Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fool's Day: Buy your local rescuer a margarita pleeze

April Fool's Day is this Friday. It's going to be BR's 12 year anniversary, and to celebrate we'd love to honor all the other overworked, under-partied pit bull rescuers who are out there doing good deeds.

So for our birthday, we're asking a special favor from pit bull fans and friends....

Buy your local rescuer a margarita on Fool's Day.

Margaritas have been the official BADRAP birthday drink since Fool's Day '99. We were, admittedly, under the confidence-enhancing influence of tequila when we decided to start a pit bull advocacy group, and it's served us well since. Even today, whenever this work gets a little too heavy, at least one group member puts out a call for a tequila date -- medicine for our minds.

No matter how tense times might get, a respite involving decent food, icy drinks and riotous laughter pulls us together quick. Not everyone in our group likes alcohol, but they seem to put up with our custom and are probably relieved when we trade in frustrations for ridiculous giggles. And then of course there are always virgin margaritas and the fun of a good contact buzz.

If your local pit bull rescuer accepts your offer (you might have to show them this blog post so they don't think you're hitting on them), please post a photo of the fun on our facebook page so we can see them happy, and tell us a little bit about who they are. We'd love others to learn about their work. Don't forget to splurge a little and go top-shelf: a splash of Grand Marnier and/or Cointreu truly makes all the difference.

Not sure who's helping the dogs? Check PBRC's list of rescuers for names of groups in your locale. Don't forget to include shelter workers that rally hard for the breed in their agencies.

In lieu of a drink date, you can send a gift certificate to Chevy's or similar mexi-favorite restaurant with a thank you note for all their hard work. By giving these good folks a mini-break from the madness, you'll do more for the cause than you'll ever know.

Do it!

Thank you!

and, Happy Fool's Day to anyone who is as foolish as we are. We heart you!

Below: Tim powering our blessed Margarita Cart in Black Rock Desert. (Yes, he's wearing a tutu. Hey, it was Burning Man, whaddaya expect?)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Now Taking Volunteer Apps for the Barn Crew!

... Chunk, Bouncer, Atomic Betty, Nita, Ayse, Danny, Clive, Captain Spanky ...

... They're some of the dogs who've spent time in BR's Rescue Barn since we first opened our doors last summer. This modest facility in the Oakland hills serves as a halfway house for dogs in crisis - specifically, victims of shelter overcrowding, cruelty, foreclosures and emergency medical cases. .The quiet environment and natural setting have been ideal for helping stressed dogs get their bearings and allows them to be healthy, happy dogs again. As they relax, we can learn who they are and design next steps in their transition towards life with permanent families.

The handful of dogs that live here at any given time stay for a week or so until we match them up with foster homes, while others stay on for several weeks until they find their forever families. During that wait they're vetted, trained and socialized to several dogs in regular play sessions. It's like summer school meets summer camp.

Our dog handlers become an important anchor for the dogs during this time at the barn. They serve as the dogs' family and provide everything from clicker training to nose work fun to toenail trims to play parties to plain old fashioned cuddling on the sofa -- all of it is crucial to the dogs' well being and recovery. (Left: Donyale bonds with Winnie, shortly after her arrival from a cruelty case in Gadsden County FL)

In addition to meeting the dogs' daily needs, the BR crew works with potential adopters and visitors who want to learn more about the breed, both at the barn and during our weekends at Berkeley Animal Care Services. They're a wealth of information to a world that is waking up to the joy of the American Pit Bull Terrier and its mixes. Does it sound like I'm bragging? I am. This is a very special group of people who give their heart and soul to the dogs.

It's not all hugs and happies though. Cleaning up dog poo is less than glamorous, and the compassion cases that occasionally come to spend their final days with us tug at all our heartstrings. You have to learn to accept the good with the sad with this work, but the rewards are life changing, to say the least.

We're ready to expand our team and hope to add up to six new volunteer dog handlers who value this mission. We'll provide the training and you provide a long term commitment to the dogs who land here on their way to new lives. Interested?

