The “MDIF”

We’ve all heard it, “Its ok! My dog is friendly!” The words every leashed pet owner dreads as you turn to see 4 legs and teeth coming in the direction of you and your own dog. “He just wants to say hi!” as they run behind trying to get a handle on their dog, or not at all. Just kick back and watch it happen. I will admit, there was a point in my life that I have yelled those words behind a bolting Dalmatian.

running dalmation

Dot was an interesting case when she came to my house in 2007. She was all but starved, she stunk, she was scared of everything. She had very little in the way of leash manners and literally ZERO recall. She would bolt given the chance at any time in those first few years. I remember her flopping like a fish on her leash in the park across from my house when we were working on sit one day. She managed to break free of her leash and run toward another person and their dog. “It’s ok!! She’s friendly!” I yelled while running behind her. And its true, she was. But in her need for flight, who knows how she could have reacted. Thankfully, she let the person grab her collar and get a hold of her for me. Completely disinterested in the other dog, just working on full “flight” mode. I look back on it and *facepalm* myself.

facepalm

As in my own experience losing the dog who I had to qualify as friendly, and being on the receiving end of “MDIF!” I have found that this phrase is typically only uttered in 1 circumstance. When the owner has ZERO control of their dog. When a dog who has zero recall in that instance starts making a bee-line toward a person, another dog, traffic, a schoolyard, etc; the answer is not “Don’t worry!! He’s friendly!” None of us have any idea if a dog who is in full on “flight” mode is interested in making friends. None of us know if that dog is going to react in fear if the person or dog makes them feel threatened in any way

 

The solution to this problem is simple, maintain control of the dog on the other end of the leash. I get that sometimes things happen to even the most diligent of dog owners. Mine have bolted out the gate before, but their recall is pretty darn good at this point in their lives. I’ve lost the leash or had them Houdini out of a collar. It happens. But it should be a limited occurrence. No “bomb-proof” recall? No off-leash time, buddy. No “bomb-proof” recall? No lunge line time if you’re not going to respect the boundary of the lunge line, dude.

Loose leash walk

No “bomb-proof” recall? No flexi-lead, Princess. (Seriously… this is another blog all together. We NEVER, EVER, EVER recommend the use of a flexi-lead. They are dangerous, send mixed messages, and that little string or flat tape does not give appropriate control over large dogs, especially and allows the dogs to explore beyond the circumference of actual control of the dog.)

How many times have you been out with your dog and experienced the “MDIF”? (My Dog Is Friendly!) Seriously, I would say it happens roughly 50% of the time with me. I used to take Trace to the dog park, wayyyyyy back in the day. That is, until I realized that people looked at my dog differently. His square jaw and muscular body meant that if something happened at the dog park, it would be his fault. (even though he almost never left the bench beside me and only wanted to people watch. No, really…) On more than one occasion, people who seem to know very little about dog body language would holler at me “Don’t worry! He’s friendly!” as their dog came running into my dog’s space (or mine) at break neck speed and bully body language. (bully as in attitude, not breed) Wow, that’s what you call friendly?! Thankfully Trace has never felt the need to handle anything on his own, like, ever. He’s happy to let me intervene for him, and not raise an eyebrow to think it should be the other way around.

As a bit of an overprotective pet parent, I am always surprised when folks just open their door and let the dog out into the un-fenced yard and go back in the house leaving the dog out with no supervision or control. What happens if I am walking my dog and your dog becomes protective of its space? What happens if your dog with a prey (chase) drive sees a squirrel or a bunny and bolts into traffic? What happens if that dog with a chase drive catches a neighbor’s small dog or cat? Then what? What if they shake it like a tug rope or a chew toy? No matter how friendly they are, dog instincts are dog instincts.

Dog on the run

“MDIF” is a quick way for folks to relieve themselves of the responsibility of the actions of their dogs who are not under control. “MDIF!” if there is an altercation, it must be your leashed dog that is under control that started it, because… well… My Dog Is Friendly. “MDIF!” if you get bitten because you’re walking or riding a bike past my house, you must have antagonized my dog because… My Dog Is Friendly! Its also pretty irresponsible to believe that even if you have the best behaved dog in the world, who walks wonderfully off-leash and you allow it to approach another dog or a person, that everyone else wants to meet your dog. Yes, most of us who love dogs fall to our knees for belly rubs and pets behind the ear and kisses, but not everyone appreciates a dog off-leash and in their space. People and dog alike.

approaching dog

We have a number of dogs who join us for pack walks that are not so cool with other dogs in their space. These are well-behaved members of our community who are comfortable in their leashed environment around other dogs who are also comfortable and well-behaved in a leashed environment. They may be a little agoraphobic and prefer to keep to themselves, especially in a crowd. They deserve the right to enjoy a walk as well. Their people deserve the ability to enjoy spending time with their dogs in public places where everyone obeys the leash and containment ordinances.

dog park body language 2

I’ve also found that “MDIF!” is often times hollered by folks who may not have the best understanding of doggy body language. Stiff legged, tail straight back and hackles up is not “friendly” body language (unless you’re Trace and you never learned to play appropriately and you send mixed messages because you truly love everyone, you just don’t show it in the right ways. Its off-putting to other dogs, really.). When we discuss body language at our Positive Dog Interaction Discussions, it becomes apparent that folks try to humanize dogs, especially. Unless dogs are full on barking and growling and baring teeth, people can find ways to make dog language translate to human language… and often it is very incorrect.

“Look at him give me the stink eye! (hahahahaha)” that “stink eye” is called whale eye, and it means the dog is uncomfortable, not snarky or sarcastic (usually).

 

“Look at her yawn, she must be tired! Playing is really wearing her out.” No, that is often a sign of stress and anxiety. Happy, playing dogs don’t stop to yawn.

dog-yawning-min

“Oh, look at them put their tails straight up and prance around each other. They’re so proper. Its like a Brittish handshake!” Nope. Nope. Nope. That is 2 dogs that don’t particularly love the sight of each other, but they don’t come out swinging like MMA fighters. They are sizing each other up, not being proper blokes. And when the size up becomes a confrontation, folks don’t know what happened because… “MDIF!”

dog greeting on leash off leash

Stress interaction

And for those of us with breeds that carry a negative stigma like “Pit Bulls”, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Chows, Shar Peis, Akitas, Mastiffs, Presa Canarios, Dogo Argentinos or any other large breed, well-muscled dog, we bear the brunt of the “MDIF”. If something goes south, even if it is at the instigation of another dog, our dogs are labeled as aggressive. Vicious. Violent. Unfriendly. Killers. Afterall, the Maltese with the tough guy complex was friendly when he ran up to the Mastiff barking like he wanted to eat the big guy. Its funny because he thinks he can take on the big dog. The Dachshund who tried to bite the ankles of the Rottie while they walked past the house, teeth bared and hackles up… he’s friendly. The Lab that bolted and approached the leashed pit bull on a walk with aggressive body posture, he’s friendly.

off leash dog meets leashed dogs

For those of you reading this who don’t have a discriminated breed, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal? Dogs will do dog things.” The deal is this. Its “always” a pit bull or a Rottie or a Doberman or a German Shepherd that was the instigator. As a vet tech, I see the aftermath of neighborhood dog fights, of “I was out on a walk and it came out of nowhere” dog v. dog situations. For those with “family breeds” (Labs, Collies, Herding Dogs, Spaniels, lap dogs of varying size, purse-sized dogs) it is ALWAYS a big mean, vicious, salivating at the mouth, monster of a pitbulldobermanrottiegermanshepherdmastiffthing that tried to eat Fluffy. (Or Sparky, or Gunner or Lilly.) Truth be told, often times it may not be one of those breeds at all, but the perception is that “family breeds” are never the instigators and that discriminated against breeds of dogs must want to eat every dog they see. A lot of times when I push for more information I will hear things like, “My dog just wanted to say hi and that Pit Bull attacked out of nowhere!”  or “We went for a walk and she was on her (flexi)lead and the neighbors dog just attacked her in the front yard!”

dog meeting off leash park

Believe me, I get it. Dog fights are traumatizing to witness. and when it is your fur baby in another dog’s mouth, its petrifying. This is why it is so important to have your dog in your control at all times. This is why it is so important for all dog guardians to have their dogs in their control at all times. Things can happen in a split second that can change your life.

Did your dog bite someone or attack another dog on your property? What does your landlord say about that? You can be evicted. The rent could go up. The landlord could have a lawsuit filed against their homeowner’s insurance. Own your home? Is your insurance going to drop you?  How much are your rates going to go up? Can you afford that? Who gets the ticket if animal control is called? Who is paying the vet bills if one or both need medical attention? If  a person is “bitten” (I put it in quotes because a lot of statutes consider a bite to be anything that breaks the skin, nails included… it could be entirely possible that teeth have never entered the equation) can you afford their medical bills, the possible litigation, the attorney’s fees, the possible quarantine of your dog, the possible loss of your dog?

