My favorite part of this news report is not the beginning, which dredges up recent footage about dog attacks to establish the pit bull’s reputation as violent and unpredictable.
It’s not the part where they shatter that stereotype, or at least put a dent in it, it by noting that — gasp! — pit bulls are being used as therapy dogs.
My favorite part is near the end, where a student reading to a pit bull stumbles over a word, and the dog’s owner, Lydia Zaidman — her chin resting on the dog’s back — offers some assistance.
“NAYSAYERS,” she says. “Do you want to know what that means?”
“Yeah, what?” the student replies.
“That’s people who say you can’t do something.”
A lot of people would say you can’t trust a pit bull, much less put them to work with children as therapy dogs, but a program in north Austin’s Gullett Elementary School is going a long way toward proving them wrong, according to TV news report from KXAN in Austin.
It’s hardly — despite the report’s exclamation points — the first time pit bulls have served as therapy dogs. Across the country, pit bulls — even one of Michael Vick’s former dogs — have been certified as therapy dogs. The therapy dog group Ace and I work with, Karma Dogs, recently qualified its first pit bull member. Zaidman, who’s president of ” Love-A-Bull ,” a nonprofit group that sticks up for the pit bull, has been taking her pit bull Mocha to the school for two years now.
What is unusual is that Zaidman’s therapy dog organization, called the Pit Crew, trains only pit bulls for therapy work. It’s believed to be the only program in the nation that does so.
Working with professional dog trainer Julie Eskoff, Zaidman recently concluded a training program designed to certify pit bulls for use in schools. The training program started with nine animals. Seven graduated, but two were soon sent home — not an unusual dropout rate for therapy dog qualification.
“They love people; they’re extremely tolerant of people.” Zaidman said of pit bulls. “Of course, each individual one has to be temperament tested and each one is an individual like any other dog. But in general, they temperament test very high. They really love people; they like to be around people and so they do really well.”
“They are the number one most abused dog in this country,” Zaidman told KXAN. “Abuse is going to lead to a problem, no question. Unfortunately, there are a lot of irresponsible owners out there and that’s going to lead to a problem, but they have to use everything from amphetamines to abuse to get them to fight. So the idea that they are meant to fight is a falsity.
“Unfortunately, there’s a cycle right now,” she added. “There’s a media image, just like there was for Dobermans in the 80s or German shepherds in the 70s and it’s a cycle that just keeps happening. The more misinformation that gets out there, the more people that are attracted to the wrong dog. What we’re trying to do is put a positive image out there so that the wrong people don’t continue to be attracted to the dog.
“It’s like any other prejudice. You know, you have to educate yourself as to the facts. Unfortunately, too many people read things on the Internet and they don’t bother to find out what the truth is, you know, bother to actually meet one.”
Zaidman seems not only to have her facts right, and a well-articulated message (she’s a lawyer, after all), but she’s proving it daily through deeds.
If only people like Baltimore’s Mickey, and all the other naysayers, would listen.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, austin, breeds, dogs, elementary, gullett, image, love-a-bull, lydia zaidman, mickey cucchiella, perception, pets, pit bull, pit crew, pitbull, pitbulls, reputation, schools, stereotype, stereotypes, temperament, texas, therapy, therapy dogs
Lee Mannix, a Texas-based, internationally respected dog behaviorist, was killed Sunday in a one-car accident.
Mannix, 40, was founder of the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior in South Austin, and his clients included musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore and author Kinky Friedman.
“There are very few people who have the touch, and Lee certainly had it,” said Friedman, who co-founded the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. “His ability to relate to animals was second to none. He could take a dog that everybody’s having trouble with and thinks is ferocious and untameable, and two or three weeks later it’s a totally different dog. Lee came in as an equal, and the dogs just loved him.”.
Mannix, 40, was killed in a single-vehicle accident Sunday in Hays County. His brother Kevin, also in the vehicle, survived, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Mannix wasn’t always drawn to dogs; for 12 years he avoided them entirely. When he was 8, a German shepherd bit him so severely he required 130 stitches. He shunned dogs until he was 20, when a friend gave him a dog.
Mannix worked at the Austin Humane Society and DogBoy’s Positive Power Kennels in Pflugerville, and headed a local humane society in Colorado.
As a trainer, Mannix specialized in canine aggression problems.
“I can get a dog to do anything I want it to do. The thing is training the owner to do it,” Mannix said last summer. “So I don’t train dogs per se; I train owners to understand their dog’s behavior and get it right.”
Author Friedman noted: “There are lots of important people out there, politicians and the like. But I think Lee Mannix was significant. And there is a distinction there … He’s the kind of guy who has opened the gates of heaven wider.”
