The Healing Process of Two Very Misunderstood Dogs



  September 28, 2010. Papa, the dog that brought out an emotion in me I have been successful in keeping at bay; came to us by way of the dedicated and caring staff at Town Lake Animal Shelter. As you may have read in his first blog, Papa’s situation, like many others I have worked with in the last 23 years was that of severe abuse and neglect. Judging by the wounds he suffered, it is likely Papa was used as a “bait” dog. Papa received an out-pouring of support from our clients and the public that read his story. As a thank you to all of you, I wanted to update everyone on his progress four months later.

  Today, Papa, my special little man, is happily living with our pack. He still makes me melt when he comes up and places his head on my lap. He helps clients, kids and other dogs everyday by working sessions with me and going to communities to talk about the cruelty of dog fighting. He sits in on our Seminars to educate the public on the real truth behind this breed, stealing affection by anyone willing to give it to him. Best of all, he fills me with the answer as to why I work so hard to help in this field when it feels impossible to make a difference. I just need to look at how much love and thankfulness he has in his eyes, as he curls up next to me while at my desk or in my recliner. The eagerness to do anything I ask of him, the concerned look he gets if I am feeling stressed. Papa reminds me every minute of the day that as bad as it gets I have to keep fighting for them.

This is a photo of how much Papa has changed in the last four months.

progression of papas scar healing

  December 30, 2010. Captain, an emaciated badly injured American Bulldog was brought to us to avoid being killed in a Texas shelter. You may remember his story; he had been the victim of a dog fight. Forced to put his life in danger for money or status of his owners, but he lost. To show their gratitude, his old owners left him abandoned to die from starvation or his injuries, which ever happened first? Thankfully Captain had been picked up by Animal Control and brought to the shelter, where many people came together to help this guy have a chance to live the life he like so many, deserve.

  It has only been four weeks since Captain came to us, his paw half missing, completely starved. He has, just like Papa, made leaps and bounds in his recovery. He has shown nothing but a tremendous amount of love and affection to any human willing to give it to him. He patiently stands for his paw to be covered with a plastic bag before each of his 4-5 walks and then continues to stand afterwards for it to be soaked and have the “Healing Gel” applied. He walks with other dogs every day showing no aggression, he quietly waits in his kennel during classes or sessions and wags his tail every time a client approaches. At his last vet visit, a child came up to him and he immediately placed himself into a surrendering position (on his side) so she could pet him. He did manage to sneak some gentle kisses in to thank her for petting him.

   Originally it was thought he would lose his leg due to the injuries he suffered, but with the “Healing Gel” and constant treatments, he gets to keep his leg. Here is the progression in just four short weeks: progression of healing in paw

  Both of these truly amazing dogs were almost killed after human’s forced them to a life of torture. I personally would ask that everyone involved or not with Papa and Captain’s rehabilitation, thank your local shelter staff for the endless love and compassion they have for the massive amounts of animals in their care.

  Papa, Captain and I would like to thank Frances, at “Frogworks” for her amazing healing gel, Christina with “Skillful Paws” for her amazing talent with massage and acupressure, the staff at Town Lake Animal Center, Waco Humane, and all of the dedicated clients, volunteers and friends that have helped us in our successful journey to the healing process of two very “misunderstood” dogs. We can never thank you enough!

If you would like to help us in their medical care, please click on thier names below for their Chip in funds. Thank you again.



Still think “Pit Bulls” are dangerous?

Watch out, it’s a “Pit Bull”. I hear this so many times it makes me insane. This blog is for all the people out there that continue to say this breed is dangerous.

   picture of captain his first vet visit 

  I received an email from our friends up in Waco Shelter, regarding a dog that they had come in to their care yesterday. The email was a call for help as he is labeled a “pit bull” and has horrendous wound to his front paw. Of course we are not a rescue group and as much as I state I will not take any more in, how can I let this guy be killed because he is injured and a certain breed? I can’t. So out goes the call to say we will take him and get him back on his feet-pun not intended. 

  The employee that contacted us is one of the bully friendliest people you could hope for in a shelter environment.  She fights to help them just as we do, against all obstacles thrown at her due to breed prejudice and policies. Make no mistake; her job is a tougher one because we know she cannot help them all; as much as she fights, more will come in- same old story for all shelter systems.  The difference here, she stands up for the breeds that immediately are set to be killed. My hat is off to her and I am very thankful our bullies have someone like her in the shelter. She even went the extra mile-many miles- to transport half way to us and stop at her vet on the way. The picture to the right tells how badly injured he is, and how gentle he is regardless of the pain. <Fallon, you are a true hero.>

  The transport pulled up at 11:30 on the dot- they are good that way J– and greeted me full of tears. They are clients of mine and two very big hearted people always looking to help our four legged friends just as much as we are. They had been crying because of the injuries this dog had endured and they were touched by how affectionate and happy he was to be around humans even after suffering like this.  Yes, this sounds familiar; this case immediately touches me because only a few months ago I had the same feeling when I met Papa.  < But these are “pit bulls”! Aren’t we supposed to be afraid they will “rip our faces off without warning?  > After a very teary goodbye, the transporters left us with the reminder that not all humans are as cruel as the person responsible for Captain’s wounds. They even went out and bought him his first toy and –even though the economy has been tough on them, like so many others- they donated a gift card towards his vet care. Yes there are true compassionate people still out there, thank you Brandi and Mike.

