He’s Back: when cupid’s arrow misses

Nutty Brown is back.

Yesterday, we were feeling so good about his new forever. Today, we’re feeling so thankful for his adopter’s realization that he wasn’t the right dog, and his foster’s happiness at getting him back.

Returns happen. Those of us who work in rescue often cringe and curse when the news hits, but in the long run we’re usually happy that things worked out the way they did. In Nutty Brown’s case, his adopter was simply looking for a different dog.

Finding the perfect fit with imperfect information is a really hard task. Often we know the dog really well, and as hard as we try to screen the applicant, some critical information slips through the cracks. Other times we get a really good understanding of the adopter, but the dog is new to us or the adopter’s environment brings out behavior that we hadn’t seen before. Still other times, mismatches allow potential adopters to learn things about themselves that they hadn’t anticipated in the application process. As much as we’d all prefer a perfect match each time, returns can almost be a blessing in disguise: they allow us a more perfect match the next time around.

When I talked to Nutty Brown’s adopter on the phone yesterday morning, he kept saying “He’s a really nice dog, but.” And he is a really nice dog. But. Nutty Brown is just starting his life as a house pet. For four years, he lived outside on a chain with little food and shelter and virtually no human interaction. For years, his life was just him and that dirt lot and that tree. He’s got a lot of catching up to do.

It’s amazing, really. He’s come so far. He is house broken, he plays well with dogs, he walks nicely on leash, and he craves the human touch. It’s hard to believe he’s the same dog.

And yet. He is still working on understanding boundaries, rules, and some social skills. He gets nervous and overwhelmed easily in new situations and doesn’t know how to manage it. It’s nothing serious, but it takes a lot of patience and love, and a little bit of knowledge or a willingness to learn.

As it turned out, Nutty Brown’s adopters aren’t much interested in this type of behavioral work. They want a dog who is ready for any experience, welcomes guests with a tail wag and a polite smile, and doesn’t worry about too much. This is perfectly acceptable, and they deserve a dog just like that. There are zillions of them in the world. It’s just that Nutty Brown isn’t yet one of them.

We would never judge a family for its preferences and its ability to be honest about its boundaries and capabilities. In fact, we are thankful for great adopters and an atmosphere of openness and collaboration that allows great matches to be made.

And for now, the search for Nutty Brown’s true forever goes on.

Nutty Brown goes home

Dog rescue has amazed us before, like when our elderbull foster Little Zee was adopted so quickly, and when Gonzo Bunny-Ears saved the life of another bunny-eared dog at our local shelter. This weekend, magic struck once again.

Nutty Brown’s (then Macky Mack) journey from Log Cabin, Texas was a long one not just literally, but figuratively, too. He had suffered a life of neglect at the end of a chain, probably never seeing the inside of a house or a hearty meal. His life has made a 180 degree turnaround since then: just a month later, some of his favorite things are leisurely walks to the coffee shop to flirt with the ladies, long naps on the sofa, and gourmet dog treats.

You can see the transformation in his face: look at his beautiful fur, his clean, clear eyes, and his easy, relaxed appearance:

His lovely new family fell in love with his handsome face on our rescue’s lineup, and the rest is history. At their first meeting, they couldn’t get over how handsome and friendly he is — especially after hearing all he’s been through. They were so smitten that they wanted to keep him that very day!

Instead we gave them a night to think it over and shop for supplies, and on Saturday we delivered him to his new home. Everybody — including Nutty — was grinning from ear to ear. A match made in heaven.

Congrats, y’all!

Chix-A-Lot Friday: Look what we cooked up!

Yo. We’re the Chick and the Dude, and we’re here with a very special announcement! And no, it’s not about the newly pink walls in our office / den / dog play room.

See these awesome new bowties and matching collars we’ve been gifted? That means that we’re a Really Big Deal and that we have important news to share, so listen up!

