BADRAP, 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)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 28th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advocacy, animals, bad rap, badrap, dead, death, dies, dog, dogs, donna reynolds, eulogy, image, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, rehabilitation, remembrance, reputation, sally, san francisco, vick dogs
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
A dozen adoptable pit bull-type dogs from Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) will put on the green and march Sunday in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Crystal, Wisteria, Penny and others will don green T-shirts, beads, bowties, shorts and shamrock headbands. Volunteers will walk the dogs in the parade, beginning at 2 p.m., and carry posters with pictures of other pit bulls available for adoption at BARCS.
The volunteers will dress the dogs at 1 p.m. Sunday, meeting at the Washington Monument, 600 N. Charles St.
The parading dogs are meant to show that pit bull terrier-types who are loved, spayed or neutered, properly trained and socialized, make happy and affectionate pets — and that anything else you might have heard to the contrary, according to BARCS ” is just a bunch of blarney.”
In conjunction with the parade, the shelter is having an adoption promotion March 13-19. All week, adopters of pit bull-type dogs will go home with a a goody bag filled with dog treats, toys, T-shirts, collars and leashes, as well as educational information on pit bull terrier-type dogs and tips on responsible dog ownership.
BARCS works in conjunction with Best Friends Animal Society on the Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls Project, with funding support from PetSmart Charities. The project is designed to encourage responsible pet guardianship and reduce euthanasia of pit bull terriers and similar-type dogs, as well as to improve the public’s perception of pit bulls.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animals, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, best friends animal society, blarney, dogs, image, irish, kiss me, maryland, parade, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, promotion, reputation, shelter partners for pit bulls, st pattys, st pitties, st. patricks, stereotypes
What weary motorist couldn’t use a jolting cup of Joe, a $5 footlong and a peek into the life, times and works of a long dead novelist?
Exit 127 in Sauk Centre spills you onto Main Street — and it’s not just any Main Street. It’s THE Main Street.
The Sinclair Lewis book of that name, published in 1920, was — though labeled fiction — based on small town life in Sauk Centre, renamed, to protect the not so innocent, “Gopher Prairie” in the book.
A biting satire that exposed the hypocrisy of small town life — showed that, in fact, it was not as carefree, pure and idyllic as it was often portrayed and perceived — the book was denounced by the town, many of whose residents saw themselves and their indiscretions show up within its pages.
With time, though, and in light of the phenomenal success of “Main Street,” not to mention the Nobel Prize for literature Lewis won in 1930, Sauk Centre decided to make the most of its newfound fame.
Since 1930, its population has tripled — it’s up to about 4,000 now — but much of it is unchanged since 1960, when John Steinbeck, a fan and acquaintance of Lewis’, stopped by while crossing the country with his poodle for the book, “Travels with Charley.”
- Steinbeck read “Main Street” in high school and, late in Lewis’ life, Steinbeck would meet him. They’d get together for coffee at the Algonquin in New York. Lewis, an alcoholic, died in 1951 in Rome, at age 65, and his cremated remains were shipped back to Sauk Centre and buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
By 1960, Steinbeck noted, Sauk Centre had realized that, whatever embarassment Lewis had caused, he was their claim to fame.
“I don’t know whether or not it’s true, but I’ve heard he died alone. And now he’s good for the town. Brings in some tourists. He’s a good writer now,” Steinbeck wrote in “Travels with Charley.”
Another 40 years after that, parks, streets, campgrounds and more in Sauk Centre bear his name. His boyhood home is a tourist attraction (though closed in the winter). There’s an annual Sinclair Lewis festival, and it seems like every other business uses “Main Street” in its name.
The 21 white pages in the Sauk Centre phone book list a Main Street Real Estate, Main Street Theater, Main Street Cafe, Main Street Chiropractic Center, Main Street Coffee Company, Main Street Photo and more.
Ace and I checked into the Gopher Prairie Motel, operated by Wayne and JoAnn Thorson. They’ve had the motel since 1976, and in 1979 renamed it after the fictional town in “Main Street.”
It was part homage to the book — no one perturbed by its original publication is alive anymore, Thorson noted.
Originally, when he and his wife took it over in 1976, it was the Starlight Motel, one of many Starlight — or Star-Lite — motels in the 1970s, none of which were connected to each other in any way. But when a guest told Thorson she almost didn’t stop there because of a bad experience at another “Starlight,” he decided it was time to change names. So he grabbed one out of fiction.
