Tuesday, October 1, 2013

100 Pit Bulls - Lots of Love!

My own pit bull pup, Holly Madison gives me a kiss.
Last year, I started a project, which was to showcase how awesome dogs are. In particular, I wanted to focus on Pit Bull type dogs and share how amazing these pups are. As a pit bull mom & animal rescuer, I hear about people's fears far too often and while I can't (and don't want to) force anyone to get on the ground and play with a pit bull type pup when they are scared, I hope that by putting myself in that situation, I can encourage people to open up their minds a bit and realize that breed is not the deciding factor in a dog's temperament. 

When starting this project, I first started simply taking photos of pit bull type dogs that I have met. I quickly realized that a photo does not truly showcase a dog's behavior or how they will react to being around a new person, so I decided that I would be part of each photo. My goal was to interact with each of these dogs as though they are my own, to share their space, get up close and really allow the dogs to show me who they are. I wasn't surprised at the reactions I got, most dogs simply wanted to lick my face, some just gave a polite sniff and went about their way and others plopped to the ground in front of me for a belly rub. I was asked for treats, shown tricks and overall given a wiggly, affectionate shower of love from these dogs.

I chose to involve many rescue dogs because of the stigma that sometimes comes with the word 'rescue'. To me, the word holds a wonderful meaning, but outside of my animal-rescue friends, I find that some people are concerned that a rescue dog is a broken dog. Many times people imagine the dog was neglected, abused or just a bad dog, so he/she ended up in a shelter or rescue. Of course, everyone who has rescued a dog understands that this is not true, but I wanted to put some emphasis on these rescue pups to shed some light on how happy, forgiving and accepting of love rescue dogs truly are.

So, I chose 100 dogs because it actually presented a challenge and gave me time to really think this project through. I started in October of 2012 and throughout the last year, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful dogs and their people. For those dogs still waiting for their forever homes, it gave me a chance to assess them, and in turn I had the opportunity to share my photos and thoughts with the rescues that were caring for these pups. I am so proud to say that throughout this project, several of the 'still in rescue' does have found their forever homes because of my photos and insight! 

Now, I am not naive, of course with any breed, there are dogs that are not necessarily people-friendly. I did not encounter any of these dogs. Why? Not because I avoided these dogs, but because bad and negative behavior in dogs is pretty unusual. Especially in pets, who have known love and companionship with people, it is rare to find a truly aggressive dog. Does it happen? Yes, absolutely some dogs are just not people-friendly, however, this behavior typically stems from a lack of socialization, fear or a traumatic event involving humans. Dogs, by nature, are pack animals and crave closeness, which is one of the many reasons that dogs are such popular pets!

Jagger. Rescued from a dog-fighting
operation in Houston, TX.
My first notable batch of dogs were patrons of the 2012 Pit Bull Pride Parade, hosted by Love-A-Bull Rescue in Austin, TX. I snapped a few photos with pups that stopped by my booth space and that evening when I got home, I noticed that I had loved on and taken photos with 5 pit bull type-dogs. I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to share photos like this with everyone." I had never met these dogs, I did not know them, but I felt safe around them. Dogs are wonderful animals and we absolutely should share our space and our lives with them. 

After the first group of dogs, I was a little concerned about where I would find 95 more pit bull type dogs, luckily, I have tons of dog-loving friends and of course, I work with countless rescues, but I also wanted to be sure to have a variety of dogs with different backgrounds and histories. So, to keep a good variety of dogs, I would randomly ask people walking their dogs in my neighborhood if I could take a photo. I stopped people at our weekend Farmer's Market and I even pulled my car over on an occasion or two when I saw a pooch out with their owners. Overall, the reactions from the dog owners was very positive and many have even become friends and clients! It's hard to resist another dog enthusiast! 
Erika, available for adoption with The
Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.
When meeting these dogs, I have a set routine to ensure that everyone is safe and comfortable. For the shelter dogs, the environment that they are currently in is quite stressful and overwhelming. Many dogs are not showing their true personality in the shelter, which means a bit more patience and understanding. I like to take the pups out for a quick potty break and let them burn off a little energy before snapping the photos. I typically snap the photos on a timer and work alone, however, from time to time, I have had a friend take the photo. 