Is an off-leash dog worth risking EVERYTHING? Is having your dog not appropriately trained worth risking it all? Is hollering “My Dog Is Friendly!” going to mitigate any of that?

Wanna know how to fix that? Training. Train your dog. Create a recall. Create a bubble that they stay in. Create an expectation. Create a relationship that your dog understands that YOU will handle things and they don’t need to take matters into their own paws. Be vigilant of your surroundings. Have an exit strategy in case of an off leash dog during your on-leash excursions. Carry deterrents if necessary. Know and obey all city, county or area ordinances and laws regarding confinement and leash restrictions.

 

 

 

 

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Being a Responsible Pet Owner… What Does It Mean?

This can be a hot-button topic for a lot of people. Just like parenting, everyone seems to have their preference on what is the “right way” to do things. As far as the Electric City Pittie Committee is concerned, we have some guidelines for what we consider responsible pet ownership. We feel that they are pretty straight forward.

responsible pet ownership

If you haven’t chosen your new family member yet, and you’re looking for a new pet to bring into your home, consider the following:.
Appearance does not dictate personality. Just because you like the way a dog looks that doesn’t mean it is the right fit for your home, lifestyle or your personality. This is SO important because if the animal turns out to not be the right fit, that animal may find itself looking for a new home or living a pretty miserable existence. (Which can lead to destructive behaviors and habits.)
Just because a puppy is the product of parents that are a good fit, doesn’t make the puppy a good fit. All animals are individuals. Just like people, personalities are unique to the little furry being they belong to. Human children are never a clone of their parents in all ways, and it should never be expected that a puppy will be, either. Yet, so many people breed their animals hoping to have “one just like” mom or dad. This particular hope leads to litters of puppies that add to the number of unwanted animals every day.
Consider adopting an older animal if your life isn’t set up for a puppy. Puppies require more potty trips outside, more supervision, more teaching. Just like young humans, young animals require the time to create boundaries, expectations, and basic understanding of indoor living. (This isn’t to say that these things may not be necessary in an older dog depending on their history)

responsible dog ownership
Meet the dogs you’re interested in adopting. If you have other animals at home, make sure they all get along. If you have cats, make sure that the dog you’re interested in doesn’t have a prey drive.
If you own your home, make sure your fences are secure, your homeowner’s insurance allows the dog you’re looking to adopt, and that any ordinances in place with your HOA, development, neighborhood, city and county allow for your new addition. This may seem like an overly cautious step to have to take, but you would hate to lose your homeowner’s insurance because they find out somehow that you have a restricted breed of dog and they drop your policy. Or that the fence you thought would keep your dog in was not secure and your new addition has managed to escape and get hit by a car. How horrible would it be to have your HOA or other entity come knocking on your door and tell you that your new family member is a violation of your agreements somehow and your choices are to move or give up the dog? I mention these things because they happen. They are not far-fetched, they happen all the time.

 

 

 


If you rent, make sure that your landlord approves your adoption ahead of time and in writing. Does your lease allow for animals? Does the landlord’s homeowner’s/building insurance policy have a restriction on the types of animals or breeds allowed? If you have roommates or sublease, make sure everyone is on board before the new arrival comes home. Again… I’m not throwing out some far-fetched scenario here. I watch it happen daily. “I can’t keep my dog, my apartment doesn’t allow pets, and now the landlord is going to kick me out if someone doesn’t take her by tomorrow.” This is not the landlord’s fault, nor is it the dog’s fault.

pet agreement lease

Eviction notice

All of the things we just listed above are considerations for responsible pet owners before a pet ever comes home.

Once the dog comes home, the real work begins for the responsible pet owner. Keep in mind, that just like human children, pets are dependent on us for their every necessity. Food, water, shelter, medical care, socialization, education, companionship and any other need that should arise.  Even though they are not human, they are living beings. Living beings who have been domesticated to crave the affection and attention of their human caretakers. They are members of our families and that can be costly. Consider the fiscal responsibility of maintaining the health and well-being of a dog.

saving money for vet care

Veterinary care can add up, but truly, it is not optional, no matter what someone tells you. Puppies under 8 weeks of age are working off of the immunity their body was provided by nursing from mom. After 8 weeks it is time to start boosting their immune system to things like Parvo, Distemper, Kennel Cough and Rabies. Parvo, for example, is a horrific virus. If you have never witnessed a puppy with Parvo, I hope you never have to. Parvo basically attacks the inner lining of the digestive system and causes vomiting and diarrhea. That diarrhea is often hemorrhagic, meaning it contains a lot of blood coming from the entirety of the GI system. Parvo is treatable, but costly. Surviving Parvo is more the norm than it was 20 years ago, but depending on the hold the virus has and the age of the patient, treatment can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars, to a few thousand. All of it is preventable, though, with a simple vaccine. Many of these communicable viruses and diseases can live in the environment (even in extreme heat and cold) and can be transferred to the next dog without the dog ever having to have come in contact with the infected dog. This is why we require all dogs who join us in our pack walks to be current on vaccinations or titers, and we do not allow puppies that are too young to be fully vaccinated, for their health and safety.

parvo kills

Training isn’t an option it is a responsibility. Training a dog doesn’t have to be a full time job, it doesn’t have to be hard work, it doesn’t have to not be fun and your entire household should be involved and invested. If you are raising a child, you try to instill basic manners, basic socially acceptable and unacceptable concepts. The same is true with our animals. House breaking, chasing, barking, biting, pulling on the leash, destroying furniture, plants, etc are all typically unacceptable behaviors. All of these things are our responsibility as pet owners to address and work on teaching the animals in our care. It isn’t the dog’s fault that they chased the mailman down the road if they’ve never been taught it is not acceptable. Training is more than “sit”, “stay”, “shake”. How about, “no, that’s not appropriate. we don’t stick our nose in between people’s legs”? Or, “Drop that!” (and have them actually drop it instead of trying to become part snake, part dog, and unhinge their bottom jaw and swallow whatever they have in their mouths whole? Trust me, this one has come in REAL handy for me, personally.) What about training your dog to know that they aren’t in charge? Ooooohhhh, that’s a tough one for some folks to swallow, huh? I know so many folks that want to know why their dogs think they are in charge… its because they’ve been allowed to be. Its not too late to fix that.

Dont train me don't blame me

Digging, barking, chasing, getting in the trash, chewing up things they shouldn’t, walking on a leash, walking off leash, agility, canine good citizen, therapy dog work, walking appropriately in a group of dogs and playing appropriately with other dogs are all things that we need to teach our dogs to do, not to do, work through or accomplish. Yes, there are easy dogs, and there are hard dogs. But, I promise you, when you put the work in and you see the reward, and you develop the bond with your dog that happens through these processes, you won’t look at training in quite the same way. This isn’t a job, this is an expectation. A lifestyle that allows you so much freedom with your dog. Training… it is your responsibility.

Danger sign

Ok, now I’m going to wade into potentially hostile waters, and you know… I am ok with that. I am jumping right in with both feet. Sterilization. (Spay/neuter.) This is a responsibility. I am talking to the average dog owner here, and truly, even the hobby breeder. (And especially the backyard breeder.) The “responsible breeder” is few and far between. If you have no intention of getting your dog genetic testing, OFA Hip Certifications and Eye certifications (breed dependent), then in my opinion, you aren’t prepared to breed. If you aren’t prepared to go through 3 or 4 (minimum) heat cycles with a female while researching appropriate studs with the same genetic testing and certifications, and set up pre-natal veterinary care and open the breeding conversation with your vet, then you aren’t ready to breed. A responsible breeder knows what health conditions are trending in their breed and has researched blood lines and followed previous litters’ health to ensure they aren’t breeding genetic conditions or genetically linked predispositions into their litters. Anyone who is willing to do these things, knows their breed, and is working on breeding out genetic abnormalities, following health records of lineages, and understanding the stock the breeding is coming from, by all means… breed responsibly. Otherwise, please spay and neuter your animals. Discuss your options with your vet. Sterilize based on the breed, size, and medically recommended age and maturity, but for the love of God, it is your responsibility to make sure there are no “oops” litters in the mean time.

spay and neuter

According to the Kitten Coalition (www.kittencoalition.org) approximately 2.7 million companion animals are euthanized every year in shelters. YES… MILLION. Every “oops” litter matters. Creating lives that have a better chance of ending up euthanized because they are unwanted is irresponsible. It isn’t a lesson on the “beauty of birth” or an opportunity to try and clone a current pet, or a necessary “rite of passage”. Animals aren’t like people, they don’t mourn the loss of the ability to procreate. They don’t wish they had the opportunity to find love, settle down, buy a nice place with a white picket fence and have 3.2 “children” and a minivan. They don’t equate their testicles to manliness. (Its not even a concept for dogs.) I have been accused in the past of “not wanting the world to have dogs”. This is SO not the case. I adore dogs. I don’t know what my life would look like without dogs. But, sadly, I feel like the average person doesn’t understand the sad reality of the plight of the millions of animals who die every year because someone chose to have “just one litter”.

