Friday, April 15, 2011

The Lost Dogs

This was an outfit that ended up being very different from where it started out, and far different (and more casual) than I initially imagined it would be. It was really comfy though, and thankfully Georgie showed up to accessorize me. Too bad I couldn't take her with me to work; I thought she really made the outfit.

Tank: All Saints
Cardigan: Anthropologie
Jeans: Joe's
Shoes: Faryl Robin
Bangles: Amrita Singh

While we're (sort of) on the topic of dogs, and pit bulls in particular, I thought I'd discuss the book I just finished reading, The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant. It tells the story of Michael Vick's dogs, who were seized from his dog fighting operation and subsequently rescued and in most cases rehabilitated. The first part of the book is terribly sad and horrific, covering the brutality and mistreatment that the dogs endured. If you were ever a fan of, or were even indifferent to Michael Vick, you'll thoroughly despise him after reading this book. In my mind there's really no punishment harsh enough for people who are cruel to animals. There's a special place in hell for monsters like Michael Vick.

However, the second half of the book focuses on the dogs, and the multitude of compassionate and committed people who made their rescue possible. This is the part of the book that really restores faith in humankind; I only wish there were more people out there who could see past pit bulls' bad reputation, and who cared about helping these amazing animals. Many of the Vick dogs went on to be successfully adopted by loving families, some became therapy dogs working with hospital patients, and one is used to help children learn how to read. Far from being aggressive, most of the Vick dogs were fearful and withdrawn, but in time they came to trust people and learn the things that come naturally to a pet dog: playing with toys, jumping up on the couch, engaging each other in play. Dogs, and especially pit bulls, are truly resilient creatures.

PBS did a story covering many of the highlights of The Lost Dogs as well as some of the people and dogs involved. Grab a kleenex, and click to watch.
Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Pit bulls were once a favorite companion breed, renowned for their loyalty and sweetness, but in recent years they've become the latest in a long line of breeds that have suffered from hype and bad press. According to The Lost Dogs, the bloodhound was the most feared breed in the early nineteenth century; after that it was the German Shepherd, and with the rise of the Nazis it became the Doberman pinscher. These days it's the pit bull, in part because their stamina and determination make them attractive targets for exploitation by drug dealers and dog fighters, and the resulting overbreeding, neglect and abuse leads to more dogs that are unsocialized and fearful of humans. In truth, pit bulls are naturally wonderful dogs; intelligent, fun loving, and deeply attached to humans. They've got boundless energy but are also consummate couch potatoes and expert snugglers; they are clever and are easily engaged by puzzles and thinking games, but they also love physical play and roughhousing.

We call Georgie the solar-powered dog; here she is recharging.

Georgie is a pit mix (mixed with what I don't know), and was also a rescue; I got her from a family who had found her as a badly beat up stray and was fostering her. She's the best little companion you can imagine, and Mark and I absolutely adore her. When I first got her she definitely had a lot of fear issues from whatever she endured before she was rescued, but she's a very confident and happy dog now; in fact she probably gets sick of all the affection we heap on her every day. I never get tired of hearing her grunt with satisfaction when she snuggles up with us on the couch, seeing her roll over on her back when she wants her belly rubbed, or feeling her velvety soft face next to mine. I feel truly blessed to have Georgie in my life, and I cherish every single minute I get to spend with her. I can't imagine what sort of a person could be cruel to these sweet, loving dogs.

If you love animals, The Lost Dogs is a tough book to read and one that inspires a lot of tears, but ultimately the outcome is uplifting. It's easy to pretend that things like dog fighting and animal abuse don't exist if you're not exposed to them, so reading this story is a harsh but necessary reminder that the problem is far from being solved. There's still a lot of work to do, from raising funds for rescue organizations to rehabilitating abused dogs, or just giving one animal a much-needed loving home. If you're interested in volunteer work or rescuing a pit bull, please check with the following organizations:

Pit Bull Rescue Central (lists shelters by location)
BAD RAP (this wonderful Bay Area group was one of the key organizations involved in rescuing Vick's dogs)
Out of the Pits
Bull911 (advocacy group)
Pit Bull Lovers (lists rescue organizations)
Recycle-A-Bull Rescue
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (took in many of Vick's dogs and rehabilitated them)

And here are a couple more things you should check out:
Please share your thoughts and ideas, or if you have an organization or more reading to recommend, leave a link!


