Dec 14, 2007

Response to Vick's plea for leniency

Dear Michael Vick,

That was some letter you wrote.

How nice that a judge permitted you to be home for the birth of your child, but I sincerely hope you don't love your children the way you "love" animals: by drowning them, hanging them, starving them, electrocuting them, and smashing their skulls into the ground.

You say you've "lost everything" including your freedom, and I have to admit that would be difficult -- especially since you were living the life of a super star. But unfortunately you've lost all that the same way murderers, kidnappers, sex offenders, or burglars lose their freedom: through their own actions. You weren't singled out and imprisoned randomly -- you committed heinous crimes. If not you, who should pay? Should we not insist that a child molester serve his sentence, simply because his only other recorded crime is a traffic violation? Your actions were unbelievably cruel. Do you get that?

You seem to think you lost your endorsements unfairly. Was it not you that committed these offenses? Is it actually surprising to you that an endorsement would not be desired by someone who actively causes excruciating pain and suffering to another? The public does not want to buy any product from a brand that represents itself with someone who finds sport in the torture and killing of animals.

As for being exposed to dog fighting when you were growing up, I don't doubt it. Many people are exposed to ugly, horrific things in their lives -- it doesn't mean they grow up to perpetuate that ugliness. At any rate, I would expect a grown man -- who has also been exposed to incredible kindness and generosity -- to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong. "Growing up with" is a great excuse to perpetuate bigotry, child abuse, racism, and misogyny. At what point does one start thinking for himself?

And now you want leniency? How much more lenient could we be? In fact, we are showing you the very compassion that you deprived others. We are not torturing you or denying you medical treatment. We are seeing that you have daily meals and a bed to sleep in. We are not forcing you to spend your entire life tied up outside in below freezing temperatures. Why you think you should not have to pay for the crimes you committed is beyond me. You say you found religion? If you believe in an eye for an eye, you've gotten off easy.

I don't doubt that jail is unpleasant. But you will never ever know the kind of pain and suffering you inflicted on others. As for wanting to be there for your kids, you should have thought of that before you decided to torture, maim, and kill other living beings. I believe that your animals, your kids, and even your houseplants are safer with you behind bars.

Leslie Smith

Dec 4, 2007

Happy Holidays

Have you ever seen a grumpier reindeer?
Meet Blackie, a dear shepherd mix who's in our care at GADAB.

Blackie endured a photographers's orders and props today and I have to say the results were worth it.

Happy holidays

Nov 28, 2007

And sometimes we take them home.

My little Munchie, a delicate flower, firmly believes that the best defense is a good offense. It does seem to work for him, although he is learning that he doesn’t need to stand down every dog or person who approaches him. When I first saw him, he was an inert grey wrinkled tiny thin lump lying in an isolation kennel. He was bald. He looked and smelled awful. All I could guess is that the first year of his short life had been pretty miserable. Why I gravitated to him after all the dogs I have seen in the shelter whom I have wanted to take home with me over the years, I just don’t know. What I do know is that a year and a half later after I took him home is that when I see him skipping and leaping through the park, with a full coat of hair, as fast and as graceful as anyone I’ve ever seen, it makes me happy. He was a tap dancer in a former life. His gentle eye kisses feel like rain falling on parched soil, and life would not be as rich as it is without him.

My little Mutley came along about 6 months later. Unhappily ensconced in the back of the shelter, he had come from an abusive home. He would have bit me as hard as he could have the first time I took him out to the shelter park if he had not had a cone on his neck due to an infected eye. He tried like mad, a whirling dervish of wavy black hair, teeth, and flailing legs, but after that one incident, he decided to trust me and just squirmed his way into my heart. And now we wake up together, the three of us, Munchie and I slowly, Mutley ready to capture the best of the day as soon as his eye opens. He has one beautiful expressive brown eye.

Two different dogs, both small, both very loving, both needy, both fun. They make me laugh a lot. I’d pictured my next dog as a female pit bull, around 3 years old, but somehow these little foster dogs found my home first. I’d never planned on having small dogs, nor more than one, nor any more males, but fortunately for the three of us, plans have a way of going south, and I’ve found that as is usual for companion animals, the longer that we live together, the better it gets. Happiness resides in loving and in being loved. It’s all about the love, baby.

Published in Tails of the City, quarterly magazine of San Francisco Animal Care and Control and in, an online magazine.

Nov 27, 2007

Getting to Know You

My favorite part about volunteering for GADAB is the fact that I get to meet, and sometimes get to know, all kinds of dogs. I have two dogs of my own, and every time I leave the house, I tell them that I'm off to hang out with dogs that aren't as lucky as they are--at least not at the present moment. The dogs at GADAB are all so different, and at the shelter for so many different reasons, but they are all the same in that they crave connection, moments of joy and of human friendship.

Last Saturday, I spent some time with two very different dogs--Leroy and Samson. Leroy isn't able to go out, so we spent our time playing kennel games. He is so very clever, this boy (not to mention he reminds me of my very own girl pittie). His favorite game is PAW, and he is quite generous in his paw giving.