  Yes, he has a name. The shelter dubbed him Captain Hook. I can’t call him Captain Hook, just because Hook was mean, so we are shortening his name to Captain J– I am weird like that.

  So after getting a real time look at his wounds – and feeling sick to my stomach that someone could be so cruel- I realize this boy’s story may be more similar to Papa than I thought originally. No I do not think he was a bait dog, but I do think he was a fighting dog. He has the telltale scars all over his face and front legs, a deep puncture over his eye, as well as in his mouth, and he had an abscess puncture wound on his “good” leg. Yet walking into the Center he showed no signs of aggression towards the dogs. No signs of aggression towards every human that touched him. But isn’t this the breed so many in the media and politics say are born killers? Have we been lied to? You decide.



  This is what this poor guy is dealing with; the pain this must be causing, I cannot imagine.






 This is what we will have to do multiple times a day until we can find a vet open to possibly take off his leg. Sorry the pictures are so graphic, but as you can see he is missing half his paw and throughout the soaking and cleaning he remained sweet and tolerant



  Fast forward 3 hours. My awesome best friend – and a fabulous canine acupressure/massage practioner, Christina from Skillful Paws, took time on her much needed day off, to come down and do a session with him.






He obviously appreciated it.


 So what is the point of this story? I mean we see and hear about abuse all the time in the media, on TV. What makes this any different? This is a dog that suffered because of a human- for enjoyment, status or money, could have been killed because of human fear and prejudice; but was saved because there are still humans out there that have enough love and compassion to stand up and say, “Enough”.  If this story makes one person realize anyone can make a difference, then that is enough to save one more dog. Maybe it will become contagious, maybe more people will look and see that this breed is not the monsters they are said to be, but true masters of forgiveness. Maybe.
 Please hug your furbabies often, there are so many dogs that never get a chance to experience true compassion and love.





What Makes Papa Different?

photo of Papa a bait dog

  It is a heartless, cold and yet a scary reality that shelter staff and rescues experience every day- the unwanted, abused, forgotten dogs of society.  This story is about Papa’s journey.  It is dedicated to all the people that help dogs like him go on to live the life they deserve.  You all are fighting for dogs like this and you should be very proud of yourselves.   I know I am thankful and proud of all of you.

  Four weeks has gone by since I had been called to pick up a very damaged little Staffie.

  The night I picked him up I was enraged to think someone could be so cruel and uncaring.  Someone watched this very loving dog be attacked repeatedly by another dog.  They paid no attention to the wounds he suffered, gave no medical care, and they showed no emotion when they dumped him at the shelter, where the outcome would have been death had the staff not fought to find someone to take him.

  A couple of friends and I had met with the shelter staff after a meeting at the shelter-ironically, a “pit bull” task force meeting. They had been sitting outside of the building with papa on a leash, waiting for the meeting to end, staying after hours to insure he would make it out that night. As we walked up, I was able to clearly see the damage he had endured, sweet little Papa Smurf as the shelter staff called him.

  Papa, a petite little guy that had been dumped in the shelter without a care, covered in bite wounds, and yet shows nothing but affection for every human he meets.  Looking past those horrible wounds, I must admit it was love at first sight for me and my friends that had come with me. This little guy immediately snuggles into anyone’s arms, puts his head on your shoulder, and softly moans to you as if he was telling you of his past ordeal.

  As we walked to my truck to load him up, I began to think about all the dogs I have been asked to take in and help.  Was he really any different than them? The dogs our society has given up on, ignored at times when they need our attention the most, left to die lonely and afraid, their last few days in a concrete cell just because they did not fit in someone’s lifestyle anymore?  No, he was just like them; a dog that someone treated as a material belonging, cast out without a second thought  but he had to suffer through another dog attacking him before he was cast out.  For me personally, it meant more.

  The kennel I had in the back of my truck for some reason was just not right for him. Many dogs had been there before, traveled just fine but why did this one make me think twice? Could it be I had a feeling of guilt for being human? Had I suddenly gathered all the guilt for the cruel things man has done to these noble and loyal beings? This was not my normal working mind; I normally take in a dog and see the future instead of feeling bad for what they had been through.  I preach this to all my clients but yet, I found myself placing him gently in the passenger side of my truck where I felt he would be more comfortable.




  As I hopped into the truck, Papa placed his head on the console over my arm and began to make these very sorrowful sounds.  Low moaning, that made me (of all people) tell him “it would be ok”.  I suddenly realized this dog had hit a spot inside me that I had turned off, my maternal side.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love all my dogs and all my rehab cases just as much as anyone but being in this field for as long as I have, I have always put my dog instincts in charge when I work.  The dog instincts I have learned through years of observing, researching, and rehabilitating dogs just like him, so they could go on to live normal lives.  I know better than to put my human emotions out there when it comes to working with canines.  They follow completely different rules then we do; they thrive on living with someone they can be confident in but yet, I find myself trying to console this badly damaged dog.

