Free to a Bad Home

*This is a 2-part post.  Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Owner Surrenders

When a pet owner no longer wants their family pet, they tend to choose one of 3 options: surrender the pet to the animal shelter, turn them over to an animal rescue group, or give the pet away for free to a "good home." Today, I'd like to discuss the heartbreaking reality behind that last option.

Some surrendering families feel "too guilty" to dump their unwanted pet at the local pound. So instead, they post "Free to a Good Home" ads in the newspaper and on Craigslist. 

In their minds, they see this as a better option --a "more compassionate" option-- than the risk of euthanasia at the animal shelter. But they don't realize... that this is one of the most irresponsible and reckless decisions they could ever make

Why so? Well, the truth ain't always pretty, but here goes: Animal abusers and dog fighters scan newspaper ads, Craigslist, and other sites and publications in search of "Free to a Good Home" pets. The "free" component is key here... because these people aren't willing to pay anything for the animals, because the pets have no value

Abusers want these animals for sadistic pleasure. Dog fighters want them for bait. So, if you're giving away your pet for free, you're putting them in immense danger... which could very well lead to a lifetime of unimaginable torture.

The most common defense I hear on this topic is: "But I'd only let them go to a 'good home.' I'd never give them to someone who would hurt them!" Well... let me explain why that's easier said than done...

First of all, evil people don't wear shirts that say, "I'm a disgusting human." They're very skilled at presenting themselves as normal, "good" people... because for them, everything hinges on their ability to do just that. 

The best way to commit horrendous crimes without getting caught is to look like someone who would never commit those crimes. Have you ever watched the news and heard, "I just can't believe it! He seemed like such a nice, normal guy! He was a Deacon at our church! I never knew he was capable of something like this..."

Abusers rarely look like abusers. They look however they need to look in order to lure the victim of abuse: children, women, animals. Trust me... they know exactly what they need to say and do to get what they want. And if they want your pet, and you're willing to send that pet off for free based on nothing more than how this person looks, then you'll likely hand them over to a deranged monster in sheep's clothing.

Further, dog fighters don't always look like dog fighters. Believe me... dog fighting is a money sport. I'm talking millions of dollars. These people look like they have money, because they do have money. And in order to make that money, the fighting dogs must be trained to kill. How are they trained? By using bait dogs, cats, and rabbits... that were once your dogs, cats, and rabbits

These bait animals are completely disposable... so dog fighters aren't willing to pay good money to obtain them. Yet-- dog fighters need that bait for training. So where do they look? "Free to a Good Home" ads. They may also scan low-fee or no-fee animal shelters... or your backyard.

Dog fighters want your free pet for bait. They need your free pet for bait. And they'll do whatever it takes to get them. So, when they contact you... they won't look like a dog fighter. They'll look very much like a "good home."

Still don't believe me? Still convinced that you could spot a "dog fighter?" Well, consider this: Many respected individuals are involved in dog fighting. Athletes, police officers, and successful businessmen and women. People of every race, every background, and every economic class are involved in this "sport." 

For example, consider Michael Vick. People tend to forget that he wasn't always seen as a dog fighting criminal. Before his crimes were made public, Vick was a highly-respected athlete who was admired by millions of people around the world. Of course, now we all know differently, but ask yourself: Just how many Michael Vicks haven't been caught yet? Trust me... thousands of others --who you currently respect as "good people"-- are involved in this crime. They live in my hometown... and they live in your hometown.

Some of you may still think that "Free to a Good Home" ads are a good alternative. You may say, "Well, I got my pet from Craigslist, and I'm a good home." You may also think that you're capable of distinguishing the good homes from the bad homes. And maybe you're right...

But ask yourself: If there's even a chance that you could be wrong, is it worth the risk?? Because if you're wrong... the consequences are devastating.

Please, please, PLEASE don't give your family pet away for free to a "good home." Please don't use newspaper ads and Craigslist postings as a trustworthy alternative for pet re-homing. Trust me... it's NOT worth the risk.

If you're asking, "But what other option do I have?" Well... one option would be to work your ass off to keep your pet with your family. Most issues can be resolved with just a little effort, and honestly... you owe your pet that much. This option is the most compassionate, responsible, and promising option... the very best option if you truly love your pet.

Or... if you simply must re-home them, you could work with an animal rescue group to re-home your pet. Animal rescues have experience in screening potential families prior to pet adoption. Rescues also charge a pet adoption fee, to ensure that the pet has some value. In addition, pet adoption contracts are used to protect the future for that pet. 

However, it's important to remember that most animal rescue organizations are operating at maximum capacity. So, even if they're willing to help re-home your pet, they may not have space for them. If you truly care about your pet, then you should offer to keep them in your home until the rescue can find another adopter. At the very least... you owe them that much.

*Click below to read Part 2 of this post: Owner Surrenders


Chance the Bait Dog

Chance's Pet Pardons photo
A few days ago, a dog from the Mobile, Alabama animal shelter was posted on Pet Pardons

This wasn't just any shelter dog... this was a severely injured bait dog.

Most people aren't aware that bait dogs even exist. So, I'll provide a brief explanation... for those of you asking: "What is a bait dog?" 

Bait dogs are the most heartbreaking casualty of dog fighting. Basically, the name says it all... these dogs are used as bait... in order to train the fighter dogs how to fight... and kill. 

