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Tag: bad rap

A eulogy for Sally

sallybadrapBADRAP, the San Francisco organization best known for defending pit bulls from being maligned, abused and discriminated against, lost a good friend last week — Sally, the friendly pit who served as both mascot and inspiration.

What follows, reprinted with permission, is a beautifully written eulogy, penned by Donna Reynolds, Sally’s mom and BAD RAP’s director:

“Some news to share, with a heavy heart. Our muse, our founding dog and our best gal – the irrepressible Sally – passed away last Friday, leaving a legacy as wide as her smile.

“Who was she? She came to us in 1998, back when pit bulls wore a scarlet letter and suffered the consequences of breed stereotypes and misinformation. She seemed to know that we needed a little levity in a world that had started to lose its heart for dogs. She was supposed to be a visitor, but unpacked her bags and before we knew it, staked her claim as a monolithic influence in our personal lives and catalyst for our organization.

“She was our four legged Google before Google existed; our touchstone for dogs from her tribe. We weren’t exactly sure what a pit bull was – we still aren’t – but Sally was happy to take on the role of ambassador of a forgotten country that was begging to be explored. We built BADRAP’s message and key programs around the lessons she graciously offered. Along the way, her beauty inspired her favorite human (Tim Racer) to take up chisels and memorialize her and then other beloved dogs in wood carousel sculptures.

“With a larger than life personality, she had no concept of personal boundaries and was unapologetically obsessed with people – ‘over socialized,’ we joked. She screamed like a lovesick banshee when she heard the voices of people she knew. When she reached them, she scrambled to taste them, slurping straight up surprised nostrils with ecstatic, impatient licks.

“We didn’t train Sally; we worked out agreements with Sally. “Sit calmly until the child is ready to touch you and then you can have a tiny kiss.” She’d tremble, working against every fiber in her being to keep her butt on the ground so she could earn her prize moment.

“She was bold, bawdy and uninhibited and she reveled in being alive, beating back cancer for ten of her 17 years. She body surfed in the Pacific and knew how to catch the best waves and ride them to shore like a pro. She never once took the winding path down to the beach; instead, she plowed down the side of the steepest dune so she could get to the water first. When she tired, she’d find a quiet perch and stare out at the horizon as if reading a sonnet in the waves. When she slept, she curled her heavy head in the crook of an elbow and rumbled softly, occasionally peeking with a twinkling brown eye to solicit a soft kiss.

“In 2007, she nearly derailed our much anticipated assignment to assess the survivors of Bad Newz Kennels by falling very ill and sporting a suspicious mass deep in her bowels, just as we were making our flights to Virginia. Then, after noting our double distress, she granted us permission to travel by dutifully pooping out a plastic toy car in its entirety – Crisis averted. (Thank you, Sally.)

“She schooled the Vick dogs as soon as they arrived in CA. To her, they were just dogs – and she reminded us of that right away. She took great pleasure in humping good manners into Jonny Rotten aka Jonny Justice and in pissing far above Hector’s pee spots, aiming for a target as high as her business end could reach. ‘You’re welcome here, new dog. But just don’t forget who the Queen is.’ They politely deferred, so she gave them straight A’s.

“To Sally, life was one long party with momentary pauses along the way. She marched in the SF Pride Parade nearly 13 years in a row, convinced that the fanfare of waving, screaming spectators had assembled just for her. She zig zagged and pulled as hard as she could towards the throbbing music and sun oiled bodies and she always managed to end up in the lap of one or more of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – naturally.

“Despite her hurricane nature, she was also tender and affectionate and sensitive. Too strong of a reprimand horrified her, and she felt responsible for restoring peace when her humans argued or swore. She schooled hundreds of foster dogs and counted many as her best friends, but she took no guff from ill-mannered dogs. After finding two boy pups fighting over food in HER kitchen, she body slammed both dogs across the room in different directions. Conversation done and over.