Sirius Republic — creator and purveyor of the cutest dog collars ever — has teamed up with our rescue group on ten brand new collar designs! We were all out on the back patio having a nice martini on the adirondack chairs when they came in the mail, and when mama first opened them, we started bickering over who got to keep which ones — we thought there were five for each of us, one for each workday!

Well, it turned that there was a special pair of matching collars just for us, but the ten new designs are NOT for us.  They’re for the adoptable dogs of Love-A-Bull. Isn’t that nice? For some of these dogs, a Sirius Republic collar will be the first new thing of their very own they’ve ever had. That makes us boys a little teary-eyed, you know?

These ten lovely designs (the Sirius Republic for Love-A-Bull collection) have never been seen or worn before — not by anybuddy, not even us! And you know what’s even cooler? Sirius Republic let Love-A-Bull’s executive team name the collars themselves! I asked mama to put in a good word for me and suggest that they name the collars after me (the Chick, the Chickster, the Chick-star, the Chick-a-nator, etc) but they chose to go in a different direction and name them after special Austin landmarks. Not as cool as naming them after me, but still, not too shabby!

So we present to you, from left to right:

Broken Spoke, Waterloo, Enchanted Rock, Texas Two-Step, Deep Eddy, Stacy Pool, Barton Springs, Lady Bird, Red Bud, and Hippie Hollow!

You can buy these ten new designs from Sirius Republic in the special Love-A-Bull section of their website, and if you go over there right now, you’ll see us two dogs as the cover models. And us two dogs are the cover models for the initiative. Doggone cool, if you ask me. But it gets even better! For every collar of these ten patterns sold by Sirius Republic, 20% of the proceeds will be donated directly to Love-A-Bull! That means that you guys buying these ultra-cute collars will not only be bringing a little piece of Austin into your home, but also helping Love-A-Bull to save more dogs like the Dude!

Ok, you’re probably so exhausted from all of this excitement that you’re ready for a nap, but just one more thing– probably the coolest thing of all: Between now and Monday, Love-A-Bull is allowing its blog readers to decide which Adopt-A-Bull gets which collar. Love-A-Bull will pick a winner at random, and the person whose choices are selected will also get a free Love-A-Bull t-shirt! So hop on over and play— the contest ends on Tuesday!

Food motivation: zero to sixty in 2.2

In recent weeks, we’ve mentioned in passing that the Dude is not very food motivated. It’s been a big challenge for us because food puzzles and exercise are our deadly 1-2 combo in combatting anxiety, and with the Dude’s intensive heartworm treatment, the exercise is entirely out. With no visible food motivation, the food puzzles have been out too.

Until Monday.

On Monday, the Dude decided to turn a very sharp corner and become not just willing to work, but a complete food maniac.

We have seen a lot of dogs go from nervous and disinterested of food to gung-ho piggies, but never in the blink of an eye. The sun set on Sunday and the Dude nonchalantly walked away after sniffing his dinner, and the sun rose on Monday and he was an expert wobbler-holic, a brilliant kong-extractor, and a voracious devourer of bully sticks. Is this guy playing tricks on us?

We’re glad the boy has found his appetite — he has gained about 8 pounds since he came into our care, but is still a skinny little kid.

And with the doctor’s “Keep calm. Very, very calm” orders, food-driven training, puzzles, and games will –hopefully– keep us all sane until his 10 weeks of treatment are over!

By the way– did you notice the Dude’s new collar? Are you wondering what he did to deserve it? Tune in tomorrow to find out!


NEW POST today at our other blog — about nine new dogs traveling cross-country to join Love-A-Bull’s foster program! Click here.

For photos, bios, and adoption info about Love-A-Bull’s other adorable, adoptable pit bull type dogs, visit here.
For more info on Snickerdoodle, click here.

When we don’t see eye to eye

Lately we’ve gotten a lot of questions from blog readers and facebook fans — how do you handle it when your grocery checker is breeding his dog? What do you do if your friend’s boyfriend thinks all pit bulls are vicious? Do you butt in when your car mechanic is talking to a coworker about how he slaps his dog around to make him meaner?

