Changing Hearts, Changing Minds

Ashleigh and Ella

Growing up near downtown Baltimore, I can remember being continuously bombarded with news reports of dog fight rings and “pit bull” attacks. All of these reports seemed to create an extreme paranoia in my grandmother because she raised all of her grandchildren to believe that pit bulls were horrendous animals only meant to kill. To this day I can remember her drilling into us that all pit bulls were a ticking time bomb and should be killed at birth. She never once entertained the thought that people were at fault for the incidents that occurred. She never once considered that pit bulls are just so loving and loyal that their only wish is to make their master proud, no matter what it is that their master asks of them. Despite being raised in an extremely closed minded house hold, and much to my grandmothers dismay I fell deeply in love with the wrinkles on the forehead of my neighbor’s pit bull and truly began my life long love and fascination with the breed.

Happiness is a warm (pit bull) puppy

That fascination is what led me to adopt my love bug, Ella. When I finally moved out on my own for the first time I knew I wanted a dog of my own, and I could finally follow my heart and give a home to a member of this maligned breed. My entire childhood I grew up with dogs of different breeds but I have never experienced the love and companionship that Ella has given me every day since she came into my life. She is my friend, my love, my source of laughter, and the best dog I’ve ever had the privilege of being loved by.

 

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A Lifetime of Love

Erin and Lucy

I’m lucky enough to have a sweet elderbull. Her teeth are yellow and her face is gray, but she is as loving as the day is long, and every gray whisker makes me love her even more. Lucille (Lucy to her friends) and I have been together since October 12, 1998, when I found her as a stray at a busy intersection in Jacksonville, FL. I put her in the car (with my other dog in the backseat, drugged from having her teeth cleaned) and drove home to Tallahassee intending to find a home for her. That home quickly became my home, but those first few years with Lucy were not easy.

I was young and worked three jobs when I brought Lucy home. She was the first dog I’d ever acquired on my own, and I knew almost nothing about pit bulls or even dog training. She destroyed books, couches, shoes and carpeting. She jumped the six foot fence and ran away – many times. She even once jumped out of the second story bedroom window while we were napping together, only to land on the porch roof, where I had to crawl out and retrieve her. The neighbors thought we were insane. And we were.

The Perfect Pair

Lucy had me in tears so many times, but things got better. First, I discovered dog crates (awesome). Then my schedule relaxed, so I was able to spend more time with her, and then my older dog went to live with my parents. Lucy became the center of the universe, and it turns out that was all she really wanted.

The truth is that we’ve grown up together. She taught me about patience, caring and love. I taught her…..actually nothing. She did all the training.

Time is running out on us now. Lucy is 13+ years old and has advanced liver cancer. We are taking it one day at a time, and it’s painful to know that one of these days will be our last together. She has been the most frustrating, maddening, lovable, silly, sweet dog imaginable and I consider myself lucky for everyday I still have the honor of being her person.

Lucy went across the Rainbow Bridge on December 2, 2011. She will live in Erin’s heart forever. <3

 

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Pit Bulls Proudly Marching in the 2011 Raleigh Christmas Parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On November 19, The Positive Pit Bull was proud to be a part of Raleigh’s 2011 Christmas Parade! Nearly thirty pit bulls marched, danced and pranced their little hearts out along the route alongside hundreds of other groups while thousands watched, delighted at the sight. The Positive Pit Bull’s people were dressed alike in their festive bright red Rockabully shirts, and their dogs were decked out in holiday faire as well, from Santa hats to green tutus with red bows. Our group was led by our giant Happy Holidays banner draped in red tinsel garland, and at the center of our display, and carrying our main message sign was none other than the Duke of Elvis (Steve Cates, Elvis impersonator) in his flowing red silk studded Elvis outfit and cape. Just in front of Elvis was our tiny “float” with a lifesize replica of Cricket, our group’s little ham. Cricket herself was decked out in a red and white Santa sweater and red top hat. All this while sugary sweet prancing pit bulls swirled all about, kissing children and licking extended hands all along the parade route. We were honored to have little Cuda of cudacares.org marching along with us too! She is a little star and she held her own and walked the WHOLE WAY!

What an amazingly successful day for The Positive Pit Bull’s mission – showing the world just how wonderful these dogs really ARE! Our dogs truly exemplified our 10 foot tall main message Elvis carried: OPEN YOUR MIND….THE TRUTH IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!