Beth said...

I love pitties! They are the sweetest, most loving goofballs I've ever met :)

I just found your blog recently and I'm really enjoying myself. Thank you for sharing your fashion eye and ideas with us! And yes, Georgie DOES make the outfit :)

Glammourmama2 said...

Thank you for your post and educating people about pit bulls. I have a pit bull we adopted and she is the sweetest most loving dog ever. She loves everyone she meets and just adores children. I read that in past times they were actually used to watch and protect the children while their parents worked on the farms. It is so true every few years there is a new "bad dog" that is given a bad rap by the media, Dobermans now Pit's. We call our Pit"The Love Dog" because she truly is.

Glammourmama2 said...

P.S Georgie is such a cutie! I love her coloring. Here is an interesting read about dogs. "Inside of a Dog" what Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz

Nicki said...

Georgie is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous.
I've always been a rescue gal. I can't stand blanket breed bans or prejudice. Mine is half German Shepherd, and I meet landlords and passerbys who are convinced he's going to leap up and bite them. In reality, he'd probably leap up and lick them.

Cindy said...

Georgie posed so beautifully with you, and the smile you have while scratching her ears in the last pic is GORGEOUS. :)

Megan G said...

I may or may not be blubbering after watching that video. I love pits and think they're wonderful dogs. My grandparents fostered a rough looking pit who turned out to be the biggest sweetest baby.

EvaNadine said...

my brother owns a pitbull-rottie, and she single-pawedly cemented my love for bully breeds. i wish people were more educated about them.

another really great organization that works to help pitties is Pinups for Pitbulls:

what better than a mixture of retro fashion and amazing dogs?

Jean said...

I love the photo of Georgie taking in the sun, absolutely gorgeous.

It's interesting how dogs' popularity changes over years. In this country the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a terrible press, but I've always found them to be very playful, affectionate dogs. As one dog owner said to be recently, it's not the dogs - it's the owners that are the problems.

Gracey the Giant said...

Wonderful post, Audi. I am a huge fan of pit bulls. My brother has a pit bull named Bodi and he is the best dog ever. He's huge though and people are afraid of him when they shouldn't be because pits have such a horrible rep.

Kim said...

One of the first posts of yours I saw had your gorgeous pittie it in. I loved the outfits but also love to support people who also love pitbulls. I've done pitbull rescue for years, fostering and placement. By and large the folks I get who want them are wonderful people who open minded enough to understand the pitbull type dog is not the devil incarnate sent to eat your small children. Here's another great site that lists lots of information and more about BSL.

And another amazing rescue

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I fell in love with pitties when I moved in with a friend who had one. She was the sweetest dog who loved to cuddle, whip smart with a huge personality! I've been a convert ever since. Your pup is absolutely adorable (and I really like your outfit, too!).

Suzanne said...

Georgie is so cute! We adopted a pittie mix too and Ben surprises us every day with how funny and amazing he is. The kids--all the kids in the hood actually--love him and he adores them. He had fear issues with men when he came but now he is more relaxed and even has other doggie buddies! Benny is so adored and we cannot imagine life without him. Kinda like Georgie!

Megan said...

I tried to read the Lost Dogs but I'd start crying and couldn't stop. I'm glad that the second half is more uplifting.

I agree that people who abuse animals are pure evil. Laws need to be changed to make punishments much more severe so people don't pay a fine or get probation for treating animals badly.

Allison said...

Thank you for posting this. You're right, there is a special place in hell for the a$$holes who abuse animals. I loved the PBS clip!

Alison said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. I love powerful breeds, they can be so sweet and loving. I'm writing with my Bullmastiff laying with her head on my feet. The only reason she's on the floor is because her brother(my Frenchie)is hogging the couch next to me. Dogs are really special. Thank you for including more pictures of Georgie, she's such a cutie!

Sheila said...

Although I'm not a dog person, I do love animals and agree that people who abuse them are the lowest form of life. Your Georgie is lovely and sweet.

Oh, and great casual outfit!

Tina said...

