Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pit Bull Song.

"I got these pit bull blues,
All I wanna do it sniff your shoes!"

This song may be a little cheesy- but the sentiment is sweet.
I also love all the sweet pittie footage!

Bruno puts himself in time-outs...

Bruno's Picture made Pitter-Patter's Lol-Dogs blog again!

He has such expressive faces!!! This is his guilty face. I have no idea what Bruno went through before we met him- but we think it is super funny that whenever he or Winnie do anything wrong, or whenever he is afraid he will get in trouble- he puts himself in a time-out in the crate.

One time, Winnie had an accident on the floor and he put himself in the crate- and another time he got in trouble for playing too rough with Winnie and he put himself in the crate for a whole half hour!! We didn't even ask him or close the door.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Urgent Part 2 on the news:

16 thousand Fans in less than 1 year, hundreds of dogs saved from euthanasia and finally some publicity!


View more videos at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com.

Unfortunately, in these video- Julie Blank (ACC) feels facebook pages and rescue groups encourage people to adopt dangerous animals. Not true. Most of the animals saved were sick - and dogs that have severe ratings- are not taken lightly- most are in fact put to sleep, and if by some chance they are rescued- it is because someone trusted the words of volunteers who had first hand knowledge that the dogs evaluation was wrong.
Also, I haven't heard of any of these rescues back firing-- what I have heard is stories about how the temperament tests were wrong and how lucky the rescuers are to have these animals as part of their families.

To read Urgent's response to Julie Blank- who apparently has nothing nice to say about the thousands of dogs saved through face book, click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Animal Haven

This is the work of a fanTASTIC shelter here in NYC.

So glad we found Animal Haven, which helped us find Winnie, which helped me understand the needs of pit-mixes, which helped us find Bruno- who completed our family!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pit Bulls + Science

Amazingly, it takes many many generations of selectively breeding dogs to get a certain feature, attribute or skill, but those "chosen" genes may not be the most successful genes. A pure-bred dog's apprearance can be based on mostly recessive traits, such that they are easily "bred-out."

In other words- if you select and restrict a pool of dogs- they will eventually appear exactly the same over time. However, if you mix dogs all over the globe for generations and generations and introduce no selective breeding--they will tend to look similar and possess all dominant genes. (This is similar to the way blond hair and blue eyes in humans are said to be dying out because it is recessive.)

The DNA that allows dogs to be the most diverse species on the earth is unique to dogs, wolves and foxes. If you tried to breed a cow with short legs, or a bear with a curly tail- you would try and try and never achieve it. Dogs on the other hand have more genetic diversity even though they have 99.8% similar DNA - the difference between a 10 inch tall chihuahua and a 42 inch tall Great Dane is found only in 0.2%.
The reason is, dogs have long sections of DNA called 'Tandem repeats" that are extra unnecessary copies of genes and they are also very prone to mutation- allowing breeds to be developed in a relatively very short period of time. (Read more here.)

In 1965 Genetics study by Scott & Fuller showed that when you breed two pure-bred parents-the resulting generations of dogs are increasingly diverse and look very little like each other or the original breeds.
For example, this Cocker Spaniel and Basenji had puppies that looked like neither of them:

Another generation later- even more variety was present:

Often times, shelters have no clue what to label a dog because even its litter-mates and parents could share few physical characteristics. According to Wisdom Panel, which is used to test DNA- if a dog has been mixed for three generations- there is no way to genetically determine the breeds in its ancestry. This is because breed markers (often recessive) are the first to go when breeds are mixed.

Pit bulls are the most diverse group of dogs- as they are not even a breed to begin with. It is possible that well-mixed populations of dogs tend to look like "pit bull type dogs." If you let dogs breed however they wanted for 3+ generations, what features would fade away? It is likely that extreme features/overly-shortened or elongated features would fade (very long or short coats, ears, legs, muzzles, tails and weight.)

DNA tests of mutts can reveal interesting trends (read more here). Most likely because the number one place owners get their mutts is the shelter (46%), 9/10 mutts in the U.S.A. are spayed or neutered. This means that mixed genes are less likely than pure-bred genes to be passed on- preventing a real melting-pot of doggy-DNA from developing. Pure-bred dogs are less likely to be neutered. This is why mutt-DNA shows the popular breeds of the previous decades showing up in today's mutts rather than today's popular breeds. (For example, the Chow-Chow is the 63rd most popular breed by the 3rd most likely breed to show up in mutts because they were popular purebreds in the 1980s.)

However, because there is no real pit bull breed-the genetic pool is already diverse and getting more and more diverse with time. Our dog Bruno looks like a standard pit bull- but has no "Staffordshire" DNA (only dalmatian and poodle). On the other hand- our dog Winnie looks less like a standard pit bull, and has at least 25% Staffie DNA.