Thinking about Breeding

Ensuring appropriate interactions between our dogs and other dogs as well as our dogs and other people is our responsibility as pet owners. If your dog has aggressive tendencies or is reactionary, it is your responsibility to not set that dog up to fail. Consult a trainer to address their issues in the most appropriate manner and learn how to curb those behaviors. Removing your dog from situations where other dogs may not have appropriate social skills is important to keep things from escalating to the point where someone ends up hurt. The dog park is often a good example of this. Many dogs have never learned how to appropriately communicate with other dogs, and when put in a group of other dogs, can be socially awkward or even pushy. The inability for a dog to communicate appropriately to other dogs in dog language can cause “corrections” from other dogs or even all out fights. As a responsible pet person, it is our responsibility to remove them from those situations before they become explosive.

dog park body language 1dog park body language 2

Intervening for your dog with other people who may not interact appropriately with your dog (this includes family and friends) is our responsibility as guardians of another life. I have been called names for intervening on my dog’s behalf, and I am ok with that. I need my dog to know that I am going to take care of things and that he can depend on me to handle things. I won’t let anyone hurt him if I can help it. By intervening on his behalf, I am removing a lot of potential for him to bite if he feels scared or uncomfortable. Remember, bites rarely “come out of nowhere.”

  • A little story to illustrate this point: Years ago, I had a dalmation named Dot. Dot was raised with kids and was incredibly tolerant of little humans. We were at a PetSmart and while I was at the register paying, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the small human behind me in line. She couldn’t have been more than 3. Her mother allowed her to come around and “pet” the doggie. (Without asking my permission.) The child proceeded to straddle poor Dot like she was a pony and hold on to her ears like reigns. Mom laughed and encouraged the bad behavior. I asked the child to please not ride the doggie and let go of her ears. She didn’t want to let go of poor Dot. I reached down and pryed her little hands off of Dot’s ears and said “don’t pull doggie’s ears. That hurts. You’re too big to try and sit on her, she’s not a horsie, she doesn’t like that. It hurts her.” At this point, poor Dot was trying to squeeze herself between me and the register. Mom, behind me, was outraged that I would dare to correct her child. “If she’s going to bite, you shouldn’t have brought her out in public.” To which I responded that my dog was very well behaved, the same couldn’t be said for her or her child, however. There were names hurled in my general direction. I’ve been called worse, by better, I’m sure.
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Being a responsible dog owner isn’t just about making sure there is food and water available. Our pets count on us to step up. To teach, correct, provide boundaries, provide life necessities like food, water and shelter. They count on us to provide structure, medical care, mental stimulation and companionship. If you need resources to help you if some of these needs arise and you’re not quite sure what the next step is, please reach out to us. We will certainly be happy to provide information and direction.

 

2018 Auction Gratitude

This year is fast on the move and May is coming to a close. We want to extend a “Thank You” to each and everyone of you who has supported us in any way over the last year.

Our 4th annual fundraiser and FIRST annual “Top Hats & Tails” came to a culmination 2 weeks ago. We were so blessed by the amazing support of our community in way of donations, advertising, willingness to hang posters for us, volunteering to set up, serve, man a table or a game, coordinate food service, beverages, take pictures for us or tear down at the end of the night. If you provided entertainment, (*ahem Melissa Dascoulias and Rod Chaun) created amazing art for us or spent a single dollar of your hard earned money at our event, we want to express how much we appreciate every single bit of it.

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Over the past year we have really branched out in our education services and we are so excited about the direction the Pittie Committee has taken. For those of you who know us well, you know that we are so driven by effective education. We are motivated by seeing responsible owners and safe communities. We are so giddy when kids come to us and tell us that they remember working with us, loved our dogs and have learned how to interact with dogs appropriately. We want to make such an impact in our community and you are the driving force that is helping us achieve dreams. Really. Over the last 12 months we have hosted a companion animal CPR event, we have been teaching positive dog interactions in Elementary Schools, the Boys and Girls Club, the MacLean Animal Adoption Center’s kids’ camp, City of Great Falls Animal Shelter’s Pet Palooza and Bully Breed Training Program, Youth Dynamics staff training, parent participation preschool and Cascade County Aging Services staff training. All of this has been along side our normal pack walks, movies, fundraisers, one on one interactions and monthly meetings. Coming up, we are going to start branching out more with Youth Dynamics and working towards a close-knit partnership to create safe homes for foster families with dogs and foster children coming into those homes. We are working on some other programs with the folks at Youth Dynamics that would incorporate dog interactions with foster families, we will keep you up to date when we start looking at getting those programs moving. We have a lot of irons going all the time, and hopefully we are going to need help soon! We are also planning a 2 day exploratory with the kids at East Middle School during their exploratory days at the end of the month and we are excited to get the full 2 days to work with the kids!

The funds that you guys help us raise every year help cover the cost of things like printed materials, educational materials, prizes for the kids, training aids, refreshments at pack walks, organizing community events and occasional travel. Occasionally we bring in speakers from outside of our community and will cover the costs of their travel or venues.

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The support you given us has allowed us to already do more than we could have imagined in our humble beginnings. 5 years ago, we were a table full of printed materials and some bumper stickers talking to anyone who would listen. Now, we’re still a folding table full of printed materials and bumper stickers talking to anyone who will listen, but we also get to get out into the community as an organized group of people and awesome dogs, teaching people how to create safe environments no matter the breed of dog.

 

We can’t begin to say thank you enough.

 

Come join us at our upcoming community events!

May 19 – Pack Walk Gibson Park Bandshell                          10:30 AM

June 7 – Monthly Meeting Location TBA                                                6:30 PM

June 9   – Pet Palooza (Great Falls Animal Shelter)             Elks Riverside Park 11:30-4

June 23 – Pack Walk Gibson Park Bandshell                          10:00 AM

July 5 – Monthly Meeting (This date may change to accommodate holiday plans)

July 14 – Pack Walk Gibson Park Bandshell                            9:30 AM

Aug 2 – Monthly Meeting Location TBA                                 6:30 PM

Aug 18 – Pack Walk Gibson Park Bandshell                           9:00 AM

Sept 15- Pack Walk Gibson Park Bandshell                            10:00 AM

Sept 29 – Pack Walk Gibson Park Bandshell                          10:30 AM

 

This is just the next 4 months, folks. And the board has more on the books for training, education and positive dog interactions. We are busy! If you are looking for volunteer opportunities we will have a few needs in the upcoming months.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for additional events and opportunities to jump in and join us!

 

 

“What Kind of Dog Donated?”

As some of you may or may not know, I have my degree as a Veterinary Technician and work at a local Animal Hospital that offers emergency services. While working recently, 2 dogs were hospitalized, both in need of blood transfusions. Often, blood transfusions in a veterinary clinic require a donor dog to be available or located quickly. In this instance, I brought one of my kids into the clinic as he is an ideal donor candidate. He is a large dog, young, never had any compromising illnesses, heartworm negative, and is a happy dude overall. He donated blood, and the recipient received the blood without any complications. Her bloodwork showed marked signs of improvement and she began to come around.

This dog has an auto immune disorder that causes her body to attack its own red blood cells. Without a transfusion, she wouldn’t have had an adequate amount of red blood cells in her body to sustain life. She is a young dog with much life ahead of her. A transfusion was necessary. It was the right thing. And, my big handsome donor boy, was a hero dog that day.

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When her people came to visit she was noticeably improved. Enough energy to eat and go outside to go to the bathroom, excited to see her people. While discussing her diagnosis and explaining the transfusion process and the desired results, her people looked at me and Dad said, “What kind of dog donated the blood?” They seemed VERY concerned about what type of dog may have donated blood to their very proper, pretty, purebred small/medium breed pooch. I responded simply with, “Well, it was my dog that donated, actually.” And with that, I attempted to continue to discuss their dog’s condition. Dad interjected again, “No… but what KIND of dog donated the blood?” I said, “Really, he is just a great big mutt.” He says, “But, what does he have in him?” I was trying really hard to not focus on something as trivial as breed in this instance. I was trying to focus on their dog, her diagnosis, her current condition and explain the procedure she had undergone the day before.

For those who are unfamiliar, and honestly I would expect that most folks are if you’re not in the world of Veterinary Medicine, there are certain criteria that make for an ideal donor candidate. First off, in this instance, size IS important. The larger the dog, truly, the better. The average blood transfusion requires approximately 500ml of blood or more. In kitchen measurements, that is 16.9oz. That is a little more than 2 cups of blood. Smaller breed dogs wouldn’t safely be able to give up that quantity of blood. Obviously, dogs that are healthy, without infection, blood parasites or on certain medications are going to be ideal candidates. Burley is all of those things, so bringing him in to donate seemed like a no-brainer.

