Huff Post #PitBull Week

When you hear “pit bull”, what’s the first thing you think of? Lock jaw? Kids being attacked? Dog fighting? Well, I believe that those descriptions are wrong. Instead, you should think of love, loyalty, obedience, and hearts bigger than their goofy heads!

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This beautiful dog, is @fernthepitbull on instagram, follow her to see all the amazing work she does in the community.

The number of dogs that are euthanized in shelters every year is in the millions. A vast majority of those are pit bulls. Every day, thousands of pit bulls are put to sleep because of the American public’s media fueled false perception that they are a bad breed of dog. Stop for a moment and ask yourself – have you ever met one? If so, did it attack you? My guess is no. The reason behind that is because they are not monsters by nature. In fact, pit bulls used to be referred to as “nanny dogs” because they would often be left with children and babies to protect them. They are fiercely loyal and protective and would alert the parents if anything was wrong. So, when and why did all of this change?

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This is Bugsy, protecting his Beagle sister.

Unfortunately, the media has exposed dog fighting rings and often times they show images of barking, manic looking pit bulls. It then leads to other stories of dog attacks and once again the pit bull is to blame. For the record, I grew up with a toy poodle named Rocky. He weighed 10 lbs. when his hair was grown in. He used to bite me on the hands and snap at me when I wasn’t paying attention.  He would growl at you when you walked too closely to him. But, you would never hear of something like that on television because it doesn’t make for good TV! If it were up to me, I would have had a pit growing up. However, I lived in Miami and it has been deemed illegal to possess a pit bull.

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Would you ever be scared of this little fluff ball?

Dade County isn’t the only place to ban pits.  In the link below, you will see a map of all the states or cities where pitties are banned:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/06/bsl-map_n_7216190.html. Simply put, pit bulls will be put to sleep just for being born the way they are. It has nothing to do with temperament or age. What if it was your dog? What if they came and said that all labs, retrievers, or shepherds were bad and they were going to be put to sleep? How would you feel if your particular dog did nothing wrong? It’s heartbreaking to think about. Taking these dogs off the streets and out of loving homes does not make the world a safer place. It’s a matter of educating the public that pit bulls happen to make great pets.

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Pit bulls are not born mean and aggressive. In fact, pit bull puppies happen to be some of the cutest, squishiest and cuddliest pups around. Why anyone would want to fight them and mistreat them is beyond me. The reason that pit bulls become mean and aggressive is because of the owners. On the flip side, some of these amazing animals are turned into something far worse than a mean and aggressive dog. They are made into bait dogs for others to attack and train on. However, even after these dogs are mutilated, mistreated, and sometimes left for dead, they possess a heart of gold. If you have ever seen a dog fighting ring rescue, you know that it is one of the most amazing sights. These rescuers come in and the dogs wag their tails and have nothing but love and compassion.

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Have you ever seen anything cuter than the face above?

Here is an example of what can happen to a bait dog: http://fox43.com/2015/05/21/the-dog-without-a-nose-local-rescue-saves-pit-bull/ In this case, incredible humans stepped in to help. But, sadly, this is not always the case.

These dogs don’t exist to indulge sick and twisted individuals who want to see them fight. They are here because they are loving and loyal friends who are just misunderstood.

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This sweet boy is Kiko.  He was protecting his owner during a home invasion.  Kiko got shot in the head during this and sadly he is still looking for his home and someone to love.  If this is you please contact me ASAP.

Please check out this HuffPost article on the #PitBullWeek project. It helps reinforce why it is so important to have people recognize the true beauty of these incredible dogs.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arin-greenwood/pit-bull-myths_b_5623555.html

I am currently in the process of working on a pit bull project in the New York area with Mighty Mutts Dog Rescue.  If you are in NYC, have a pit bull, and would like to be featured, please contact me at dogsofnycphoto@gmail.com

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Please help spread the word about pit bulls! The millions of them in shelters need advocates and voices more than ever!

A Plea for Kiko

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Kiko stole my heart.  The minute I met him, I was won over.  That is what he tends to do when people meets them, he makes them fall in love.  Yet no one has fallen enough in love with this sweet hero to take him home.

