso

We are so proud to have our webmaster as the "Picasso of Pets!" Without the very talented Stephanie Lam we'd be nowhere, no-how!

Check out this fabulous article in the Mercury News about this fantastic artist that we are so proud to have as a member of Our Pack.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Yet ANOTHER Fight Bust Dog Turned Therapist Extraordinaire!

Not just our former Michael Vick dog, Leo, but now Zoe too!

Break out the streamers and balloons!! Zoe, our Missouri fight bust dog, has also just passed all of her tests for therapy certification. She now regularly visits a rest home in San Jose, California, and puts smiles on every face she greets.

Zoe came to us from the Missouri Humane Society ( This wonderful shelter took in dogs from a Stoddard County dog fighting bust late last year.

When we first got Zoe she was very shut down and wanted to approach everyone on her belly.…poor thing. But no more of that for this girl! Now, she’s very outgoing, loves everyone she meets, and has regained the inherent confidence that we see in these fantastic creatures.

If that’s not enough good news, Zoe was adopted recently by her foster mom, Cindy. Yay! We think these two are perfect for each other - as you can see in the photo. :)

Congrats to Zoe and her new mom Cindy!

Cindy on Zoe:
"I knew the moment Zoe was in my heart. About an hour after I brought her home for the first time, she crawled into my lap and let me hold her for over an hour. She leaned against me and I remember thinking, 'How could I ever let her go?' Shortly after that I was discussing adoption with Marthina, founder of Our Pack. Zoe gets along great with my 2 Labradors and has been a wonderful playmate to the new Pit Bull I am now fostering. "

How terrific is that!

Stay tuned: we have MORE fight bust dogs that will be certified and working as therapy dogs shortly. (Ya know, these dogs are simply cut out for this work). Their stories will amaze you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The REAL interview! Mary Harwelik of Speaks Out...

What a treat! Mary Harwelik, Pit Bull advocate, trainer, expert, and founder of The REAL Pit Bull ( shares her story with Our Pack! She's pictured here with her AmStaff, Luca.

Our Pack: You're a respected Pit Bull advocate and trainer. How did you get involved in dog training?

Mary Harwelik: I grew up around dogs, cats and horses. Animals have always been 'my thing'. I started training dogs when I was 7 and went to my first dog training class and graduated at age 8 or 9. Everything snowballed from there, and I branched out to working with horses, got more of my own dogs, did some showing (horse and dog), and eventually decided I wanted to be a dog trainer. I apprenticed with several trainers, taught some classes, and took private clients.

OP: What kind of training methods do you use?

MH: Back then I did heavy-handed traditional training. Eventually I 'crossed over' to using positive methods when I hit a brick wall with my AmStaff's dog-aggression issues. It became very obvious to me that there were severe limitations with traditional dog training, and that the techniques were actually making my dog worse. I dived into the new literature that was coming out, went to school to learn more about psychology and learning theory, and over a period of time, switched over fully to positive methods.

OP: So what have you been up to since?

MH: I've been taking on clients of my own since about 1999 or 2000, and gradually as the rescues in my area became familiar with me, I started doing training, post-adoption counseling, and behavior consulting for several. Working with rescue and shelter dogs immediately hit me as 'my true calling', and remains the work I enjoy most. In 2006 I started Peaceable Canines which offers dog training and other services geared at educating people on the true nature of dogs, clicker training, and of course I specialize in Pit Bulls and shelter/rescue dogs. I teach classes and private training, do behavioral consulting as well as Pit Bull consulting, in central NJ. I am a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, or CPDT, through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, as well as a Canine Good Citizen evaluator for the AKC. I also read like crazy and attend seminars - I am an info fiend! I am never satisfied with my level of knowledge, and always feel I have something more to learn.

OP: Wow! Sounds like your life has gone to the dogs. :) What would you say are your top priorities education-wise?

MH: I have two main missions in life: 1) to help end some nasty myths about dogs that lead to really unfair and severe treatment (like the 'dominance' myth, aggressive dogs need to be physically punished, positive methods only work on 'some dogs', pinch collars simulate a mother dog's teeth and 'don't hurt', etc) and 2) preach about Pit Bulls! I can do both through Peaceable Canines and I love it!

OP: So how did you end up specializing in Pit Bulls?

MH: My earliest memory of being aware of Pit Bulls was probably 18 years ago at a dog training class. One of the students had AmStaffs and a friend pointed out, "Those are Pit Bulls! They are so aggressive, with locking jaws!" and I remember thinking, "I can't believe they let those dogs in here!" as I grabbed my little terrier mix and pulled her close to me. I didn't think much about Pit Bulls for several years, but for some reason, one day, I sent for a magazine advertised in Dog World about the breed. To this day, I am not really sure what prompted me to do this. When I got the mag, it was one of those dog-fighter-in-disguise publications and I was HORRIFIED. I threw the magazine out. But something stayed with me, and I started doing more research. The more I read, the more enamored I became. And once I actually met some Pit Bulls, forget it, it was all over! I have officially been a Pit Bull addict since 1994 - I brought my first Pit Bull home in Sept, 1994. Pit Bulls have been The Only Thing That Matters to me ever since.

OP: They sure have a way of capturing your heart, don't they! But it must have been a long journey from buying that magazine to The Real Pit Bull - how did RPB evolve?

MH: I wasn't involved in Pit Bulls long before I realized just how confused the world was about the breed, and I started doing more research on BSL and figuring out how I could combat the fear mongering. I toyed with the idea of several organizations but they never got off the ground. When I got online in the mid to late 90's, I discovered a whole new world of Pit Bull people, fighters FOR the breed, and.....websites! It was such an education. And me being the writer and needing to speak my mind and my thoughts the way I do, thought that I could start a website about the breed with just some basic info and myth-debunking, that it would be fun and helpful, and leave it at that. I bought and called my site The Real Pit Bull, and started writing. And never stopped! 10 years or so later, the site has grown tremendously, and I've turned an informational website into a breed organization.

OP: Did you realize what an important resource it was going to become? How did creating RPB change your life personally?

MH: I started getting invited to host educational breed booths at fairs, get tons of calls/emails from owners and others looking for breed advice and behavioral help, reporters looking for info, and requests for behavioral evaluations. All because of the exposure I was getting through Without really specifically looking to turn RPB into an organization, something more than a website, it morphed into one on its own.

OP: RPB really has become an irreplaceable fixture in the Pit Bull community. I hope you have help running all this?

MH: RPB is run by me and my boyfriend Scott Amorski, and we have several volunteers. RPB does breed education, provides free informational materials on the breed, offers training and behavioral help, counseling, etc. Our newest offering is CGC testing for Pit Bulls done at no charge for shelter/rescue dogs. I hope to see RPB continue to grow and our services expand.

OP: That's fantastic! Our Pack is thrilled to highlight the awesome work you do. Thanks for sharing!
MH: This work is something I love doing and the breed means more to me than I could ever express. Thanks for letting me share about my work with the breed and talk about RPB!

To learn more about The Real Pit Bull and the services it offers, visit the website at:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mutts and Stuff

Again, we believe in angels. Gale Frey at Mutts and Stuff is one for sure. She’s been rescuing Pit Bulls for 7 years now. She recently worked with us on the Missouri fight bust case.

Check out her website and what she does. She’s awesome

Gale also sent us this article as it’s hitting her literally where she lives. Please blog along with us. We’d like to hear your views on this topic. Click here for the article!

Thanks for all that you do Gale!