Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tracey Reports from Missouri

Just checking in to say hello to Our Pack and all of my friends back home!

Today was good, even though we were short of help for most of the day. Winging the clean up, two daily feedings, constant moving of dogs from one crate to another, or just holding and attending to those who needed


(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dawn Majors)

a small break from their crate, along with minor emergencies here and there. One fellow and I managed to get through forty-two dogs at least twice in the matter of 10.5 hours. In addition, we were able to leave each of our beloved new friends a clean Kong filled with peanut butter to end their day with, until our return tomorrow morning.

The usual shift for this endeavor has been 4-5 days, maybe one week. I did not know that my commitment to a 15-day work week would be utterly exhausting, both physically and mentally draining. I have been told by other volunteers that a two-week stint was considered quite unusual, although a number of volunteers have promised to come back again, or were here on their second visit upon my arrival.

I must say that the volunteers who have come to help these dogs because of their love for animals—in particular to help those who have been so unfairly mistreated, abused and misaligned—are saints in my book. The HSMO staff are also incredible, putting in hours upon hours of time to assist these dogs who have been “rescued” from a cruel, cruel life in the hands of people whose souls remain unfathomable to me and others.

When my co-workers and I grab a quick bite to eat at lunchtime, we often fantasize about what we would like to do to the people who have done the atrocious things we have witnessed to the dogs in our care. I won’t dive into the details on that...BUT, I will share with you what it means to each one of us who has the unique opportunity to work with these dogs: The look that each dog gives you as you open that gate first thing in the morning, and make the long walk down the center of that kennel floor. These dogs know their friends are here, we are the excitement of their day, we ROCK their world and they show it by barking, jumping and looking for some acknowledgment, just to say "I’m here and I’m happy you’re here too!"

At first it was a little overwhelming, forty-two dogs begging for your attention, barking loudly and some jumping with enough force to slide their crate away from their original tied-down location. But, ya get used to it. You get used to the non-stop barking, the smell of urine, the smell of poop and your poop-stained clothing, the never-ending cleaning and the constant noise. As I like to say: Barking, Poop, Barking, Poop, Clean, Barking, Poop, Poop, Poop, Clean, Barking, etc.

What you surely don’t get used to is seeing a dog that has no lips and is missing part of her mouth and nose, but who still wags her tail every time you pass by her crate, looking at you with such loving eyes and complete trust. This dog has been severely damaged on the outside, as shown by the front teeth protruding out from her mouth because she has no lips to cover them, but who is just looking for a little love and companionship from a friendly face. She goes by the name of Fay(e).

The picture shown here was taken by the Associated Press, you can read the article by AP reporter Cheryl Wittenauer here:


I take care of Fay(e) and watch her everyday as I pass by her crate or walk her down the aisle for a little jaunt to our special seat, where she can give me her warm hugs and kisses, a little toothy, maybe, but oh so gentle! Fay(e) is at first shocking to look at, then she becomes just another warm Pit Bull “kisser and lover." She reminds me that I can do whatever it takes to get the job done and to keep on going regardless of my circumstances, just like her! I love Fay(e) and I love all those tenacious Pitties that keep on going no matter what, and wiggle their butts while they do it, regardless!

Tracey Tate Cutler

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pit Bull Pile Up

We never tire of watching these goofy kids at play. Don't you just love Hailey's oh-so-patient expression?

Friday, September 25, 2009

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many dog training web sites, books and trainers seem to take a “one size fits all” approach to training and behavior counseling. In my experience, focusing on a single method or approach is limiting because the same approach doesn’t always work for all dogs. It would certainly be easier to say, “I always do this,” or “I always do that,” when it comes to training, but the reality is often more complex.

For example, I might talk in a different tone to a sassy, willful dog than I would to a dog that’s shy or fearful. If a dog lacks confidence, I might start by putting the dog in different settings using slow, baby steps, before he becomes fearful of that setting, while giving lots of positive rewards for being calm and relaxed.

For more confident dogs that tend to be “full of themselves,” more structure and leadership is often needed. For example, you dog might like to jump up on you as soon as you sit down on the couch or a chair. Instead of just letting her fly up in your face and then punishing with a verbal correction, you can ask your dog to sit first. Be sure to time the command BEFORE she jumps. Keep her at a distance from the couch or chair, wait for a bit, then invite her to come up. This adds structure in a positive way, without punishment or much correction.

This technique may or may not be effective with your particular dog. Sometimes you have to try a few different approaches before you find one that works for your particular dog. At Our Pack, we often work with shelter dogs and dogs that come from abuse cases, and sometimes we have to think outside the box or we may not be able to help them. We may need to be firmer and stricter with one dog, while another might require a more lenient approach. Whatever approach you use, it’s always better to set the dog up to behave appropriately and reward that behavior than it is to wait for the dog to do it wrong and then try to correct it.