Because of this diverse genetic pool- it is hard to argue that all of these dogs have any commonalities at all- other than they are well-mixed and probably lack genetic diseases.This is important for potential-adopters to know, because labels can turn them off to great dogs. A research project done at Western University in Pomona showed that in 15 out of the 16 dogs, breeds were shown to be predominant that the shelters did not recognize, and that only 25% of the dogs identified as specified breed mixes were found correct by DNA. This is surprising because the dogs used in the study could have been better identified, even by appearance if the shelter staff had done a little more research or took a little more time-rather than simply labeling dogs "lab", "terrier" or "shepherd" mixes.

(Take a closer look at all of the sample dogs)

Labeling the dogs correctly could help them get adopted and lessen the stigma of the "pit bull." DNA tests are too difficult, and mixed dogs are too well-mixed to often even look like the breeds they come from. I think it may be best to simply call these shelter dogs "Mixed Breed" or "Multi-Breed" dogs, and leave it to the adopters to determine for themselves if they like what they see. Maybe labeling breeds does more harm than good.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

ACC Charity Cocktail Party

Last Saturday, Chip and I were able to go to NYC 4 ACC's Love4Animals Fund-Raiser! Thanks SO much to Petitforward.org for the tickets we won in the raffle! The event was held at  the Brian Farrell Art Gallery, at The Chelsea Modern, Gallery G4.

There were cocktails and photographers and we even got our picture taken!

My favorite part of the night was meeting a pit-bull named Leonard.
The funds raised at the last cocktail event were allocated to canned foods ($1,000), toys ($500), cardboard carriers ($1,200) and emergency care – hospital bills, treatment and corollary expenses – of its sponsored dog, Leonard ($3,300).

Months ago, Leonard was an emaciated puppy at Animal Care and Control--but at the event, he was the healthy and happy guest of honor!

He is currently being fostered by a vet, but needs a permanent home. He is suuch a sweet-heard and barely minded the large crowds of adoring fans.

You can see all of the pictures here.

The only thing that slightly detracted from the evening for me was thinking about the many animals that were going to be put to sleep the very next day- and wishing that these people could help stop that somehow. Giving money to Animal Care and Control is not a bad thing- they need all the money they can get, but it is frustrating that other city shelters do manage to be no-kill, or at least kill for space less often.

Unfortunately- if Leonard had not been in such a horrible state- he may not have been rescued at all. Luckily, some dogs (about half) do make it out and they are stronger and more affectionate because of their terrible experience.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bruno's Twin from San Fran

I recently met online a girl with a pit mix who looks JUST LIKE BRUNO. They look so much alike that she saw the picture of Bruno and I sleeping on Pitter Patter and thought someone had snuck in and taken a picture of her sleeping.

Amazingly- she has had this beautiful rescued dog since he was a puppy- now I get a glimpse at what Bruno probably looked like!! I have always wanted to know since I imagined him as the cutest little puppy ever. Here is Otis- Bruno's twin in SF. :)

 Has anyone else met their dog's twin online??

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!!

We were features on Pitter Patter for Mother's Day!! Love you Bruno!!

Apartment Hunting

Finding a place to live (that you don't own) while having mixed breed dogs it notoriously difficult. Apparently if your dog is not a pure-bred, and appears to have genetic material from a long list of banned dogs-you cannot live in many places.

Below I've posted a ridiculous conversation I had with a renting agent at a apartment/condo community in central NJ. Apparently any percentage of the banned breeds disqualifies your dog- how they determine this is beyond me. So many mutts from shelters are chow/shepherd/staffie mutts- so they are really cutting out a huge dog population.

Christina: Thank you for contacting our community! How are you doing today?

Jessica: Hello

Jessica: My fiance and I are looking for an apartment/condo halfway between NYC and Philadelphia because he will be attending law school in the fall and I work in a law firm in NYC.

Jessica: is someone there?

Christina: Ok great Jessica! We are located _________, And I see your question here

Christina: We do allow mixed breed depending on the breeds. What type of dog do you have?

Jessica: Yes--We have two mixed-breed dogs (about 45 lbs each) that we rescued from NYC shelters- they are as sweet as can be but have features that to some resemble pit-mixes. They are super friendly-- We are extremely responsible dog-owners (both are fixed and 100% obedient)-and our dogs are better trained than all of the smaller dogs in our NYC neighborhood.

Christina: We do have certain breed restrictions so we will need to know what breeds your dogs is before we can approve him/her. Just so we are clear about the policy, we cannot accept the following breeds (whether purebred or mixed of any percentage-no exceptions): Akita, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Chow, Doberman, German Shepherd, Husky, Pit Bull, Presa Canario, Rottweiler and Wolf Hybrid.