Under the kennel door, between the door and wall...he anxiously awaited my hand to move so that he could touch it. Working diligently for treats, Mr. Leroy consistently made me laugh with his goofy demeanor and enthusiasm.

On the other hand, Samson was all business....until he went outside, that is. This big guy really had to GO, for lack of a better word, and on his way out of the building, he couldn't be bothered with anyone or anything. Once that was taken care of, Samson ran around the yard, ready to play and explore and fetch. His joy that day was apparent, and he thanked me in many ways. It was hard to take Samson back inside, and I only wished I could conjure up his very own yard in his kennel. The best I could do was offer him a Kong and leave him with the memory of the gray morning sky.

Such different dogs, but such good boys...
both of them.

Nov 20, 2007

You've come a long way, baby!

I'm a new volunteer at GADAB. Unfortunately, Gypsy has been here nearly as long as I have. When I first met her, she was very timid, kept to herself, and would just lay in bed in the back of her kennel. Weeks later, walking by her kennel, sometimes she would be up and about near the front – seems like maybe she was whispering hello to me. Lowering down near her, I would calmly greet her and offer her my company. She wasn't into taking treats; maybe she liked my companionship though. Her deep brown eyes will melt anyone's heart. GADAB volunteers have spent hours sitting or kneeling outside this Gypsy girl's kennel, coaxing her, talking with her, and trying to tempt her with treats.

Now, when I see her, she's wagging her tail, hoping I'll stop and play some games with her. She actually made up a game I call "kisses". I put my hand flat against the kennel; and say "kisses" and Gypsy licks/kisses my hand and gets praise and a treat. I move the target (my hand) around the kennel and continue to ask for Gypsy kisses. Gypsy girl, you've come a long way.

Oooh, ooh, a little more to the right, please....

Blackie is one-of-a-kind. She's a sweet, gentle soul who enjoys prancing around the park to the beat of her own drum. Blackie's not the kind of dog that begs to retrieve balls or chase toys. She likes it when you sit on the grass with her…and…well, scratch her behind. I think it's one of her favorite, favorite things. Pictured here…she's in heaven.

Nov 15, 2007

Tito out of the pool and headed home.

After four month in our care, one of our favorite residents, Tito, finally went home. Agency teamwork in action. With PAWS in charge of the human end of the matter, and GADAB handling the dog part, Tito was able to return to the person who had raised him since he was a pup.

All the best to you, buddy, we sure enjoyed your company - what a great dog you are, active, playful, responsive and sooooo affectionate. Good student, too, quick and eager. He learned quickly how to play a proper game of tug, could catch a ball on the fly as well as any baseball major leaguer, drop the ball right in front of our feet, and sit promptly, waiting for the next throw.

What a guy. How sweet it is when a guy like Tito goes back to a good, solid home with the person whom they love most in the world. Have a great life, pal.

Nov 12, 2007

You say you don't have agility equipment?

You do!

Brooms, orange street cones, chairs, treats between rake tines - changing the unfamiliar from scary to fun. Each dog is different and we take as much time as as everybody needs to get them acclimated to new things.

Take a look at little Mo's flying leap over the "jump pole".
With a rake resting on one end of a kiddie pool and the other end resting on an upturned plastic chair, Mo flies over the pole, eyes on the treat prize in one of our hands. Rewards can include balls or toys as well, whatever gets your dog motivated.

We desensitized him to the pole first, being cheerful and encouraging, laying it on the ground, putting treats near it, then putting treats on it, moving it around on the ground with treats by it, then asking for a jump over it with it still on the ground, and little by little, our fearful little lad gained enough confidence to make The Big Jump. Dog agility equipment? Just look around your house, your block, your child's room. Get some tips or take a class.

He discovered that he loved it, leaping over it back and forth, like a little wind-up toy. Mo likes to zoom around anyway and now he can zoom and jump. Success breeds success and confidence builds confidence.
We miss him and fear for him. Oricha.

"Trouble in mind . . ."

Trouble and Mark taking a break in the shelter back lot. We use this space when the shelter park is occupied. As you can see, Trouble delights in receiving affection.

What can you do in a space like this? It can look pretty barren before you envision it as a playground. See that single dumpster? One or more of them can generate spirited games of hide-n-seek or "catch me if you can!" In this space, we can initiate games of ball or stuffed toy retrieves, especially toys that squeak. We can bounce balls off the shelter wall (it's behind the dumpster) that our ball-loving friends can pick up on the fly or on a bounce - that's poetry in motion, folks.

We can work on manners training; we can play find the treat and as soon as they find it, call them to us to get another treat (find-it/recalls) for recall reviews. Find a space and use it.

Give them tools for life, give them fun, work their brains and their bodies, love 'em. Love them as much as they love us.

Nov 9, 2007

It's only a bad hair day if it itches.

Good thing we got you before you lost all your hair, sweetie. You're a lovely little girl - did they just not see the spots of bare skin all over your lovely body? Or is that why they dumped you? We can joke that Christine's hair is a close match to yours, but we've got something else for you - our Special Spa Treatment. You're getting one of those today, baby.