In the early stages of fight training, bait dogs become the prey. With every defense mechanism stripped away, they're rendered completely helpless. Their mouths are taped shut, their legs are bound, and their bodies are restrained. Then, they're thrown into a ring with another dog... who has been trained to kill them

Chance at the vet
What most people don't realize is that the "fighter dogs" are only fighting... because their lives depend on it. If they refuse to fight, or if they lose a fight, there will be consequences. They may be beaten. They may be killed. Or they may... become the bait. 

Many bait dogs are former fighters, who resisted training or lost in battle. Resistance isn't tolerated. Losers are disposable. And so... the fighters fight... to live another day.  

Chance's head

While the bait dogs... can only hope to die today... 

Many bait dogs die in the ring. And those are the lucky ones. Because for as long as a bait dog is able to survive the attacks... they'll be subjected to the same mind-numbing torture, over and over and over again

Often, their limbs hang from their bodies. Their ears are torn off. Their entire snouts are ripped from their faces. Do they receive vet care? No. Are they given pain meds? No. What about compassion? No.

So, if they survive the attack, the pain still isn't over. Survivors are often dumped... to later end up on death row at the animal shelter. For the others, their bleeding bodies will be thrown into a tiny cage, or a small dog kennel, or onto a short chain. They're never fed... because they aren't valued. They're attacked, mutilated... and then starved and neglected. It's the saddest existence I can imagine. 

The most heartbreaking part about their reality is this: these precious, tortured souls would gladly endure the unimaginable physical agony... if they could just hear "I love you," when it was over.  

But bait dogs will never hear "I love you." They will never experience compassion. They will never know a life without agonizing pain, immense hunger, and complete and total despair. 

Unless... we save them.
I thought the Vet's name was ironic

Meet Chance.

Chance has lived his entire life as a bait dog... live bait. He's known more pain in his short time here on Earth... than we could ever imagine in our worst nightmares. And honestly, he shouldn't even be alive today. 

His existence has been confined to a chain, within a tiny dog kennel-- a cage of torture. Each day, he was taken from that cage, thrown into a ring of horrors, and viciously mauled. Then... he was thrown back on the chain... and left to bleed to death. They wanted him dead.

But Chance didn't die. He continued to survive...
Only... to end up on death row at the animal shelter. 

Chance & I
That's when Chance was posted on Pet Pardons. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from my friend and fellow Pet Pardons Co-Founder, Chris. He said, "I sent you a link. Severely injured bait dog. Death row. Urgent. He needs you." 

As I opened my mouth to say, "Chris, of course I want to help, but I just don't have room. Maybe we can find someone else to take him..." Chris said, "Just open the link and call me back." Then, he hung up. 

I clicked the link... knowing that my heart was about to break... but I wasn't quite prepared for what I was about to see. Because when the page loaded... I saw Riley. My Riley. My own dog, who was also saved from a dog fighting ring. Of course, it wasn't really Riley, but the dog in the picture could be his twin. Chris had obviously realized that... in sending this particular link to me. 

I stared at my screen... and tears filled my eyes. Right in front of me, was the sad reality... that so easily could've been my Riley's... if he hadn't been saved. I saw what Riley could've been... without me.  

I began to sob, knowing that this dog had survived a lifetime of torture... only to die in an animal shelter. Almost no one would be willing to take a dog in that condition... a former bait dog. No one... but me.

I quickly made a call to an amazing animal rescue friend in the Mobile area, SouthBARK... and with their wonderful help, Chance became a Lucky Dog. Today, he was transported from Alabama to me in Mississippi... to join the ranks of the Lucky. Today... Chance got a second chance.

I won't lie to you. It won't be an easy road for Chance. The pain of his past is written all over his face, with an unbelievable number of old scars and fresh wounds covering his entire body. He has 2 drainage tubes coming from his head, to reduce the swelling; he's severely emaciated, and he's in constant physical agony.

But I'm more concerned with his heart... with replacing the betrayal and despair with trust and hope. That process started today... and his joy upon arrival was nothing short of incredible.

Because today... for the first time, Chance heard the words, "I love you." And today... for the first time in his life... he got to say, "I love you back."

*Chance will need a lot of vet care on his road to recovery. Please click the link below to help Chance heal.

Chance was saved BECAUSE OF PET PARDONS! We saved another one, y'all!


In My Words

The past few days have been super-crazy. So, as the week (finally) comes to a close, I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts:

*As you search for the strength to fight your own battles, know that you aren't the only one suffering. We are each fighting our own unique war... and sometimes... a few good allies is all we need to win.

*Love is about more than just a feeling. It's about putting that feeling into action.

*Injustice gains strength with each silent voice and every inaction. And so, injustice holds the power... that we refuse to reclaim.

*Complacency stems from indifference. Indifference says, 'Oh well.' Complacency says, 'It is what it is.' Thus, injustice is born... and hope dies. Now you know why... it is what it is.

*When I think I can't go on, I just look at my rescue dog. If he can keep going after all he's been through... then I sure as hell can.

*If you have even one person in your life who believes in you, and I mean truly believes in you, then consider yourself lucky. And if that one person... is you, then everything you believe... is possible. 

*If you care about something, but you won't fight for it... then you don't care.

*We've all had bad things happen to us. All of us. But the outcome of your life isn't about what's happened to you. It's about how you chose to handle it. 

*You will never make everyone happy. But if you can make a few people smile often... then that's all you really need.