Back to dad’s concern about what type of dog donated… I finally said, “Well, if I had to guess he has some large breeds in him. Most likely Great Dane/Pit Bull or large Retriever/Pit Bull. But, I don’t know what his breeds are.” Insert audible gasp here. Dad was absolutely mortified. He turned his head away from me and said, “Pit bull!?” he snuggled his little fluffy dog close. Mom began to “explain”. Their adult son was attacked by a “130 lb Pit Bull” in the inner city where he lives. She went on to explain how they know that all Pit Bulls are vicious, but their son who was attacked has a pit bull at home, but his dog is good. Only good pit bull they know of. They were so concerned about the fact that there might be some “pit bull” in the dog that donated LIFE to their dog that they couldn’t get past that he wasn’t a purebred small/fluffy like their own dog.

They tentatively asked me if they could just contact one of the families that had one of her puppies from a litter she had previously to donate blood if she ever needed another transfusion. I tried to explain transfusions, blood types, antibodies, cross-matching, but I could see it going right on past them in that moment. I simply said, “No. Truly, her best bet for a transfusion will be to have my dog donate again if she needs another.” “But her puppies are related. Why can’t they donate?” I tried to explain that being related doesn’t equal a guarantee for a match. They were certainly a bit distraught over learning their pretty little dog had been saved by a “beast”.

I eventually had to walk away and do my best to not be offended. But folks, I am offended. I am offended for my dog. I know he doesn’t feel offended. He was just happy to be with Mom at work, then he got some drugs that made him sleepy, then he was awake and happy again. He didn’t care, but I care.

He is not somehow less worthy of saving a life than any other dog because he doesn’t have a traceable pedigree. The other dog isn’t any less in need of blood because it comes from a mixed breed dog. And, certainly, the way he looks has no bearing on his personality, nor do either of those things have anything to do with whether or not his blood will save her life. Even if he did have “aggressive tendencies” his blood would not transfer his personality traits to her. I have taken this situation, likely, more personally than I should have. In my opinion this situation is truly no different than finding out that you received a blood transfusion from a person of a different ethnicity and being upset that the person has a different ethnic background than you do, or (gasp) a completely different skin color. At the end of the day, the transfusion was successful and the recipient is better off because of it.

blood donation dog

Photo credit: DailyTelegraph.au

I brought my dog in to save a life. He did that.

At the end of the day, this is an opportunity to change some minds. I know that.

As far as the “taking this personally”, I don’t know that I will let go of the sadness of the judgement of my dog’s physical appearance being more important to these folks than the fact that he likely saved her life any time soon. So for now, I will thank my dog. I will understand that his donation was life-saving and I will know that the general ignorance displayed in that moment was from misguided information. The kind of misinformation that the Pittie Committee strives to overcome.

 

Sometimes The Universe Speaks To Us

This blog is courtesy of a guest author. Stacy Hill is our newest board member at the Electric City Pittie Committee. Stacy has jumped in with both feet to get involved with the ECPC this year and we wonder what we ever did without her!
Thank you, Stacy!

Stacy Hill

 

 

SOMETIMES, THE UNIVERSE SPEAKS TO US

I don’t put a lot of personal things on Facebook; I don’t generally accept friend requests from people I don’t actually know; and you’ll have a hard time finding any relationship drama. But one thing you’d learn very quickly after a visit to my profile is that I’m passionate about animals, namely DOGS. Big. Goofy. Dogs. And I’m guilty of using Facebook as a platform for promoting all things canine, whether it’s human interest stories, photos, snoopy cartoons, etc.

In a matter of seconds you’d notice innumerable posts that involve rescue organizations and pets looking for their forever homes. I try to comment on or share as many as possible so that they show up on news feeds and the word spreads. Some of those rescues have far reaching (i.e. nationwide) audiences. I often read through the comments, and see so many people say if only an animal was located in their region they’d scoop it up. And I think (and even on occasion comment on the post), that every shelter in every community has an animal with a similar story looking for a home and if they truly have room and resources to provide for that pet in California, Texas, or New York, why not look right there at home??

I’m well aware that we can’t save them all. I’d have a “Dalmation Plantation” if I could save them all. But I feel lucky here in Montana that the homeless pet population is such that, for the most part, animals don’t seem to be facing inevitable death if not claimed in short periods of time. Rescues, and even most Animal Shelters, provide a safe place where an animal will stay until a new family comes along. Granted, there are always exceptions and circumstances. I know that first hand, having worked for a rescue/shelter where I made some of those life and death decisions. It haunts me to this day. But we don’t often see a dog posted here in Montana urging that if someone doesn’t come forward, that beautiful creature will no longer exist come tomorrow.

Well, in early March, I saw such a post. An announcement for a shelter in California where they were pleading for the lives of 8 dogs who, through no fault of their own, had found themselves on the short list due to overcrowding.

Charlie blog 1

I commented on the photo of Rosalie; something in her eyes grabbed me. The threads under the photos of each of those 8 dogs had people pledging money, love, prayers, shares, hope…. that each would find a savior in time. All of those caring people in their own small way, even though not able to adopt for their own reasons, at least sent out those ribbons that can weave their way into the universe to find a possible rescue or adopter. So I posted that I hope she found the loving home she deserved.

Charlie blog 2

a woman with a pit bull rescue in Wyoming replied… “transport could be arranged.” Word came to me the following day that Rosalie had been moved into the EU (euthanasia unit) of the shelter and her time was up. And with that, I was hooked.

So, my comment led to a conversation which led to a chain of organizations lining up to save just one of those lives. Call it fate, luck, divine intervention, I don’t know. Somehow all of the stars aligned and the wheels turned in a matter of hours to accomplish what a month of Facebook pleas hadn’t yet accomplished.

Shelter rules required that a local rescue had to pull her if I wasn’t going to be there in person. The Montana and Wyoming rescue groups called all of their contacts and found one in California who would try to save her in time. I didn’t know until that evening if we would be in time.

A woman came through, a woman who was away in Minnesota dealing with the death of her father, to make arrangements to get Rosalie out at literally the last second. I did my internet sleuthing and found out her father’s name had been Charles, and decided to rename Rosalie in his honor. And with that, Charlie was saved. She was moved to the vet clinic and spayed the following morning, then moved to a boarding facility until the proper health certificates could be obtained and transport arranged.

Little did I know how trying this next step would be. Turns out volunteers in California aren’t “volunteers.” They expect to be paid, for EVERYTHING. I’ve driven dogs across Montana and halfway across Wyoming in a single day to help them to their new life, but just getting Charlie a couple miles from the Shelter to the Boarding Facility cost $40! So every time my rescue friends started to get something lined up another financial or technical difficulty threw a new wrench. I even looked into airlines, but crates and coordination were a problem, and no airline allows the short-nose pets to fly except United but only during colder months when overheating is less likely. I was just about to buy a ticket myself, fly to California and rent a car for a road trip back.

Then I had a thought… I have an uncle who was a long-haul truck driver, often going to California; he had just recently retired. Surely he’d know someone?! Well this wonderful man, my Uncle Ray, went a step beyond. He decided he’d contact his old boss and see if he could do one more trip, just so that he could pick up Charlie and bring her to me.

The schedule got made and off he went. He’d pick her up on a Thursday and would meet me in Three Forks to deliver her to me the following Monday or Tuesday. He was even so kind as to try not to bond too much with Charlie and have it be an easier transition for her. (Side bar: it was the trip from hell for Ray, juggling several stops, traffic, loads not being ready when there were supposed to be, etc.. He said it was a blessing because it was what he needed to convince him that retirement was the right thing! LOL)

So on a cold April day with snow flurries, California girl Charlie arrived! This is where I should mention that I already have 2 other dogs and 2 cats who I now had to find out if Charlie would be compatible with. I had a friend who works with city animal control help me with the introductions. I didn’t go in to this unprepared.

Jazzmyne is my 8 year old Lab/Great Dane mix that I adopted several years prior, and Jack is my (technically my boyfriend’s) 2-1/2 year old Kelpie who was rescued just over a year earlier. All big dogs and they seemed to do fine. But the cats… Mud & Bog are about 11, declawed, and have never had to worry about a dog that may not like them. Mud is the adventurous one and seems to think he’s a dog anyway, so he came over to meet Charlie. She was on leash, he didn’t hiss, swipe at her or run, but she thought maybe she should taste him and lunged. She didn’t make contact, but it was off putting to Mud and very traumatic for me.

Oh no! After all of this effort, it’s not going to work! I can’t put my cats in a dangerous situation. What was I going to do?! I took Charlie to a boarding kennel that night and cried for a while. I can’t remember if I reached out first or if the Electric City Pittie Committee reached out to me. But they got me a muzzle and a crate that night or the following day so that I could better control the situation. And I waited for their Ace trainer to return from a seminar in a few days to better assess the situation.

I tried to limit Charlie’s interaction with the cats so that I didn’t make the situation worse; she had to be in a muzzle or crate the entire time. A couple times while loose but muzzled, she cornered Mud and pounced him pretty good.

