Friday, October 30, 2009

SFGate Columnist Blogs About Leo

Recently we spoke with Christie Keith, the online pet-care columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, for an upcoming column she is writing for Today, she posted a blog on the blog about Leo, our former Michael Vick dog turned therapy dog, that includes some material that didn't quite fit with the article, but that she wanted to share:

Leo the Pit Bull ambassador.

What a dog can do that Michael Vick can’t
By Christie Keith
October 30, 2009

I know you’re all jealous of my life. Don’t try to hide it. Jetting from one exotic location to another, mingling with the pretty people, entre to the most exclusive events, access to the power brokers… who wouldn’t envy me?

Perhaps anyone who could have been a fly on the wall when I had to stop an interview in mid-stream yesterday to unwind all the Borzoi hair from the base of the keys on my keyboard. Two years of accumulation meant I’d hit critical mass and lost the “S” and the shift keys.

Fortunately I was interviewing someone who is as much a dog person as they come, Marthina McClay of Our Pack, the rescue group that turned ex-Vick dog Leo into a therapy dog.

Read the rest of Christie's blog post here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

There are NO Dangerous Breeds!

Yes, sometimes there are dangerous dogs, people, cats, birds for God's sake, but a dangerous breed?? Even if you're not any sort of advocate for animals this is only simple logic.

According to this article from the San Diego News Network:

"In January of this year, the United States Army enacted a new policy banning all dogs with “a predisposition toward aggressive or dangerous behavior.” The specific breeds cited included all species of pit bulls, Rottweilers, and wolf/canid hybrids. The Air Force quickly followed suit, as did the U.S. Navy, implementing the same base-policy regulations.

Closer to home, at Camp Pendleton, residents now have to deal with the new rules. In August, the United States Marine Corps joined the other branches of the Armed Forces in instituting its “anti-pit bull policy.”

This to me is like saying a couple of Catholics robbed a house, so let's ban all Catholics! What? And btw, how the hell do you tell a Catholic from a Buddhist just by looking? This is just dangerous thinking....period.

See the full article here and give us your thoughts:

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Pit Bull By Any Other Name...

During our Pit Bull Leash Manners class this week, a woman came up and asked why her "Pit Bull" was somewhat leery of strangers. I looked at her dog and he was NOT a Pit Bull at all, but what looked like a very large American Bulldog mix.

Of course, no matter how much of an expert one might be, it can be very hard to tell a dog's breed from looks alone. Dogs that come from shelters are often mistakenly labeled as one breed or another. Based on temperament, which is what I like to go by, this dog seemed more like a guardian type of breed than a Pit Bull. The shelter that the woman got him from called him a Pit Bull, the neighbors called him a Pit Bull, and she called him a Pit Bull. But honestly, I'm not sure that he had any Pit Bull in him at all.

A Pit Bull's temperament makes them effusive with strangers, not leery of them. They are generally 30-65 lbs, not 100-150 lbs. Of course, any dog, purebred or not, can have temperament or conformation problems that aren't correct for their breed. The problem is that many different dogs that look somewhat similar are all lumped into the "Pit Bull" bucket. And when these dogs have fear issues with strangers or don't do well with people, it reinforces an incorrect and negative stereotype that is inconsistent with the temperament of true Pit Bulls. It's like a bad case of mistaken identity in a bank robbery.

Temperament is the way to go when judging a dog's behavior. A wiggly butted boy that will walk up to practically anyone and give kisses is more likely to be a Pit Bull. A dog that is more reserved or leery of strangers is probably more of a guardian type — and this behavior is actually correct for their breed. I'm not saying that one is bad and one is good. I'm saying that one often gets confused with the other, and too often it's the Pit Bull name that's used to describe dogs that are NOT Pit Bulls at all.

Many of our readers already know this, and those of us who work in animal welfare with Pit Bulls have known it for eons. BUT sometimes we need to just reiterate that HEY, this is a problem for Pit Bulls. If a dog bites someone because he's stressed and uncomfortable, and his breed is jotted down as a Pit Bull in the newspaper, the shelter euthanasia (and reason for) statistics go up, and the conditioning effect on the public continues that these dogs are not good with people. The sad irony is that they are one of the best breeds with people.