Barn Crew Job Description

We know that your free time is precious so look forward to talking with you to see if this kind of volunteer work is a good fit. Please check out our job description linked above and then contact for an application. We'll be conducting informal interviews at our next Open House Sunday, April 1st. INFO

Thank you!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

when librarians judge books by their covers

A few weeks ago, when a crew from PBS was making plans to come into town to film the former Vick dogs, they asked if they could see Jonny Justice working as a reading assistant dog in the Peninsula Humane Society's 'PAWS for Tales' reading to dogs program. They'd heard great things about the work he's been doing with encouraging kids to read out loud and wanted to film this for their viewers.

No problem, we said. Jonny's adopter Cris Cohen had been planning to participate in the Burlingame Public Library's annual read-a-thon, so all it would take would be getting the green light from the librarian. It seemed easy. What library wouldn't want to have their cutting edge reading program highlighted on a PBS special?

"The dog is a fun and furry reading companion who is not judgmental," said Kathy von Mayrhauser, Burlingame Library children services manager. "Children, by reading to dogs, it boosts their confidence in reading."
Oops - spoke too soon. With only three days left 'til the event, Cris was told he had to stay home because of his dog's breed. The same library that promoted him in this optimistic newspaper article had a change of heart when another handler brought her trained pit bull to the library to work. At the end of the session, this handler was told she was not welcome back. Her dog's behavior had been top notch - after all, the program dogs are trained to the nines. But for unknown reasons, head librarian Pat Harding chose to enact a ban of pit bull type dogs from the library reading program.

We debated whether the PBS film crew shouldn't just get footage of Cris and Jonny being turned away at the door of the event for their show on how the Vick dogs were doing. Ever the rebel, that was my secret wish anyway. But Cris wisely opted for the diplomatic approach and tried his best to find ways to educate the librarian rather than push the issue. Maybe if she just met Jonny? So, Cris was bumped from the read-a-thon roster and the PAWS for Tales team went to the celebrated event without Jonny and their other pit bull teammate.

After several weeks of failed attempts and ignored invitations to meet, it became clear that Harding's mind was made up. Feeling discouraged, Cris regretfully resigned in protest from the reading team that had once highlighted Jonny's work on everything from bookmarks to the cover of the associated shelter's annual report.

On top of being a downright ugly move, blocking Jonny and the other pit bull was technically illegal. California code prohibits cities from enacting policies that restrict dogs based on breed. Burlingame's city attorney Gus Guinan agreed, expressed his regrets and communicated the error to the head librarian.

Harding's response to this news was to can the entire Paws to Tales reading program rather than allow dogs with blocky heads and short fur to get close to the kids. No dogs of any breed type would be allowed in the library to help kids with their reading. (Below: Photo of Jonny at work thanks to the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar.)

We watched Cris struggle with his decision to leave his team and know that walking away was hard on him because the last thing Cris is is a quitter. He told us, "I had a really tough time with this because doing therapy work is for the benefit of people. I guess it really came down to the first rule of therapy work. Protect your animal."

Protecting our dogs from breed prejudice - especially when that prejudice is illegal - takes a front seat to just about anyone who owns a pit bull. It has to, especially when children are subjected to messages of intolerance by educators. And while Cris could have chosen to stay onboard and visit the other venues where all breeds were welcomed, supporting a program that was not willing to speak out against an injustice was just too big a pill to swallow.

Parade Magazine. The Lost Dog's author Jim Gorant caught wind of the story and wrote a follow up to his original article on the former Vick dogs. The Parade Magazine Article came with a great quote from Cris:
“Some may see it as a loss to the children of the community. But I don't,” says Cohen. “A library is a source of information and learning. If the person in charge is participating in discrimination, children should not be anywhere near that facility. There is too much hate in this world already, children do not need to learn it at the library.”

Despite the disappointment, all's well and good in Jonny's world. He's got some promising new teaching opportunities ahead of him ... You just can't keep a good dog down.

But there's still the issue of the library that got away with breed profiling. is a project that highlights injustices around the world, and they launched a petition aimed at encouraging the Burlingame Library to consider reinstating the Reading to Dogs program. Nearly 2000 signatures poured in within 24 hours, many with impassioned comments from parents, teachers, librarians and animal welfare professionals.