For dogs that are currently with their owners, before meeting the dogs, I find it is important to chat with their owners for a minute about their behavior. Owners know their dogs better than anyone, so learning that a dog might not like his ears touched is important when meeting him/her for the first time. I also like to learn a little about the dog's stories, it helps me to connect with them and in turn really makes this experience special. 

Check out these awesome
small pups! From Kaxan, a stray
rescued off the street who
is now the mascot for our local
news station to Chip, a cute 
little chihuahua that was
adopted through the Williamson
County Regional Shelter... little
dogs are just as awesome as big!
In addition, throughout this project, I heard from many pit bull owners that they dislike little dogs. I think it is a big issue to address because I am a big opponent of stereotyping. This stands true of all dogs, not only those with the pit bull label attached. I am sure that every pit bull advocate has heard or even said, "Chihuahuas and Dachshunds bite more often than Pit Bulls do" or a quote along those lines. Nothing irritates me more than fighting stereotypes with another stereotype! Don't do it! As a pit bull mom, it breaks my heart when people judge Holly for her breed. Why would I want a dog owner of another breed to feel that same way? I don't and that's why I preach individual judgement on dogs based on their personal behavior. To all pit bull owners, drop the defensiveness when your dog is discriminated against. Show people how wonderful your dog is by highlighting his or her traits! Share stories of hero pit bulls and introduce them to a wiggly pit bull at your local shelter. Perception can change everything and if pit bull owners are perceived as aggressive, defensive and mean, our dogs can easily be perceived the same way. 

In short, I hope this blog brings some light to those that are unsure of pit bull type dogs, or dogs in general. When offered love, most dogs happily accept and reciprocate that love ten times over!

If you want to help Pit Bulls in need, drop by your own local shelter and take one for a walk. Chances are you'll fall in love and have a happy memory that lasts a lifetime.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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P.S. I love to have my blog shared, so feel free to post to all of your friends and family!