We get a lot of dogs in with mange, ranging from minor to serious cases. In addition to vet treatment, we add holistic vitamins to boost their immune systems and apply aloe-vera comfrey gel topically for itch relief. We also use Vitamin E.
I always have the feeling that dogs with mange have not been touched for a long time, and how they must need it. Just look at this little girl thriving under Christine's gentle caress.

The Kiss

Teaching a puppy the proper way to kiss is a canine life lesson upon which we place a great deal of importance. We practice over and over again, with multiple puppies of all ages, different sizes, and varied techniques.

One look at this photo, and it's immediately apparent just how powerful a good puppy kiss can be. Judi, the lucky recipient of Booda's tender ministrations, is utterly absorbed in a soft, perfect moment.

Got a good hairdresser?

I'm Lil' Mo Mohawk (aka Oricha).
Lots of folks find it hard to believe that I had to go back to a guy who was witnessed abusing me.
If only I could speak.

Nov 7, 2007

One sweet moment for Mo

Mo, in a rare, still moment, pauses long enough to receive some love from Sarah Jo.

This little dog's owner was witnessed beating him and was subsequently charged with misdemeanor cruelty. The case went to trial, but the jury hung (6-6). The District Attorney's Office initially made the decision to refile, but then abruptly dismissed the case.

We don't know why. We don't know why little Mo will be going back to the same owner. The futility and sorrow we feel cannot be measured.

The correlation between animal cruelty and cruelty towards human beings has been sadly and profoundly documented. When will we learn what justice for all means? Mo is just one little dog, but he counts. Everybeing does.

Oct 24, 2007

Give a Dog a Bone on Exhibit

For anyone who's interested there's an exhibit of Give a Dog a Bone black and white photographs at CitiPets in West Portal (183 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco CA 94127). These are portraits I've taken of some of our dogs over the last few years. Prints are for sale and proceeds will go to GADAB. You can check out all the images in this gallery and buy prints from it, too.

Oct 14, 2007

Tito and Booda

I love explaining what GADAB is all about to people who ask what we do when we volunteer at the shelter. Most people don't think about the dogs behind the scenes-the dogs that are at the shelter for legal reasons and aren't up for adoption. Some of these dogs may become available for adoption, depending on the circumstances, and some may not. I try not to focus on that when we go hang out with the dogs...dogs live in the moment, and during our time at the shelter, so do we.

We started to volunteer for GADAB because we have two pit bulls at home, and have special love for any dog that has had a hard past, a bad reputation, or rough circumstances. My boy Po would have had a really hard time if he had ever ended up at the shelter. He was a street dog and had outsmarted all of the people trying to catch him. He had been abused, that was obvious, and it took him a long time to trust people again. Our dog Puddin' spent 3 months at the Berkeley shelter. She had been bred and dumped in the night drop box. We love these dogs more than anything, and because we have a little extra love, we like to share it with the GADAB dogs.

Tito is an amazing boy. He reminds me so much of one of Po's old friends, Monty. He's brindle, athletic, and a bit of a goof. SJ and I had taken him out before, and Saturday we took him out with Corinne. Such a happy boy, he likes to play fetch, tug-o-war, and chase the water from the hose. Corinne is amazing, and we have been learning so, so much about dogs through this program. Saturday, we learned about the psychology of tug-o-war, and when the game is being played well and when a dog is playing with their own rules. "We are not here to be play slaves" was the lesson of the day, and time and time again, Tito had to ask nicely, and play nicely, in order to play games with us. We learned that, during tug, the dog is not allowed to "move up" the rope with his mouth, and if he does, the game is over. He also had to sit before each tug session; if he jumped up, the game wouldn't start. Tito was a star, and we had a great play session. He's one happy dog, and he definitely makes the most of his time in the yard.

Our last visit of the day took us to the puppy room. Looking down, I saw a little chub of a puppy that about hurt my heart. Now, I love puppies, but this puppy....he was like a piece of candy. Beautiful eyes, wagging tail, and puppy breath...pure pit bull terrier sweetness. Corinne showed us the proper way to socialize and handle puppies...including handling techniques, the right way to deal with climbing and jumping, and a little bit of clicker training. Booda was the perfect puppy student, and made sure to kiss and lick our faces before we left. This is one little guy I have to visit during my lunch hour...I can't get enough of that puppy smell.

GADAB is an amazing program, and we're lucky to be part of it. Being a positive part of these dogs' lives is really a feel-good experience, and on top of that...we get to hang out with dogs all morning. It's a win-win situation!

Oct 5, 2007

Stoney aka Coco aka ??

"What's your name now?", I wonder. Have they discovered your vast repertoire of ball talents? Even if they haven't found them all yet, I'm sure they will grow to love you as much as we did/do. A cheerful lass by nature, affectionate, graceful as a gazelle, and so much fun to play with, I was happy as I've ever been when the San Francisco SPCA took a good look at you and placed you in Maddie's Pet Adoption Center. A subsequent visit revealed that you were a staff favorite over there too, and then the next time I came to visit, you were gone. Some lucky person wanted you to share their home and baby, you made it. Bless us, you made it. You go, big lovely girl. Have a great life with your new family.