*When you're a kid, anything is possible. You think big, you dream bigger, and you know--without a doubt-- that you can do anything. Over time, the world beats us down. The big thoughts are exchanged for conformity. The bigger dreams are traded for stability. The 'can-dos' are replaced with 'can't-dos.' We call that 'growing up.' But really... we didn't grow up at all. We gave up.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Love, Ash

*All quotes were written by me, Ashley Owen Hill



Become that Someone

Most people are waiting for someone else to change the world. Meanwhile... they waste every opportunity... to actually become that someone.

When your help is needed, have you ever asked: "What's in it for me?" 

Well, I'll be honest with ya: Sometimes, nothing's in it for you. Sometimes, it's not about you. Most of the time, the only thing "in it" for you... is a feeling.

But our society thrives on incentives. If you do this, then you'll receive that. And if there's no "that" ... then you can kiss "this" goodbye. Even if "this" is a helpless, suffering soul... oh well! If there's no super-awesome, mega-tangible reward in it for me... sorry, I'm out.

Meanwhile... there are so many opportunities for each of us to make a difference in this world. Each positive difference leads to change... each positive change leads to a better world. The best part is this: Anyone can contribute. Everyone can contribute. You can be that someone.

But most people are simply waiting for someone else to do something.
It's ironic... because those "someone elses" are waiting for "someone else," too. Well... I know this much for sure: that's a pickle I'd like to crawl my way out of.

Sometimes, people don't act, because they just don't know where to begin. By assuming that change-worthy actions must be massive... they choose to give up on making a difference... before they've even begun. 

But here's the good news: if you're one of those people, this is an easy problem to solve. Just do something. When you witness suffering, do something. When you see sadness, do something. When you see despair... give hope. It's really just that simple.

So, that's one group: the people who want to help, but don't know how to start. Well, problem solved. Now YOU can become that someone.

But then... there are the others... those who are too busy asking: "What's in it for me?" Well... if an answer to that question is required... just for you to care about others... then I've got news for ya: you'll miss out on every meaningful opportunity this life has to offer. And rest assured... you'll never change the world.

The feeling we receive from selfless giving should be the only reward needed for selfless giving to take place. The knowledge that you did something --something you didn't have to do-- and that you actually made a difference by doing so... that should be enough. The joy of others should be enough. The impact made should be enough. The hope given should be enough.

If you need something more than these things in order to contribute... well, that's really sad. Because... it means that your entire life... is only about you

If life was just about you... then the rest of us... wouldn't even be here. It's not about you! Honestly, you are here to help them... whoever "them" may be for you. They could be starving children, cancer patients, battered women, wildlife creatures, or shelter dogs. They could be anyone who needs help... other than you.

Sometimes, nothing's in it for you. Nothing more... than a feeling. That feeling alone... is what I live for

When I die... I hope I've become one of the someones who changed the world. Maybe I will... maybe I won't. But I know one thing for sure: I never will... if I never try.

And while I'm trying... I'd love to have your company...


Stealing Wonder's Wonder

This is what BSL destroys. 

On January 27, 2011, Wonder was scheduled to die in a Dallas, North Carolina shelter. That was the day I saved her life. 

From the moment I saw her shelter photo on Pet Pardons, I knew what I had to do. Her heart was broken... and so was mine. So I saved her.

Soon thereafter, Wonder was transported to Mississippi to live with me. The day she arrived was one of the best days of my life. It was also the day that Wonder became the unofficial Pet Pardons mascot... as thousands of people, from around the globe, cheered upon her arrival. 

The world united for Wonder, and you all watched... as I made her wish come true. That day, in each of our hearts, a special hope was born... knowing that Wonder would never again have to feel that heartbreaking pain she'd experienced all of her life. 

That was on January 27, 2011.

But here we are 8 months later... on the day that hope died.

Let me explain...
Wonder was a severely broken girl with a heart of gold. As she began to heal with me... I watched her spirit come to life. And that's when I got to meet... my Wonder. 

For me, Wonder represents what it means to be alive. Each day, Wonder lives with an appreciation for everything in this world... with an innocence that makes me cry, a joy that makes me smile, and a curiosity that makes me laugh. She has this indescribable love flowing from her heart, unimaginable forgiveness pouring from her soul, and immense gratitude shining through her eyes. 

For me... Wonder is life

On my weakest days, Wonder gave me strength. On my saddest days, Wonder made me laugh. On my exhausted days, Wonder gave me energy. Her energy is contagious. Her love is infectious. Her spirit... it will take your breath away.

Experiencing her love, I wanted more than anything to give Wonder the family she deserved. She was special... extra-special... and she deserved an extra-special future. 

Then, a couple of months later, a friend of mine, Anna, decided to participate in my Weekend Foster Program. I asked, "Could you foster Wonder?" She said, "Yes, yes, YES!"

They had an incredible weekend, and Anna cried when she brought Wonder back to me on Sunday. That's when Anna said: "Ash, I'd like to adopt Wonder one day soon." 

I smiled; I laughed; I cried. Are you serious?! Really?! My Wonder?!?! It was just too good to be true. Anna and Wonder were absolutely perfect for each other. They're both super-fun, hilarious, outgoing, high-energy, happy-go-lucky girls, with a serious cuteness to match. I couldn't wait for that day to come. 

And finally... it was here. Wonder was going home. That day, she was so excited to see Anna that she jumped right on-top of my desk. We laughed, we cried, and then, we said goodbye. It was heart wrenching. It was heartwarming. It was everything to me. 