  A half hour on the road and I pull into the entrance of my drive, getting ready to hop out of my truck to open the property gate. Papa stands up and starts trembling and whining, desperately pawing at my arm to keep me in the truck.  I stopped and thought if he had done this to the human that dropped him off at the shelter as well. Did he try to plead with this human not to leave him, not to give up and abandon him? How horrible it must have felt for him to watch someone, he no doubt gave a few years of love to, hand over a leash to a complete stranger, turn their back, and just walk away leaving him to possibly die alone and suffer in the pain inflicted by some other dog more worthy than he. Again, I feel the need to console him, gently rubbing his mangled face and telling him I would be right back, my subconscious now screaming at me about my own rules of the first 24 hours of taking in a dog, hello separation anxiety!

  I jumped out of the truck and raced to open the gate quickly, not wanting to leave him any longer than necessary. As I returned to the truck, he lay back down and started moaning again while placing his head on my arm. Typically, I pull in and close the gate behind me, but not tonight.  No, tonight I decide I will not leave him unattended again even for such a short time.  I drive up our long drive and park the truck outside our Center.  As I put the truck in park, he again started to tremble so yet again, I ignore my professional side and reach over him to untie his seatbelt and carry him through the driver’s side door.

  His legs work just fine even though he has a tremendous gaping wound on the back of his front leg from the “worthy dog” that had attacked him. Even though he was walking outside the shelter with the caring staff that gave up their evening for him, I am carrying him into the Center. Once inside, I gently placed him down and introduced him to my partner Brandie.  He immediately went over to her, buried his head in her lap, and started moaning.  Just as I had ignored all my rules, so did Brandie.





  It has not even been a full hour of meeting him and I find myself on the floor of the Center, at his level and face to face.

     Where did all my years of experience go? Part of the reason I can turn a dog around so quickly is because I follow the set rules of canine communication and pack behavior  yet, here I am ignoring all my past research, experience, and my own safety- face to face on his level with a dog I hardly know. A dog that had been slated for death because society says if he has been in a dog fight and shows dog aggression, it will be unpredictable with humans.  Did I really just lie on the floor and throw my theories to the wind? Yes, I certainly did.

  After spending quite a long time with him that first night, I placed a blanket in his kennel and “tucked” him in for the night. He curled up in a little ball, gave me a very gentle kiss, and laid his head down.  I closed up the Center and went on to my own bed thinking about my behavior with this dog.  It is so unlike me, what makes this dog different? Again, I ask myself this.

  The next day we brought Papa to our veterinarian for a full checkup.  Just as he had the night before, he seemed panicked by the fact that we placed him in the car. Moaning and holding Brandie’s arm as she drove.  No Papa, we are not like the man that left you before. We are not dumping you into a cold cell to live out your last few days watching humans walk past a beat up chain link door and stare at you, some of them, placing judgment without knowing, others feeling bad for not being able to take you home. This is not where this car ride will end.

  The staff at our vet immediately fell for him the same as we had; loving on him, consoling him.  Why? This is a breed so many people immediately change sides of the streets if they see them. A breed most of the world would rather see put to death and banned. What makes this dog any different than the others born with the same “label”? He is full of scars just as so many before him.  Society tells us this breed is bred to “kill” yet even professionals that deal with dogs in their worst state of mind daily have forgotten this with one glimpse of Papa. Could society be wrong?  The sheer masses of politicians, lawyers, and news reporters we look to for truth?



  With the visit behind us, we now start the long process of healing. We must apply wet to dry dressings daily to help the deep muscle tear on the back of his front leg close (which turns into three times a day because he rips the bandages off). We have to clean, apply spray, and care for the multitude of wounds on Papa’s face and neck. We must apply eye drops to his left eye twice a day because of the deep puncture he had in the corner of his eye that ruptured his tear duct. He must have oral antibiotics and pain killers twice daily, which we have to place at the back of his mouth because he is smart enough to eat around them. Every day Papa stands completely still for us to do all of this, never needing anyone to restrain him and always thanking us at the end by giving us a gentle chin kiss.

He receives acupressure once a week to help in the healing process by a dear friend of mine that immediately feels the urge to “sing” to him and he sits patiently showing his thanks to her as well.


  His daily routine has now become that of constant medical attention, being caressed by complete strangers that instantly fall in love with him and long walks on the property with other dog, which make him very nervous. He trembles and becomes defensive when a dog barks or shows aggression, understandably so.  Every day we get closer and closer to other dogs, teach him commands, and re-teach him social skills. We show him that we, unlike the humans he lived with before, will protect him from other dogs. We will control rudeness and aggression so he can relax. We practice controlled greets with my pack members and have him lay down among them in a calm atmosphere. We reward him for looking away from a challenging stare instead of reacting defensively.

  We enter week three of our stay together and I have an appointment with a dog that has severe dog-dog aggression. He weighs about 4 pounds and frantically lunges and tries to attack all dogs he sees. Typically I have an intern or Brandie to help me by bringing out one of my very experienced pack members but today I am on my own. Although this is not something I typically do so quickly into a rehab case, I bring Papa out of his kennel and ask the client to hold his leash. I guess one of my reasons for doing this was having the knowledge that the owner followed society’s views.  The owners of a dog that has already successfully bitten other dogs and continuously launched himself aggressively at other dog’s necks viewed all staffies as “killers”. As I brought Papa outside and handed the leash over, the owner tensed up and stood completely still, clearly wondering if he would be the next statistic. I then, walked over to help the other owner control her dog. The session lasted about 20 minutes and as I looked over to Papa.   I see him lying at my client’s feet, sound asleep. The client is now completely relaxed and calmly talking to Papa.  With all quiet, I return to retrieve Papa’s leash and the client tells me he loves my dog. “Yes”, I said, “me too”.