Our hope in participating in this parade was to raise awareness regarding the breed we love so much. After we marched, we, along with thousands of other pit bull enthusiasts, have been voting like crazy for The Positive Pit Bull to win the People’s Choice Award following Raleigh’s Christmas Parade! What a positive message a win like this would send about the American Pit Bull Terrier, our favorite breed! What an amazing opportunity to bring awareness and some positive attention to the dogs who always seem to get nothing but negative!

GO PIT BULLS!!

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National Pit Bull Awareness Day 2011

On October 22 The Positive Pit Bull celebrated National Pit Bull Awareness Day with an event called ROCKABULLY in Raleigh, NC. The event was hosted by Deep South The Bar, and three bands donated their time and talent to make the day special: Old Avenue, Russ Thompson, and The Revolutionary Sweethearts. Famous pit bulls from all around attended including Dolly the Pit Bull and Baby Harper from http://dollysfoundation.org all the way from Orlando FL, Firu from www.barksandwigglesboxerrescue.com in Conover, NC, as well as little Cuda from www.CudaCares.org. These dogs have all overcome tremendous odds against them, and their resilience shines through their eyes full of love. No resentments, no grudges held against humans who put them through hell….only LOVE to give for the rest of their lives! The day was a great success and everyone who attended had a blast! On Sunday, Oct. 23, 40 pit bulls congregated in downtown Raleigh to walk in force to raise awareness about the positive nature of these dogs, and the loving personalities they have. Some wore their Halloween costumes and they were hilarious. The walk ended at the Boylan Bridge Brewpub, where the entire deck was reserved for us and our dogs, and we all ate lunch together on a glorious sunny day, overlooking the downtown Raleigh skyline! National Pit Bull Awareness Day was well-represented in Raleigh, NC! Although the pics you see here are shot from regular folks attending the event…..FlyinFur Photography was here and they have some AMAZING shots from this weekend on their site: www.flyinfurpetphotography.com. And, one of our own volunteers, Colleen Bogner took a ton of great photos too: www.evocphotography.com. Thanks to all who came for the good of the breed! This weekend proved our case once again…pit bull love knows no boundaries!

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PET BULL PALOOZA 2011 – Raleigh, NC

On April 9th, 2011 The Positive Pit Bull held a new event called Pet Bull Palooza at Historic Oak View Park in Raleigh, NC. It was a day of celebration of the pit bull breeds, and the owners who love them.

Despite the COLD weather (45-ish degrees) and misty, threatening to rain all day, over 400 people came out and over 100 pit bulls! The Positive Pit Bull arranged for FREE spay/neuter,  free rabies shots for all pit bulls attending, as well as free microchips, collars, leashes, treats, dog food, free training provided by area trainers (as well as one Bostonian!), and lots of responsible ownership materials. The event was very well received and we had coverage by News 14!

All ages of dogs came, from 3 mo old puppies to adults. There were all kinds of dog activities being demonstrated for the public’s entertainment, and ways to sign up to get their dogs involved. These included: agility by the AKC, flyball by GO DOG GO! and weight pull by Michael Wright from On the Edge Kennels. Anyone interested in getting their dogs into the weight pull has the opportunity to put the harness on their dog and get some instruction on how to get their dogs interested in the sport. All sports demo’ed were meant to encourage more responsible ownership and to build the relationship between owner and dog. It’s what having a dog is all about! Three dogs even tested and WON their CGC while at our event! They obviously had been practicing good manners lessons with their dogs beforehand, and they took home ribbons as a marker of earning this award! Pretty impressive!!

The Positive Pit Bull raised awareness of the problem of high euthanasia rates for these dogs everywhere, not just in Wake county, and offered free spay/neuter surgeries as a way to curb some of the population of pit bulls that end up in our shelter. This event was targeted at the two zipcodes that produce the most pit bulls who end up in our shelter.