Audi--thanks so much for posting this! My dog Lucy is a pit mix. She was found tied to a tree in a fairly isolated area. She was extremely underweight and she was so scared and consequently would lash out at anything that frightened her (which was everything!)I was so pissed when President Obama acknowledged Michael Vick and saw him as an example of someone who could be rehabilitated. If Michael Vick thought he could get away with it, he would keep doing it. I wrote the President telling him how disappointed I was that he made Vick a role model. Lucy is getting better, but still has trust issues.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your post. I have a dog that we got from the Humane Society in Georgia. Although she is not a pit-bull you know she had been abused. It took her almost 6 months to trust my husband, so we figured it was a male. I am definetly going to read this book, with kleenex close by as you recommended. The link was very well done and interesting. I had heard about all Vick story, being in the suburbs of Atlanta, but I didn't know about what happened to the dogs. I am so happy that there are people out there who care and believe in dogs just like people.

Anonymous said...

We got our last 2 dogs from a shelter & they both were grateful every single day. My daughter now has a rescued St. Bernard that's as sweet as any dog you'd ever meet. When we're ready for another dog, we'll be going to the shelter or a rescue organization again.

You can find multiple rescue organizations for essentially any breed of dog you're interested in, using an internet search. Which only underscores the sad fact that too many people get dogs they can't or won't take care of properly.


Mrsmandymoo said...

I haven't been reading your blog long enough to have seen Georgie before, and wouldnt have immediately identified her as a pitty anyway.. but thanks for this post.
Im a long term dog lover, and 100% agree with what you say. Dogs get a bad rap, and in Australia in the 80s I remember GSDs having a bad rep.
They can be right sooks! I have an ancient english staffordshire bull terrier (who used to grunt all the time, so cute) and I have a young golden retriever, who is less friendly than the staffy was, but people have always judged the staffy, but the goldy is 'cute'.
I think he is anyway... LOL but the point is that the staffy was 100% people friendly and predictable, where as the goldy is a bit unpredictable.
I dont even know if I can read this book...LOL. I couldnt even watch Marley and Me. the book for that reduces me to tears and its mostly a happy story.
thank you for standing there for the rest of us and educating people about dogs.

Lauren said...

I love that you are "out" about having a pit mutt. My pupper looks a LOT like Georgie and I always end up evaluating my audience before I say she's a pit mutt vs "we just don't know" or "border collie something something." Though, sometimes it is fun to talk about her pit-ness to confuse more conventional folks for whom it is incongruous ...

Anyway, yes, Georgie is super cute and I love the pic of her in the sun. Puppy powering up!!

Emma at Daily Clothes Fix said...

Fabulous post Audi. I am actually quite scared of dogs in general (I had a bad experience when I was 3) but my neighbours have a pitbull and he is one of the sweetest, daftest dogs I have ever met.

Jessica Adkisson said...

Thanks for this post Audi! I was always scared of dogs, because of a terrifying experience (to a five year old me) with a German Shephard. Several years ago, a friend asked me to temporarily house two dogs, a pit mix and a little terrier mix. I loved that Pit (her name was Angel) at first site. She was the sweetest, smartest and cutest dog I'd ever seen; and she literally changed my life for the better. I ended up giving back the terrier, and keeping the Pit. Until she was stolen (a very sad day) I loved that dog more than I'd loved and cherished anything in my life. :) Thanks to thank experience I'm now a dog lover! They don't scare me anymore!

Andrea said...

Hi Audi,

Great shoes and great post!

I'm a dog trainer in Seattle, WA. We see a lot of dogs with a lot of problems, many of them rescues (though not all!). While each breed has it's own idiosyncrasies and challenges Pit Bulls are really just dogs like all other dogs. Not monsters, not super killers. Just dogs.

My studio works with Bullseye Dog Rescue. They are a Pit Bull specific rescue and bar none my favorite rescue of any breed. They do a great job vetting the dogs, placing their dogs into wonderful homes and following up with adoptive families. I can't say enough good things about Bullseye Dog Rescue ( )

Anonymous said...

A Rotta Love Plus in Minnesota! We work only with rotties and pit bulls. Currently my pit bull is therapy dog certified and I have a pit bull as a foster dog. ARLP does a ton of community outreach and education work, in addition to all of the normal fostering rescue work. We also have a pretty large group of therapy dogs as well, so we've started really building our therapy program.