“All and none of these traits marked her as a pit bull. She was Sally before she was a dog, and she was a dog before she was a pit bull; a force of nature who blew into our world and rattled us awake, then wagged her way back home 17 deliciously happy years later.

“‘Rest in Peace’ is not a fitting epitaph for this game changer. Rather: ‘Long may you rail and adventure around the cosmos. Thank you dearly for stopping by and including us in your exciting travels.’”

“Sally Racer 1998-2015. Long live the Queen.”

(Photo of Sally courtesy of BADRAP)

Former Vick dog Gracie dies

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Gracie, one of more than 50 dogs rescued seven years ago from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dog fighting compound, has died.

The black pit bull spent her final years in an adoptive household in suburban Richmond.

She died Monday morning, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of the Richmond Animal League.

“This morning, little, old, bow-legged Gracie passed away and got her angel wings. Any words we write here could never begin to express the profound, positive and lasting impact that this little, black pit bull had on so many people who encountered her or heard the story of her suffering and triumph,” said a post on the animal’s league’s “Gracie’s Guardians” Facebook page.

“We are and will be forever grateful for this little, broken black dog and everything she personified.”

The dog arrived at the Richmond in 2007 and was adopted by the group’s board president, Sharon Cornett.

“Gracie was very, very friendly,” McCracken told CNN. Gracie had been used as a breeding dog, as opposed to a fighter, in Vick’s operation, she said. “She loved people and was never aggressive to other dogs.”

With her new owner, Gracie attended conferences and meetings about animal welfare and visited schools to show people they have nothing to fear from most pit bulls.

Gracie was one of about 50 pit bulls seized by authorities in April 2007 when Vick, then a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was charged with operating an illegal dog-fighting ring, called Bad Newz Kennels, on his Virginia property.

Twenty-two of the dogs were sent for rehabilitation and long-term care at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, while others went to Bad Rap, a San Francisco pet shelter, and a handful of other shelters and sanctuaries,

Created by the Richmond animal shelter, Gracie’s Guardians is an initiative dedicated to the welfare of pit bulls. The group chose Gracie as their namesake “in tribute to her perseverance and that of countless other pit bulls who have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of people, yet whose spirits and love for humans remains untarnished.”

(Photo: from the Facebook page of Gracie’s Guardians)

Hector, the former Vick dog, passes away

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Hector, a pit bull rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, has died of cancer at his Minnesota home.

One of 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, Hector was rehabilitated at Bad Rap and, about a year later, adopted by new owners, Roo and Clara Yori in Rochester.

During the six years he spent with them he became a therapy dog, visiting local nursing homes and hospitals.

About a month ago, Hector was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

In recent weeks, his owners twice scheduled appointments to have Hector put down, but both times they backed out.

This week, as his suffering intensified, they went through with it, according to Hector’s Facebook page.

The Yori’s placed this post on that page Tuesday, written from Hector’s point of view:

“Hello everyone. Unfortunately my time has come, and if you’re reading this, that means that I have already passed. My last day was as good as one could ask for. The sun was shining, the frogs were out for me to chase at the pond, and I had Roo and Clara to carry me off the trail when my legs just couldn’t go any further. I called shotgun to assume my co-pilot position on the way to the vet, where I passed away surrounded by people who love me.

I think my past life caught up with me and caused my time to come a little early. However, I can proudly say that I gave it everything I had all the way until the end. To my Vick Dog family, and all the other dogs rescued from similar cruelty situations, keep carrying the torch! There are a lot of dogs out there that still need help, so keep proving they deserve their chance through our success…

“Please remember that dogs don’t really have a choice on where they end up, and some really good dogs end up in a bad spot through no fault of their own. Before you pass judgement, give them a chance to show who they are regardless of appearance or past life. You never know how it will turn out…”

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(Photos: Hector on his final hike, from his Facebook page)

What the Vick dogs taught humans

In 2007, it was one of the most sickening, disheartening stories of the year — NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s arrest and imprisonment on dogfighting charges. Revelations of what transpired at Bad Newz Kennels showed just how cruel some humans can be.