Now that it’s June, I am happy to report that we spay/neutered 55 dogs total! The Positive Pit Bull must first thank all the doctors that helped us achieve this goal: Dr. Jay Mackie (donated 40 surgeries!!!), Dr. Kevin Monce of PetSound Animal Hospital (donated his facility for Dr. Mackie to use AND donated 7 surgeries himself, as well as administering ALL the rabies shots at our event!), and Dr. Jon of Magnolia Animal Hospital donated two surgeries!  PPB could not be more thrilled to have been able to help this community and its pit bull problem at this level, and we could not have done any of it without the help of all of our WONDERFUL supporters, who have followed us and bought artwork, tshirts, calendars, etc. along the way! As well as our FABULOUS VOLUNTEERS!!! We had 80 volunteers helping at this event and everything went as smooth as silk!! :)

Cheers to the Wake county community and all the responsible pit bull owners out there who were able to take advantage of this unique opportunity! We look forward to offering this event again in spring of 2012!! Hope to see you there!

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The Importance of Humane Education: The Positive Pit Bull is Ready to Visit Your School!

Here and there I have been asked to come into schools and talk about pit bulls. Everyone knows there is a complete misunderstanding of these dogs and that is why they are in the trouble that they are in. I always JUMP at the opportunity! In fact, a few months ago I was invited to talk to four fifth grade classes in Fayetteville, NC, a town plagued with major dogfighting operations, as well as to a group of preschoolers in Morrisville, NC the same day.  I took the day off from work and Cricket and I drove all around to spread the pit bull gospel and TRUTH about these dogs.

One look at Cricket and the crowd melts. Questions surrounding the myths about pit bulls abound: Don’t those dogs fight each other all the time? Don’t their jaws lock?It is so evident that these kids had to hear these things from SOMEWHERE. Their parents, who heard it themselves on the news??? I quickly point out the nature of the dog before them – Cricket, who is a therapy dog, is allowed in hospitals and nursing home and who sits patiently while kids practice their reading skills by reading books to her, allowing THEM to improve their reading, and allowing Cricket socialization time with one more kid. We talk about what a myth is, and how they come to be believed by so many. Then I ask them to look at Cricket and tell me if they think she would bite anyone, or even scare anyone. They all scream, “NO!” then break into oohs and ahhs about how cute she is, and can they come pet her, etc.

This is when we talk about the appropriate way to approach a dog you don’t know.

Since these efforts, other invitations extended our way and being invited to talk to vet students at NCSU about pit bulls, The Positive Pit Bull now has fully developed a Humane Ed program centering around these maligned dogs. It’s called Dogs Are Dogs: Taking a Fresh Look at The American Pit Bull Terrier.

Our humane ed lessons include general dog safety information, as well as some more pointedly focusing on the pit bull and the myths surrounding the breed: • How to appropriately approach a dog you don’t know and some Canine Body Language, • Responsible Ownership of any animal, • Learning the concepts of compassion, myths and kindness, heroes and bullies • Why it is important to adopt a pet rather than buying one, and • The importance of spaying/neutering.

The school hosting our visit can choose from a list of topics that they would like covered. If I have an assistant come with me, we will bring two dogs and we can allow the kids to practice approaching the dogs appropriately.

Call us today if you’d like us to bring The Positive Pit Bull’s Humane Ed program into YOUR school! Cricket and the other dogs are so excited to help teach compassion and kindness to animals and they can’t wait to meet you!

919-395-0551

OR paigeburris@hotmail.com

We love the work we do and we hope to see you soon!! Please share!

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How To Create Your Perfect Dog – The Gift Of Socialization

As a dog trainer, and especially since I am working toward becoming an animal behaviorist specializing in aggression in the power breeds, I get a LOT of calls asking me what the owner can do about their aggressive dog. While there is no clear answer that will suit every situation, it usually boils down to environment changes and some type of behavior modification plan. However, EVERY time I want to say…did you know that there are ways you might have avoided all this drama/negative experience with your dog?

First, if you’ve had your dog since he was a puppy, just providing him with a LOT of positive puppyhood experiences and socialization and avoiding any potentially traumatic or damaging emotional experiences can go a long way in better preparing your puppy for a smooth sail through life. Socialization is the number one gift you can give your pit bull (or any breed for that matter), because regular socialization ( I mean throughout his life, not just during one eight week class at Petsmart) helps him gain confidence in various situations. Lessening the chance that he will be fearful of new situations, because he is regularly being exposed to new situations and hey, finding out everything is still ok!

In the case of adopting an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue, there are factors contributing to their behavior that you have no idea are there until after you’ve gotten him home. Your dog may have been through a frightening experience that is now causing him to react in an aggresssive manner out of the fear that has developed following the incident. You had no way of knowing this when you got him. But now he’s YOUR dog and thus, YOUR behavior problem to deal with.