I would like dogs to be judged based on WHO they are, NOT by what they look like, and in fight bust cases on WHO they are, not WHERE they came from. I think it's best to judge dogs on an individual basis. We keep saying this again and again, but after class I realized that it NEEDS to be said again and again, like a McDonald's commercial. I guess there's a reason they don't just play commercials one or two times.

— Marthina McClay, CPDT

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chris Rock to Lose Pryor Role Over Dog-Fighting Comments?

From The animal-loving widow of RICHARD PRYOR banned CHRIS ROCK from portraying the late comedy icon on the big screen after he made a joke about dog fighting, according to reports.

Richard Pryor/AP photo

The Head of State star was among the frontrunners to land the main role in a new Pryor biopic, but he allegedly lost the part after jokingly defending shamed American football star Michael Vick, who recently served time for running an illegal dog-fighting ring.

During a recent appearance on U.S. TV's The Jay Leno Show, Rock said, "What the hell did Michael Vick do? Pitbulls ain't (sic) even real dogs! Dogs have never been good to black people!"

The quip offended Pryor's wife Jennifer, who serves as the director of animal rescue group Pryor's Planet, and she made sure Rock's throwaway comments cost him the movie job.

Read the article here.

Missouri Fight Bust Dogs Up for Adoption

The Humane Society of Missouri is trying to spread the word that, following the biggest dog-fighting ring bust in U.S. history this summer, some of more than 500 pit bulls rescued in the raid are now up for adoption. More than 100 puppies were born after they were confiscated .

As you all know, Jakob, pictured here, has already been released to Our Pack's care. Vice President of Operations Debbie Hill says 19 of the dogs have been adopted out, and as the court awards custody of more of them to the Humane Society, more homes will be sought. Sadly, she says, some had to be euthanized. Hill says adopting these dogs out spreads a message about an illegal industry most people don’t know is so prevalent. She says it’s amazing how after being so mistreated, the dogs are so people-friendly. Some, like Jakob, are even finding a new purpose in life as therapy dogs.

For more information on the rescue operation and to help, click here.

Read the rest of the article here.

See videos and pictures of Jakob on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Poem From Leo

Please don't put your face up to mine.
I tell dogs this all the time.
They don't listen and they don't care,
could it be because their owners aren't aware?
I'm a dog, a dog has a code,
not to greet in a face to face mode.
It's scary when a dog on a leash goes to the end.
It's not that I'm mean, I'm social and like to have a friend..
People then say, "oh he's aggressive, look he snapped",
But how is this wrong when it was the other dog making ME feel trapped?
Please respect other dogs and don't walk your dog up to their face,
then this world for dogs, will be a happier place.

By Leo
Therapy Dog
Pit Bull Ambassador (hence the poem)
Best Loved Family Companion

Monday, October 19, 2009

Welcome to California Jakob!

Our Pack's Christina welcome's Jakob to his new home!

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Pics of Jakob

Many thanks to Lynn Terry Photography for these beautiful pics of Jakob, the former fight bust dog that was released by the Humane Society of Missouri into Our Pack's care this week.

Jakob was rescued by HSMO earlier this year, and spent several months waiting for his forfeiture proceedings to be settled in federal court. Now, Jakob is coming to Our Pack and looking forward to starting his training in a new career as a therapy dog!

You can see the entire album of pics on our Facebook page here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jakob, Already Moving Forward

Check out the great photo of Jakob, the former fight bust dog, with cruelty investigator Kyle Held at the Humane Society of Missouri yesterday. The photo, by AP photographer Jeff Roberson, ran in the Missourian.

Click here to see it full size.

Photo by AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson

Thanks to All

We want to give a special shout-out to all of the rescue organizations that have been working so hard to care for the dogs from the Humane Society of Missouri bust. There was some great press coverage of the release of some of the dogs yesterday at HSMO, including Our Pack's Jakob, but there were lots of folks involved behind the scenes as well. And, of course, the dogs themselves deserve their own shout-out, including Fay, pictured here.