  The fourth week in and we have a planned event to attend, a local fair to benefit our rescue groups. We had planned on attending and showing our support for weeks now. Brandie and I decide this may be the perfect opportunity to bring Papa out into the public. He needs to practice his social skills in an outside busy environment so this for me, is an ideal training situation. We pack up our needed things, treat bag, treats, his favorite tug toy, and head out on our adventure.

  He again becomes nervous about getting into the truck but now, he must trust that we will not leave him somewhere. Into the back seat, he climbs and proceeds to place his head on the console between us. No whining, no shaking. We arrive at the event and out he jumps, a bit nervous by the parking garage sounds, cars zipping by, an echo of a distant dog barking. We walk him through and enter the street side fair, wonderfully crowded by people that share our love for animals.

The very first booth we visit he starts to tremble and show extreme nervousness, sitting next to me watching everything pass by. I immediately start his working side by applying his “watch me” command to redirect his attention from the multiple dogs pulling their owners past us, rushing up to rudely greet each other. I start to wonder if this may have been too much for him at this stage.  After a few body blocks to protect him from his over excited canine friends, he starts to trust that I can protect him and settles down. We begin to walk the fair, myself keeping an eager eye out for dogs that may threaten him while Papa sniffs every inch of the areas we pass including the low hanging purses of the waves of passers-by. 

 This is not the first time I have ventured out with an inexperienced dog; I make it a habit to challenge all the dogs I take in to real life scenes. I do, however, wonder what is going through his mind. Has he ever been in public? Did he ever get a chance to get outside of a fenced yard besides his trip to the shelter? Has he ever experienced masses of dogs, humans, and popping balloons?


As the rows of people walk by him, visibly taking extra steps to get a distance away.  After all, this is that breed they are warned of.  He calmly walks next to Brandie and me only focusing on where we are going next.  Before the event, I had told all my clients he would be there hoping he would have some supporters to show him comfort. Of course, I was not disappointed. Papa had many fans show up to support his first day out in the public.



An hour went by and Papa had gained enough confidence to approach other dogs. He began to cautiously go up and smell them, staying a little distant at first. With each successful greet he really began to relax and enjoy the company of the other dogs. Even gaining enough confidence to go up and kiss other dogs.

  By the time two hours had past, Papa was sitting next to other dogs enjoying his afternoon of making friends.

  It has been only four weeks for Papa’s life to completely change, and mine.  Four weeks that we have spent together, building trust, learning from each other, and changing people’s view of a breed so many hate and fear. Four weeks ago could have been his last day of life; it could have been just another statistic we, in this field, are crushed to see.  Papa could have been overlooked and left to die alone because he was born a certain breed as so many others are.

  In four weeks, this one dog has opened eyes and hearts of every human he has met and completely rebuilt his chance at a new life, all because the people in the shelter refused to be swayed by society. In four weeks, thousands of other Papas are not so lucky; they are the ones we need to feel bad for, the ones we need to fight for, not Papa. No, Papa just made me remember the ones I cannot save, that is what makes him different than the others.

 Tara, Brandie & the “pack”

When will the Human race change?

  I received an urgent email from a shelter worker (and friend) today, about a special dog they have in their care.  This dog they dubbed “Papa Smurf”, has warmed the hearts of the staff members with his gentle and loving nature towards humans. The dog is an American Staffordshire terrier or as many people frequently call them, a “Pit Bull”.

  You all know how I feel about that term, if you don’t by now, I hate it. To be more clear, I really (fill in the blanks) hate it and Papa Smurf is a really good example of why.

  Papa was dropped off by an anonymous source at TLAC last Monday. He is covered in bite wounds and scars all around his face, neck and front leg area. It is thought that he had been used as a “bait dog” due to the wounds he has suffered. In the email, were the behavior notes on this badly injured dog:

“ 9-23-10 Dog is super sweet, very good natured. He appears to be house broken. He will whine to go outside to go potty. He gets a little nervous when a lot of dogs are barking at him. He loves affection, walks great on a leash, and gives sweet kisses.

 09/23/10 18:23 Met this dog in L&F today and was blown away. Even with all the medical stuff going on with him, he is super sweet. He loves people and wants to constantly be with them getting affection. Very nice dog.

 9/23/10 Great dog. Very gentle. Shy, but wagging and looking for approval. Loves petting and does not appear to be at all head shy, which is surprising for dog with this type of scarring.

9-23-10 “Papa Smurf” will sit with a hand signal (like you’re telling someone to stop) and shake. Walked by some dogs today and he smelled them and greeted them with tail wag. He is very gentle with humans. He loves to run outside, a little scared walking through the hall ways when I took him up front to lost and found. After a few times through there he got braver and walked normally. He does not really know what toys are, he doesn’t chase a ball or any squeaky toys.  Papa is very affectionate!”

  For anyone unsure of what a “bait dog” is, I will explain. Please understand it is very heartbreaking but this happens every day and needs to be known.