Memorial donations may be made to the Schrodi Memorial Training Fund.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, aggression, animals, austin, auto, behavior, behaviorist, canine, car, dog, dogs, killed, kinky friedman, lee mannix, lee mannix center, news, pets, texas, trainer, training
In December 2008, Robert Kennedy spotted a blue towel in the weeds of Murphey Candler Park in DeKalb County, outside of Atlanta.
Upon closer inspection, he found a dog underneath it, one whose head had been badly beaten. An investigation would later determine the dog, named Austin at the time, had been bashed in the head twice with a sledgehammer. His owner, Joe Waters would later be arrested.
The case led to international headlines, and an outpouring of support.
Today, Murphy, as he was renamed — after the park — belongs officially to Kennedy. The 9-year-old Australian shepherd mix has only one eye, and a dented head, but he’s managed to teach Kennedy volumes.
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it, “Murphy is far more focused on what lies ahead, not what is behind him.”
“I hope if I ever have any challenges, I can recover like him,” Kennedy said. “I take my cues from Murphy, and he has forgotten all about it.”
Kennedy, who found Murphy on his 60th birthday, took him to the closest veterinarian he could find. Stephen Pope, the medical director at VCA Pets Are People Too in Dunwoody, performed surgery to repair the skull and jaw fractures and to remove the damaged left eye. Eight days and $10,000 worth of care later, Murphy was released into Kennedy’s custody.
The dog suffered no long-term neurological damage and behaves much like any other dog, compensating only with the occasional cocked head to use his good eye. Under Kennedy’s care, Murphy’s weight has gone from 38 to 53 pounds.
Kennedy set up a trust fund for the dog’s care after offers to help poured in from 30 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. He raised $38,000 — money that will last throughout Murphy’s life and then go to nonprofit pet rescue groups.
The dog’s previous owner was convicted of a felony and two misdemeanors. He says he thought his pet had been poisoned and was attempting to mercifully kill it. He was sentenced to one year in jail.
Immediately after the ruling, a prosecutor presented Kennedy with notarized papers, declaring Murphy was his.
“He couldn’t be happier with life,” Kennedy said. “My wish for everybody is to have room in their heart to take a dog into their home and know that kind of happiness.”
(Photo: Vino Wong /Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 23rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, attack, austin, australian shepherd, dekalb county, donations, fracture, fractured, georgia, jaw, joe waters, mix, murphey candler park, murphy, news, one eye, one eyed dog, owner, robert kennedy, skull, sledgehammer, surgery, survivor
The City of Austin Parks Department plans to close a popular dog park for six to eight months because of high E. coli bacteria levels in the creek.
Officials blame the bacteria — found during regular water sampling since 2007 — on dog waste at the Bull Creek District Park, one of 12 off-leash parks in Austin.
In March 2008, the city put up signs at the park about the environmental dangers of dog waste, but problems persisted, parks Director Sara Hensley said. The department plans to require leashes at the park beginning Sept. 8. In October, plans call for the dog area to be closed entirely to plant more vegetation to helps keep pollutants from draining into the creek. City officials haven’t determined yet whether leashes would be required when the park reopens in the spring.
Heavy use of the park has worn down existing vegetation there, city officials say, and the drought has led to low, slow-moving waters in the creek where bacteria can thrive, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Austin’s leash ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash no longer than six feet on public land. The maximum fine for violating that rule is $500.
The parks department is trying to find other spaces that could be turned into off-leash parks, Hensley said.
Debra Bailey, a task force member who formed a volunteer group last year to regularly clean up dog waste at the park, said sewage spills and other trash left in the creek could also be to blame for high bacteria levels. The city should look at other options before closing the dog park or requiring leashes, such as better enforcement and signs related to picking up dog waste, she said.
“They are blaming the dogs and not addressing other issues,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: austin, bacteria, bull creek district park, closing, dog park, dogs, E. coli, feces, leash, levels, off-leash, parks, pollutants, poop, scoop, tests, texas, vegetation, waste, water
The Austonian, a luxury high rise condominium that will also be the tallest building in Austin once it’s completed in 2010, is taking aim at the doggie crowd.
The 56-story building will feature a 10th-floor pet park, a pet grooming area and a team of personal assistants available around the clock to better serve you and your pet’s needs.
“Knowing that leaving the building is not always the most convenient alternative, a dog park offers a secured outside area on the 10th floor of the building. The surface of the park includes a Synlawn synthetic grass surface with a sanitary drainage system,” a press release about the project says.