We willingly coughed up the $5 pet fee and, as directed, refrained from relieving ourselves in the grassy front lawn. The next morning I stopped for breakfast at the Ding Dong Cafe on Elm Street (using a two dollars off coupon from the motel).
There, the world’s most attentive waitress filled my coffee cup nearly every time I took a sip. The only other customers were seven men sat at a long table, alternating between talking politics and playing Yahtzee. The quintessential small town, judging from the quick glance we had, remains one.
We cruised by the high school, and saw that, as we’d heard, the football team is called the “Mainstreeters.” Supposedly, opposing teams gave them that nickname, and they later officially adopted it as their own.
Then I popped into the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center, located at the end of the I-94 exit ramp. There, in addition to restrooms and the Chamber of Commerce, there’s an exhibit on Lewis in the back room, featuring old photos and handwritten outlines, maps and character lists.
Because of its valuable, close-to-the-interstate location, there has been talk of closing or relocating the Interpretive Center. The City Council has voted to sell the property, but no buyers have come forward.
At Greenwood Cemetery, Lewis’ cremated remains are buried next to the graves of his father and mother. His gravestone says:
1885 — 1951
Author of “Main Street”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, author, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fiction, gopher prairie, john steinbeck, legacy, literature, main street, mainstreeters, memory, minnesota, non-ficition, novels, pets, reputation, road trip, sauk centre, sinclair lewis, small town, tourism, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, best friends, carlsbad, conference, euthanasia, grant, las vegas, neuter, no more homeless pets, ownership, partnerships, perception, petsmart, pit bulls, pit crew, pitbull, program, rancho cucamonga, reputation, salt lake county, shelter partners for pit bulls project, spay, surrender, tampa, train, washington
With the rescue of pit bulls and other abused and neglected pets having proven a popular reality TV show formula — with everything from burly tattooed guys to prison parolees doing the rescuing — you might be wondering what they’ll think of next.
Turns out they’ve already thought of it, and it’s little people.
“Pit Boss” premieres January 16, starring Shorty Rossi, who runs a Hollywood talent agency for little people and a pit bull rescue.
The show features Rossi and his fellow little people — including Maryland’s own Ashley Brooks — as they rescue and rehabilitate what the show’s press material points out is a frequently looked down upon breed.
Brooks, 23, who was raised in Elkton, Md., is the receptionist for Shortywood Productions, the company Rossi formed to “manage little people entertainers for all types of shows, private parties and corporate events,” according to a network press release.
Its staff also forms the nucleus of Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue, which was formed in 2001 and has worked since then to rehabilitate pit bulls — both individual dogs and the breed’s image.
“Pit bulls have a bad rap, though they don’t deserve it at all,” says Rossi. “It’s what people have done to these pits or how they have trained them that caused this horrible misperception. Pit bulls are beautiful and energetic dogs that make wonderful companions and have the ability to bring out the best in just about any one – the elderly, children, the handicapped, and yes… even the little people of this world.”
“Pit Boss” follows Rossi and his crew as they rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for dogs, all while working to fight stereotypes — both those faced by pit bulls and those faced by little people.
The show will air Saturdays at 10 p.m on Animal Planet.
Rossi, 35, grew up in Los Angeles, and pit bulls have been part of his life since 14. He left home by the age of 15, and by 18 had been involved in a gang-related shooting and convicted of several felonies. He served 10 years in prison, and upon his release turned to entertainment jobs, landing his first role at Universal Studios Hollywood as “Alvin” for an Alvin and the Chipmunks stage show.
Since then, he has appeared in several commercials, dozens of TV shows and worked on several movies. He started his own company in 2000, and formed Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue the following year.
Here’s a trailer for the show:
(Photo: Courtesy of Animal Planet)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal planet, ashley brooks, dogs, image, little people, misperceptions, perceptions, pit boss, pit bulls, pitbulls, rehabilitate, reputation, rescue, shorty rossi, shorty's pit bull rescue, shortywood, stereotypes, television, trailer, tv, video
The July 1987 Sports Illustrated cover, above, went a long way toward creating the negative stereotype the pit bull has lived under for the past two decades.
This month’s cover, below, and the story that goes along with it, goes a long way toward showing how wrong that stereotype is.
It took 21 years, but I guess we can consider their mistake — blaming the breed, as opposed to what humans have done to it — corrected.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1987, 2008, animals, dogfighting, dogs, magazine, media, michael vick, perception, pit bulls, pits, reputation, sports illustrated, stereotype, violence