Common sense will tell you that dogs with a history of being bred to fight will generally have a harder time learning to get along with others. If one of the main reasons that you want a dog is to be able to have him socialize with other dogs, choose a breed that does not have a history of dogfighting. Otherwise, if you do choose to own a pit bull, be prepared to WORK more with your dog than someone who may be getting a golden retriever.

The most imprintable time in a dog’s life to learn to get along with others is during puppyhood, between 4 and 12 weeks of age. During this critically important time, puppies that are part of a large litter can get practice with its brothers and sisters in learning about relationships: how to make friends and how to work out conflicts between themselves and other dogs. If a puppy never gets an opportunity to do this, and then encounters negative experiences only where aggression is involved, he will have a more difficult time navigating through life peacefully than a puppy who did have those important learning experiences will.

Later, in the dog’s adolescence, people are walking their dogs on leashes, which can frustrate a dog, since the natural way they would approach another dog in the wild would NEVER be straight on and face to face….but that is exactly how we humans force them to meet as we pass another dog being walked on a leash. This is when I get calls about leash aggression. Hmmmmm…..

Whatever breed you choose, please commit to giving the gift of socialization. It’s always best to start the dog young, but it is a gift to your dog and to yourself to work on this continuously throughout his life.

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Join ThePositivePit Bull’s Sunday MeetUp Group!

The best way to get your dog socialized is to bring him out regularly, amidst other people and dogs.  We work our dogs toward their CGC test, hike and have fun. Join here.

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COOKIE, Starved Dog Needs Help

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Sunshine, my four year old pit bull foster trades her chains for pearls‏