  A bait dog is typically tethered to a fence or tree by a short line, about 6-12 inches( if that), so they cannot run away or possibly injure the dog  they are training to “fight”.  Their mouths are generally taped or wired closed (I have personally seen a dog with a metal hanger used as a muzzle), again so the dog in training does not suffer any injury. The, dare I call them, humans that are training their “fighters” will then release their dogs in an all-out attack on them. They will be cheering them on in hopes they can get them even more excited about killing their victim.  The “bait dog” has no chance to run or defend itself and typically if they are not killed by the dog being trained to do such horrific damage, they meet a very cruel and horrible death. Most times, left to die from their infected wounds, or if these barbaric idiots are drunk enough, they may torture them until they do die.

  Now most of you have heard the horrible torture the Michael Vick’s dogs endured, this is not just media hype. This is real life and HUMANS were the cause.  Sadly in Pittsburgh, street dog fighting is very common. In this, a group of young gang members will meet in an alley and have the dogs attack each other in a show of gang strength. The losing dog is typically hung, tortured, and left to die, all because it lost the fight and embarrassed the gang member that lost. Again humans are doing this, the human race that I belong to. It is embarrassing. Embarrassing to know the “more intelligent” species could do something like this and sleep at night.  And yet, people all over the world will blame the breed of dog instead of looking at the true responsible party, the human. People can’t bear to think that our species would be responsible for such cruel acts. They would rather blame a creature that even after being tortured by us, will show humans warmth, love, and trust.  I will admit my species is not perfect, I can admit it after seeing dogs like Papa.  Papa “a dog that even after he suffered like this” has the forgiveness for other dogs and the human race. Could any of you ever forgive someone for this type of torture if it was done to you?

  Tara, Brandie & the “pack” 

photo of papa smurf. bait dog
Papa Smurf

The difference between American Staffordshire Terriers & American Pit Bull terriers

I am sure this will open up a great battle but I need to post this.  I wanted to share all my research on the differences between American Staffordshire Terriers (AST) and American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT).
  As you all know I joined the Austin “Pit Bull” -hate that term Task Force. At our last meeting I volunteered to create an educational video/demo for the staff at TLAC in hopes we could help lower incorrect breed identification. Here is where it gets interesting.
  I decided to hit the national breed registrations groups in order to compare the breed standards of the AST and the APBT. The end result is not only frustrating but saddening to me as well.
There is only ONE breed registration group that see the two as seperate breeds, the North American Kennel Club. So it is the only registry that can be used to compare the two as separate breeds.  Since NO other registry lists the two seperately.
  The differences in the breed standards they list are completely geared to the APBT being the “fighting” dog of the two and they BOTH have the same breed standards. The only difference they state, is that conformation of the head of a APBT is not as important and varies because it has the LEAST to do with whether they WIN or LOSE a FIGHT!! They proudly state in their conclusion of the breed standards, when referring to the APBT : “In his winning form he is a fighting machine…a thing of beauty.
The only other national breed registries that view APBTs are the UKC (Started solely for the purpose of registering his “fighting” dog) and ADBA again started for APBTs and as far as I can tell, has no other information of ANY other breed on thier site. Enlighten me if this is not the case.

Now lets see the breed standards for both the AST & the APBT:

The Comparison of American Staffordshire Terriers (AST) & American “Pit Bull” terriers (APBT)

General Appearance: (AST) Strength for size
                                            (APBT) Square

Size: (AST) Height and Weight in proportion
          (APBT) Height and weight ratio same (or proportionate)

Head: (AST) Broad Skull, pronounced cheeks, Lips close and even (no looseness) Jaws well defined, underjaw to be strong
            (APBT)2/3rd of the shoulder (Broad), 25% wider at cheeks (pronounced cheeks), Not “Lippy” (close and even),Lower jaw- wide and well developed (Strong)

Neck:  (AST) Heavy, no looseness of skin
             (APBT) Moderate length and muscular (heavy) Skin should be tight with no dewlap (no looseness of skin)

Shoulders: (AST) Strong muscular, blades wide
                       (APBT) Blades are wide and muscular

Body: (AST) Chest deep and broad
             (APBT) Chest is deep, moderately wide (or broad)

Tail: (AST) Short to size
          (APBT) Stops at hock (short)

Legs: (AST) Front- straight, no bend Rear-well muscled, let down at hocks

            (APBT) Front- elbows set close to body (straight) No bowed legs (bend) Rear- strong and musuclar well bent at hock (let down at hock)

Coat: (AST) Glossy, stiff to touch

            (APBT)  Glossy, smooth, moderately stiff

Color: (AST) Any color

              (APBT) Any color

These were taken from the registry breed standards. Where is the difference?

So you tell me if you have a APBT ( Only seperated from ASTs by a site that clearly welcomes fighting dogs and how to make a “fighting machine”) or an AST . I have an AST,  a handsome and loving one.

Oh the Myths I hear about Staffies

  With all the hype about how “bad” staffies are, I thought it was time to bring some facts to the public and have a bit of fun with them as well. As you all know, I  will not refer to them as “Pit Bulls” as this is not a breed, this is a term dubbed to dogs put in a ring to fight one another. 

Myths about our Staffies

They have “locking jaws”: This is probably my favorite myth about them, the one I get the most laughter out of.  I want to meet the person responsible for stating this and personally ask them how much time they spent on Dr. Moreau’s island. I mean really, how many staffies have you seen that were cross bred with reptiles?? Of course this ridiculous myth is FALSE.