Jessica: we have had their DNA tested and they mostly mutts--one is less than 25% dalmation and the other is mostly labrador- but they look somewhat like pit bulls

Jessica: i can send a picture/

Jessica: but its hard to determine their "breeds" because they are so well-mixed

Jessica: they are suuuper sweet and everyone loves them

Christina: We would require documentation in regards to their breeds. If they are any of the breeds listed earlier then unfortunately we wouldn't be able to approve them.

Jessica: ok- so every dog needs a DNA test to be approved?

Christina: We would need documentation from a vet in order to approve them. Would that work for you?

...I said yes, but no vet would say our dogs are a Lab and a Plott Hound.. so se la vie!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Adoption PSA

Ok...I'm not a huge cat person but I love this ad by the Animal Humane Society. I hope they make ones with adorable puppies!! Save a shelter pet!!

Patrick Update

Five weeks ago, we all learned the story of Patrick- the pit mix puppy that was thrown down a garbage shoot and miraculously survived.

He has now gained weight and is acting like a real dog (eating sticks off of trees just like Bruno does! Watch him in the video below).

He recently underwent surgery to remove a beazor from his stomach that formed because Patrick had eaten too much hair (probably because he had nothing else to eat.)


However, a temperamental trainer/evaluated expressed serious concerns about Patrick's emotional development. He has apparently been exhibiting some bad behavior due to his intense fears. He needs socialization with other dogs and some space from the well-meaning adoring people that surround him. The trainer suggested that Patrick be moved to an anonymous foster home as soon as possible to begin his emotional recovery.
Luckily, he has plenty of people who care about helping him be the happiest, healthiest dog he can be. He is undergoing physical therapy and training and hopefully he can some day fulfill his role as a "breed ambassador."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Canine Anxiety

We have had Bruno now for six months (YAY! Half a year with a stable happy home :)) and have been working on his anxiety issues. When he goes out for walks, he wears a backpack and a gentle-leader and we bring treats mostly to distract him from people in the elevator who stare at him. He doesn't bark at anyone unless they stare at him- usually smiling, or make a sudden movement or noise. We try to preempt this by placing him in the corner close to us, sitting, and focus him on our faces, so he doesn't get scared.

While walking, his backpack helps him focus on his job- and we have trained him to walk closely by our side and sit whenever we stop walking. He usually doesn't have any trouble on this part of the walk- even though he used to jump and bark whenever someone ran by or children shouted. The gentle leader really helps get his attention quickly because it raises his muzzle towards our faces.

However, while we feel that this helps Bruno feel calmer on his walk and definitely scares our neighbors less, we still feel like walks and new experiences make him super nervous and anxious and that anxiety is always ready to bubble up from under the surface if someone startles him.

(Bruno at ACC-Manhattan)
When we brought him to Petco to have his portrait taken, he did not enjoy being kept on-leash in a small enclosed area with us ordering him around for a half hour. He actually broke out in hives on the backs of his ears and elbows and his eyes began running with tears as he barked incessantly. My mother suggested that this was high-blood pressure caused by stress, and I agree. I've started to notice he tears-up whenever he is in a new situation. Even when we walk him a few blocks away from his usual route, he gets very anxious and begins tearing up, whining, fidgeting, tugging and acting up. Unfortunately- he also scratches his ears until they bleed- something we think is tied to the anxiety.

Children of a certain age scare him with their spontaneous nature and someday I want him to be comfortable around our own kids. (Luckily babies don't scare him at all- he even licked a girl's bare foot in a stroller in the elevator once.) Usually he doesn't mind when we leave him in the kitchen during the day- he doesn't seem to whine or have separation anxiety. I think he feels comfortable there because it is dark and quiet and no one bothers him. His fear of sleeping alone has really improved and now we can kick him out of bed at night without him peeing on the floor out of fear.

I'm sure if he was left out in a large area, he would be very destructive when left alone- but having the kitchen to himself really seems to be the answer. He is comfortable with strangers after the second time he meets them (one time he barked at a friend every time he saw him for a whole weekend- one time even peeing himself out of fear- but the next weekend when he saw him, he wasn't scared at all.)

The only thing we need to fix is how Bruno experiences new things. want to be able to sooth him and help him enjoy new experiences and places and people. Today he got upset when a security guard outside out building clicked his pen a few times. Bruno barked at him, and proceeded to bark at everyone on the way inside. In other words- something sets off his anxiety and he can't stop.

Since we saw the hives, tears and bleeding ears, we have been thinking about bringing him to the vet to have him put on anxiety medication. We have used non-medical techniques to manage his anxiety and keep him calm and happy and for the most park they have worked- but we don't know how to help this. Apparently, they are meat flavored versions of human anti-depressants. I know if I felt the way he does about the world- I would never want to leave the house, and I don't want him to live like this. With children, you can explain loud noises and scary people- but dogs can't really learn and understand that these things won't hurt them- especially if they have hurt them in the past.

Does anyone know about this or have any suggestions?
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