Obviously, there are a lot of approaches to choose from. As hard as it is to refrain from leaping on the person’s back sometimes, we have come around to a more restrained approach — we try to meet people where they are, and look for common ground.

At Love-A-Bull’s 2011 Texas-Sized Pittie Pride event for National Pit Bull Awareness Day, a man showed up trying to sell eight pit bull puppies. The group’s first thought: How dare he! The audacity! But after some deep breaths and a little coaching from some wise friends, the team came up with a kinder approach than shaming him and running him off. Love-A-Bull reps talked to him about his dog and the puppies. Made him feel welcome. And before the event was over, he had agreed to have all eight puppies fixed, and the mama, too. Love-A-Bull kept in touch with the gentleman, and a couple of months later, he offered proof that every last one had been spayed/neutered and placed in a loving home. We’re not omniscient, but it’s not too likely that this would have happened if Love-A-Bull had just shooed the guy away.

People have all different approaches to dog-rearing. As responsible advocates, it’s our duty to check our judgement at the door and encourage everyone to feel pride in their dogs, and invite all dog guardians to join our positive, supportive, healthy communities. We’re often guilty of only preaching to the choir and shunning anybody who isn’t in the choir. If we continue to only pat each other on the back for our oh-so-enlightened views, then what progress are we making?

If a neighbor or grocer or banker is wary of pit bull dogs or hasn’t bothered to spay or microchip his animals, we tend to turn a cold shoulder than to look for that common ground, swallow our judgement, and build the trust necessary to slowly try to introduce him to the resources out there that will help him build a stronger bond. When we surround ourselves with people who are deeply involved in the rescue community and are plugged in and knowledgeable about the big picture, it’s easy to assume that anybody who doesn’t share our views is a lesser dog-lover than we. But those assumptions are dangerous and faulty, and by making them, we are missing a great opportunity.

For it’s in those cross-town, cross-cultural, cross-background, cross-viewpoint relationships that we truly make progress. If we can bring our love of our animals back down to its most basic level, we can build bridges from this purest of places.

Years ago, I had a good friend who was convinced that all pit bull type dogs were Satan’s flesh and blood. This friend refused to even meet my Chick, for fear that Chick would swallow her whole. If this friend showed up at the dog park and there were pit bull type dogs playing, she would turn around and go home. Not worth the risk, she figured.

After months of chipping away, I made some progress by telling anecdotes about my own Chick, and sharing how my own viewpoint on pit bull dogs had changed. Over time, she agreed to meet him, and by the end of the evening he was dozing in her lap. Did we change this friend’s mind and make her a diehard pit bull advocate? No. But she turned into a loyal fan of our Chick’s and became willing to admit that every dog is different. It’s not everything, but it’s a damn fine start.

On foster dog outfits

Be honest: you’ve noticed Snickerdoodle’s handsome outfit, right?

The Dude is sporting the Sirius Republic chain martingdale collar in Candy Apple. Don’t it make him look like a supermodel? We think so, and so does he.

We first learned about Sirius Republic on the blogosphere, and ordered our first Sirius Republic collar for foster dog Stevie Wonder last July. That’s all it took, and we were hooked. We since have picked out Sirius Republic collars for Little Zee, Curious Georgia, Dora the Explorer, and now Snickerdoodle.

We have so much fun picking out a pattern and collar style that matches each dog — there are so many to choose from. It feels like a fun way to enhance their very individual personalities, beyond just our words and photos on the blog. We also love sending the beautiful, sturdy, hand-crafted collars on to each dog’s forever-home with them, as a little bridge between their past and their future.