My hero, Jessica with Jessica B Dog Training, came to my house as soon as she was back in town. She spent a little time with Charlie, and literally within 5 minutes it was like I had a different dog. And more importantly, I had the tips, tools, and hopefully the confidence to start addressing the issues. Charlie and I established the relationship we needed and she quickly learned the cats have a place in the household and she was expected to respect that. Mud, months later, has even forgiven her.

Rescuing Charlie, having never met her in person, going on emotion and a little bit lunacy, could have had any number of outcomes. I adopted Jazzmyne sight unseen from a rescue several states away, too. But I’ve never had a new introduction that required so much work. Animals need an adjustment period, both the one you’re bring home and the one(s) that may already be there. They are individuals. That can’t replace ones that have passed. They can’t read our minds or know what we expect from them until we give them time to learn. And to love and trust.

What a whirlwind. But I look at Charlie, and then I see the posts that come across my feed, every day, almost every hour; and my heart aches. She could have died that day. We can’t save them all, but we can save one at a time. And there’s more than one way. Adopt. Foster. Volunteer (at a shelter or transporting or any number of blessings). Donate. Share. Every little bit helps.

I want to thank the rescues and individuals that helped. And I want to thank all the people that shared, and those that donated to Charlie’s rescue (although most pledges weren’t collected). It does make a difference! It encourages rescues to pull these dogs and know that the funds are available for proper vet care, transports, boarding and every day needs. And most important it gives time needed to let destiny find them.

Charlie blog 4charlie-blog-31.jpg

Author: Stacy Hill

What Is A Bully Breed

Last month, in our blog we approached the “What is a Pit Bull?” topic. Today, we are going to dive in to “What is a Bully Breed?” Seriously, these 2 things are enough to drive a seasoned dog person crazy. Truly, since both of these are kind of “catch-all” terms, one can argue that anything a person decides is a Pit Bull qualifies to be a Pit Bull, and anything a person decides is a “Bully Breed” qualifies to be called a Bully Breed, and, well, that doesn’t help us narrow down a definition.

For all intents and purposes we are going to stick to a pretty traditional definition of a “bully breed”. There is often a misconception that “Bully” refers to attitude or personality when we talk about Bully Breeds, or about discriminated breeds. For example, some breeds that I have heard referred to as bully breeds based on discrimination, pre-conceived ideas about what the breed behaves like, are Huskies, Malamutes, Chows, German Shepherds, Heelers. These guys are being referred to as “bully breeds” because they can sometimes be pushier with other dogs, kind of “bullies” in the sense of their attitudes. But, truly, the term refers to dogs with a shared lineage that includes bulldog somewhere in their breeding lineage. This visual is the most inclusive representation I have seen about “What is a bully breed.”

the bully breeds

These are representations of purebred dogs, keep in mind that variations of these breeds and mixes of these breeds will still qualify as “Bully Breeds”. Bully Breeds can trace a common lineage back through Ancient Greece to a a particular breed of dog called Molosser dogs. (This is a whole 2 hour presentation from this point forward… no, really. Its really interesting information, though. If you’re interested, let me know and we can talk about doing a “History of…” blog.)

In this day and age, saying the word “Bulldog” typically conjures up the following images:

But, the truth is, bulldogs don’t just look like this. They look like this:

And they look like this:

And they look like this:

And when you start crossing them with certain Terriers you start to get these:

Bull Terrier

Bull Terrier

And these:

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Annnnnd these:

Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier

And all of the other breeds that you see represented in the first visual aid. Truly, a bully breed is any dog, with shared physical characteristics, through breeding lineages that can trace a lineage back to a bulldog. Keeping in mind, that may not look now, like it looked when the breeds were created.

Point being… “Bully Breed” is another term that is pretty open to interpretation. Its pretty fluid and pretty inclusive of so many potential breeds and mixes. If there is any sort of bulldog, any breed derived from any bulldog lineage, any breed mixed with a bulldog or a breed derived from a bulldog, then it qualifies as a “bully breed” type dog. Most share the same characteristics as dogs that are commonly called “Pit Bulls”.

So, now that we have made this muddy subject as clear as milk, and clarified well, nothing, really. We hope you at the very least enjoyed this little wander through bully breeds.

What is a Pit Bull? an observational study

As we start October, National Pit Bull Awareness Month, the Electric City Pittie Committee amps up for a busy month. So lets talk about this thing we have identified as a “pittie”. What is a pit bull?

This is often a touchy subject for people who both want their dogs to be called a “pit bull” and those who certainly do NOT want their dogs to be called a “pit bull”.  Webster’s dictionary defines a “pit bull” as:

1or pit bull terrier :a muscular, short-haired, stocky dog (such as an American pit bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier) of any of several breeds or a hybrid with one or more of these breeds that was originally developed for fighting and is noted for strength, stamina, and tenacity
2:an aggressive and tenacious person

First off, I think Websters got a few things wrong, but this is the “accepted definition” of a “pit bull”. Gee, thanks Webster’s that was clear as mud. A muscular dog with short hair of any number of breeds or combination of breeds. huh. Let’s try a few other resources. Wikipedia, maybe? (I know, I know… I’m not a huge Wiki fan, but they have just about the most comprehensive definition. Click here for the whole link, its actually worth the read.)

Pit bull is the common name for a type of dog. Formal breeds often considered in North America to be of the pit bull type include the American Pit Bull TerrierAmerican Staffordshire TerrierAmerican Bully, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.[1] The American Bulldog is also sometimes included. Many of these breeds were originally developed as fighting dogs from cross breeding bull-baiting dogs (used to hold the faces and heads of larger animals such as bulls) and terriers.[2] After the use of dogs in blood sports was banned, such dogs were used as catch dogs in the United States for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt and drive livestock, and as family companions.[3] Despite dog fightingnow being illegal in the United States, it still exists as an underground activity, and pit bulls are a common breed of choice.[4][5][6]

The term pit bull is often used loosely to describe dogs with similar physical characteristics, and the morphological (physical) variation amongst “bully breed” dogs makes it difficult for anyone, even experts, to visually identify them as distinct from “non-pit bulls”.[7][8][9] While mixed breed dogs are often labeled as “pit bulls” if they have certain physical characteristics such as a square shaped head or bulky body type,[10] visual identification of mixed breed dogs is not recommended by the scholarly community.[7]

 

Ok, so that is a little muddy still, but slightly less clear than the Mississippi. Sigh, still not sure what a “pit bull” is? Don’t worry… most people don’t know either. But, most people are sure they know and can identify a “pit bull” on sight. Let’s try a legal definition or 2. Places with BSL have to have a clear-cut definition of what a “pit bull” is if they are going to make them illegal, right? Let’s start with Denver. Denver.gov’s website has a “friendly” breakdown of how to tell if your dog is a banned breed. You can click here for the whole read-through.

Under Denver’s Ordinance Sec. 8-55, pit bull breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or Staffordshire Bull Terrier) are banned in the City and County of Denver.
Pit bull type dogs are defined as any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing (physical) characteristics, which substantially conform to the standards established by American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club.

If your dog is impounded by Denver Animal Protection as an illegal pit bull, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier, it will be brought to the Denver Animal Shelter for an official breed evaluation.

So, wait… let me get this straight, Denver identifies a “pit bull” as APBT, Am Staff and Staffie, got it. But, it could be any combination of breeds that includes those breeds, OR shares the same physical characteristics as those breeds, then it is considered a “pit bull”? And who decides? How do they decide? If you read the website it tells you that 3 Animal Protection Officers will visually identify the breed(s) within your dog. No DNA, no behavioral analysis, just 3 folks looking at the dog with a checklist of characteristics comparing it to a picture of an APBT, an Am Staff and a Staffie. So… we still don’t know what a “pit bull” is. Maybe Miami has a better definition. Lets see. Here is the Miami-Dade Pit Bull Law.

It is illegal in Miami-Dade County to own or keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds’ characteristics. For more information, view the Miami-Dade County ordinance, Chapter 5, Sec. 5-17.

There is a $500 fine for acquiring or keeping a pit bull dog and court action to force the removal of the animal from Miami-Dade County.

They include this handy little reference guide for the breed standards of each of the above listed breeds. UKC standards referenced from 1978. And if your dog conforms by visual identification to 51% or more of the UKC breed standard, then your dog is a “pit bull”.

Ok, so what do these breeds look like? I’m kind of a visual person, so I like to have a visual reference for things. Lets focus on the 3 breeds that everyone has mentioned so far. American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

American Pit Bull Terrier

American Pit Bull Terrier

UKC Breed Standard:

General Appearance

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a medium-sized, solidly built, short-coated dog with smooth, well-defined musculature. This breed is both powerful and athletic. The body is just slightly longer than tall, but bitches may be somewhat longer in body than dogs. The length of the front leg (measured from point of elbow to the ground) is approximately equal to one-half of the dog’s height at the withers.

The head is of medium length, with a broad, flat skull, and a wide, deep muzzle. Ears are small to medium in size, high set, and may be natural or cropped.