The full list of dogs released to these organizations includes:

FAY: received by Mutts-n-Stuff, a St. Louis-based bully breed rescue group

ELI: received by Mutts-n-Stuff on behalf of New Hope Pit Bull Rescue in Goose Creek, South Carolina

CARLOS, JUNIOR and KALI: received by Broken Hearts, Mended Souls Rescue based in Missouri

JAKOB, to be received here in California by Our Pack

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Humane Society of Missouri Dog Released to Our Pack

Jakob is coming to California!

We are thrilled to finally be able to announce that Jakob, one of the dogs seized in Humane Society of Missouri fight bust, the largest dog fighting bust in U.S. history, has been released into Our Pack's care.

Jakob looking optimistic about his new future.

Jakob is one of three dogs that will be rescued by Our Pack from the more than 500 dogs seized in the multi-state raid coordinated. The remaining two dogs are still being held at HSMO while they await the results of forfeiture proceedings in federal court. Like Leo, the former Michael Vick dog, Jakob will be trained by Our Pack for a new career in therapy work.

Associated Press reporter Cheryl Wittenauer was on hand today at HSMO for Jakob's release. You can read her article here:

As soon as we saw pictures of Jakob, we knew he was special, and our first impressions have been confirmed by our good friends Gale Frey of Mutts-n-Stuff and Our Pack's Tracey Cutler. They have been on the ground in Missouri working tirelessly to care for and evaluate these dogs.

Jakob looking happy at his release.

Therapy dogs are trained in basic manners, then provide affection and comfort to people in need in hospitals, retirement homes, schools and similar situations. Although Jakob comes from an abuse case, we’ve seen time and again these dogs are cut out for therapy work and we think he is a great candidate for this kind of work. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is temperament, and as we know, Pit Bulls have loving, affectionate natures that often make them perfect for this kind of job.

This is not the first time that Our Pack and Mutts-n-Stuff have teamed up to train former fight bust dogs for therapy work. In 2008, Our Pack trained Leo, a dog rescued in the infamous Michael Vick case. Despite his rough start at Bad Newz Kennels, Leo blossomed under Our Pack's care and received his therapy certification in just five weeks. His work earned Leo headlines in national media outlets, including the Washington Post,, Animal Planet’s “Animal Witness: The Michael Vick Case” and many others. See Leo’s story here.

Our Pack and Mutts-n-Stuff also worked on a HSMO bust case in Stoddard County in 2007. Gale Frey, founder of Mutts-n-Stuff, trained some of the dogs from the Stoddard case to be therapy dogs, and has been helping with the evaluation of Jakob and other dogs held at HSMO in this more recent case.. “The dogs from these cases are so resilient and wonderful to work with,” says Gale. “We’re thrilled to be helping to find them new and loving homes.”

Mercury News Columnist Purdy on Vick

San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy devoted his column this morning to the upcoming Oakland/Philadelphia game this weekend. The focus of the column is a follow-up on some of the dogs from the Michael Vick case, and includes a nice mention of our very own Leo and his new career as a therapy dog.

Former Vick dog Leo in his new career as a therapy dog.

In the column, Purdy wonders:

"Crowds in Philadelphia have been largely supportive of his comeback. But what about this weekend? How will he fare with the public here in the animal-rights-intensive Bay Area?"

In addition to animal lovers, I'm thinking Oakland fans probably have a good answer for that one too. Read the article here:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fay Released to Mutts-n-Stuff

We've received news that Fay, one of the dogs taken from the Missouri dog fighting bust, will be going to Mutts-n-Stuff. Better yet, she'll be the new spokesgirl for Phoenix House, a place where dogs from these abuse cases can go to decompress, get training and socialization, and find new homes. Gale Frey, founder of Mutts-n-Stuff, has plans to start Phoenix House right away. Congrats to Gale and Fay. Here's to a bright future for both!

Our Pack crew

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sometimes Training is About Doing Nothing

Sometimes the impression is made that dog training is all about getting your dog to jump through a hoop, offer a paw shake or perform an instant "sit" on command. It's easy to get caught up in the idea that, in order for it to be "training", the dog must be constantly moving around and doing something.

Of course, it is very important to train your dog to be able to live happily with you, and these behaviors can help replace behaviors you don't like. They can also be used to help your dog cope in certain situations. But sometimes, it's good training or conditioning to just do nothing.