Aug 29, 2007

Give a Dog a Bone's Position on Michael Vick

We at Give a Dog a Bone are outraged and sickened by the dog fighting and animal cruelty allegations brought against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and his subsequent guilty plea.

Sadly, it's naïve to think that such violence occurs only in certain regions of the country or in rural areas. Here in San Francisco, the most humane city in the country according to the Humane Society of the United States, we see the effects of dog fighting and attend to its victims
on a regular basis.

Give a Dog a Bone, a pioneering environmental enrichment program, cares for long term shelter dogs at San Francisco Animal Care and Control. Dogs, especially pit bulls, who have been used in fighting are among those we care for. We also care for dogs who have been subjected to felony cruelty, similar to those in the Vick case.

Our program ensures these dogs have kind human contact, yummy treats, rawhides or bones to chew on, soft blankets to sleep on, and clean quarters. We give these dogs affection, and strive to relieve their suffering and stress by giving them outlets for natural dog behavior. Additionally, we engage in training which the dogs look forward to. In short, within the confines and constraints of a shelter, we try to provide these dogs with the love and affection each companion animal deserves.

There is no doubt that even dogs "bred to fight" suffer terribly -- they would not and do not choose this life for themselves. Dogs are by nature social predators—that is, they survive by collaboration with each other, not by fighting each other to the death. Breeding dogs to fight is a perversion of this essential nature.

Dog fighting is unspeakably cruel, and we at Give a Dog a Bone work for the day when animal cruelty no longer exists.

Aug 22, 2007


The Michael Vick story has made a mess of me. At home, I’m banned from and I’m not supposed to watch the news. But it’s pretty much illegal to drive around San Francisco without NPR on and I can’t bring myself to turn the dial. So I manage to hear the latest.

My question to the NFL: What are you waiting for? If I found out that someone who worked for me – even if he was my star employee – enjoyed abusing and killing animals, I wouldn’t hire him to clean my toilet. Dump Vick. Don’t let him near a dog, a fish, or a fly. Don’t let him water a houseplant.

And how is it that he’s being commended for “doing the right thing” by pleading guilty? He only did so when it was clear the evidence against him was strong enough to yield a conviction. What a coward. It's not ok to torture people, and it's not ok to torture animals. The "just a dog" argument sickens me. Suffering is suffering -- no species should have to endure it for the sake of another's entertainment.

As for apologizing to everyone, those he hurt the most will never get an apology (as if that could undo the torture that was inflicted anyway). Vick isn’t sorry for anything other than getting caught. This was not a one-time mistake. This was not an error in judgment. Hanging a dog takes forethought. Electrocuting a dog takes planning. Starving a dog takes persistence and determination. These were choices Vick made again and again, not a one-time act done out of carelessness.

And as for Vick’s potential, yeah, it truly is a waste. He’s a failure as a human being.

Jul 31, 2007

And in Some States, Merely a Misdemeanor

I wonder how long it will be before I get used to seeing suffering. This week was particularly unbearable. Sage was so emaciated, I was shocked he could even stand up. And Angel's tumor had become so large, the skin around it was broken, exposing a football-sized mass of blood, bone, guts, and bacteria. At Give a Dog a Bone, we frequently see the victims of neglect and cruelty, but rarely do we see the perpetrators. Maybe that's for the best. If Michael Vick is guilty of the crimes he's been accused of, he deserves worse than anything I could inflict. Had his property been in San Francisco, his surviving dogs would now be in custody, in our care. So instead of hoping for justice that can never be served (no matter what Vick's sentence, it won't erase the torture these dogs endured), I'll throw the tennis ball for Trixie, one of the many pit bulls at ACC now. Living in a tiny kennel, with 20 minutes in the park on a good day, it's hard to believe she is one of the lucky ones.

Jul 10, 2007

More of What We Do

A lot of the GADAB dogs have to be interacted with through a kennel door - they've either not been cleared by the staff behaviorist for direct human interaction or they've failed a temperament test. In either case, we take maximum advantage of the situation to work as closely with the dog as we can. A lot depends on them. If they're shut down or scared all we can do at first is use short visits to gain their trust. If they're more affiliative we can engage them in all sorts of behaviors and even train them to sit, stay, fetch, and high-five. Junior, seen here, is an example of the latter. We've trained him to retrieve a ball and release it on command. The back-scratcher on the floor in the foreground is used to scratch his ears as a form of reward.

Jul 1, 2007

What We Do Here

Teaching ours dogs new behaviors is one of the many things we do at GADAB. Training custody dogs, especially puppies, gives them much-needed mental stimulation and focus, something that can be very fleeting in the din of a noisy, crowded kennel. For dogs cleared to go outside to the shelter park we often introduce them to agility behaviors such as the obstacle run you see little Beefcake running through here.

Jun 9, 2007

Way to Go Red!!!! You're adopted

Every time I spotted our little pal, renamed Red, I'd bend down as he came up towards me for a mutual love fest, and I'd wonder to myself, "now why is this is this sweet little guy still here"?