The relatively short tail is set low, thick at the base and tapers to a point.

The American Pit Bull Terrier comes in all colors and color patterns except merle. This breed combines strength and athleticism with grace and agility and should never appear bulky or muscle-bound or fine-boned and rangy.

 

American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier

AKC Breed Standard:

General Impression: The American Staffordshire Terrier should give the impression of greatstrength for his size, a well put-together dog, muscular, but agile and graceful, keenly alive to hissurroundings. He should be stocky, not long-legged or racy in outline. His courage is proverbial.Head: Medium length, deep through, broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscles, distinct stop;and ears are set high. Ears – Cropped or uncropped, the latter preferred. Uncropped ears shouldbe short and held rose or half prick. Full drop to be penalized. Eyes – Dark and round, low downin skull and set far apart. No pink eyelids. Muzzle- Medium length, rounded on upper side to fallaway abruptly below eyes. Jaws well defined. Underjaw to be strong and have biting power. Lipsclose and even, no looseness. Upper teeth to meet tightly outside lower teeth in front. Nose definitely black

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

AKC Breed Standard

At 14 to 16 inches at the shoulder Staffordshire Bull Terriers don’t stand particularly tall. But we classify them as medium-sized because, weighing anywhere between 24 to 38 pounds, Staffordshire Bull Terriers pour a gallon of dog into a quart-size container. These are rock-solid, muscular dogs renowned for their strength and agile movement. The head is short and broad, with pronounced cheek muscles, and the tight-fitting coat can be one of several colors along with white. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are smaller than their Colonial cousin, the American Staffordshire Terrier.

 

So, we are looking at a medium sized dog, 25-65lb(ish) with a square head and jaw, short hair coat, muscular build, long tail that tapers to a point, big cheeks and no underbite… well, heck; that could be a number of breed combinations. I wonder what would happen if you crossed a Frenchie with a Boxer. Ooh, what about a Bull Terrier with a Lab?! What about an American Bulldog and… just about anything? Well, chances are good you will end up with a dog that carries a number of the same characteristics of the dogs above with absolutely no “pit bull” in them at all.

Is your head spinning yet? It kind of should be. There is no breed called a Pit Bull. There is no standard definition for the catch all term “pit bull”. There is a rather large size variety in the accepted breeds included in the “pit bull” term.

This is the reason that I get a little touchy when people look at a dog and say things like, “Oh, is he pure Pit?” the first thing I want to ask them is, what is YOUR definition of “pit”? Cause Lord knows the world can’t seem to agree on what that is.

Next time, we’ll focus on “Bully Breeds” and how they differ from “Pit Bulls”. uff-da.

Ponderings of the Crazy Dog Lady

Its been awhile since I have blogged for the Pittie Committee, and partly because I haven’t had that “light bulb moment” as far as what is great topic to write about. Believe me, my brain is always going 90 miles a minute, we have big plans and awesome things happening in the background. But, what about the blog? I apologize because it has been lacking!

 

In many of my interactions the last few months, I have noticed some things; People always know my dog better than I do. Dog folks are a friendly bunch who typically don’t have the kind of personal boundaries that “cat people” do or people without pets. My mother pointed out recently, my animals amuse me to no end. (and truly, they amuse me quite easily.) Non-pet people find that odd. I find that the best part of my day, every day.

 

Let’s talk about these 1 at a time. “People always know my dog better than I do.” You can tell there is sarcasm dripping from that statement, right? In a recent interaction while I was at PetCo, an ECPC member and a recent rescue she adopted were there to start training classes together. A young girl asked her dad if he would put her down as she wiggled to get to the floor to come pet the beautiful doggie. Dog and Dog Mom were both a little nervous as the little person bounced and moved toward the cautious dog. Mom had the dog’s leash firmly in her hand while the Jessica (ECPC board member and dog trainer at PetCo) and I stood there observing. The adorable little person did exactly what most people do and she went over the top of the weary dog and started patting and petting her on top of her head. Jessica and I breathed a heavy sigh and Jessica instructed her to pet the doggie on her shoulder or her chest because she didn’t much like being pet on the top of the head. At this point the dog, being a super fantastic dog, and tolerating a position she both wanted to be in to get the attention, and really didn’t want to be in because it made her uncomfortable, tolerated this little person so well. Although she was nervous and took a slightly cautious body posture, Jessica moved in to ensure proper interactions with little person and dog. To which the little person’s father commented “wow, if you can’t pet her on the head, she must be a really skittish dog.” Jessica and I both tried to explain that the action of coming over the top of the dog, who doesn’t know you and isn’t comfortable with you, can be incredibly unnerving for the dog. Some dogs just don’t like when people come over the top of them. To which he responded, as many people do, explaining how many dogs he’s had in his life and how he’s never been around a dog that doesn’t like to be touched that way, and there must be something wrong with the dog in front of us if she doesn’t like that. I tried to engage with him while Jessica engaged with the dog and the child on the floor. Mom had a good hold of the leash and was ready to leave the situation if it escalated for any reason. Jessica had to remind the little person a few times to not go over the dog’s head and to pet her on her side or chest. Meanwhile, he told us about how he can’t afford a dog because people charge too much for just a puppy. As usual, we were in full “teachy” mode. We discussed spaying and/or neutering. To which he wrinkled his nose and said that he didn’t think that was necessary. We discussed proper nutrition and vaccinations. He said that he can do all of the necessary vaccines so he doesn’t need a vet. I reminded him of Rabies, which by law has to be administered by a vet in our state, to which he replied that PetCo does the vaccination clinics periodically so the vet could do that one for cheap. All the while Little Person is interacting with the dog, and really being a pretty darn good little person. And the dog is being a super fantastic dog, but kids and dogs should always be actively supervised.

5afaeb8cfb0e62282e7a0ba51156a24d

When I say “people know my dog better than I do” in this instance it wasn’t my dog, but this guy had all the answers. He’s been around a LOT of dogs, he has had (insert ridiculous # of dogs here) in his lifetime and he knows that dogs like to be pet that way and all dogs like children so there must be something “wrong” with this dog if she was “skittish”. Jessica finally used the “well, she’s a rescue” line. To which he went “Oh, so she was treated pretty badly, then.” *facepalm* nope, not necessarily. We don’t know that. But, if that’s what it takes to keep people from invading your dog’s space… then use it (but please also educate. Rescue doesn’t mean abused, broken, aggressive, etc.). Also, equally acceptable by most people is “we’re training right now, I need him/her to focus, it’s not a good time. Thank you, though”. People tend to be more respectful of our bubbles sometimes than our pet’s bubbles, and occasionally I will pull my dog into my bubble. I mean… WAY in to my bubble. I have been known to put my dog in a down and then stand with them in between my feet, or have them sit or lay as close to me as they can get. It’s just easier to protect their bubble that way.

How not to pet a dog

I also love it when people look at my dog(s) and tell me what their personality(ies) must be like. Not that long ago, a co-worker said to me, (in reference to being around her dog, who she states is very territorial and (I am quoting here) “quite vicious” about people being in her yard) “But you have pit bulls so you will totally be ok.” As in, I have pit bulls so my dogs must be vicious and need to be pulled apart? I am somehow immune to aggressive dogs? My dogs want to disembowel the mailman? My dogs try to tear apart the fence when someone comes over? I have to muzzle them and separate them from people and other dogs? No. Just No. To all of the above. I put my dogs away when company comes over because they get too excited when they are in a pack and there are new people. They lose their ability to have impulse control in a group. They jump, they lick, they compete for attention. Most people don’t appreciate 375# of dog and 16 legs, 4 noses, 8 eyes, 8 ears, 4 tongues all up in their personal space. I don’t put them away because I can’t trust them to be “nice” around company. I just get that most don’t appreciate them in the same way I do. And, honestly, most don’t read them in the same way or exhibit the same type of energy and body language with them that I do. They are, after all, my dogs (even the one who isn’t). I should be able to read them better than most. I know that she didn’t necessarily mean anything derogatory by her comment. She said it as a reflex, without thinking of the implications behind the words. So many people do. With the portrayal of Pit Bulls in media, movies, TV shows, magazines, etc., the general public says things like “you’ve been around pit bulls, so you know (*implication of vicious or aggressive dog tendencies)” or “It’s all how they’re raised. If you raise them right, any dog is a good dog” (I don’t completely disagree with that statement, but if that were the complete truth, dogs that have aged, are sick, have had transitions in their lives, have had to be rehomed, etc. would never, ever bite… because they were raised “right”. Also, if that were the case, any dog that was mistreated at any point during their lives and especially between puppyhood and 5 years old would never be able to be trusted as a solid pack member or family member. It’s just not truth.)

My Face when

My face when someone makes the kind of statements above.