After her adoption, Wonder and I still saw each other all the time. We had several special playdates together, and Anna sent pictures and videos of her every week. She was the happiest I'd ever seen her. It was truly Wonder-ful.

On the days when I wanted to quit, a special Wonder-text from Anna would keep me going. On my best days, Wonder's story played like a movie in my mind. Honestly, her story is the epitome of what I do... and why I do it. For me, Wonder represents more than just life. Wonder's story gives me hope. 

Well... welcome to the day... hope died.  

This week, I found out that Wonder will be returning to me. Not because it didn't work out. Not because Anna doesn't love her. Not because she isn't wanted.

Wonder is coming back to me because of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). In an instant, BSL will take away everything I worked so hard to give to Wonder... the family, the home, and the love. BSL will steal Wonder's future. BSL will crush Wonder's dreams. BSL will shatter the hope I fought to give her.  

BSL will steal the "wonder" from Wonder. 

It's so difficult to explain how I'm feeling right now. I'm angry. I'm livid. I'm heartbroken. I'm devastated. But that's nothing compared to what Wonder will soon feel. She will not understand this... 

Each day, she'll wait for Anna to come back for her. With each look, she'll beg me to take her home. And each night, she'll cry herself to sleep... thinking she did something wrong.

I'll have to witness that pain, of a mended heart re-broken. I'll have to say I'm sorry, for things I didn't do. I'll have to watch her wait, for a mom who won't return...

When Wonder sits by the window, she'll be hoping to see Anna. When she stares into the distance, she'll be watching out for her. When any car pulls up, she'll be certain it's her family. When we head out the door, she'll think that's where we're going. And when Wonder dreams at night, she'll be dreaming she's back home...

Every minute, Wonder will wonder about Anna. So how am I supposed to tell her... that she's never coming back?? 

BSL stole my Wonder's wonder. 
She can never go home again... 

If you'd like to adopt my Wonder, please fill out the online Adoption Application: http://www.petpardons.com/adoption


I'm a Pit Bull Mom

My dog, Riley
My name is Ashley, and I'm a Pit Bull Mom.

My son's name is Riley, an American Pit Bull Terrier. Obviously, he's a rescue dog, and of course, he's awesome.

I also have a crew of amazing Pit Bull babies at Lucky Dog Rescue. They are each loving, fun, and special. If you're looking to adopt a dog, my Pit Bulls are incredible... and so are the millions of wonderful Pit Bulls waiting in animal shelters across the country. You should adopt one.

I'm ridiculously proud of each of my babies, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. But I won't lie to you... Life is different when you're a Pit Bull Mom. Not because of the dogs... but because of the people who hate them. 

When I take one of my rescue dogs, like a Lab or a Hound mix, out for a walk, everyone in the area wants to meet them: "What a cute dog! What's her name? She's so sweet!" Car rides result in lots of smiles and waves. Trips to the vet are filled with attention and praise from the other clients. For those dogs... outings are special, fun, and exciting.

But when I take one of my Pit Bulls anywhere... it's a much different story. On walks, others will intentionally and rudely cross the street to avoid any contact. Many of them will nervously jog until they get past us. In the car, other drivers glare and point. At the vet, clients cling to their children and quickly head for the door.

When I'm out with my Pit Bulls, I'm forced to endure rude comments, open criticism, and sheer ignorance. I've been questioned many times, I've been debated in public areas, and I've been made to feel like a criminal... simply because I love these amazing dogs. True story... and it sucks.

Here are a couple of basic examples: One day, a woman stopped me on my walk, as my angel Riley was smiling and prancing along, and she said: "You've got some kind of nerve walking that Pit Bull around this neighborhood. There are children here, for Christ's sake."

Smiling Riley at the lake
Oh my goodness! Are you serious?! There are children here?? Wow! They've really kept that secret safe! Thanks for the heads-up, lady! That loud playtime screaming never quite tipped me off about the kids. Whew... thank God for this leash, right?! Or should we thank Christ? You seem to know Him best... using His "sake" so freely and all. Either way.. there's no telling how many children my super-vicious-child-destroyer would lick without this tiny-ass restraint. By the way... do you see how his tail is wagging right now? That means he likes you... despite your unflattering hatred. My opinion of you... a little different.

Another woman at the vet's office once said: "How dare you bring a Pit Bull to the vet's office?" 

Hmmm... well.... let me think. I guess I did that... mostly because... it's a VET'S OFFICE... you know... for pets and junk. It appears that you brought a rat here. Oh wait... sorry. That's a dog. My mistake.

Like I said, life is different as a Pit Bull Mom. Some people will judge you. Others will berate you. A lot of people will hate your child... and they'll hate you for having them. 

It's painful... when people hate your baby... this innocent little soul who has done nothing to deserve the judgment. It's heartbreaking... to watch your dog joyfully approach a stranger for attention... then to see that stranger talk down to them in disgust or walk away in fear. It's sickening... to think of what these dogs have been through in their lives... and to know that the forgiveness and love flowing from their hearts isn't enough to make them amazing to others. 

Hearing all of this... it may sound like it's not worth it to become a Pit Bull Mom. Well, in truth, it's beyond worth it.

Riley is awesome
Honestly... if it wasn't worth it, why would I do it? Would I really put my reputation... my life... on the line for a vicious, killer dog?? Would I really use every breath I have to save them... if it wasn't worth it??

Throughout my life, I've known every breed of dog there is to know, as well as thousands of different mixes. And when I adopt a dog, I've chosen the Pit Bull. That should tell you something. Why would I choose the most "aggressive" breed for my own personal dog?? Seriously... ask yourself... what do I have to gain by fighting for a "vicious" breed?