Well, just the other day, it was all made sense to me as I met his new family on their way out the shelter door with Red proudly showing off his new pack. Not only was it abundantly clear that his new daddies and his new canine buddy were not only thrilled to have finally found Red (they've been looking for ages for a good fit), but they subsequently called and could not say enough about how happy everyone was - all sleeping together, dogs busily wrestling and bustling around the house, walks are frequent, all hands on deck with affection, and - does this sound a bit like true love? Well, as one of our trainers said," Maybe Red knew they'd be coming along and has just been waiting for them". Good pick, little buddy - have a great life, I can feel it.

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May 27, 2007

We're Jumping For Joy

Give a Dog a Bone would like to extend a thankful paw to the good folks at the Severns Family Foundation for their generous grant to GADAB. We appreciate their ongoing support and interest in what we do. Their contribution will help us not only continue to improve the quality of life for the long-term shelter dogs at the San Francisco municipal shelter but also allow GADAB to better share its practices with other animal agencies nationwide.

May 21, 2007

The Best and the Worst of People

This was supposed to be a feel-good entry. I was still on sort of a high from last Friday afternoon's shelter tour. It made me so proud to show off our hard work and to demonstrate what a difference our program is making. To illustrate that point, I was going to write about today's session in the park with Trouble (above). In her months with us, she'd gone from ill-mannered and a bit bratty to a dog that can now control her impulses, even enjoying a quiet moment of affection once in a while. I was planning a clever title for the entry. Something about Trouble actually being her middle name.

But as is my routine, when I got home from the shelter, I sat down at my laptop and jumped online. I checked my usual handful of sites, and against my better judgement, clicked on a headline I knew better than to pursue. I could barely get through the story, I felt so sick. Sick to the point of thinking I was going to vomit. I began having those non-sensical thoughts one has when one hears something terrible, like trying to figure out a way to take every meal I'd ever overeaten and somehow transmit it to that starving dog. It didn't matter that it wasn't possible, that it doesn't even make sense.

Amazingly, the dog did not die -- the story has a happy ending. But I'm not satisfied. I want the man responsible for this to pay. Because we live in a society in which cruel and unusual punishment is not acceptable (even when appropriate), my wish that he be made to starve to half his normal weight will not come to be. So instead I will point readers here and support organizations that make more of an impact than one anonymous blogger.

It's been hours since I first came upon the article; it's taken that long for me to get my head around it. It occurs to me that I haven't eaten since I left for the shelter at ten o'clock this morning. Not even a full day, but I'm suddenly uncomfortably, painfully hungry.

May 14, 2007

His 15 Minutes

Splinter is aptly named. His image sticks with me (and it hurts a little). The highlight of Splinter's day is the 15-minute walk we do around the shelter; he's heart-broken when we return to his kennel. Affectionate and full of energy, he deserves so much more than I or any of the volunteers can give him. He deserves a family. Sometimes I wonder if he'll ever have the chance to roll around in real grass or fall asleep in an actual home. Five months old, and already his pitbull label puts him at a disadvantage. There's a strong possibility he'll never leave the shelter. Only 23 hours and 45 minutes until that kennel door opens again. The wait must feel interminable.

May 5, 2007

We Meet Again

She's unmistakeable. Those eyes. That tongue. Once she left the shelter, I honestly never expected to think about Lilli Bear again, let alone see her. It's not that I didn't like her -- in her months with GADAB I did develop a fondness for her. But we see so many dogs and not every one becomes the sort that embeds himself in your consciousness and never fades away. When her owner redeemed her, I wished the best for Lilli Bear; I hoped her time after her stint in the shelter would be better than her time prior to it, but my focus turned to the dogs still in custody.

When I saw her on the street, it was like running into a friend from a past life. "Lilli Bear!" I cried. But she and her owner hurried along, and I was left standing there, stunned and unnerved. "I know that dog!" I shouted to no one in particular. People began to give themselves an unnecessarily wide berth as they passed me. After a moment, I continued toward home.

Sometimes at the shelter I get sloppy with my handling. I'll let a dog jump on me more than he should or I won't ask for eye contact before bestowing a treat. Corinne reminds me that the greatest gifts we can give these dogs (in addition to comfort and affection) are the tools to help them when they leave our care. We can teach them manners. We can show them tricks. We can equip them with behaviors that perhaps will endear them to the people they ultimately go home to. Just maybe those behaviors will prevent people from mistreating them. Maybe. As for Lilli Bear, I don't know if our work with her has any affect on the way she's treated now. I do know that her coat appeared shiny and her demeanor seemed relaxed. I can only hope she's living the life she deserves.