There's also Gemini Pit Bull Rescue in Minnesota.

Audi said...

It's great to see all the love and support for pitties and other bully breeds, and especially all the people who have adopted dogs or are involved in rescue efforts. You're all heroes in my book! Thanks for all the links, too, everyone -- keep 'em coming!

Katie said...

I also have a rescued pit mix (click on my name to see her pic). She is a fearful dog, though that has improved in the two years I have had her. Unfortunately, she is still aggressive with other dogs. Is that something you dealt with, too? I just try to keep her away from other dogs now. But off leash dogs come up to us on a regular basis, so I don't have complete control over it.

Unknown said...

Have you heard about the book "Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love"? I haven't read it, but read an article about it a few months ago. That was enough to make me cry...even though this story too has a happy ending. Here's the Amazon link:

Audi said...

Katie: Yes, Georgie has had issues with other dogs and although she’s still working on it, she’s significantly better than she was at first. The single thing that’s helped the most has been working with an experienced trainer who specializes in pitties; if you don’t already have one, I would definitely recommend it. If you’re in the Bay Area I can recommend a couple of people, otherwise check with your local pit bull rescue organization and they can probably recommend someone. Even one short session can help a lot if you have multiple issues, which is likely the case with a fearful dog.

The key is really in understanding why your dog behaves the way she does. Dogs are not naturally aggressive towards other dogs; in fact their strong pack instinct drives them to be just the opposite. But other influences, such as being trained to be a fighting dog, being used as a bait dog, or just being neglected and not socialized can cause them to become fearful of other dogs. The problem is that when facing a perceived threat, dogs have only 2 possible responses: fight or flight. Since a dog on a leash doesn’t have the option of flight, it lashes out at the threat in what to us seems like aggression. But if you think about it, it doesn’t really make much sense that an otherwise fearful dog would suddenly become a big bully when dealing with other dogs; the response is driven entirely by fear.

The trick then is to make the situation less stressful for your dog and encourage her not to be afraid. She looks to you for guidance on how to behave, so in part her response will be driven by your reaction. If you’ve had nasty dog-dog interactions in the past, it’s likely that you’ll respond either by pulling her in the other direction or slowing down; either of these can convey to your dog that the situation poses a threat. So for your own behavior it’s a fake it til you make it approach; act happy, confident, and don’t change your pace when you approach another dog. Act like it’s something to be excited about; use your most animated voice, the same as you’d use when you’re encouraging play. Don’t be shy about acting like a total idiot, either; the more exaggerated, the better. You really want your dog to pick up a happy fun vibe.

Reinforce this with your dog by offering her lots of treats (it helps if she’s hungry when you take her out): if she even sees another dog across the street, pop a treat in her mouth and praise her. If you walk past another dog, jam treats into her mouth as you walk by to keep her mind occupied on something positive (it takes a little practice to coordinate walking and offering treats, and you should offer the treats flat-handed if your dog is prone to nipping at other dogs; you don’t want her nipping your hand by accident). Once you’re past, give her lots of praise and affection, even if she didn’t behave like a perfect lady. Try not to scold her for her reaction, because this only reinforces the idea that other dogs = bad. Over time, she will come to associate other dogs with praise and rewards, and they’ll cease to be a scary threat.

I hope this helps get you started. Best of luck to you and your sweet pittie!

Audi said...

Carrie: Oh boy, I'm already teary-eyed just reading the book description. Thanks for the recommendation!

Gretchen said...

You get lots and lots of love for this. And good karma. :) I always try to advocate the breed, they're such sweet hearts!

Katie said...

Thanks for the tips! Actually, she only gets aggressive if she is allowed to play with other dogs. And yes, if I react to an off leash dog approaching us. I freak b/c I can't break up a fight by myself, so if the owner is nowhere to be found, yeah she reacts to my response then. I stopped letting her have any contact with my friends' dogs after play turned to fighting more than once and she drew blood.

Audi said...

Katie: You're welcome! There is a nontoxic citronella spray that is supposed to be very effective in breaking up dog fights. It might be a good idea to carry it with you when you're likely to encounter off-leash dogs, for peace of mind if nothing else.