By 2009, though, the story of Vick’s dogs had become one of the most heartening of the decade. What made the difference? Mainly, the dogs – the pit bulls. For despite what they’d been put through, despite being abused, trained as killers or used as bait, they were — once the decision was made not to euthanize them – amazing the world with their remarkable resiliency.

Saving and rehabilitating the former fighting dogs of Michael Vick was not achieved without a battle, and not without the efforts of a lot of dog-loving, self-sacrificing humans. But the silver lining that eventually shone through the dismal story was provided mainly by the dogs, who showed that, no matter how bad a human messes them up, there’s hope.

Once again, the irrepressible species was teaching us humans a lesson.

Vick’s former pit bulls have gone on to reside in new homes with young children, become cherished pets, serve as therapy dogs and, in many cases, serve as shining examples of what is right with and special about the much-maligned breed.

How all that transpired is rivetingly detailed in a new book by Jim Gorant, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.”

(For a preview, you can read an article by Gorant in today’s Parade magazine.)

In the book, to be released next month, Gorant expands on his 2008 Sports Illustrated  story on the Vick dogs (the one that featured Baltimore’s own Sweet Jasmine on the cover), recounting how they were rescued from Vick’s estate and how — though euthanasia was routine until then for animals seized from dogfighting operations – they were saved from that fate by an outpouring of public appeals.

The outcry helped lead to a court order that Vick pay nearly a million dollars in “restitution” to the dogs — money used to allow a handful of agencies across the country  to rehabilitate them.

The book recounts the ASPCA-led evaluations of each dog — and how, though there were a few hardened fighters among them, many more were dogs ready to be loved, ready to forgive and try to forget.

In “The Lost Dogs,” we learn more about Johnny Justice, the former Vick dog that participates in Paws for Tales, which lets kids get more comfortable with their reading skills by reading aloud to dogs; about Leo, who now spends three hours a week with cancer patients and troubled teens; and about Sweet Jasmine, who was coming out of her shell while living in Baltimore until she got loose and was hit by a car.

The book lists the outcomes for all 49 of the surviving pit bulls that were seized in April 2007 from Bad Newz Kennels, the Smithfield, Va., dogfighting ring run by Vick, then quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, now — getting a multi-million dollar second chance of his own — a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

While experts were expecting only 5 percent of Vick’s dogs could be rehabilitated, only two, initially, had to be put down. One was excessively violent and the other was suffering from an irreparable injury. For the rest, though, there was hope, and no small amount of faith – which, more than anything else is what “The Lost Dogs” is about.

Rather than showing aggression, the Vick dogs tended to be  “pancake dogs”— animals so traumatized that they flattened themselves on the ground and trembled when humans neared, much like our friend Mel, the former Vick dog we recently met in our travels through Dallas.

Many more seemed to be dogs with normal temperaments, but who had simply never been socialized.

Accomplishing that fell to the handful of animal welfare organizations that stepped forward, offering to take the Vick dogs in and work to rehabilitate them — among them Baltimore’s Recycled Love, California’s BAD RAP, (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls), and Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.

As Gorant writes in the Parade magazine article, “… rescuers argued from the start that rather than be condemned as a whole, the dogs should be individually assessed and treated — and this has turned out to be one of the great lessons of the Bad Newz dogs. Generalizations and preconceptions are as unhelpful and counterproductive for pit bulls as they are for people.”

(To read more dog book news and reviews, visit ohmidog’s “Good Dog Reads” page. ”The Lost Dogs,” and some of our other favorite dog books, can be purchased at ohmidog’s Amazon Affiliate store.)

Vick declines offer to visit his former dogs

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BAD RAP, the California pit bull advocacy group, invited Michael Vick to visit  eight of his former dogs this weekend when the Philadelphia Eagles are in town to play the Oakland Raiders.

Vick declined the offer.

BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls) told the Associated Press on Wednesday that it extended the invitation through the Eagles to Vick last week.

Tim Racer, BAD RAP co-founder, said the group picked a location that would have allowed Vick to view the dogs from behind a window at a distance — thus satisfying the conditions of Vick’s parole that bar him from being near animals.

Racer said the Eagles informed him Wednesday that Vick would decline the offer.

“We understand Vick is trying to right his wrongs and is very interested in redemption, but you can’t find redemption without acknowledging your victims,” Racer said. “Making amends to the dogs themselves would have helped to create some closure for many of us, especially those people who worked so hard to keep them from being destroyed. It seems that Vick is not ready to go there.”

Oakland-based BAD RAP took in 10 of  the dogs that were part of  Vick’s dogfighting operation at Bad Newz Kennels in southeastern Virginia.

(Photo: Ernie was among the dogs seized from Michael Vick. He was adopted by Andy and Sasha Gibbs. Courtesy of BAD RAP)

The largest crackdown on dogfighting — ever

The most ambitious crackdown on dogfighting in American history has now led to the seizure of more than 450 dogs, with raids and arrests in eight states.

Following an investigation initiated by the The Humane Society of Missouri, officers from multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies made arrests and seized dogs in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in what was ”the largest simultaneous raid of multiple dogfighting operations in the history of the United States,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.

“This intervention is a momentous victory in our ongoing battle to end the cruel, criminal dogfighting industry,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. 

Pacelle reported on his blog: “Four United States Attorneys and a bevy of federal law enforcement agencies, along with The HSUS, The Humane Society of Missouri, and the ASPCA, raided multiple dogfighting operations, and seized at least 450 dogs, in what was the largest single day of actions against dogfighting in American history.”

The Humane Society of Missouri is sheltering more than 300 dogs —  mostly pit bulls — seized in the Missouri and Illinois raids. The dogs will be housed, cared for and evaluated at an  emergency shelter in St. Louis.

Read more »

New policy gives dogfighting victims a chance

Animals seized from dogfighting operations and other cruelty investigations deserve a right to be independently reviewed, instead of being automatically euthanized, a coalition of animal welfare groups has agreed.

After a meeting in Las Vegas last week, The Humane Society of the United States has revised its policies and now recommends that all dogs seized from fighting operations be professionally evaluated, according to agreed upon standards, to determine whether they are suitable candidates for adoption.

Under the new policy, dogs deemed suitable for placement should be offered to adopters or to approved rescue organizations. The HSUS will update its law enforcement training manual and other materials to reflect this change in policy.

In addition, groups participating in the meeting have vowed to  work together to help the canine victims of organized violence.

The meeting was prompted by the recent mass euthanasia of 145 dogs — including newly born puppies — that were seized from North Carolina Ed Faron, who bred fighting dogs at his Wildside Kennels.

The dogs were killed at the conclusion of his court case in Wilkes County, where authorities said their laws mandated the action. Unlike the dogs seized in the higher profile Michael Vick case, no efforts were made by the government, lawyers or major rescue organizations to save the Faron dogs, at least not until it was too late.

Lat week’s meeting was convened to address the matter of dogs seized as a result of cruelty investigations, particularly due to the increase in HSUS-led enforcement actions against dogfighters.

Participants at the meeting included Best Friends Animal Society, The Humane Society of the United States, BAD RAP, ASPCA, National Animal Control Association, Maddie’s Fund, Nevada Humane Society, and Spartanburg Humane Society.

The groups agreed that all dogs should be treated as individuals. They also agreed to support law enforcement and animal control agencies when decisions must be made regarding the dogs deemed unsuitable for adoption, and in cases when rescue organizations and adopters are unable, within a reasonable timeframe, to accept dogs from such raids that have been offered for adoption.

The organizations will form a working group to develop future protocols for cooperation in addressing the needs of dogs seized in raids, such as how to assist with the housing of fighting dogs, how to conduct professional evaluations, and how to screen potential adopters.