A particular technique should be used as long as it works, increases confidence and continues to build a bond, not after it stops working or breaks the bond between the dog and his person. For example, we had a fight bust dog who came to Our Pack very shut down and worried about everything around her—people, sounds, objects, you name it. We were able to bring her around using confidence-building techniques, including a soft, reassuring voice and gradual introductions to the stimuli that made her nervous. Within a short time, she became very confident and even somewhat sassy! At that point, she needed firmer direction and more structure.

Leo, the dog who came to us from the Michael Vick case, presented a different challenge. He was initially like a bull in a china shop when it came to manners. “A couch? What’s that? You mean I can't just land in your lap at anytime? Huh?” He didn’t have a confidence problem, he had a manners problem. “Give me a kiss!” Splam!

Leo sharing his toys.

There are so many dogs out there to save and they all have different circumstances, backgrounds and experiences that have shaped their behavior. To expect each one of them to respond alike to a single training approach just doesn’t work. (Of course, we would never condone using physical pain, force or any method that creates fear in a dog, as that is just abuse.) I like to solicit the willingness of the dog to work with me.

Each of these dogs are individuals, and each has taught me so much, especially about resiliency. Dogs are truly amazing creatures, and one of the wonderful traits I see in Pit Bulls is how resilient and forgiving these dogs can be. They have given me what amounts to a college education, not only in training but in the way I look at life. If you treat your dog as an individual, and adjust your training to his or her behavior, you will both get more out of it and you’ll have a lot more fun learning from each other!

Marthina McClay, CPDT

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Best Thing About Dogs

They love you, they don't hold grudges, they don't hate, and they do their best to create peace whenever possible. They're about loving you and having a good time and best of all, like Posie here, they love to show their bellies! Of course, her cute freckles are just a bonus.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Update from Missouri

Hello everyone! This is Smiley King Elvis in Missouri to fill you in on the happenings at the bunker. My mom, Gale, came home and had me in stitches. Tracey with Our Pack is here in St. Louis, and she and mom were instant friends. That is Tracey's picture at the left. Talk about two peas in a pod...I cannot wait to meet Tracey, too!

Tracey spent her first day in awe of the bunker. I cannot say much because of the gag order, but I can tell you they had a blast and enjoyed the day. She was warmly received and put instantly to work cleaning kennels and hugging dogs. Tracey was in heaven and in her element - behaviorist dreamland.

My mom met Tracey, and you know how loving my mom is, she took Tracey right under her paws (or is it wing for humans?). They had a blast working with the dogs, documenting personalities and sharing wonderful treats with the dogs. It must have been awesome. I am so proud of both of them.

Here is Tracey pictured with her own dog, Missy. Tracey says, "It was a very rewarding day on location in Missouri working with the bust dogs. I love the people at the Humane Society Missouri. HSMO will welcome volunteers who will clean, and give hugs and kisses."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Pack Traveling to Missouri to Help in Fight Bust Case

Our Pack's Tracey Cutler is traveling to the Humane Society of Missouri this week to help out with the dogs from the recent fight bust case. She will be there until October 3rd. The Our Pack team has been assisting with rescue efforts as well, and we are so very glad to have a chance to help these dogs.

There is a gag order in place as the dogs await the results of forfeiture proceedings, so we can't give specifics on any dogs until we get the go-ahead from HSMO. We are very aware how important it is both to HSMO's effort and for the dogs themselves not to jump the gun and to respect the legal process, so we are awaiting the results of the proceedings. These are completely separate from the guilty criminal verdicts that were announced yesterday. Tracey will keep us updated on what we're allowed to share, so stayed tuned.

What we can say is that Our Pack will be taking some dogs from this case, and we just can't wait to work with them in our program. There will be training, structure, good positive leadership and lots of cuddles and love for the dogs. Meanwhile my dogs are waiting, sunning themselves. Wish the MO dogs good luck!

Congrats to our Friends at Mutts-n-Stuff!

A big shout-out to our friends at Mutts-n-Stuff, who announced today that they are building a new halfway house, called Phoenix House, that will provide safe haven for dogs rescued in fight bust cases. The facility is named for Phoenix, a a dog previously rescued my Mutts-n-Stuff, and is being built on land donated by a previous adopter. It will serve as a halfway house for dogs rescued in fight busts after they are released from their court cases.

The dogs in the cases are held as evidence until they are no longer needed by the courts, then they're released, often with no where to go. Suitable foster homes aren't always immediately available, and the dogs often require time to learn basic manners.

Our Pack is partnering with Mutts-n-Stuff on the HSMO fight bust case. Gale Frey, dear friend and founder of the rescue group, has been one of the people working with HSMO to help care for the dogs. Congratulations Gale!

Get the details about Phoenix House here:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guilty! 4 Brought to Justice in HSMO Bust

We want to congratulate the Humane Society of Missouri for today's news of four guilty pleas in its recent fight bust case!

