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Tag: best friends

Yes, pit bulls can break through walls

roxy

A dog belonging to a misunderstood breed has helped a boy with a misunderstood disorder show a previously unseen side of himself, and his mother couldn’t be happier.

Amanda Granados says her son Joey was diagnosed at age 7 with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that contributed to his getting suspended from school six times — all while in kindergarten.

Joey couldn’t sit still. He sometimes struck himself. And he hated being touched by others. His mother says he had never let her hug and kiss him.

While he was a whiz at math and had a near photographic memory, Joey always had difficulty making friends.

“He has a hard time reading social cues or facial expressions, and there’s awkwardness around making friends, said Granados, a 36-year-old single mother of three boys.

Then, a few months ago, the family adopted a pit bull named Roxy from a Los Angeles shelter — and Joey suddenly had the kind of friend you don’t have to make.

As Joey, now 14, explains it, “I didn’t have too many friends growing up, but then we got Roxy and I’ve been able to make friends ever since. At home, I’ve been able to hold my mom’s hand, kiss her, hug her and do a lot of things that I hadn’t been able to do growing up. She’s opened up my heart.”

“I get emotional thinking about it,” his mother said. “For all those years, he wouldn’t hold my hand, he wouldn’t hug me — it was all part of the autism — but this dog has taught him how to give and show affection. He holds my hand now. He hugs me. The first time I got a kiss on the cheek was when Roxy came home.”

A photo on the Internet led Joey to his new best friend. Joey had been asking his mom for a dog, and she saw that the Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles was planning an event where a shelter dog could be adopted for $10.

“We were looking through pictures online, and Roxy’s picture made us fall in love with her,” Granados told Today.com.

roxy2When they went to the adoption event, Joey and Roxy immediately connected.

“As soon as Roxy met Joey, she totally ignored me and his mother,” said adoptions specialist Denise Landaverde. (That’s her, Roxy and Joey in the photo to the left.) “Amanda was happily surprised to see Roxy go straight to Joey and watch them play together. It just sealed the deal for her.”

Granados said she initially had some qualms due to the bad things she has heard about pit bulls, but seeing her son and Roxy together made those concerns disappear.

“She is literally his best friend,” Granados said. “He can be in the foulest mood, and she comes along and it’s like a light. She doesn’t care about his differences — there’s no judgment with her — she just loves him.”

Joey agreed. “If I’ve been having a bad day, Roxy can hear a tone in my voice,” he said. “She runs up to me to give me a giant hug and lick me to death and do almost anything she can to make me happy.”

Studies have shown that dogs can give children with autism much-needed companionship and help them learn compassion, responsibility and even social skills, such as making eye contact.

What has happened between Joey and Roxy speaks louder than any of those studies, though — or at least it does to Amanda Granados.

Roxy, she agrees, seems to have opened her son’s heart, and she thinks part of it may be because of what they have in common.

“Kids with autism are looked at differently and misunderstood, and so are pit bulls,” Granados said. “I think that’s why they’ve bonded.”

(Top photo courtesy of Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center; photo of Joey and Roxy courtesy of Amanda Granados)

Former Vick dog Gracie dies

gracie

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)

Penny and Roo: A chicken and a Chihuahua

Roo, a Chihuahua, was found freezing in a ditch, where he’d apparently been discarded after being born with no front legs.

Penny is a silky chicken who was once used for experiments at an area veterinary school.

penny-rooBoth ended up at Duluth Animal Hospital in Georgia, where they’ve become best of friends, and a popular attraction.

The dog, believed to have been abandoned by a backyard breeder when he was just seven weeks old, was found on Christmas day, 2013, under some leaves in a ditch.

The chicken, once the undisclosed experiments she was part of were completed, was likely going to be put down, but an offer was made to adopt her.

Officially, both now belong to an employee at the animal hospital in Gwinnett, Alicia Williams, who brings Roo and Penny with work to her most days.

Williams, the client services receptionist at Duluth Animal Hospital, told Channel 2 Action News the dog and chicken became friends immediately, and some clients schedule appointments for their pets when they know the two will be there.

They’re gaining popularity nationwide, too, through the animal hospital’s Facebook page, and a video (above) recently posted on YouTube.

Roo manages to get around on just his hind legs, but he’s also been outfitted with a special wheelchair.

(Photo: On an outing during the recent Georgia snowfall, Penny and Roo left some interesting tracks / Facebook)

Nevada anti-breed discrimination law signed


A pit bull who was seized from a notorious dogfighting operation in Virginia, rehabilitated in Utah, and adopted by a couple in Texas helped make the case for a new law in Nevada that prohibits local governments from enacting and enforcing regulations that deem a dog dangerous based solely on its breed.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the anti-breed discrimination law this week, and it takes effect Oct. 1, 2013.

Assembly Bill 110, which was sponsored by Assemblyman James Ohrenschall and spearheaded Best Friends Animal Society, also got a push from our friend Mel, the former Michael Vick dog who now lives in Dallas. Richard Hunter, Mel’s new owner, testified before the Nevada Senate to show support.

“Best Friends is proud that Nevada has taken steps to prevent breed discrimination,” said Ledy VanKavage said, senior legislative attorney for Best Friends. “Every American who follows the right safety rules as a responsible dog owner should be allowed to own whatever breed of dog they choose.”