May 1, 2007

I Hate Posts Like This

The happiness of Little Papa's good news is unfortunately dampened a bit by what I have to share about Bear - the pitbull who came in with LP on the same cruelty case. Bear was euthanized after being officially surrendered to Animal Care and Control and subsequently failing her handling tests. As was the case with Momo and Minna earlier in the year this is a heartbreaker. We worked hard with Bear while she was with us the last 6 months and she came a long way. Unfortunately, she deteriorated behaviorwise from being in the shelter for so long and even the attention we gave wasn't enough to counteract the effects of longterm custody on her. I'll think of bear every time I see a tennis ball (she loved fetch) or a garden hose (chasing water was close second to tennis balls). Farewell, Bear. I hope you've met someone who can throw a ball a few miles for you.

Apr 30, 2007

I Love Posts Like This

Nothing makes me happier than passing on a happy ending. We have one for one of our longtime guests, Little Papa, a spunky brindle boxer who came to us in November for a cruelty case along with his friend Bear, a pitbull. Their case ended recently with them both being surrendered over to the shelter -- this was a good outcome since their home was not a good place to be . For Little Papa, it's the best outcome. He's very adoptable and I'm sure will find a good home - in fact, he's already passed his medical and temperament tests and been moved over to the available animals section of the shelter. If you know anyone interested in adopting a loveable goof of a dog that needs tons of exercise and no small children in the house, please pass this along.

Apr 14, 2007

His Name Is Radar

Last Friday on my way out of the animal hospital, a small, frightened pit bull was making his way in. Huge patches of fur were either hanging off of him or missing completely, and deep cuts ran across his throat and chest. All four legs were spotted with pink open sores, some the size of quarters, and his right front leg appeared dislocated, horribly swollen, or both. A vet technician spoke lovingly to him as she coaxed him through the door. She told me that the dog had been born and bred to fight. Apparently he'd lost this bout and was dumped on the street to die.

All weekend, he drifted in and out of my thoughts; like many of the dogs I work with, he appeared in my dreams. When he was well enough to travel, I knew he would wind up here at ACC, and on Monday when I came in, there he was, gazing at me from his makeshift bed in his kennel. Woozy from pain medication, he looked nearly as roughed up as he had two days ago. Still, I was overjoyed to see him. As I crouched in next to him, he moved slowly and deliberately closer to me. I stayed there stroking him a long time, avoiding his wounds and his injured leg. He nuzzled into me so intensely, a bit of his patchy fur remained stuck to my sweatshirt when I finally pulled away.

On Tuesday, he seemed better. Or maybe I just wanted him to seem better. When I went in to sit, his appetite instantaneously returned and he began eating the kibble he'd thus far left untouched. I told him I knew he was a gentle dog, and I promised he'd never be made to fight again. On Wednesday his tail wagged as I approached his kennel. Limping, he walked the few steps to greet me. I worried to see him struggling out of his bed, but I was thrilled he felt strong enough to attempt it. On Friday he licked peanut butter off of my fingers and seemed to smile, the way dogs do, as I cooed and pet him.

Today, Saturday, it rained, and the shelter felt gray and cold in those morning hours. As usual, we snuggled for a long long time, he and on his bed and me sitting beside him, so close I felt each breath come in and out. I worried about his injured leg, but each time I'd shift to give him space, he moved closer to me, his brown eyes sorrowful, yet somehow brimmed with hope. "You're so beautiful," I told him. "You didn't deserve this."

I got the phone call a few hours later; a decision had been made. A scared dog, wary of humans, he'd be euthanized within the hour. Because the sadness stung so acutely, I tried to focus on the indignation: born to be abused, made to fight, sentenced to a life of pain and cruelty. I had wanted so badly for this dog to be the exception, to somehow prove that a week of tenderness could erase the fear. That he could know, finally, a happier life. The sense of injustice is overwhelming. I can't find any meaning in it, and writing about it doesn't help.

But at least I can keep my promise. He'll never fight again.

Apr 8, 2007

Red, the rocket dog

Who says long legs make for the best runners? Barely off the ground, he's across the park and back within a few blurry seconds. That's Red. A miniature pinscher-dachshund mix, he's not especially lean, not particularly leggy, but not to be underestimated when it comes to speed. He zooms past me, darting at the bird in the far tree, and an instant later he's back investigating the noise coming through the other side of the fence. Red's owner is in the hospital, and with no one to take care of him during this time, we give him the closest thing we can here to a home. And he gives me something too: a pretty good workout during our spirited games of chase. You can guess who wins.

Apr 5, 2007

Dog of the Week

Meet Jeckel. He's a very smart, highly energetic pitbull mix. He loves running, playing fetch and is extremely trainable. He's also a very typical Give a Dog a Bone resident -- he joined us for a few weeks while his owner was in jail. Since there were no friends or family to take care of him, Jeckel came to Animal Care and Control and was put under GADAB's care.

Mar 19, 2007

Put the Word Out For Gracie

Folks who've visited this blog before may recognize Gracie. She came in with a litter of 5 and her mom at the beginning of this year. She's now in a foster home but needs a permanent pack.

You can find out more details about her and who to contact at Home At Last Rescue

Sweet on Brownie

I'm in love with a dog named Brownie. She's shy and soulful, just like the guys who made me swoon in high school. When we get out to the park, she doesn't zoom back and forth, like Lilli, or immediately attack the first tennis ball she sees, like Bear. She sniffs around cautiously, meticulously, and perks her ears at the sound of passing skateboards. She takes her time. There is a wisdom about her.