BarkPost just posted an article about this sweet boy as well.  How is it that so many outlets are writing about this dog, and begging to find him a home. Help me, Mighty Mutts, and BarkPost find not only Kiko, but the other dogs out there a home too.  To see the article about Kiko head over to http://barkpost.com/hero-barkbuddy-shot-head/

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While working with Mighty Mutts over the summer, Kiko was one of my favorite dogs to photograph.  There he was, every Saturday, with a smile on his face, waiting and hoping that the next person that pet his head was his forever.  That still has not happened.

Kiko’s backstory is incredible, and will make you fall in love before you even meet him.  Kiko is a fourteen year old bulldog mix who made the news about two years ago.  At the age of 12, Kiko sprang into action to protect his dad from a home invasion.  During this heroic he was shot at point blank in the head. Miraculously, he survived and is now fully recovered despite having lost his hearing. Unfortunately, since then, his dad fell on some hard times and was unable to continue caring for him. Now, this hero dog needs to find someone who can be his hero and give him the best life has to offer for his remaining years. Kiko is a gentle boy who needs a quiet home where he can spend the rest of his life just being loved and taken care of. He is believed to be deaf so he will need an owner who understands his needs and is patient He is neutered, housebroken, and well mannered, but due to his experiences, it is preferred that he is the only animal in the house.

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Now it is our turn.  It is our turn to be a hero to Kiko.  It is our turn to share, post, tweet, and talk, to get the word out there about Kiko.  It is our turn to find him a loving and incredible home for him to spend the rest of his life in.  It is our turn to protect him.  If you know of anyone who would make the perfect home for Kiko, please reach out to Mighty Mutts.  And please come meet him and all the other amazing dogs, every Saturday on the corner of Union Square.

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Vanessa and Izzy

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As is the case with many of the owners that I interviewed for this project, Vanessa is a devoted Mighty Mutts volunteer. In 2007, she was enrolled in Animal Behavior College’s dog training program. Part of the requirement was to volunteer at a shelter/rescue organization. Her mentor and trainer, Kate Perry (www.kateperrydogtraining.com), introduced her to Mighty Mutts. She’s been helping out there ever since.

After a few years with the organization, and falling in love with countless dogs, she met Izzy.  Izzy came to Mighty Mutts after Kathy Galloti saw her wandering on the streets in Brooklyn and decided it was up to her to take action. “I remember that morning so clear,” Kathy said. “Everyone was saying she was loose, but no one was doing anything about it. I happened to have my dog’s leash in my bag because he was at the vet, so I got down in a squat and called to her.” Kathy was surprised that she came over since she thought that Izzy was an outdoor, stray based on her shaggy coat. “She didn’t have a collar, so I had to use the leash as a lasso. She was afraid to walk with me and she tried to slip out of the lasso several times.”

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Kathy walked Izzy over to the local vet, but there was no ER clinic. So, she called John over at Mighty Mutts and met him at a vet in Bensonhurst where she turned Izzy over to him and the organization. “I would have taken her in myself,” said Kathy, “but at the time I already had four dogs and many cats.” John understood, and took Izzy inside. “That was the last I saw of her.” After being cleared by the vet, John introduced Izzy to Mighty Mutts. But, according to Vanessa, there was something different about this dog. She had never known a dog to act so aloof and disengaged when it came to any type of human interaction. She decided that this was a dog she needed to foster and rehabilitate in order to prepare her for a forever home. Timing was everything according to Vanessa. “When the last recession hit, I was home a lot more and realized I could probably foster a dog.”

Once she got Izzy home, there were definitely some challenges. “She was a little skittish. She was scared of men, loud noises, balloons, skateboards, etc. She would bark at all of these even though they are very common in New York.” Within a few weeks, however, Vanessa began to notice a change in Izzy. She began to calm down and be more trusting of humans, especially Vanessa. Little did she know that the attraction would grow so strong that even the thought of giving her up to a new family would tug so hard at her heartstrings. Izzy soon became the first dog that Vanessa could call her own. So, how is Izzy doing now? “She is comfortable 99% of the time.” According to Vanessa. “She is the true definition of man’s best friend.” In fact, she has come to love men now, especially the doormen in Vanessa’s building who are always there to give Izzy love. “She has truly grown so much.”