Nevada is the the 14th state to pass a law preventing breed discrimination, Best Friends said.

“Assembly Bill 110 bans breed discriminatory laws from being enacted anywhere in Nevada,” said Assemblyman Ohrenschall.

He added, “I’m confident that this law will benefit dogs, dog owners and animal lovers throughout our great state. It has always been bad public policy to enact ordinances that target a certain breed of dog without considering that individual dog’s actions.  I’m proud of sponsoring this legislation because it will help keep our innocent friends from being killed needlessly and senselessly.”

Best Friends received and rehabilitated most of the dogs seized from the dogfighting operation at Michael Vick’s former estate in Virginia, including Mel, who was believed to have been used as a bait dog.

“Our fundamental goal is to achieve safe and humane communities. We want our communities to be protected against dangerous dogs – and we want abused dogs to be protected from irresponsible owners,” VanKavage said. “Because everyone benefits from a safe society – both people and pets.”

Studies done in countries with breed-discriminatory laws, such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany, found that these laws didn’t reduce the number of dog bites or improve public safety. Based on these studies, and concerns about due process and property rights infringement, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association don’t support breed discrimination, Best Friends said in a press release.

“They support laws that go after the real problem–the behavior of the individual dog and the behavior of the reckless owner.”

Through its national pit bull initiatives, Best Friends Animal Society encourages state and municipal governments to adopt breed-neutral “dangerous dog” laws that focus on the key causes of dog aggression—owners’ failure to spay or neuter, train and socialize dogs regardless of breed, or because they abuse or neglect dogs or force them to live on chains.

(Photo: John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Vick dog gets key to the city of Dallas

Earlier this year, Michael Vick was given the key to the city of Dallas.

Now, Mel, one of Michael Vick’s former dogs, has one, too.

As for who’s more deserving, well, you know how I feel.

Those of you who follow Travels with Ace may remember our meeting with Mel in Dallas last July.

Mel was only about a year old when he was seized from the Vick estate and dogfighting operation  in Virginia, where he was believed to have been used as a bait dog. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah.

After spending nearly two years at the Utah animal sanctuary, Mel was adopted by Richard Hunter, a Dallas radio personality and his wife Sunny, manager of VIP services for a swanky gentlemen’s club called The Lodge.

When our travels took us through Texas we met up with Hunter and Mel, joining them for a ride around town because Mel seems most comfortable in the car. Ace piled in the back seat with Mel and the Hunter’s older dog, Pumpkin.

The next time we heard from Richard Hunter, was in February, after he confronted Vick during a Dallas appearance.

Hunter, one of many who were outraged that Vick was being presented a key to the city by interim Mayor Dwaine Caraway, got as close as he could to him and offered him a chance to see his former dog Mel. Vick didn’t take him up on the offer and Hunter was shoved away by the quarterback’s entourage.

Now we get word that, over the weekend, Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt surprised  Hunter by presenting him the John LaBella Award at an Eastlake Pet Orphanage banquet — and presenting Mel with a key to the city.

During the presentation, the Dallas Morning News reports, Hunt had some choice words for Caraway.

“One of my colleagues in the city of Dallas showed a grave lapse in judgment by awarding the highest honor our city an bestow – our key to the city – on someone who was entirely undeserving and someone who has shown serious cruelty and inhumanity,” she said.

Hunt then awarded Mel with a key to the city — an edible one no less.

BARCS to be part of pit bull project

Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) is one of five shelters that will take part in a pilot program aimed at reducing euthanasia of pit bulls, encouraging responsible ownership and improving the perception of the breed.

A $240,000 grant from PetSmart Charities will fund the programs, coordinated by Best Friends Animal Society.

The grant was announced last week in Las Vegas at Best Friends’ annual  No More Homeless Pets Conference.

The “Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls Project” will create partnerships between Best Friends and shelters in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C., Carlsbad, Calif. and Tampa, Fla.

All will be based on the partnership between Best Friends and Salt Lake County Animal Services that began in July 2009. It resulted in a 10 percent drop in euthanasia of pit bull-type dogs in its first year, and led to twice as many being adopted as the previous year.

The Salt Lake program, which will serve as a model for the new pilot projects, offers community education and free or low-cost training and spaying and neutering — all aimed at keeping pets in the family and reduce the numbers being abandoned.

The program uses volunteers, called the “Pit Crew,” to showcases dogs for adoption through outreach events, photos and descriptions online and also fosters dogs whose time is up in the shelter. There also is emphasis on creating frequent media opportunities to portray pit bull-type dogs in a positive light–to counter the image of the breed often presented in the news.

Funds provided by PetSmart Charities and additional funds from Best Friends will be used to pay for a shelter coordinator in each city, support marketing and public relations in those markets, and pay for a Best Friends program manager to oversee implementation and reporting in the five shelters.

“As with any dog that is spayed or neutered, properly trained, socialized and treated with love and kindness, pit bull-type dogs can be well adjusted, happily balanced, and affectionate members of the family,” says Jamie Healy, Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls manager. “It’s the person on the other end of the leash who decides how their dog interacts with others and who sometimes put these dogs at the wrong side of the law.”

Best Friends Animal Society works to help pit bulls through its national campaign, Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog, which helps dogs who are battling everything from a sensationalized reputation to legislation designed to bring about their extinction.

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.)


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