Unlike the boys in high school, Brownie's always got one eye on me. She checks in often for long stints of petting and cooing. I sit in the grass -- er... astroturf -- and she nuzzles into my shoulder. It's hot out today, but she nudges closer and closer until I'm trapped between her mass of pit bull muscle and the park fence. We sit together in the shade like that until it's time to go back inside.

Mar 13, 2007

Little Papa's Pick-Up Game

Little Papa plays a chatty game of soccer. I kick the orange ball around the park, and he chases after it, yapping at me through the green squeaky toy in his mouth. “Go get it! Go get the ball,” I tell him. He chomps on his toy, making inscrutable plastic squeaky noises that I imagine to mean You should try chewing on one of these – it’ll improve your game. His big boxer eyes gaze up at me, and for a minute I believe him.

He’s so lean and spry and full of energy, I wish Little Papa could stay here in the park all day (and I think he wishes that too). But in his typical good-natured form, he willingly follows me back inside the shelter to his kennel. I leave him with a peanut-butter covered rawhide and one of his squeaky toys, but I don’t think he plays with it much when I’m not around. I close the kennel gate and smile at him. I’ll see you next time, Pops.

Mar 7, 2007

Meet Otis

Give a big welcome to Otis. He's a nine-month old intact male pitbull who's in custody because of a spay-neuter violation. He has a condition called entropian (an inwardly turned eyelid) in his right eye, which is why he looks like he's squinting all the time. Otis is very sweet but not very sure of himself yet. We'll be working with him on building confidence.

Good Luck, Lilli Bear

After 4 months with GADAB, Lilli is going home. Her case has been dismissed and she's been redeemed by her owner. We're keeping our collective fingers and paws crossed that she won't have to be taken into our care again. Good luck, Lilli

Feb 8, 2007

Farewell, My Friends

This has been one of the sadder periods I've had in 6 years of volunteering for Give a Dog a Bone. Two of our long-term charges, Minna and Momo, were euthanized recently after spending 14 months in our care. Sad as it is, it was the right decision--Minna was too fearful and Momo too unpredictable to make viable pets or rescue dogs. They both failed multiple temperament tests. The damage was done long before they came into the program and--with a shelter and city full of unwanted animals--they simply didn't have a chance.

In a program like this saying goodbye is something you have to be prepared for. A lot of the dogs that come through our doors simply don't get back out. It's a cold, hard reality and, as much as we'd like it to be, our role isn't to rehabilitate every single pup into an adoptable, pet-worthy dog. Sometimes our gift is to give them a chance, even if brief, to be a dog for a change: to sniff and mark, to get their ears scratched, or maybe even learn a few behaviors "sit" or "come". In cases like Momo and Minna, the dogs have endured prolonged abuse at the hands of their owners and they haven't had the chance to learn how to be normal around other dogs or people. All we can do is work with them, play with them, be patient and kind with them and show them that not all people are cruel.

I say all this now as I try to reconcile the loss of these two friends. Saying goodbye to a dog at GADAB is a bittersweet thing--no matter the context. Sometimes you wish them the best as they return to a home you know in your heart of hearts is not right for them and that they'll probably be back. Other times, as with Momo and Minna, they work their way into your heart and, in turn, you work as hard as you can to change the odds--knowing full well the chances are slim. From time to time, though, there is a happy ending and a dog like Murphy or Franco makes it to a rescue group or loving, adoptive home.

This is indeed a heartbreaker because we tried really hard with Momo and Minna--hoping against hope that they'd fall into that last, special group. As sad as this moment is, though, it underscores the need for a program like GADAB to not only care for dogs like Minna and Momo who've been dealt a rotten hand but to also get the word out that there is a very real and horribly sad consequence to irresponsible pet ownership.

Momo and Minna, it was an honor to know you.

Feb 3, 2007

Little Papa in Action

What LP lacks in brains he makes up for in pure zest for life. All this guy cares about is playing and receiving affection. Sounds simple but, when you think about it, not a whole lot else matters.

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Jan 30, 2007

Good Luck, Murphy

How about a big give-me-paw for our longtime resident, Surfin' Murph. Murphy won his cruelty case and was officially handed over to SF Animal Care & Control last week. Bulldog Rescue swooped in to claim him and that is what we at GADAB call a happy ending. Murph, it's been a pleasure working with you. May you have an endless supply of red bandanas and snout scratches. For those interested, you can check out all of Murph's best pictures from the last year (yes a whole year).

Jan 20, 2007

Capone leaping towards adoption!

Oh, happy day! Great day in the mornin'! Capone (renamed Pony) been moved over to the available section of the shelter, so now he's got a chance for a good home. You don't have to look much past the crummy ear cut to see the loving, playful Pony. He's a great guy, a favorite of the volunteers and staff. Loves to chase stuffed toys and like every good pit bull, can't get enough affection.

Thinking about a GIANT bone . . .