If the stories about them were actually true, and they were simply going to prove me wrong... then not only would I lose every ounce of credibility I have... but I'd also be putting myself in immense danger on a daily basis. WHY would I ever do that???

I subject myself to the scrutiny and judgment... because their love is worth it. Healing the pain in their hearts is worth it. Presenting the truth is worth it. The amazingness they bring into my life far outweighs any criticism I could ever receive. These dogs are loyal. They're intelligent. They're fun. And they're awesome. 

Being a Pit Bull Mom is different. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it. Anyone can be a dog mom. But it takes a really special mom... to be a Pit Bull Mom.


The Real Tale Behind BSL

This is the story behind the story... of the lives behind the laws. Welcome to their hell: BSL.

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) refers to a law or ordinance passed within a given jurisdiction, which restricts or bans the ownership of specific breeds of dogs. 

In some areas, specified breeds are banned completely, meaning that ownership of a banned breed is prohibited and illegal within that jurisdiction. 

In other areas, ownership of these breeds is "restricted." While restrictions vary by jurisdiction, here's the basic premise: owners of a banned breed must comply with a long list of (ridiculous) requirements, including, but not limited to, the following: registering the dog as a "vicious" or "dangerous" animal, purchasing a high-dollar liability insurance policy for the pet, mandatory muzzling of the dog in public, mandatory requirements for "containment" of the animal... the list goes on and on. Possession of a "dangerous" breed can also lead to the denial or loss of homeowner's insurance, or eviction by landlord.

BSL affects many breeds, including Boxers, Rottweilers, Bulldogs, Chows, Shepherds, and Huskies. The most highly affected breed? The Pit Bull.

First of all, keep in mind that "Pit Bull" isn't really a breed at all. Sure... we all use the term to describe certain dogs with certain characteristics, but in actuality, the term "Pit Bull" represents at least 3 different breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Therefore, the term "Pit Bull" is essentially the same idea as saying "Retriever" or "Spaniel." It's not an actual breed. It means nothing.

So, therein lies the first problem... our society is banning a "breed" that isn't even a "breed" at all. Does this sound logical? No. Does it sound ignorant as hell? Absolutely.

Secondly, in restricted areas, owners of these breeds are required to register their dog --who has never exhibited any signs of being "dangerous" or "vicious"-- as a dangerous or vicious animal. They're required to pay thousands of dollars for liability insurance that serves no real purpose and has no justification. They're required to muzzle and restrain a pet who never has --and never would-- hurt anyone. Does this make sense? No. Does it sound completely ass-backwards? You bet.

In areas where ownership is banned entirely, owners of these breeds are forced to give up their dogs in order to remain in their towns. Does this sound justified? Negative. Does it scream "I'm with stupid?" You got it, dude.

Sure... it's very easy for the rest of us to sit back and say, "If this happened in my area, I would just move." But honestly, it isn't that easy for everyone. Our economy sucks. Jobs are scarce. Homes don't always sell. People can't just pick-up and move at the drop-of-a-hat, and they're given no other option. 

And that's why, each year, thousands upon thousands of "Pit Bulls" are being ripped from their homes and their families. Many of them end up dead in the animal shelter. The rest of them... end up with me, or with other dog rescues like me. 

I can sit here and vent all day about these ridiculous, unwarranted laws and the ignorant injustice that drives them. But that's all been done before. So now, I want to talk about the dogs... and what BSL looks like for them...

 I've seen the impact of BSL on so many Pit Bulls... and I've witnessed what it does to these loving, deserving dogs. Let me first say this: it's extremely difficult to find an amazing home for any Pit Bull in the first place. Trust me... I know. Because... no matter how hard I try, societal bias has reduced the adoptive pool for these dogs down to the size of a tiny teardrop. 

So, each day, millions of Pit Bulls across the country wait for hope to arrive. Some of them have been waiting for years. Others... for days... with only days left to live. For most of them... that hope will never come. But for a lucky few, a family will finally look at them and say, "You're one of us now. Let's go home."

I've seen the joy on their faces in that moment... as they shower their new families with love for the first time... love that's been waiting in their hearts all their lives. I've seen the relief in their innocent little eyes, as the nightmare finally ends. I've watched them happily prance out of the animal shelter... toward the future they never thought they'd have...

Then... I've seen them come back, when a new breed ban strips away their family and forces them from their home. I've seen the pain, the abandonment, and the despair. I've witnessed the utter devastation

I've seen what most people don't see. I've stared into the face of BSL... into the eyes of the hearts it breaks. I've tried to pick up the pieces... to repair the damage of what our government has done to these innocent dogs. But no matter how hard I try... I'm never able to fully to fix what was broken...

I've watched them wait... every single day... for their families to return for them. I've cried uncontrollably, because I know what they don't know. Their families won't be back. No one will come for them. They will never go home again.

I've witnessed innocence at its most heartbreaking level... the innocence of those who have done nothing wrong... but were still punished for the crime. I comfort their sadness, with promises of a better future... knowing all the while... that I can never really be certain of my vows to them...

Because in my heart, I know the truth... at any time, BSL can appear in any city, in any county, in any state in America. Its impact can be sudden--without warning-- and just that quickly, these dogs can be right back in this very moment. A heart can only break so many times... 