The Dude’s collar is our first chain martingdale, which we first spied at our hike in California with Sirius’ own Jen and  Chilly the Elderbull, who was wearing her own lovely version. We love that it has a little bit of a lighter appearance than the classic martingdale, and the chain makes a bit of a sound when it tightens and loosens, which is helpful for some dogs in learning loose leash walking. The Dude likes it because he thinks the chain is a nice manly offset to the pinkish-and-cream collar.

We got Doodlebug’s duds in the mail shortly after he arrived in our home, and we all adored it right away. He gets so many compliments on it when we’re out and about that he has asked the good folks at Sirius to mail him some business cards for him to share with his admirers!

Over the months, we have developed a much more personal relationship — dare I say friendship– with Jen at Sirius Republic. But she has been so kind and generous to us since the start. She has given us — and other foster families — discounts for foster dog collars, and even mailed us Dora the Explorer’s collar as a special surprise gift that took our breath away.

Just now we’re embarking on a partnership with Sirius Republic for a new, very exciting promotion –including a fun, interactive game — with Doodelbug’s rescue. Stay tuned for an announcement on the Love-A-Bull blog later in the week!

And click here to check out Sirius Republic’s stunning line of outfits!

New post today at our other blog — about pit bull advocacy, education, rescue, and events in Texas — click here.

For photos, bios, and adoption info about Love-A-Bull’s other adorable, adoptable pit bull type dogs, visit here.
For more info on Snickerdoodle, click here.

How’s that crate training going?

Crate training the Dude has looked a little bit like this:

Some may recall that the night he came to us, we tucked him away in his crate and woke the next morning next to an intact crate halfway across the room, and a peacefully sleeping Dude on the sofa. Out came the zip-ties, and the Dude took an alternative approach: pushing and nudging at the metal bars until they gave in, bending into perfect diamond-shape patterns with jagged edges: just the right size and shape for a dog Snickerdoodle’s size to stick his head through and puncture his neck on the sharp corners.

A few failed attempts at buttering the boy up later, we landed a rehomed plastic crate (apparently better for destructive dogs).

Naturally, he was skeptical. The first day, he wouldn’t even come in the same room as the crate. The second day, he wouldn’t come near the crate. The third day, we came up with a brilliant idea: Invite his mentor/boyfriend/brother Chick into the crate first. We never did crate train the Chickster, but when we filled the bottom crate half with bedding and invited him in for a nap, he didn’t hesitate to hop right in to the cozy nest. And wouldn’t you know? The Dude dove right in after him. For the Doodlebug, it’s hard to resist a little snuggle-time with his big bro.

Eventually, we warmed up to where the Dude would enter the crate shell first– assisted by some hot dog bits — if Chick was nearby and looking like he was headed in the same direction. But if Chick was nowhere in sight? No way, Jose.

We feel really lucky that the two are such good compadres and are relatively trustworthy — barring any garbage can escapades — when left loose alone together in the house. And honestly, given how sweet these two look snuggled up like this, we’re not in too much of a crate-training rush.


For photos, bios, and adoption info about Love-A-Bull’s other adorable, adoptable pit bull type dogs, visit here.

For more info on Snickerdoodle, click here.

Chix-a-Lot Friday: Handsome devil, or just a devil?

Mama sometimes says that when she calls me a handsome devil, she doesn’t mean that I should actually act like a devil. I don’t really get what that’s about, but she sits me down every now and then and says those words. Maybe I need to pay better attention.

So remember how all week mama has been making a big deal about my foster brother Dude’s heartworms, and how they made him real sick? And how he is also very anxietated when they leave, which is extra super dangerous because it makes his face drool and his heart go thump-thump-thump and it makes the headboard turn into sawdust, and I guess drool and thumping and sawdust are Very Bad when a dog’s heartworms are being killed?

Well. Mama and some of her big-brained dog loving friends got their heads together and thought: we wonder if that Dude were allowed to be together with that handsome devil (not actual devil), if that would help the Dude not feel like he has to thump-thump his wormy heart and make sawdust on mama and dad’s bed and leave big foamy puddles of drool by the doors and windows.