Please add your name to this petition to urge the Burlingame Public Library to reinstate the reading program without unfair (illegal) breed biases. It took a gargantuen effort to save Jonny from an NFL dog fighter and a system that would have him destroyed, now it will take ongoing efforts to ensure that he and others like him are accepted by an humane, compassionate and educated society. Petition

EDIT - One of our favorite comments from the petition ....

As a teen services librarian and advocate, I have found it imperative and crucial to let the teens decide for themselves what is in their own best interest. When important decisions come up regarding the teens services department, I address the teens, take a vote and let them speak for themselves. I think that is what is needed here. Let the children take a vote and speak for themselves. Do they want Jonny and the Paws for Tales program to continue, or not? Before I heard about wonderful Jonny, I had been following the wonderful Grant the APBT who spends his days in the childrens dept of an Iowa library. He is very well loved by the children and the community. I am sure that if Grant was barred from the library in Iowa, the children would be terribly disappointed. (Grant's Facebook Page) Why deny the children of Burlingame a simple pleasure that was to their benefit? - Jodi Mitchell

Friday, March 04, 2011

Let's do the time warp: The funeral of 'Spot'

You find the darndest things on ebay. This turn of the century news clipping describes the elaborate funeral of a celebrated senior dog who was apparently loved for his fighting ability as well as his popular friendship around town.

In case you're wondering, we aren't posting this to glorify anything. Consider it an interesting bit of cultural history (lots of references to a well-knit Irish community here) and a peek into the minds of men who saw the world very differently.

The ebay seller described it best: "reflective of the social mores of its time - an era not far past human slavery, a time when women still didn't have the right to vote! Memorial to a beautiful old dog, who although clearly loved, was subjected to a life we view today as morally reprehensible. A reminder of how times have thankfully changed. Here's to you old Spot, and all the dogs WE fight for today." Indeed.

This is how it reads:


Victor in Many Battles Rests in McKenzie's Cemetery.


Pour Out Tributes, Pour in Potheen -- He's Gone, Doggone.

They buried him last night - old Spot, hero of half a hundred fights. They laid him deep at dead of night, and gave him a wake and a sermon.

A keg of beer was tapped in the basement of Dan Ronan's, 3125 Emerald avenue, for he belonged to Ronan, though all the neighborhood called him friend. There was plenty of tobacco and dozens of clay pipes, and the number of sandwiches couldn't be counted.

The mourners came early to pay their respects to the dead champion. They brought flowers and laid them down on the home made coffin. They sang songs to show their sorrow and buried their grief in dancing the griz.

Crepe on the Door.

There was a crepe on the door, and honorary pallbearers, and mourners everywhere carrying lighted candles. And there will be a headstone with theis simple inscription engraved upon it: "He's gone! Doggone!"

Altogether, Spot would have loved his own funeral if he had been alive!

Old Henry Lawlor - great friend of Spot preached the sermon, insisting that it was a dogmatic sermon. He praised the virtues of the deceased, who had been faithful to his master for fifteen years, and who had won more friends than any human in the neighborhood.

Then the funeral cortege got under way, the grave was dug in McKenzie's cemetery, a vacant lot, the tapers were lit, the last words were said: "Poor old Spot, the cats will miss you much!" - the grave was filled in, and the mourners returned to the keg and the sandwiches.

Keg Dry, but J. P. Walsh Helps

The keg was dry and sandwiches gone, so the funeral party went to the saloon of John P. Walsh, state representative and friend of the dead fighter, and drowned their woe again.

Spot was 15 years old, a bull terrier. In his prime, not a dog could whip him. Ronan matched him against the best in his class and he won time after time. Lately, however, he had taken life easy and accumulated many bones which he buried in the yard.


If anyone has good detective skills, help us uncover the identity of the state representative called out in this news clipping: John P. Walsh. We'd love to date Spot's funeral. Thanks.

EDIT From cyberfriend Peggy, "Couldn't resist the challenge to locate Spot; Based on my googling, I believe he lived in Chicago's Third Ward. John P. Walsh was a state rep from that ward from 1904-1918 and listed his address as 738 W. 31st Street -- which is just around the corner from 3125 Emerald Avenue, Dan Ronan's place (now Freddie's Pizza & Pasta Parlor)" -- Nice. Thanks Peggy.