Growing up, all of Vanessa’s pets were either rescued or adopted. But Izzy is the first dog that she has had on her own. Now, she says that she cannot remember her life before Izzy and doesn’t want to imagine it without her. “Izzy is my baby girl. There could not have been a better match for me. I feel like Izzy chose me and not the other way around.” When asked how adopting Izzy has impacted her life, Vanessa said that “on any given day, no matter what it brings, I know I will go home to a warm welcome from Izzy. She greets me the same way each and every day. She is waiting at the door with her tail wagging and beaming with excitement.

She runs around the apartment wiggling and we play. I am reminded each day that this beautiful, gentle, and soulful creature relies on me, and only me.” Vanessa says that this mutual dependency on one another is what keeps her going even when she is exhausted. “If she wants to play, or if it is the middle of the night and she wakes me up because she needs to go out, I remember most of all how much she gives me in return.” She would do anything for Izzy. In fact, she is about to sign Izzy up at Water 4 Dogs to get her swimming and exercising to hopefully help with a thyroid condition. “Izzy has made me laugh and has made me forget about the day’s worries the minute I walk in the door for the past five years.” She gives Vanessa so much joy and is a constant reminder of how rewarding this whole experience has been. I asked Vanessa if she would ever do this again: “1000%. I would adopt again and again.”

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I asked Vanessa about Mighty Mutts and how their process works. Since she has been a volunteer for a number of years, she knows firsthand that Mighty Mutts (and Ollie’s Place) have a rigorous process set in place to make sure that each and every animal finds their forever home. “Mighty Mutts does a thorough screening process to assess that each individual animal is the best fit for each home. Other rescues may give animals to people on the spot without asking them the right questions. We have a questionnaire, phone interview and home visit(s). If the home has children or other animals, it is specifically addressed during one or more home visits. We check balconies and windows and ask about lifestyle and work schedules.” She says that the questions are asked in a way that truly strives to assess if the animal will be cared for now and in the future. Unfortunately, the screening process cannot account for the unforeseen circumstances that sometimes happen.

During her time at Mighty Mutts, Vanessa has seen adoptions not work. The difference between Mighty Mutts and other organizations, according to Vanessa, is that “the Mighty Mutts adoption paperwork states that if the adopter, for any reason, has to give the animal up, he or she must return the animal back to Mighty Mutts.” Vanessa said thatshe has heard of many places that refuse to take animals back, even if it is just after a day. Vanessa could recall at least two occasions where she has seen dogs come back after being with families for years. “Mighty Mutts took them back with open arms and made sure to work tirelessly to rehome them.”

Vanessa had one more thing to add about John, the founder of Mighty Mutts: “John cares about these animals and their well- being like no one I have ever seen. This man has dedicated his life and heart to all the animals that need him. I feel blessed to know him. He is a true hero.”

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Vanessa…To Izzy, you’re a hero. And it seems as if in some way, she has saved you too.

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Not Tested On Animals!

For almost three years now I have been cruelty-free.  When I learned about the horrors of animal testing, I made an immediate lifestyle change. For the record, I am not trying to upset anyone with this post. I feel that if more people were aware of this information, maybe things will change in the future.

A little back story: I had a beautiful, blue Beagle before my French Bulldog.  When I first got her, I became aware of this wonderful organization called the Beagle Freedom Project (www.beaglefreedomproject.org).  They rescue laboratory Beagles, who are sweet innocent dogs that have spent their whole lives in a crate to be used as living test creatures for the benefits of our make-up products, conditioner and home cleaning products.  I will not go into detail about the foundation here, but if you would like to learn more, please visit their website.  Since I have learned about the nightmare that is animal testing, I will not use a single product that has been tested on animals.  In the beginning it seemed impossible, but now there are so many apps like Buycott and Cruelty Cutter where you scan the product and it tells you if it is tested on animals.  They are a great, easy way to go cruelty free.

Now for my pitch:  This may not be for you or something you are able to do, but there is one thing I ask you to take a minute to do:  Click on the link here (http://www.beaglefreedomproject.org/life_after_labs) and it will help you automatically generate a letter to your local congressman/congresswomen to encourage them to sign up and help give those poor, innocent lab dogs a second chance at life after the one they never should have had in the first place.

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