I bust my ass to save these Pit Bulls, because they have no other hope. Then, I bust my ass to find them amazing homes... to give them the lives they deserve. And eventually, I do send each of them off to their own special future...

But no matter how much I do, or how hard I try... I can't stop BSL from stealing those futures. If I can save them... but no one can adopt them... then how can I give them the lives they truly deserve? I save them for one reason: to give them forever. Then, I'm forced to watch... as BSL suddenly, wrongfully, and tragically rips forever from their hearts.  

This week, I found out that another of my babies will have her own forever taken away due to BSL. She'll be ripped from the only real home she's ever known... and returned to me. I'll be left to pick up the pieces of a heart, so broken... it may never fully heal. And every day... I'll have to watch her wait... for a family that won't ever come back for her...

Each day, my baby will beg me to take her home. But I'll know... that she will never go home again...

I'm asking each of you to help me end this injustice. We have to unite, stand up, and fight BSL. Even if you don't own a Pit Bull yourself, your dog's breed could be the next on the list. Your city... your county could be next. BSL threatens your family... it threatens my family... my dog, Riley, and all of my rescue babies.

I'm tired of picking up the pieces of BSL. I'm tired of saying, "I'm sorry" for things I didn't do. I'm tired of looking into the desperate eyes of a dog who just wants to go home...

Knowing all the while... that they can never go home again...

I can't fight it alone. I'm just one tiny soldier. This will take an army. Please join me in saying, "NO MORE."


Not Another Pet Blog

Honestly, I don't write a "pet blog." This isn't another animal rescue blog, or pet adoption site, or option to find a charity.

I blog about life... with an emphasis on making a difference. Sure, animal rescue is my focus. It's my love and my passion. Pet adoption is my goal, and encouraging people to donate to animal charities is essential.

But I write about life, from my perspective. Obviously, my perspective is highly-influenced by dog rescue, animal shelters, and pet adoptions. 

But that's not the only reason I write. I write to make a difference. I write to make things better. I write... to ask you to join me.  

My primary goal in life is to make this world a better place. I try to encourage people to adopt that goal as their own... and then... take action. While my biggest dream is to make the world a better place for animals, that's not the only difference that needs to be made.

Therefore, an involvement in animal rescue isn't required for you to come here. Honestly, my real hope is that you'll simply be inspired to do something... something that matters to you... that also matters to the world. It doesn't have to be something huge... it can be something very small. Tiny, even.

With each tiny act of kindness, someone, somewhere feels the power of hope. And with each tiny bit of hope, the world becomes a better place. True story.

You don't have to save every pet in the animal shelter to have an impact. You don't have to end homelessness. You don't have to cure cancer. You just have to care... and then, allow that feeling drive you to action. The action can be as seemingly insignificant as this: 

Last year, I got an email about a local woman in my town, who was finally leaving the battered women's shelter... to move into an apartment of her own for the first time. She didn't have a single piece of furniture to furnish it, nor the money to do so. I read that email, from my couch. At the time, I had a high-paying corporate job, with a steady income, as well as a very nice couch. This woman had neither. So... I got up, made a call, and had my couch delivered to her that day. I was left standing in an empty living room, with one crappy, beat-up chair. She was left with hope... in couch-form.  

It was a small act for me, but it was everything to her. And that day, the world got better... for both of us... for all of us.

Animal rescue is my passion. Changing the world is my mission. Sure... not everyone can adopt a dog. Not everyone can volunteer, or foster, or donate. But I promise you... every single person in this world can do something to make it better. 

I don't write to make anyone feel insignificant or incapable or useless. My goal is actually quite the opposite. I write to inspire you. I write to encourage you. I write to say, "You can do something, too." Because... in truth... you can. 

Every tiny act of kindness makes the world a better place for all of us. Making one dog smile... making one person laugh... giving one someone hope... it counts. And it matters. 

Don't discount yourself because you can't do everything. You can do something today. 

And in advance... thank you for changing the world today... because I know that each of you can and will go out and make a difference.


After You Went to Heaven...

A letter to my Annie

Dear Annie,

Wow. I can't believe it's already been a year. How can that be possible? It seems like just yesterday that you were here with me... laughing, playing, and snuggling. But according to the calendar, you've been gone for one full year now.

So much has happened in the last year, Annie... I have so many things to tell you. I'm not sure if you realize this, but things are much better here now. Those things are better... because of you. 

In life, you had one wish: to matter to someone --just one someone-- and finally... you did. That someone was me. You mattered to me, Annie. More than you'll ever know.

But in death, there's been much more, sweet girl. More than you ever dreamed possible. Because your life didn't end when you died, Annie... your story has kept you alive. You probably won't believe this... because I honestly still can't, but either way, I think you deserve to know...

Annie, this is what happened... after you went to Heaven...

The day you died, my heart was broken, and my world changed forever. I missed your smile, and I missed your kisses. I missed your cuddles, and I missed your smell. I missed you, and I missed us. I missed everything.

I buried you next to Rudy, and a piece of my heart went with you. The remaining bits of my heart... laid in the ground with him. As I stared down at my children, in your graves there side-by-side, I wanted to crawl in with you, because I didn't feel alive.

Before you, I was broken. With you, I was whole. Because of you, I was saved. But without you... I was empty.  

I won't lie to you, Annie, it wasn't an easy time for me. But I held out hope, and I kept on going. And over time, I started to heal. The pain got better, and the days got easier. I saved more lives in your memory, and I pushed forward in your honor. 