For those of us who hear those things regularly, they grate at us. We know that no matter our dogs’ backgrounds we have a pretty darn good idea of what they are like, and hopefully we all understand that ALL animals with teeth and a heartbeat are capable of biting under certain circumstances. It’s a matter of being able to read my dogs, understand their personalities, not put them in a position where I set them up to fail, and remove them from uncomfortable situations before they feel the need to take control of a situation themselves. I have made a promise to my dogs with my expectations of them; “I will handle it. Period. Non-negotiable. When I tell you to back down, you back down. When I say I will take care of you and of the situation, I mean I will take care of you and the situation.” Sometimes there are sneaky moments where one of my dogs in particular thinks he is in charge and tries to act that way, even with me. Seriously, have you ever had a dog “talk back” to you? Tell him to do something and have him take 2 steps back and “woof” at you in defiance? It’s like a 2-year-old calling you a dirty name and telling you no! Its infuriating. (and hilarious all at the same time.) Now, you have to keep a straight face and follow through with your expectation of them or they, like a 2-year-old, figure out really quick that the defiance got them what they wanted. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that snowball rolling downhill.  I have 2 dogs with big toothy smiles, strong jaws, muscular builds and square heads. The kind people run away from and I will never truly understand why. They are already “judged” before they act (even by people who don’t necessarily have a negative view of pit bulls), I don’t need them proving ANY of that perception true. They need to be little, furry gentlemen. I intend to see to it that they are to the best of my Dog Mom ability.

trying not to laugh

When your dog “talks back” and you’re trying not to laugh…

Have you ever noticed that “cat people” have a tendency to be more aware of other people’s personal space (and other animals’ personal space) whereas, dog people are inclined to sometimes be a little bit more of the “close talker” on occasion? This is something we have to address regularly at pack walks. Cat people seem to know that people don’t always want to share their space, but dog people with excited or overly friendly dogs can sometimes be oblivious to the fact that not everyone wants to share space, including other dogs. Picture if you will… a dog who is a little uncomfortable with the surroundings. This might be his first pack walk, he might not be socialized, she may be a rescue with a traumatic background that no one knows anything about. He might just be a dog who prefers his own company to the company of other dogs. Along comes Suzy being drug down the trail by Bounder the “close talker” who is SOOO FREAKING HAPPY to see new friends! “Strangers are just a friend I haven’t met yet!! Hi! Who are you? Are you new here? Is that your mom? Do you like to drink from the toilet? I think it’s awesome! Do you know those guys over there? They look AWESOME! Hi I’m Bounder. That’s what my mom calls me when she’s not calling me ‘No!’ or ‘Handsome’ or ‘Dammit Dog’. I don’t know what those mean but I think they’re my name, too. Do you like car rides? I think the car is the best! I run from window to window and bark at the wind. It’s the best! Hi! Hi! Hi. Hello. Hello. Hello. Look at all these peoples here. Do you think they all carry treats and poop bags like my mom? My mom’s the best. Have you met my mom? This is my mom…” Meanwhile, not so happy dog may not be amused by the antics of Super happy dog. “Hi, I’m Spot. Yes, I’m new here. (looks away in an attempt to get through to happy dog that he is not interested in a conversation. But happy dog is having NONE of it. So, he continues his overly-excited antics) Ugh, no the toilet is gross, dude. Mom… psst, Mom… can you make him go away (moves to Mom’s other side) ugh, dude… I just wanna be alone, ok? Mom… really? (mom takes 2 steps past Bounder’s leash boundary) sigh, thanks mom. Can we go now? I don’t want new friends. That’s way too much work if they’re all like that.” As a friend said to me recently, “that one came from the factory defective”. His point being, dogs are living creatures, when they don’t react the way others expect them to we are reminded that they are not “pre-programmed” to behave a certain way. We can’t buy a dog knowing what we are getting like we can with machines. Dogs, much like kids, have their very own little (sometimes not so little) personalities. We have to respect that, we have to acknowledge that “one size does not fit all” when considering things like training, socialization, appropriate interactions and supervisions. Every dog is different.

Personal bubble

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Mr. “No Personal Bubble” Loves to have his belly rubbed.

This is so incredibly important in ensuring appropriate and safe interactions between dogs (and people). I equate dogs to perpetual toddlers in most cases. “Where are you?” “you’re too quiet.” “What are you in to?” “no, you can’t go to the neighbors and help yourself to the burgers on the BBQ. Not appropriate.” “GET OUT OF THERE!” “Down.” “leave your brother alone!” “Why are you digging?” “What is in your mouth?! SPIT IT OUT!” (Come on now, people with kids… you know this sounds familiar, and people with kids and dogs, am I too far off the mark here?) In my assessment of perpetual toddlerhood for our dogs, that means a doggie lifetime of toddler-appropriate supervision. Uff-da. That sounds exhausting. Well, it can be. Which is why it’s so important to reinforce the good behaviors. Teach appropriate boundaries (for people and other dogs as well as property and leash).

 

With personal boundaries, all my dogs have different ideas. Trace is pretty good about maintaining his own bubble. He sits and waits. He reads other dogs pretty well. He isn’t overly eager to charge into another dog’s personal space, and although he doesn’t particularly LOVE dogs pushing their way into his personal bubble, he pretty well rolls with the punches. His body language is always sending mixed messages, so I am always cautious of his interactions in the beginning. He meets a new dog and almost immediately, it looks like this: Hackles up, tail soft and wagging (like crazy usually), back legs stiff and straight, front legs half play bow, ears up, nose sniffing like crazy and he has even been known to be licking his new friends. I’ve always told him he’s socially awkward and doesn’t send out the right signals to new friends. Hackles up, stiff legged is a bit off-putting sometimes. He’s so weird, but He’s never not met a “friend” that way. Then, there’s Target. He LAYS DOWN The boundary from the get go. “This is my mom. This is my brother. This is my fence, my yard, my leash and my circle. Everything I can reach is mine. If I let you in, it’s because I like you and you’ve passed the friend test. We can go to my yard after our walk. I will teach you how I catch bees, and how to ‘man-up’ when they sting you. I’ll teach you the secret paw shake later where no one can see us.” Target is my heart dog. Seriously, everything about this dog speaks straight to my heart. He is sensitive, and protective, and he knows me. But, I know him too and he has a bubble. One that not every dog or dog handler respects. When Mr. Protector is on the clock, I have to constantly keep him in check and remove him from overly social dogs or people who are oblivious to his body language, subtle and not so subtle. Because of those things, I don’t take him places as often as I would like to, or as he would like to. Its not because he is a bad dog, or uncontrollable. Quite the opposite. I choose to set my dogs up to succeed, so he doesn’t go to the dog park where I can’t control the interactions and especially the introductions. We don’t go off-leash in places where there may be other off-leash dogs. Controlling what I can about the situation allows me to create boundaries, both psychologically and physically. Its allows us all to remain as safe as possible (or at least as much as we can control and prepare for.

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like peas and carrots, but different as night and day

 

If you are anything like me, these faces bring the happy to your every day. I know they do to mine. Even on the days they frustrate me, make me question my sanity, and the amount of dog hair the vacuum can contain, they make me laugh, like down to my toes laugh. I am either easily amused, or dogs are really just that awesome.

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I’m going to land on, “Dogs are really just that awesome.” And it seems there is something especially charming about a block head, a big smile and a goofy attitude. Burley has had a rough go of the last year, long story, but he has been a bit insecure. A little shy of men who look a certain way, and just sure that he needs to be touching me at all times. I forgot how carefree he used to be, until he wasn’t anymore. My goofy dog had suddenly become all business, and I didn’t notice, because I was all business most of the time too. We had to recreate boundaries around the house. He needed reassurance and consistency. He needed to know he didn’t get to push boundaries, and that life would all still be ok. When he started rolling in the grass again, throwing his own ball for himself again, finding his 5 foot vertical “hop” at the front door, cocking his head to the side, tongue hanging out around his giant tennis ball again… I realized I forgot how much fun this dog was. How much he made me laugh. How much he made me enjoy things, the little things. I started to watch my other boys, Target- The Fierce Hornet Slayer makes me laugh with his antics. Chasing bees with complete and total disregard to the fact that he looks like a goober. Trace is shameless. He steals the chair the second I move from it, promptly spreads out as much as he can and wills me to find a different seat. The back scratches in the grass. Trace’s need to have a “Throne” atop the outdoor table on the deck. Smiles, tail wags, hugs; it all makes my day. Some might say I need more time with humans vs dogs, but I disagree. My dogs keep me grounded. They remind me to enjoy the little things. They are a fabulous example of why life is good, no matter what. They keep me silly, they keep me sane, they keep me smiling.

 

2017 ECPC Art Auction!

It is the first part of June, the 3rd Annual Art Auction is in the books. We have so many people to thank and so many reasons to be grateful. The feel to the art auction this year was a bit more polished than it has been in the past and we were so thrilled to watch it come together. We have the most amazing support in our community and our volunteers and sponsors are always there for us in the best ways!