  No canine has the capability to unhinge their jaw and set it to a “locking” position, but every breed of dog does have the capability to hold on to their prey or challenger.  Police dogs do this regularly on the job; as many have witnessed, they will hold on to the suspect regardless of the threat they may be under. This is what we, in the dog field, call persistence; which all dogs have or can be taught.  How many people with Jack Russell Terriers and small breeds lift them clear off the ground during a game of tug of war? Does this mean they too are from Dr. Moreau’s island??

All will eventually turn on their owners. Although many of the abused, neglected and fighting dogs in my opinion, would be well justified in doing so, again this is FALSE. Since 1900 they have been bred to be farm dogs, military mascots, and family companions. Even the unfortunate dogs that were bred to be dog-fighters had to be exceptional with their humans or they were put down. Human aggression is not allowed, even in the cold-hearted dog fighting community.

The so called “Pit Bull” is responsible for all attacks on children and humans. This is FALSE. Any breed of dog kept chained to a tree, intact and not trained or socialized properly has the capability of attacking a human. In my own client cases involving human aggression, a very slim 5 percent of Staffie and Staffie mixes are involved. The majority of human aggression cases are herding breeds and small dogs.   Unfortunately there has never been a database that keeps records of the type of dogs involved in fatalities and breed misidentification is a tremendous problem in the society today. Recently I was told by a shelter employee that they have no resources to educate their intake staff on breed identification.  Facts of attacks are never investigated nor recorded at the time of an attack, when they are researched, they are found not to be a bull breed at all. The leading expert on these statistics, Karen Delise, notes that here in Texas,” there have been 62 fatalities in the last 45 years, from 18 different breeds. All of these attacks were from unneutered/unspayed dogs, and a significant number of them lived their lives on chains.” For more information about these statistics please visit:

Staffies never feel pain”, all I can say is really? Again an uneducated assumption. And we all know what happens when you assume something. Staffies and all dogs have the same pain threshold; all dogs have a higher threshold of pain tolerance than us humans. They will have a complete hysterectomy (an extensive open abdominal surgery) and be running around the next day, if not the same night. Where we as humans, are off our feet for 2-6 weeks feeling the pain. Search and rescue dogs will literally work themselves to death to find a live human; their handlers have to force them to stop working.  Border Collies have been known to work themselves into the ground while herding sheep all day.

They have more bite pressure than any other dog, more of the Dr. Moreau fans here; but for all you believers out there, this again was scientifically proven to be FALSE by Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic. In his television show: Dangerous Encounters: Bite Force, they had tested the bite force of different animals.  Using a bite sleeve that was loaded with a pressure gauge, they had a Rottweiler, a German Shepard and a Staffie bite down. Guess which dog had the LEAST force in their bite per square inch, yes the Staffie.  I personally think they should have tested a heelers(Australian Cattle Dog) bite force, as in my experience their bite has always been worse than any other breed.

All staffies will “eat your children or your face off” someday. Note this is what we hear from people like David Letterman and Judge Judy, both of whom are supposed to be highly educated people, I mean they are after all, on TV right? Sadly they are not reprimanded for this false information, nor are they asked to tell people they have no proof to back up their “racial profiling” of the breed. The dogs that have been identified in children fatalities have been “resident” dogs, which as Karen Delise again so wonderfully describes them: dogs that live their lives on the ends of chains, have no training or social skills, run at large in packs and are intact (not spayed or neutered.)  In my own experiences the slim 5 % of staffies that are human aggressive (this is out of 879 cases I have worked with in just the last 3 years) have been the above described cases and have been taught to be more persistent in their bites and attacks by the owners. You can go anywhere on the internet and find information on how to make your dog (any breed) tougher and stronger. Many yahoos on the net will tell you to enhance their prey drive (which controls their persistence level) by using a flirt pole or the ever increasingly popular tree tug. What this does is teach to the dog to bite and hold longer and to chase with more persistence. Does anyone else here see why the owners should be held responsible for the dog’s actions?

There are a few dogs that have a naturally high persistence level; terriers of all types are known for it, just ask any breeder.  I have seen Jack Russell’s dig until they were bleeding to get to their prey. 

They can never be with other animals. This is one I love to debate, why? I personally have a staffie and a bull mix that live amongst my pack. Both came to me with issues and both play the “Nanny” to the 2 Chihuahuas. Oh yeah they also live with my declawed cat without issue.  Are they prone to be more reactive to other dogs? As much as any other breed out there in my experience. Again, taken from just the last 3 years and 879 cases; I see and rehabilitate an equal amount of staffies and staffie mixes as I do small breeds and sadly the most common truly dog-dog aggressive cases I see are the Great Pyrenese and herding breeds. All dogs can be dog-dog aggressive or reactive if not trained properly. Again this is on the owner, not the breed.

We need to step up and truly educate the public. Lets have the owners take the responsiblity of their dogs actions, STOP “racial” profiling breeds because you heard it from a friend/media/stranger/friend of a friend. Seems to me, history proves this is the wrong thing to do in every species, even our own.

Why do we own dogs?

  I often wonder what drives a human to want a dog.  After 20 years of working in this field, sometimes this question still burns in my mind.  Is it the companionship these beautiful and forgiving creatures give us or is it just for social status? 