Then, one day, I started writing again, something I'd given up for a while. And in March, for the first time, I decided to write your story. 

I sat down, and I thought back. I remembered, and I wrote. I smiled, and I cried. I laughed, and I sobbed. I felt hope; I felt anguish. I felt pride; I felt sorrow.

I wrote your story, "Before You Go to Heaven," from my heart, then I shared what I had written.

And ever since that day, nothing's been the same...

One person read your story, and then another few. Others started to read... and they all shared it, too. Then, thousands more joined in, who shared with thousands more...

And suddenly... everywhere I turned... you were alive again.

As your story wrapped around the world, things began to change. These were the very changes, I'd always hoped to see. I was honestly dumbfounded, and I still can't quite believe it. But I know one thing for sure... it was all because of you.

And Annie, in short, this is what you've done... since you went to Heaven...

You've inspired change, and you've changed views. You've opened minds, and you've presented truth. You've incited drive, and you've driven action. You've awakened spirits, and evoked reactions.

You've sparked discussions, and ignited flames. You've challenged convictions, and suggested change. You've recruited the willing, and rallied the able. You've empowered the weak, and strengthened the capable. 

You, Annie. Yes... you.

You've been idolized, and you've been recognized. You've been promoted, and you've been publicized. You've been in magazines, and you've been on websites. You've been tweeted by day, and you've been shared by night. 

You've reached across the nation, and been around the world. There are so many places you've inspired, little girl. You've been to California, and to Australia. You've visited Michigan, and then South Africa. You've reached Indiana, and parts of Asia. Then you touched New York, and the Himalayas.

You, sweet girl. You.  

You've made impossible wishes possible, and fantasies attainable. You've made the undesired desirable, and the unadmired admirable. You've made certain truths uncertain, and certain falsehoods true. You've made anything seem possible, for all the dogs like you. 

You've given hope to the hopeless, and love to the unloved. You've made the tearless shed tears, and the trustless gain trust. You've softened the hardest of hearts, and strengthened the softest of souls. You've challenged thoughts on compassion, and suggested new goals.

You did this, Annie. You.

You've changed death for the living, and life for the dying. You've saved thousands of lives, without even trying. You've led people to death row, to rescue one more. Then you showed the dying, what life has in store.

You've started a movement, from ripple to wave. You've rescued more souls, than I ever could save. You've encouraged big dreams, and then big dreams came true. Annie, all of this happened... because of you.

You, Annie. Yes... you.  

Annie, when you lived, you changed my life. You saved me. But after you died, you changed the world. You saved all of us. That's nothing short of incredible, just like you. 

You matter, Annie. You always have, and now, you always will... 
Sleep well, Annie-girl, knowing that the world is a better place because you existed. Have fun in Heaven. I'll be there before you know it.

Click here to read PART 1 of this post: One Year Since Heaven

*Many of you first came to my blog back in March... because of Annie's story. 
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for loving my baby. 



One Year Since Heaven

One year ago today, Annie joined my Rudy in Heaven. 

Annie was a terminally ill Pit Bull that I rescued from death row last September. When I went to the animal shelter for Annie that day, I never planned to adopt a dog. I simply hoped to save her life. But little did I know... that Annie would actually save mine. 

Annie was a very sick girl, and I soon realized that she wasn't strong enough to make it through the necessary treatments to save her life. So, I altered my dog rescue mission: from curing her illness... to healing her heart.

And for as long as I live... I'll never forget what happened next... 

Annie's transformation was the most incredible change I've ever witnessed. I watched... as the fear slowly left her eyes... as the sadness gently left her face... and as the pain finally left her heart. 

I watched... as a dying girl... came to life

That week, Annie and I smiled, and we laughed, and we played. That week, Annie and I healed. Before we met, Annie was broken, and I was broken. Together, we were whole. Together, we were family.

All the while, I knew that Annie was dying. I knew I'd have to let her go, and I knew the immense pain I'd endure when that time came. But I also knew the alternative for Annie. Death... before life. 

So I gave her life... before death.

No pain has ever been more worth it. 

On a fateful day last September, I walked into the animal shelter for Annie. I never planned to adopt a dog that day. I only hoped to save one. It turns out... I did both. 

One week later, on September 14, 2010, I held my Annie --my baby-- as she went to Heaven. She died... in my arms. But only after she lived... in my heart. 

I let her go, because I loved her. She died smiling... because she loved me, too.

One year later, I can still feel Annie's love as strongly as I did  last September. I can feel her presence with me each day. I can see her joy in each dog I save. I can see her impact on my journey... every bit as much in death, as in life. 

Because Annie didn't really die that day. She's been living and breathing through me every day since. 

Our loved ones never really leave us when they die.They live on... in our hearts. They live on... through the memories. They live on... through their stories. Annie's story lives on through me. And now, she lives on... through you. 

It's just more than she ever dreamed possible... 

*Annie, not a day passes that I don't think of you. There's never a day when I don't miss you, nor a day that I don't love you. But there will be a day when I'll see you again. I can't wait.


Black Dog Syndrome

What if you were never loved...  because no one thought you were special? What if you were never wanted... because of the way that you look? What if you were killed, simply because of your color? 

Welcome to the life of a black shelter dog. 

In animal shelters, black dogs are the last to be adopted... and the first to be euthanized. The question is... why??

Black Dog Syndrome is a dog shelter and animal rescue phenomenon, in which black dogs, especially large black dogs, are often overlooked by adopters for pets with lighter coats. There are several reasons for this... 