For a look at these poor creatures, you can see photos on HSMO's web site here:

Or watch the video from the raid here:

According to a press release issued by HSMO today, four eastern Missouri men, Robert Hackman of Foley, Teddy Kiriakidis of Leasburg, Ronald Creech of Leslie and Michael Morgan of Hannibal pled guilty today in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to charges connected to the dog fighting raid, the largest fight bust in U.S. history. Another man arrested in connection with the raid, Jack Ruppel of Eldon, pled guilty to charges on September 4 in federal court in Jefferson City.

Our Pack is working with local St. Louis recue group Mutts-n-Stuff to follow the progress of the dogs, whose fate will be decided by the federal courts in forfeiture proceedings separate from the criminal cases.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Help Fight Bust Dogs?

Recently a good friend asked why our resources are going to help out of state fight bust dogs when local dogs die?
I struggle with these same issues, believe me, we all do.
I don't know if there is a satisfactory explanation why it's important to help these out of state dogs other than by showing that these dogs, these victims of fight busts can be given the opportunity to become a part of a family, maybe it will help the local dogs by showing that these can be great pets. That is the key...in the past they were not even given the opportunity to be evaluated. I guess in a bizarre way we have the Vick case to thank for that. Because of the success of the Vick dogs, because rescues stepped up to take them and give them a chance at a new life this other group of dogs are now being given that same chance and if these dogs can be given the chance, why can't those dogs that make their way to shelters be given the chance.
Sadly foster homes are at a premium for everyone, difficult
choices all around and certainly no easy answers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Update on Gino

You may remember Gino, who came to Our Pack in 2007 with a rare birth defect and an incurable sense of optimism. We thought we'd give you an update. As you can see, Gino is still as unflappable as ever, just look at this happy "Buddha" taking a break after helping his people with their yard work over the weekend!

Gino chillin' in his yard.

You can read more about Gino's story here:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who Needs Football?

Leo's not really a football kind of guy, he prefers a little lazy wrestling with his pal Posie. BTW, Leo rocks his Paco collar, doesn't he? Great people, great collars, check 'em out:


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Updates on the OK Dogs

Here's what's happening with the dogs that came from Oklahoma. These groups have taken and are currently fostering dogs: A Rotta Love Plus, Bad Rap, Humane Society for Inland Mendocino County, Just A Dog Rescue and the Sula Foundation.
Here's some blog updates from the good folks who took the dogs. We are so happy that these dogs got out and are in the best places possible!!

A Rotta Love

Sula Foundation

Another group that has been working with us on the Missouri dogs has some great info on their site, check them out too: New Hope Pit Bull Rescue. They also have updates on the OK dogs on their site.

We will be thrilled to be able to continue to work with these great groups once the Missouri dogs are released. This is what will ultimately save dogs, Rescues working together. Here is the link to the press release on the HSMO web site and just to clarify it is A Rotta Love Plus not Whole Rotta Love (ooops sorry about that guys...we love you so much and the work you do). As more groups are added we will update you.

Thanks for keeping us going with the good news!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Laying by the Pool with some Chicks!

Most of you have probably seen this guy on video before but this is one of my favorites by texasgirly1979

Have fun!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sometimes You Gotta Have Balls

Of course, I mean that in the proverbial sense!

Here's Rachael. She was leash reactive when she came into our program three years ago. Her fate sort of hung in a gray area.

Rachael with her balls.

We brought her into our program and she was fostered by Cynthia, who did an awesome job with her. Cynthia later adopted Rachael, and the two moved to L.A. a year and a half ago. We've missed them both so much. Cynthia has done wonderful work for Our Pack, and has helped many dogs! I can't say how much we all appreciate her for that. Here's Cynthia with Gino on the beach, making sure to socialize him with all kinds of people, children and other animals.

Cynthia with Gino on the beach.

Cynthia and Rachael decided to visit and come by the Our Pack Pit Bull Manners class. Rachael was fabulous. She was attentive to Cynthia, nicely and politely ignored the other dogs, and was confident and happy to work for her person. She was also friendly with everyone there, happy to see people and just an all-around wonderful, well-adjusted girl. I was so proud of them both, and happy for Rachael and the many of our other dogs whose lives hang in the wobbly balance of a not so black and white area. Cynthia, thank you for your work! Lovely job!

I guess you could say they both have balls!

I thought I would write this blog to count our blessings and the many reasons we do the work we do.....sometimes it's easy to forget about this part of it with all that goes on.

-- Marthina

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dick's Says No to Vick

Dick's Sporting Goods has refused to carry Vick jerseys! I just got off the phone with them and the operator told me that they are overwhelmed with nasty emails and phone calls disagreeing with their decision...she asked that we go to the Dick's website and voice our opinion. They are keeping a tally on the comments and if the majority wants his jerseys in Dick's stores, they will retract their decision.

Please take a few seconds now to visit their web site and voice your support for their decision to Nix Vick!


- Marthina