  I like to think that it is for the companionship, mainly because I try to keep in my mind, that all people have a good soul.  After all, humans are a nurturing species that instinctively have a burning need to care for all that is weak and vulnerable.  We boast about how we are the more intelligent species, the most rational. Yes, I think for the majority of dog owners out there, it is the thought that this one creature will be waiting happily for you, even if you did something horrible a few hours ago.  This unknowingly loving creature will always look to you and wag that whip like tail at just the sight of you. It doesn’t matter if you scolded them that morning for leaving you a present on the floor; they forgive you and are blissfully happy that you are back home.  They hold no grudges for your outburst of anger that they redecorated your kitchen with leftovers and tin foil. They still show you affection even if you push them away because you had a bad day. 

  I sit back and look at my pack members and rescue dogs everyday. I wonder how they can be so forgiving after the lives they had.  I mean seriously, if we as humans went through what they went through, we would most likely be sending our therapist’s child through some Ivy League college.  Just look at my Staffie, Axel. This amazing creature lived in a run for a good portion of his life, coming out occasionally to play with the volunteers at a rescue group, never really having a consistent owner, until now.  The first time he came to me he was like a freight train of energy. He had been so pent up he literally could not sit still for more then 1.5 seconds.  We joked because his leg muscles were so well defined, that he looked like a Staffie on steroids; but really the reason for it was incredibly sad.  He would race back and forth in his little run, jump up and down like a pogo stick just to keep his mind busy. So I wonder, what would I be like if I was stuck in a run for 2 years with only an occasional outing for play with another human? Would I be so quick to accept another human as a companion?

  Axel’s experience with people had been his daily caretakers that fed him and let him into his outdoor pen. Even though he never had a constant human companion, he greets me everyday with a play bow and a body so full of happiness that he looks like he will explode out of his fur.  How can he be this excited to see me? He did not grow up with humans loving him and caring for him like a furry child, he was not conditioned for this.  But alas, he is a dog, a forgiving and loving creature we as humans take for granted everyday.

  Then there is Tyson, a recently rescued staffie.  When I was asked to take him on through a local bull breed advocacy group Love-a-Bull, I had my doubts that this magnificent animal would ever be able to bond with a human.  He and his sister had been chained outside with no human interaction for 4 years with an occasional bowl of food tossed to them. The heroes at Love-a-Bull rescued him and brought him to me in hopes that we could help him become a better canine citizen. This is a dog that had no reason to even look at humans unless it was to protect his territory.  He never knew what a gentle touch felt like; he never experienced the soft praise a caring human could speak to reward him for just being there. No, his life was spent in the backyard, attached to a truck chain, as an object of social status.  His life was selfishly used as a trophy for humans, looking big and bad so a human could brag his dog was tougher than the other neighborhood dogs.  Why would this dog trust any human? How can I expect him to not stiffen up when I try to pet him, he never felt a loving touch before.  How can I be surprised that he cannot give me accepting eye contact for my soft praise, has he ever had a human just lovingly talk to him?  Why should he care if he pleases any human or me? Honestly, no human ever gave a crap about him, why should he even give me the time of day.

  With all this in my mind, I spent the first couple of days secretly wondering how I could tell the rescue group that for the first time in my career, I have failed.  I was certain I would never be able to show this dog that not all humans were harsh, greedy creatures looking to use him as a substitute for their own lacking strengths.  Would I believe that?  Would you?  It had taken four years for any human to step up and even care enough to take the weight of that chain off his neck.  It took four years for him to feel what it was to run around and actually play with his sister.  I would be foolish to think I can change him in a short time, if I could at all. 

  Then came day three of being in my care. I approached his kennel (more of a safe built for dogs, being he has never been crated before) and asked him to wait while I put his collar on. This for the past couple of days was a very long process of waiting longer than your average human has the patience to wait. He immediately sat down and waited patiently for me to place the collar on him. As shocked as I was and as badly as I had wanted to do a joyful little dance right there, I contained myself and kept my calm demeanor.  As I slipped the collar on, he leaned forward and put his enormous muzzle in my face.  Now this is a strange situation I placed myself in, I never leave myself unprotected.  I make it a point to constantly preach to my daughter to never place yourself in a dangerous or vulnerable position when working with our rehab cases. Yet here I am, literally face to face with a dog that has no reason to not bite the person that has been controlling him for the last couple of days. But this morning, I was the student.

   With his nose at my chin, he was slowly taking in short little sniffs. I was hoping I didn’t smell like breakfast.  Then he very gently gave me a little kiss to the chin. In my mind I took it as a thank you. I thanked him back softly and gave him a big facial massage. He leaned into it with such force that I was nearly taken off balance. This literally brought tears to my eyes. The fact that this poorly treated dog that lived as confined as he had, could show affection to a human in such a short time absolutely amazed me. Seventy-two hours of having shelter, food, and kindness made four years of neglect truly a thing of the past.   

 Yes, that must be it. We love to have a dog because they are so forgiving and full of love.

 For more information on how you can adopt Tyson and give him the same love and respect he will give you, please email


“Pit Bull” is NOT a breed!