I first heard about this little 4 yr old pit bull named Sunshine who was chained on an 8 foot chain in the NC mountains thru Facebook postings that kept circulating and pleading for a foster home. One of my FB friends, Tammy Townsend, kept sending out her story and one weekend in November, it got into the low 30′s in my town, and I knew Sunshine was located in the NC mountains, a colder climate by at least 10-15 degrees. This made me very angry, and I quickly posted, “Won’t someone let her into their f-ing garage for the night????”. The answer was no. The family who had Sunshine also had three other chained dogs as well, who they apparently “loved”, but were not willing to share their home with.
It was then that I made the decision. I would foster Sunshine. Mind you, I have three other pit bulls that I own and live with, and there were a mountain of unknowns about this decision….this was a dog I’d never met! Would Sunshine be aggressive after living on a chain her ENTIRE life?…How would I acclimate her to indoor life when all she’s ever known is living on the end of a cold metal chain? She’s been on a chain every day, 24/7 for her WHOLE life…how would she even know how to behave if she came inside? Where to start? So I decided to think logically about the steps it would take to get this girl ready to live the life of a pit bull princess, which of course is every pit bull’s dream…but to go from one extreme to the other….logically how would I do it?
I thought about it, and I thought logically it would make sense to ease her in, little by little, by starting off with her outside as she is used to….I mean, bringing her inside, plopping her into a crate and leaving for work was NOT going to work out….THAT I felt sure of. So I decided to get her a pen. Mind you, I live in downtown Raleigh, where dogs are not kept in pens…that is what people who live in the country do….BUT I was determined to make Sunshine’s transition from chains to princess life a gradual one, so as not to freak her out too much. I didn’t want to scare her. I wanted to slowly teach her just how great (and comfortable!) life could be when you lived as part of a family…inside! I set out looking for a really nice pen. The one I really liked was for sale new at a farm supply store for $500…but I didn’t have $500! I really wanted to borrow a pen….I didn’t have any plan to have a dog pen inside my backyard for an extended amount of time. After reading up on pens, I discovered that pit bulls who are determined to escape (and they are known as escape artist dogs) can chew through chain link because it is made of a soft metal. The pen I had found at the store was made of welded wire, and a very heavy gauge, where it would be very unlikely to be escaped. There was even a top piece you could buy for an extra $150 to make it more difficult in case the dog got any ideas about climbing out. Of course I would also need a dog house…she couldn’t be expected to just sleep on the exposed ground!
I searched on Craigslist and in no time at all I found the very pen I had seen at the store! It was in good shape, and the people only wanted $250 for it! With the help of FB folks who had been following her story and who donated to her cause, it sounded great to me! A friend offered to drive me out to the country to pick it up with his truck and trailer, and when we got there, the seller offered the top piece thrown in! They even gave me their old dog house. I was so excited for Sunshine! We got it all home and sanded off the rough spots of rust, repainted it and set it up! It was perfect!! NOW I was ready to have Sunshine move in!
Sunshine came to me through a highly choreographed group of five transporters, arranged by Tammy T., who assigned each person a leg of the route to bring Little Miss Sunshine a step closer and closer to me at each handoff. Kathy Carrico was the last person who drove Sunshine to actually hand her off to me. We visited for a few minutes outside the cars and Kathy walked Sunshine while I printed some adoption bios for the very next day’s Positive Pit Bull adoption event. Then, after we took a few pictures, me with Sunshine and Kathy with her, I put Sunshine into my car (i had set up a crate but I put her on the front seat to ride beside me) and we went driving back to Raleigh, Sunshine’s new temp. home with me! She was apprehensive, and understandably scared. I mean, she had never moved outside of an 8 foot square for all of the four years she’d been alive! It was a big world to her! I drove her through the Mcdonald’s drive thru, where I ordered her a cheeseburger. She ate it very delicately, but was obviously excited about the TASTES of being chain-free! She seemed very happy but still very apprehensive, as if she didn’t know what to expect next. After her cheeseburger, she settled down and fell asleep in the front seat!
I got her home and let her out in the back yard to explore a little. I put her into her brand new pen, doghouse freshly stuffed with hay to burrow in as well as a kuranda bed outside the doghouse for lounging. She sat on the kuranda bed staring at the back of my house, whining. I decided to go inside for ten minutes, then come back to check on her. She was in the same position, staring and whining. So I brought her in. From the minute Sunshine came inside, it was like she knew all along she was meant to be a princess, only noone ever gave her the chance. She sat on the couch with me immediately, curled up and went to sleep. Only had one accident inside, even though she has been an outdoor girl her whole life. She blended with my dogs beautifully! Of course introductions are best when done slowly, so I let Cricket outside with her to begin with. She showed only a mild interest in Cricket, but no aggression whatsoever! Next, was Rocco and Georgie, same reaction, she pretty much ran around the yard with them, but sniffing and exploring on her own mostly. Perfect! I couldn’t have asked for a better progression than this! next, I wanted to see what would happen when I introduced her to the crate. I threw in a HIGH value treat. She looked at it but did not approach. I threw in another, she took a step toward and put one foot in, nose busily sniffing as hard as she could. One more treat and she went in! I quickly shut the door and walked out of the room. I wanted to give her about ten minutes then come back to check on her. She didn’t make one peep, even with being in a crate for the first time in her life! When I checked on her, she was SLEEPING in the crate!!
I think Sunshine is just so grateful to be inside, where she isn’t freezing constantly, where she has some companionship playing with the other dogs, and some attention from a human who loves her FINALLY, that she just knew what to do to fit in. She is happy to have traded her chains for her new shiny white Pit Bull Pearls she is wearing a lot these days. And my dogs and myself have welcomed her into our lives with open arms, our hearts bursting with love for her.
Sunshine has recently tested positive for heartworms. :( The rescue (Marley’s Cat Tales and Dogs Too) who is helping with her medical bills said she would have been dead within three weeks if I hadn’t stepped up to take her in. She will receive her first treatment this Saturday, then come home to stay inside her crate 24/7 for a whole month. No worries though, I’ll be there to care for her and encourage her through it. It’s the least I can do for a dog who has never known real love.
A foster dog can be a lot of things that aren’t very attractive: trouble, more effort, sick, needy, dirty, and can seem like more trouble than they’re worth sometimes. But if you’ve never done it, you’ll get something out of it that’s unexpected and you owe it to yourself to do it once. Your foster dog will teach you more about compassion and love than you ever knew before, and your heart will literally never be the same. The rewards far outweigh the trouble you thought it’d be in the beginning and you will be a better person for it. Noone can really tell you this. You have to just do it once and see for yourself. When that dog eventually does find the forever home he/she is meant to be in, you will feel like dying from your loss, but I’d be willing to bet you’ll do it again.
I challenge every person to go to your local shelter and look into the eyes of each dog there. One will speak to you and you’ll know that’s the one who needs you most. Become a foster for your shelter today and let’s work on making the world a NOKILL world!

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