Olivia, an abused, over-bred beautiful pittie who was seized, The Williamson
County Regional Animal shelter took custody of her, and she is currently
waiting for her forever family to find her. 
Mimi, a spunky young pit bull mix at the Williamson County Regional Shelter.
Jackson, a sweet shy pup who was rescued by my friend, Kim. 
Baby was rescued after spending most of her life on a chain in a backyard.
When her family abandoned her, she was taken to Austin Animal Center,
where her new family fell in love with her. Now, she spends her days being
pampered, sleeping on the couch and shopping with her mom at the local
Farmer's Markets on the weekends!
Lexi, a gorgeous Pit / Boxer mix that I met at the Mueller Farmer's Market. She
was found wondering around on the streets and adopted by her now owners.
She was microchipped, but her former owners never reclaimed her - which
makes her new family very happy because she is a great pup!
Harrah, a beautiful, shy and scared pup picked up by animal control. Her family
reclaimed her shortly, they had been terribly worried after she escaped a broken fence.
Spock, rescued through Love-A-Bull in Austin, TX.
Archie, a handsome boy who was rescued through Don't Bully Me Rescue.
Dolly, an adorable Love-A-Bull pup! As of today, she is still available
for adoption!
I had the pleasure of transporting Teddy from a rescue in Houston to
Austin, where he was adopted through Love-A-Bull! 
Indigo (bottom left) was rescued after being beaten with a shovel. He has
nerve damage and will always need his wheelchair for assistance, but
because of a wonderful rescue, he was given a second chance. Indy even
has his own Facebook page, where he shares his life story!
Wilbur, a big stocky boy that I met at the Mueller Farmer's Market. He was
adopted through Austin Pets Alive and is an absolute doll!
Coco Puffin, an adorable pup rescued by Love-A-Bull posing with her portrait.
The kisses... I received many, many pittie kisses!
Lissa, a staff favorite at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.
This girl is as happy as they get and her new family sure is lucky to have her!
Zodiac is a sweet boy who spends his days hanging out behind the counter
at La Mia Bella Pet Salon, the groomers who care for my pups!
Dodger, an adoptable boy through the Williamson County Regional Animal
Shelter. As you can see, I was particularly delicious that day!
Puppies... so many puppies! All of the puppies shown here are rescues.
They were all available and adopted through The Williamson County
Regional Shelter, Austin Pets Alive and Love-A-Bull. 
Whisper, an adorable sweetheart who is available for adoption through
Georgetown Animal Outreach!
Nine Pitties available or adopted through the Williamson County Regional
Animal Shelter. Top: Bobo, Susan, Heather. Middle: Lady, Licorice, Nikita
Bottom: Braydon, Byron, Hugo
Herra, one of my favorite pups. Herra was dropped at the shelter with
Precious, her chihuahua best friend after her owner had to be taken
into a nursing home. Both pups were pulled into Georgetown Animal
Outreach's rescue program and are currently awaiting adoption.
Gino, a super sweet pup that I met at the Mueller Farmer's Market. He wears
a baseball cap around and is constantly posing for portraits!
Claudette, a wiggly happy girl that I met at one of my weekly Farmer's
Market events. She is super sweet and her parents are rock-stars
with her training program!
Java (top right) is one of the most adorable little pocket pitties you will ever see!
Dede (middle right) was adopted through Georgetown Animal Outreach.
Papa (bottom left) was rescued by a friend who runs an amazing training
program in the Austin area.
Love-A-Bull hosts two monthly pit bull walks, where groups of responsible
dog owners gather and go for a stroll. Holly and I have had the opportunity
to join this walk and just love our Pittie friends! (26 pups total here!)
Buddy, an adorable Pit Bull who I met at one of my weekly Farmer's
Market events. He was full of personality and really enjoyed my treats!
Roo, an adorable pup rescued through Love-A-Bull in Austin, TX.
Ellie B (left) is one of 5 dogs rescued from Spindletop during a raid on the
so called 'rescue' in 2012. Ellie B was shut down emotionally, but with lots
of TLC, she has rebounded into a spokesdog for Love-A-Bull!
Bentley (right) was rescued from Austin Animal Center after being severely
burned. All that remains of his horrible past are a few minor scars. Bentley
is full of love for everyone he meets!
Top: Matilda, Batman, Dorothy | Bottom: Dallas, Paisley, Dobie
Marigold, a beautiful tan girl who was adopted through the
Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.
Thomas, a sweet pittie that I met at the Cedar Park Farmer's Market. He was
adopted through Austin Pet's Alive and was just full of sweet kisses.
Top: Mr. Wiggles, Punch, Tami
Middle: Racer, Hilldie, Buddy
Bottom: Hank, Star, Johnny
Slone, a super sweet but very scared girl at the Williamson County
Regional Animal Shelter.
Kane is a handsome, stocky boy that I met at Strut Your Mutt in Austin!
Esmeralda, a beautiful girl who was rescued off the streets in Hutto, TX. 

Special Thank You:

I want to send a huge Thank You to everyone who allowed me to borrow their pups for a moment or two. Each of your dogs has now touched my life and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Thank you to The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter for all of the hard work you put into ensuring that each pet, pit bull type dogs included, that enters your shelter gets the chance a a fresh start.

Thank you to Love-A-Bull, Inc for hosting our Pittie Pride Festival in Austin and all of the amazing work you do day in and day out for these dogs. You are an amazing inspiration and I am proud to support your organization!

Thank you to Austin Pets Alive for working hard to keep Austin No-Kill. You are changing the world and because of that millions of lives will be saved.

Thank you to Don't Bully Me Rescue, Pflugerville Pets Alive, Georgetown Animal Outreach and all of the other amazing rescues in the Austin area for doing such an amazing job rescuing our communities homeless pets!

And of course, Thank You to my family & friends - especially my husband - for letting me be the crazy 'Pit Bull' lady for awhile!