Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life with a Bust Dog

As we go forward with the biggest fight bust in history what will happen when a very large number of dogs DO pass their evaluation? Many people will have to step up and do more than just talk the talk. They will need to walk the walk and bring these dogs into their homes and rescue programs. I have no doubt that even within this group there will be a wide variation between the dogs, but I will almost guarantee that with many of them their house manners will be less then stellar.

When Leo first came to live with us I really didn’t know what to expect, I just knew we needed to help. Believe me, he didn’t come all trained to be a Therapy Dog. Of course he came with his awesome people loving personality that's a must in therapy work that can't be trained. But I don’t think he had ever been in a house, with carpeting and furniture and clearly not other dogs. His house manners were deplorable. I even had my moments thinking what the heck did I get myself into??? He spent lots of time in the crate at first getting lots of good yummy treats when the other dogs were around. When he was out he didn’t sit still very long and he really thought that jumping on everyone was what he was supposed to do, after all his name was Bouncer when he came to us. The other dogs weren’t sure what he was all about either and greetings were slow and managed at all times. Interactions were limited and I made sure that all of his encounters were positive. It's funny, dogs aren't like some people, they don't profile or group, they see what's actually there. They just saw a dog.

Sooner than any of us expected his true personality and people connectedness became even more apparent. He quickly flourished with kindness and calmness and positive reinforcement. He loved learning and also much to our surprise, he loved playing with the other dogs. He didn’t always know how to at first, and thankfully my dogs are used to rude, undersocialized foster dogs coming in, and I always managed playtime, but he got it and you could see the joy in his eyes.

Once he settled into life in a home it also became even more apparent that he would make a great therapy dog.( I think these guys are born for this work. Bust dogs seem to be the best at it. )I worked on his leash manners and his greetings and when we took him for his first visit to a local hospital he was like an old pro! The strange noises, big odd-looking equipment, and elevators even a door alarm didn’t seem to faze him. He met people in uniform, people in wheel chairs, kids, staff members even a person laying down and he just seemed to say “Hi, my name is Leo – how can I help?”

Leo isn’t the only bust dog we have worked with, and each one had their own unique personality and challenges. Zoe is confident and full of herself but oddly enough she started out flat on the ground worried about her new world. Within days she came around as wonderfully sassy as they come.

Charlotte wants to cuddle and kiss all the time

and Violet

needs to take her own sweet time adjusting to new situations, not as sassy as Zoe. All of them are successfully living in homes with other dogs as a cherished family member. Zoe and Charlotte are also therapy dogs.

Dogs from these cases can very widely in personality. This is one good reason ALL the dogs from these cases need to be evaluated as separate individuals not items from *a* "case." Even in the SAME case temperaments vary greatly. Remember environment influences a dog's response to it. Most dogs change rapidly and greatly after being put in a good spot. We have absolute proof of this.

The work in these cases is so worth it. Hopefully the dogs in the Missouri bust will get the opportunity to find a new life that they so deserve. It can be done, with hard work and dedication let’s all keep our fingers, toes and paws crossed that they will be given a chance.The lack of resources and real homes to start a new life in is really what can hurt the dogs in the end, not so much an evil witch with a needle. Yes, in some cases this happens. But from what I know of one of the people in charge of this situation at HSMO I don't think this is the case.

I really hope that this does not come off preachy. That's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to just share my experiences with this sort of thing in the hopes of helping anyone reading this and to help more dogs. I know that many people just simply can not take in dogs and that's so understandable. There are other ways to help by donating Kongs, hard toys etc. From what I've heard this is very needed right now to help keep the dogs sane. Gale at Mutts N Stuff has an outlet to donate at

I do hope that many, many other wonderful rescues can step up and find space for the deserving dogs in this case when due process is served of course.

It's hard work and with some dogs and it takes time. I certainly don't want to cherry coat anything here either but it's a wonderful feeling to see a bust dog come in to your home and have bad house manners, wonder what things are, maybe even be concerned or shy about what's happening to him with his limited life experience and see him blossom into a wonderful loving friend, a family companion......a great dog that he already had the potential to be in the first place.



  1. Wonderful post! I hadn't thought of that.. many dogs from this bust will show the country how wonderful pitbulls can be.. just like the Vick dogs. I look forward to following how everything works out.

  2. Thanks for the comment Moxylyn! It's a difficult thing to communicate because nothing should ever be candy coated. It's tough work but more rewarding than anything. I hammer on about resources and people taking the dogs even though I know it's really tough for some people because I wouldn't want to see other orgs change policy, shelters work to get dogs out and then where do they go from there. I think after all the debating and talking over org's policies this has to be the most important issue right now, is resources.
    Thanks again,

  3. Wonderful post, Marthina! I agree 110%.

    I've got my kong and nylabone collection drive started at a couple pet supplies stores and a tentative promise from an area distributor to make a larger toy donation. So hopefully I'll be making a trip down to St. Louis soon with a car full of toys!

  4. Oh that's so wonderful Suzi!!! Awesome. The dogs will love it!!
    Glad you liked the post.

  5. What a great see if local pet stores will donate. There are a few in this little town I work in. How should I approach them?

  6. You can go and just ask them to help. Give the info where things need to be sent. That's what I would do. Bring articles for them to see or send them the HSMO website etc.

    Anyone else have ideas on this?