During the pet adoption process, some families take a trip to the animal shelter to adopt a pet, while others browse online pet adoption websites first. In both cases, black dogs lose.

When a family goes to a shelter to adopt a dog, they will undoubtedly walk through rows and rows of simple black dogs... because statistically, there are more large, black mixed breeds in shelters than pets of any other color. Many of these black dogs look very much the same... there's nothing seemingly special about them... there's nothing that makes them stand out in a crowd. 

So, when an adopter spots that cute, little yellow dog, within the sea of black, their eyes are immediately drawn to that dog. In the mind of the adopter, the lighter pup is different --unique-- compared to the others, and the family says, "That's the one!" Families want to adopt a pet that stands out to them; the one that seems most special. Thus, the cute yellow dog is adopted... while the black dogs are still waiting... 

Some families browse online pet adoption websites, like Pet Pardons, to adopt a dog. Sadly, black dogs have a major disadvantage here as well. When adopters view online pet listings, the photo alone sells the pet. But black pets just don't photograph as well as their lighter counterparts, so they're usually overlooked. Poor animal shelter lighting doesn't do their beauty much justice, large shadows hide their features, and obviously... the black mixed breeds look very much the same in pictures. 

And so, the brown-and-white spotted pup is adopted. The black dogs are still waiting...

Pepsi & I
There are several other theories for Black Dog Syndrome. As a society, many perceive black as "bad" and white as "good." Black cats are less adoptable due to associations with witchcraft and bringing bad luck, and black dogs seem dark and evil to many. Some would say that the color black just scares people.

In kill shelters... the black dogs don't stay as long... because they're among the first to be killed. Shelter euthanasia decisions are based on adoptability. Most black dogs are considered "unadoptable," and so, they're almost always the first to die. It's sad. It's heartbreaking. It's wrong. But it's true.

If you don't like it, adopt a black dog. I did. His name is Riley. He's awesome.

In no-kill animal shelters, black dogs are usually the last to be adopted. And they know it. They smile... while the families come through to adopt a dog. They hold out hope... even though the adopters never notice them. They watch... as the other pups leave for their new homes. 

And when the adopters are gone, the black dogs just curl-up in the corner of their kennels. In truth, they knew they never had a chance. The families who came through yesterday didn't pick them. Neither did any of the families before that. Never noticed. Never different. Never special. Still confined to a shelter cage, the black dog accepts his fate: "I'm never going home."

Pepsi & Freddy
I've watched this happen time and time again with the black dogs here at Lucky Dog Rescue. Pepsi has been overlooked for more than 2 years now. Freddy has been waiting for nearly 1 year. Liberty has lived with me since June 2010, and Lucy has been holding out hope since January. The others come and go... the black dogs stay for years

In my head, I know the reason why... but in my heart, I just can't understand it. 

Today is "Black Monday, " as Pet Pardons celebrates all of the black animal shelter pets with a day just for them. Today, we want to say: You are special. You are beautiful. You are deserving of life.  

Each day, thousands of black pets die in shelters across the country. Please, help us save them. Join Pet Pardons today for "Black Monday!" CLICK HERE TO JOIN PET PARDONS!


Shelter Dog Smiles

To see a smile on a dog's face -- a dog who's never had a reason to smile in his whole life -- and to know that his smile is now there, because of you... there's no better feeling on Earth. That's animal rescue.
Today, a dog waits in an animal shelter. He is waiting... for you. Maybe you can't adopt a dog today. But can you love a dog today? Can you give an hour of your time to walk a dog today? Can you give just a few minutes to make a dog smile today? 
What if YOU are his only chance to matter today? Are you too busy to give that to him? Today could be his last... and love is his final request. You are all he wants... a smile is all he needs. 
But sadly... he doesn't expect you-- or anyone --to come for him today. He doesn't expect to smile today... smiles live only in his heart. He doesn't expect to get walked today... walks exist only in his dreams
He doesn't expect to be noticed today... he's never been noticed before. He doesn't expect to feel special today... he's never been special before. He doesn't expect to matter today... he's never mattered before.
He doesn't expect you to give him love... but he loves you anyway. He doesn't expect you to give a kiss... but he'd kiss you either way. He doesn't expect you to take him home... but he still hopes it's his day.
A dog waits in an animal shelter today. He doesn't know it's his last day to live. He knows only the dreams in his heart... dreams that have never come true. Today... on his last day... a walk would make the difference for him. Today, your love would make it okay... your smile would heal his pain. And on his last day... for just a little while... maybe he could smile, too.
If you've never experienced that feeling, of making a smileless dog smile, I challenge you to get involved TODAY. I challenge you to take an hour of your time and volunteer for your local animal shelter or dog rescue group. Walk a rescue dog... a dog who may not get walked today... if not for you. Give love to a shelter dog... a dog who may not have love today... if not for you
Today, I challenge you to make a shelter dog smile. 
If you can't volunteer, I challenge you to foster a dog. I challenge you to open your home and your heart to a dog who will die without you. I challenge you to give me one good reason why your life is more important than their's.
If nothing else, I challenge you to donate to animals in need. If you need to find a charity, I've got one for ya right here. I challenge you to give something... anything... that will provide these deserving dogs with the chance to smile. 
Today, a dog waits in an animal shelter. He is waiting... for you. I challenge you to make a difference. Please, help him smile today.
*Dedicated in memory of all the shelter dogs who never got their chance to smile.