Next to that will be a pet grooming area with a raised bathing area where owners can groom their own pets or avail themselves of the services of a professional groomer
Residents will also have access to pet food delivery, personal shopping and pet sitting and taxi service to and from appointments outside the building — all provided by Lofty Dog, which is headquartered two blocks away.
A veterinarian, kennel and “bakery services” provided by Groovy Dog Bakery will also be at the beck and call of residents.
And if all that weren’t enough, the Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which includes places for dogs to swim and play leash-free, is just two blocks away.
All that for the low low price of …
Well, they don’t appear to be saying yet on the Austonian website, but I’m guessing it’s more than the average mutt can afford.
The Austonian is the second North American luxury real estate project by Grupo Villar Mir (GVM), creators of the Mayakoba golf, hotel and residential resort located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: austin, austonian, catering, condo, development, dog, dog friendly, dogs, downtown, grupo villar mir, high rise, housing, lifestyle, luxury, news, ohmidog!, pampered, pet, pet park, pets, real estate, tallest, texas, urban
A non-denominational church is conducting dog-friendly Sunday services in a bar in Austin, Texas.
The City Community Church meets at La Zona Rosa, a music venue and bar, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Church members say meeting in a bar and allowing dogs seem to make people feel more comfortable, and it only takes about an hour and a half to make the switch from bar to church — a simple matter of cleaning up beer bottles.
Once the services are over, the establishment returns to being a bar.
It all got started a few months ago when the church started giving out breakfast tacos and dog biscuits to local dog walkers and bikers, said Scott Harmon, 50, who helped start the church. Soon members started encouraging dog walkers to stay and bring their pets inside, Harmon said, and the dogs proved to be very well-behaved.
“A few weeks ago, a German shepherd tried to eat one of the smaller dogs, which was a little awkward,” the Rev. Matthias Haeusel said. “But, generally, they’re very well-leashed.”
Haeusel said the church, one of many churches in Austin that meet in unconventional locations, has a core group of about 25 regular attendees.
“La Zona Rosa is a landmark that represents what Austin is proud of — the creativity, the music,” Haeusel said. “What better place for our church?”
Harmon says the decision was also based on the desire to leave a “light-footprint church. Our strategy is to use buildings already there. It doesn’t make sense to have a building used only on Sunday.”
Harmon said he and a small group of church members arrive at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday to clean up beer bottles and put up baby gates to block off the pool tables and the area behind the bar.
Even though letting in dogs draws attention to the church, Haeusel says that members don’t want to be defined by that.
“It’s easy to get pigeonholed as the ‘dog church,’ but we’re about Jesus. We just happen to be in a place where people can bring dogs,” he said. “This isn’t a gimmick. We’re just trying to love our neighbors.”
(Photo: Deborah Cannon /AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 5th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allowed, austin, bar, church, city community church, dog friendly, dogs, la zona rosa, matthias haeusel, scott harmon, services, sunday, texas
Luke Robinson set out on a walk with his dogs in March of last year — a 2,000-plus-mile walk, from Austin to Boston.
He’s still going.
Robinson and his two Great Pyrenees dogs — who have made it as far as Ohio — are trekking across the country to to call attention to, and raise funds to combat, canine cancer, which claimed one of his dogs in 2006.
After that, Robinson, who was working a 90-hour week at his high tech and life science business firm, did some re-evaluating, during which he came upon the idea of the walk.
Accompanying him are Murphy, who is about 7 years old, and Hudson, who’s 2.
They set out Austin in March, headed for Boston, which is Robinson’s home. In July, the passed through Arkansas; in August they made it through Memphis. They’re stopping to volunteer at shelters and humane societies along the way, which Robinson says gives him a chance to interact with animal lovers, experts, caregivers and those doing research into canine cancer.
“Definitely it has made the experience richer and fuller after hearing all of the stories,” he told the Willliamson Herald in Tennessee. “People want to know what is causing canine cancer and we have found that canine cancer is a crisis. Not only is cancer significant in dogs, but it is also hitting them at a younger age. It is so prevalent that some dogs are having their life spans downgraded.”
Malcolm was only 6 when he was diagnosed, Robinson said, and 8 when he was put to sleep. On the trip, Robinson wears one of his Malcolm’s claws and some of his ashes around his neck.
They average eight to 10 miles per day, he said. “When we are walking, we are working,” Robinson said. “When I get on the road with them and they get a rhythm, we work well together…the first 15 minutes, they are just pulling me.”
Robinson’s website, keeps track of his travels, and contains information about the walk and products you can buy to support it.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 29th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 2, 2 dogs, 200 miles, 400 miles, america, austin, boston, canine cancer, disease, dogs, great pyrenees, health, hudson, humane society, luke robinson, malcolm, murphy, research, shelters, trek, veterinary, walk