Big, big yawn from our Snoop . . . . too much fun today, buddy???

And that’s mostly what Snoop is learning with us – how to enjoy life.

Every dog in our care has a “DogLog” – it’s how we track milestones, successes, what works for individual dogs, what one dog might like and another dog might not, along those lines. Although all the dogs for whom we care may not have that happy ending, we give them the best that we can while they’re with us.

Here’s Snoop’s personal DogLog - I don’t think he’d mind if you take a peek –

12/27 Corinne. Snoop’s neighbor is trying to engage him in fence fighting but Snoop is not interested. Good boy, Snoop. Came up to the front of his kennel to greet me, not moving too quickly, head lowered slightly. Hand fed him at his eye level and then kept moving my treat hand up so his head would move up – my theory that body movement can shape emotions seems to be true a lot. In Snoop’s case, he kept his head up even after we began doing other things. Seems like a very sweet dog, very responsive - tries hard, but does have trouble with find-its. He does squint some.

12/28 Kelley. Relaxed in kennel today. -- Takes treats gently. Seems to enjoy hearing a voice. Likes to play *find-it* in the blankets.

12/30 Mark. Snoop is very similar to Capone -- skittish and fearful when I first entered the kennel. Need to be very measured and slow with your movements around them -- Snoop would not leave my side in the park and every object (balls, pool, ramp) was initially cause for some alarm. He is very affectionate and loves having his ears rubbed.

12/31 Susan. Nice visit, nice dog.

1/2/07 Corinne. Had a lot of the same experience with him that Mark did. Startled at the garage door opening - initially stayed close by me, then began running after thrown balls and stuffed toys playfully, dashing back to me and jumping up happily at me. Working on that. Need to keep four on the floor, good buddy. Unsocialized to pretty much everything – was he a backyard dog? Very tolerant to handling, a wanna-be lap dog. He learned today that life can be fun and I think he will break out of his hesitancy and wariness about stuff in the world to which we introduce him. Curious, sniffing around a lot and left my side several times. I put the agility jump down very low and he jumped over it with me several times, went into the kiddie pool, loves praise and affection.

1/5 Leslie. A real sweetie. Very jumpy so we worked to shape a “sit” and he’s almost got it. Lots of stroking and affection when he wasn’t zooming around.

1/6 Mark. First day of confidence-building workshop. Took Snoop out to the yard and got him used to the blue agility tube. Let him sniff it, etc. Tossed some treats in but he showed no interest. Threw the squeaky toy through and got perky ears. While he was sniffing the toy, I walked to the other end of the tube, dropped a treat and called out his name in a high voice. He came all the way through to the other side. Yay, Snoops. Also was able to get him to hop over the jump -- set very low.

1/7 Susan. Moo tube visit.

1/8 Leslie. Crazy time trying to get his collar on to go out -- he was so excited. Once out though, he alternated between zoomies and coming over for stroking.

1/9 Corinne/Kelley. We had a blast today - discovering while filling the pool that Snoop loves to eat the water coming out of the hose. So he got a real workout, dashing about after the hose, in the pool, to the wall, following the hose squiggling around. We then put up the agility jump and he jumped over back and forth to follow the hose end. Not once did he come up on it - strictly a toy for him. He was one tired lad when we brought him back in, ready to settle down with a good chewie after a rubdown to dry him off. He loved every second of that too.


Jan 11, 2007

A Star is Born

I discovered this video below in my wanderings today on the Haute Dog site from Southern California. Though there's a bit of a bias toward bulldogs (take note, Murphy) they've got an interesting thing going as a group of dedicated to " help inspire a better understanding and appreciation of dogs, dispel damaging myths, encourage responsible ownership practices, and offer practical adoption and rescue opportunities." Best of all they do it with a sense of humor. Hope we can work together some day.

Make sure you watch with your sound on....

Jan 5, 2007

Meet Capone

Capone joined us in late December '06 along with Snoops, Mommies and a litter of newly born puppies. All the dogs are with us during an ongoing cruelty investigation. Capone is a pitbull mix with very amateurly cropped ears. Despite his intended-to-be imposing appearance, he's really anything but. He's very shy and scared. This photo was taken on his first outing to the shelter park where I just let him be a dog for 20-25 minutes. He did a lot of sniffing and marking and investigating but always made sure I was close by. We'll work on instilling some confidence in him over the rest of his stay.

Jan 1, 2007

GADAB's Resolution for 2007

We have a lot planned for the upcoming year at Give a Dog a Bone. The kind people at PetSmart Charities have provided funding for a training manual and video that we plan to release this summer for other shelters nationwide who have an interest in starting up environmental enrichment programs like GADAB. If you have any questions about this or want to know how you can do something similar just write us at

Say Hello to Snoop

Meet Snoop, a recent addition to Give a Dog a Bone. Snoop joined us along with Capone and five puppies due to a cruelty investigation. Snoop's a big guy but he's very shy and timid -- pretty much afraid of everything. When I'm out in the training yard with him he won't let me out of his sight and stays within a couple feet of me at all times. We're going to work on getting him to be a bit more sure of himself.