Our board member, Rikki put her love of flowers, her arranging experience and her great eye to good work and took on the centerpieces for this year’s event. The flowers were spectacular and Rikki’s touches really made the place feel like spring and added a real touch of class.

Several weeks ago, Kristen of Blue Sapphire Photography took photos of several ECPC dogs and we were able to show off some local pitties and highlight Kristen’s work at the same time!

We had fantastic food from Penny’s Gourmet to Go, Jimmy John’s, Clark and Louie’s and Terryiaki Kitchen and beer from The Front Brewery. As usual, the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art was beyond accommodating and worked with us every step of the way to help create the event we were working toward. Tables, chairs, linens, set up, tear down, audio/visual hooked up and even help promoting our event with their social media posts.

We had amazing volunteers who were there to help with every step of the process. Planning, preparation, set up and every minute during the auction. We are so, so, so appreciative of the folks who come to support us, and help us pull these kinds of things off! Stacy, Karen, Joe, Stasi, Sarah, Autumn, Bobbi, Koree, Tim, Darcy, Britt and everyone else who popped in on us, helped clean up, helped set up, hung up posters, gathered up donations, manned a table, took a payment, folded a shirt or straightened a table… we so appreciate you all!

We had amazing art donated by some really amazing Artists! Chaz Pahach, Courtney Geary, Loreen Skinner, Stacy Hill… just to name a few. Without you guys and your amazing generosity, we wouldn’t have an event to host every year!

 

About 5 years ago, the art auction idea was born of a common vision with Ashley, Erin and Crystal. We all had a vision of promoting pit bull type dogs in a positive light through a medium that spoke to all people. Every piece of art may not be for every person, but every person loves some piece of art! We have been so grateful to have watched this event blossom each year.

If you missed the event, we certainly hope that you will join us next year! Thank you so much to all of you who showed up! We look forward to seeing you all at our upcoming events. Watch our facebook page for events, updates and information.

Photography Courtesy of Autumn June Photography

Photos from Electric City Pittie Committee Facebook of featured art

Photos of Electric City Pitties by Blue Sapphire Photography

Puppy Mills- Why should you care?

pup·py mill

noun

derogatory
noun: puppy mill; plural noun: puppy mills; noun: puppy farm; plural noun: puppy farms
an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane.
(www.google.com)
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Currently, in our state (Montana), we have ZERO laws against puppy mills. Meaning, unless the animals are neglected or abused (grossly), the law has no recourse to shutting down the operations. In a puppy mill situation you can house a number of breeding dogs and if you call yourself a “breeder” and pretend to know things that other people might not know, you can snowball a lot of folks. Which means, you can make some pretty good money in a pretty short period of time. If average gestation is around 65 days and you move the puppies along at 6 weeks instead of at a more appropriate 10 – 12 weeks, that means a pretty consistent cash flow every 4 months or so. If you have breeding dogs having litters every few weeks, you can certainly make that every few month income happen every few weeks as puppies become weened. At least that is the theory. And it sounds pretty appealing to some people. Who doesn’t love puppy noises and puppy breath and clumsy puppy feet?!
 cute-frenchie-puppy
When proper veterinary care starts cutting in to the amount of money a person can make from selling puppies, we start to see folks think they can handle their own veterinary care at home. Worms treated with home remedies, cleft pallets untreated, puppies un-vaccinated or vaccinated incorrectly or too young. Poor Nutrition and inadequate prenatal care. Truly, by the time puppies are born, there is a whole series of appropriate veterinary care that hasn’t been addressed. Was mom receiving appropriate nutrition? Were X-rays or ultra sounds done so that there was a way to anticipate how many puppies should be arriving? (That way, if one doesn’t, it isn’t too late before you start wondering why mom isn’t eating well.) Were tests done to ensure certain breed-specific genetic abnormalities wouldn’t be passed along to the puppies? These are things that reputable breeders do before breeding. Reputable breeders maintain certain standards of medical care, prenatal care and puppy care. Living conditions are commendable and the animals receive stimulation, affection and attention. (Like this little momma below.)
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Now, I am going to step out of the current tone of this post and insert a little of my personal thoughts about breeding:
STOP IT! JUST STOP IT!
There are so many people out there who don’t give two shakes what their dog does or how many litters the dog has. There are so many people out there who don’t spay, neuter or contain their animals and then discard them when they are pregnant. There are so many people out there who don’t consider the true impact of bringing a pet into their home and the cost and time it takes to care for a pet. Companion animals die in the MILLIONS every year because people aren’t considering the animals beyond whether or not they can bring in some cash. These are animals that we have domesticated and we have changed their basic animal brains to crave human attention and many breeds are wired to want to work for their people. What kind of a cruel hoax is it that we allow them to be mistreated by people? That we create creatures of affection and companionship and then allow them to be denied the very things we have created them for? The average person has ZERO business breeding animals. Children can witness the miracle of birth another way. Watch a you tube video or contact your local vet. If they have things like a c-section they may even allow you to be present to watch.
Some of you may be reading this and find yourselves very offended. “Who does she think she is?! I can do whatever I want, my animal is my property.” You’re right. The current lack of law says you’re right. But being legally right doesn’t always equal being morally right.
Here is “who I think I am”… I started working in veterinary clinics when I was in high school. I started out as kennel staff. I worked for a little over 2 years at my first clinic. I then worked at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I worked at a clinic in Northern Idaho. Then I went back to school to get my degree as a Veterinary Technician. I worked through school in a Veterinary Clinic. We worked very closely with our local shelter and area rescues. I got one of my own dogs from a “dumped” momma who the family didn’t want to “deal with.” So the local shelter and a wonderful foster got to deal with her and 11 puppies. That is a lot of money and resources handed out because someone allowed a litter they never wanted in the first place. I got involved in rescue and transports. I began networking with people who scoop up and care for the animals that the rest of the world throws away. I worked for veterinarians who have developed amazing relationships with rescues and shelters and who donate time, medications, materials and expertise to keep these animals happy and healthy, because their previous people didn’t care enough to do that themselves. I have been in veterinary clinics and most recently rescue and advocacy for the better part of 20 years, now. I am not nearly as knowledgeable as some, and yet, have more experience than most. I beg of you… STOP BREEDING! Every time you watch a dog in a rescue end up euthanized because their previous people have failed them and they have been starved, fought, attacked by other dogs or wildlife. Because they were dumped on the side of a road, tossed out of a moving vehicle, kept on a chain and have become so reactive they are no longer able to function as a rational being. Because they were never spayed and have become septic, because 8 litters later they have a closed pyometra and their people aren’t willing to pay for the surgery. Because they have mastitis and they become septic because their people aren’t willing to bring them in for treatment. When the puppies become ill from nursing and the whole family fails to thrive or even dies. Every time you watch a situation like this play out in front of you, day after day after day, you become acutely aware of the fact that very few people are truly equipped to breed appropriately. You become aware that people don’t like the uncomfortable reality of pet overpopulation, so they just don’t think about it while creating more little lives that will most likely see the inside of shelter and/or rescue group at some point in their lives if they survive that far. So… I have more than a little experience on the “dark side” of breeding. And it is certainly not the minority. These are the every day truths from the inside of a veterinary clinic and the inside of rescue. Choosing to believe that they don’t happen doesn’t change the every day reality that they do. Backyard breeders, less than reputable breeders, and those who breed with the intent to make money through their animals feed this chain of tragedy.
sad-puppy
Not every “puppy mill” looks like a scene from a horror movie. Sometimes, they are cleaner than we might imagine, but are still breeding on a production scale. Even these operations, in my opinion, need to brought to a halt. I know what you’re thinking, “If no one has puppies on purpose, there won’t be any puppies and dogs will become extinct.” No. Seriously… No. I ADORE dogs, I would never want to see dogs cease to exist. What I do want to see is fewer dying  and suffering greatly because we as humans can’t be responsible stewards of these amazing creatures. I don’t even advocate for abolishing “pure bred dogs” (I put quotes around that for a reason… Pom Chis and Doberhuahuas are not pure bred dogs.)

These photos aren’t *too* horrible, right? There aren’t piles of feces, the animals look reasonably well cared for. Do you think these animals are truly getting the socialization and structure they need to be well rounded furry kids? What about exercise? Are they getting enough exercise to have healthy bone structure and muscles? What about their cardiovascular health? Are they stressed because they are frustrated? What about their GI health? Are they getting regular veterinary care? Do they get individual attention, basic leash training, a walk or learn to be a part of a family? Chances are good that the answer to these things is “no”.

What about these kids? We know the answer is no to the same questions, just based on the fact that they may never ever leave their tiny cages.

Join us along with the Humane Society of The United States- Montana and the Humane Society of Western Montana Legislative and Advocacy Committee on Saturday, October 22 to discuss a proposed bill regarding ending puppy mills in Montana. We will be meeting at 1 pm at Great Falls College MSU in room B101 to learn how we can help influence change in our state laws. Get the details of the proposed legislation and have your questions answered. How can you help? Watch our Facebook event for more details.