In my work, I often encounter dogs that may be obedient, but that are not well-adjusted, balanced or happy dogs. There's a big difference to me in a dog that has been taught to sit on cue, but doesn't like being around other dogs, or even people, because they make him nervous. Other dogs are very well-adjusted, confident and love to greet people by jumping up, and simply lack training.

For example, a client came to see me about her dog, which reacts around other dogs on leashed walks. Her dog is okay with other dogs after a slow introduction (I think it is normal for dogs to go slow getting to know each other, see our article on dog intros here.), but while walking on leash, he exhibits an intense reactivity to other dogs. (For more information on leash reactivity, click here.) Her dog has been to our classes, and she has worked on distraction techniques and has made a lot of progress. But sometimes, it's best to just do nothing.

If your dog isn't even listening to your cues because he's too worked up, then it's best to just let him get comfortable IN that scenario, i.e. on leash, in the street, or on a walk with another dog. You can take the pressure OFF of your dog by letting him know he doesn't have to meet the other dog, react the "right" way around the dog, or perform some command. Just let him get used to the idea that there is a dog somewhere around and it's okay. There is NO pressure, no "you have to say hi to this other nice dog," or "you have to sit and look at me, and you can't do anything else." Many dogs, in fact, "do something else," such as sniffing the grass, in order to cope with this sort of experience.

When the pressure is off to meet and greet, or to do something else, the dog will generally relax, especially if she's a comfortable distance from the other dog. It's important to make sure that you don't push your dog too far, too fast. If your dog is comfortable a block away from another dog, let her have that. Then work in baby steps until she can comfortably be closer to the other dog. Don't push it to the point where she becomes very uncomfortable. Of course, you would still provide leadership to let her know that she doesn't have to worry, and that you have everything under control.

We work with dogs that come from abuse cases, and sometimes it's helpful to just let the dog know that, wherever he is, he's safe and all is okay. This is not so much "training" as it is "conditioning", and sometimes one is more helpful than the other, depending on the dog and the situation. In our work, we do a lot of conditioning or counter-conditioning, and letting the dog know that all is well.

-- Marthina McClay, CPDT

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tackle Vick Campaign

In the rescue world, feelings are obviously still running high over Michael Vick's return to the NFL.

With the Oakland Raiders scheduled to play Philadelphia on October 18th, Concerned Dog Owners of California has kicked off a potentially controversial campaign to help Oakland area shelters this weekend. According to the CDOC web site, the rescue group will give 5 bags of food to Oakland shelters for every time Vick is tackled during the game. CDOC is encouraging people to donate to the campaign, and says it will match the First $1500 pledged.

What do you think about the campaign? We want to get readers' thoughts this time instead of just stating our opinion.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our Pack Featured in New Issue of Bay Woof

The new October issue of Bay Woof includes a training article from Our Pack in the Good Dog column! The photos are from our Sunday Pit Bull training class.

Of Love and Leadership

By Marthina McClay, CPDT

There is no question that love is a wonderful thing to give our dogs, and giving it is great therapy for us humans, too. In fact, in our organization's work with rescued Pit Bulls, we have seen that, despite their false fearsome reputation, they often make excellent therapy dogs. Why? Temperamentally correct Pit Bulls have a strong love of humans; they love being touched by people, even people they don't know. They can easily tolerate the unsteady touch of a patient who has had a stroke, an elderly person using a cane or walker, or a child learning how to pet and interact with animals for the first time. In a temperamentally correct Pit Bull, the people-loving nature is already present, and the dog mostly needs to be trained in basic good manners such as sitting instead of jumping, waiting to go through doorways, and greeting people calmly.

Read the full article here.

New Michael Vick Nike Comnmercial

Check out this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. The "commercial" at the end is hilarious.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Update on Miss Georgia From Georgia

Georgia from Georgia.

Georgia is a wonderful girl who first came to us from a fight bust in Georgia.

Since then, she's been making a career out of being given lots of love, good routine structure and some fabulous beach fun by her new person, Noelle.

By looking at her, you can tell she didn't start out with the best life, but now she's flourishing under the best care of all. Here she is sunbathing on the beach. She seems so appreciative of all that she has now and most of all we appreciate what she brings to us. Georgia is a wonderful soul!

Thanks to Noelle for all your good work with Georgia.