So they tried it. Now friends, you have to understand that this is a really big deal because even though I am a very good boy, I am also a handsome devil and so mama doesn’t normally ever leave me alone with any of my friends or frienemies, in case something happened to go wrong. But I guess I’ve been seeming extra trustworthy recently or maybe the Dude seems extra get-along-with-able, because she started leaving us alone together for a few minutes, then an hour, then two.

The first time, we were very good boys. The second time, we were very good boys. The third time?

Some of you remember when I admitted my former baking habit — I also have a garbage disposal habit, which mama says is related. I thought I had quit it, but it’s just so hard, especially when there’s a youngster around who needs to learn the ropes. How could he ever become a proper housedog without knowing the secrets and smelly wonders contained in a kitchen garbage can?

Well wouldn’t you know, mama and dad sure were surprised when they walked in to the house and discovered this masterpiece in the kitchen. Mama started laughing so hard that she almost fell down, and dad just kind of stood there — but he started laughing too when the Dude trotted into the kitchen and instead of looking kind of bashful and confused like I coached him, decided to go right back to work on the masterpiece. Silly Dude.

And before I knew it, mama invited us to go outside, where we had to stand for a good, long while.


A green lawn to roll on

It’s been a week and a half, and we can finally say that Snickerdoodle had become comfortable enough to feel at home.

Don’t believe us? Here’s our proof:

Different fosters have taken different amounts of time to really settle in, and we suspect that the Doodlebug’s trajectory was thrown off temporarily by his medical issues and his big scare last weekend. It’s true that he still won’t go anywhere near his crate (his third crate, after thoroughly defeating one and convincingly threatening the second) and he still gets a worried furrow in his brow when we leave the house. He still rolls his eyes and sighs when we pull out squeaky toys and balls. And he still isn’t entirely convinced that food is worth working for. But progress takes time.

We’ve hit some big milestones over the past few days: the Dude conquered his first kong snack. He learned how to walk into another room — not the one we’re in — for a nap on the couch. And he reclaimed that very primal, canine instinct to dive into the grass for a long, satisfying, post-bath back scratch, four legs pointed toward the heavens, with a big silly grin on his face. Our favorite milestone yet.

To check out our other blog — about pit bull advocacy, education, rescue, and events in Texas — click here.

For photos, bios, and adoption info about Love-A-Bull’s other adorable, adoptable pit bull type dogs, visit here.
For more info on Snickerdoodle, click here.

Clean dogs on clean sheets

After Snickerdoodle’s scary incident and subsequent visit to the vet this weekend, he and the Chick put their heads together and came up with what they considered to be the Very Best Course of Action: from here on, all dogs should sleep on the human bed.

When the vet ordered plenty of rest and TLC for the Doodlebug, surely this is what she meant.

But these guys know better than to think that us very disciplined human would let two filthy, smelly, frito-pawed, grass-stain-covered dogs sleep on our nice clean human sheets — least of all on “clean sheet Wednesday.” No, we’re too cold-hearted and clean-loving to allow that.

So the Chick and the Dude did an unprecedented thing: they volunteered for a bath.

I should have known they were trying to trick me. I should have seen it coming. But I blindly trusted these two con-artists, and gave them a quick hosedown and a good scrub with some nice shampoo. What resulted was some very clean, naked, and fresh-smelling wonderdogs — sleeping on our bed.

"Chick, do you smell that? It smells amazing." "Yes Dude, it's us, and it smells great!"

"I'm already daydreaming about nightdreaming in that nice, comfy human bed."

"Ok Chick, on the count of three, pretend to be sleeping in their bed."

"One, two, three. . . "

To check out our other blog — about pit bull advocacy, education, rescue, and events in Texas — click here.

For photos, bios, and adoption info about Love-A-Bull’s other adorable, adoptable pit bull type dogs, visit here.
For more info on Snickerdoodle, click here.
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