  Everyone that knows me knows that I will voice my opinion.  I am not concerned about being politically correct and I certainly welcome anyone to a good debate.  That being said, this post is strictly written because of all the ridiculous hype recently about the breeds I love the most; the bully breeds.  I too have in the past called them “pit bulls”, but I vow to take a stand and no longer do this.

   That’s right, I will no longer call them “pit bulls”. Why? Because my friends, unless a dog has been put in a fight ring, they are NOT “pit dogs”!!! Any dog can be classified as a “pit dog” if has been in a fight ring.  Today so many people misidentify a bull breed; thousands of dogs are killed because they LOOK like a bull breed in some states.  The bull breeds I am discussing here: American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, Bull terriers, American Bulldogs.  I strongly think if we the bull breed lovers truly want to help the breed we need to STOP calling them “pit bulls”.  To the breeders out there that breed what they call APBT’s you truly need to take a stand and call them American Staffordshire terriers. I know it is a pride thing but really, are you putting your dog in a fighting ring??  If you are you should be arrested period.  If you stand behind people that fight their bullies, again you should be arrested. Period.

  I have seen more TV shows pop up lately about bully breeds, “Pit boss”, “Pit bulls and Parolees”, etc.  I love that they are helping the bull breeds and my hat is off to them, but seriously stop calling them “pit” dogs.  It only strengthens the fear people have.

      The term “pit dog” has been around for thousands of years and if you dive into history archives, “pit dogs” were mainly Molosser breeds, not just one type of dog.  You can find more information about these dogs here: .

  Even the Humane Society refers to the label “pit bull” as just that, a label.  Many people misidentify dogs; they see a short, stocky, bigheaded, muscular dog and call it a “pit bull”.  Unless they have been in a pit ring fighting this is an inaccurate name.

   Tremendous amounts of people out there think ALL bull breeds are dog-dog aggressive. This is also not true. Do they have the tendency to be dog-dog aggressive, of course; but so do other breeds. Any dog can be dog-dog aggressive, it depends on how they are handled and trained.  I have hundreds of cases of herding breeds and small breed dogs that are highly dog-dog aggressive.  I am called for more Australian cattle dogs (heelers) and Great Pyrenees, with dog-dog aggression then any bull breed.  These breeds are tenacious when it comes to their attacks.  These are also the two breeds of highest percentages for resource guarding issues. 

  So why are so many bullies in the news and not other breeds?  Many owners that have contacted me for their herding dogs killing or attacking their pack members make it a point to keep their dogs away from other dogs.  Unfortunately irresponsible owners own the bullies you read about.  The majority of bully attacks on humans and dogs happen because they are taught how to be persistent and are “resident” dogs, not pets.  What’s the difference? Karen Delise, founder of The National Canine Research Council has the facts on her site:  I suggest anyone interested in bully breeds take the time to read her site.

  I urge all the bully breed owners, rescuers and lovers to STOP calling their dogs “pit bulls”. Lets see if we can truly make a difference for the breeds we love so much!!

“Pit” Bulls and Common Owner Mistakes

  As many of you know, I am dedicated to educating people on how to stop aggression in dogs.  I love my bull breeds and misunderstood dogs and I will not call them “pit” bulls as this is a term not a breed!  I always have and always will stand up for them when everyone else gives up.  As an advocate for the “bad reputation” breeds, I have spent months researching breed specific boards and discussion groups trying to get a “feel” for an average owner and what their views, beliefs, and the training methods are. 

  Any person who owns a computer can jump online and find a discussion forum that is dedicated to the breed they own.  This can be helpful in many ways; for example: learning about breed specific health issues, diet, and personality traits.  At the same time, this can be very dangerous for the breeds I love the most!

  Recently, I have read disturbing posts regarding making bully breeds more “persistent” by using cloth hang toys and flirt poles.  I am a firm believer in letting a dog release their mental frustration with a good game of tug, but you also need to teach them how to turn “off” their prey drive; NOT how to be more persistent.  Bull breeds have a naturally high prey drive as do many working breeds; this is why we see them in the papers so often!  Too many owners forget that teaching a dog “persistence” leads to unwanted aggression.

  These same owners/breeders post comments about how they cannot get into a good game of tug because their dogs will incidentally get “out of control” and it results in a bite to their hands during play!!  They have essentially taught their dogs to “explode” when using their mouths!

  I have been barred from quite a few boards because I have voiced my concern about this and it makes me wonder how we can protect a breed that so many people already choose to ban if we are teaching them how to be aggressive! How can you say you are an “advocate” to the breed if you are admitting your hand in your dogs’ aggression? 

  Yes, you can use a flirt pole or play tug with a dog, but you must remember to teach control of their mouths as well.  If you own a “bully breed” or any other “misunderstood” breed, you must harness that behavior in a good way; not by teaching them how to be persistent with their mouths.  Use their natural power to pull, use their brilliance to excel at obedience, and use their mouths to retrieve and release not grab and hold!

  With all the “misunderstood” dogs I have rehabilitated, I have never seen a need to teach an average dog how to grab and hold.  You are conditioning your dog to not release when their bite is engaged.  The only cases where a dog should be taught these traits are for k-9 security officers, military, or police dogs.  There is a reason police and military personnel are so diligent in picking the right dog for the job.  Not every dog can be turned off when taught how to bite.

  Help promote the breed by being an ambassador by educating your dog and your neighbors on how intelligent they are instead of how “tough” they are.