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Saying Goodbye to Savvy, a “Pit Bull” ambassador

Today is the day I said goodbye to Savvy. Savvy has been my companion for almost 12 years. He’s been trained as a service dog and a therapy dog, passed his Canine Good Citizen test, his Delta Therapy dog test, and proven himself a true ambassador for his breed.  He’s done so much, but I can only cover a few of the joyful highlights.

Savvy has taught children about dog safety.

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He was an avid activist, participating in protests against breed specific legislation and even attending California legislative sessions to stand against breed specific legislation.

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He’s provided kisses at Chako’s UC Davis Kiss-A-Bull booth, and he even tried his hand at documentary work when featured in Beyond the Myth, a documentary about breed specific legislation.

Savvy teaching kids

He enjoyed his service dog work.

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He also loved being one of Santa’s elves, delivering presents to those in need during the holidays. Some years he brought gifts to children; other years, he helped animals. Here he is delivering beds and other goodies to the Yuba animal shelter.

santa savvy

However, life is short, and all lives eventually come to an end. Savvy’s life came to an end a little too soon. He should have lived to a wonderful age of 15 or even 16, but Lymphoma stole the last few years from him.

There’s no right or wrong way to say goodbye to a friend. In my case, I focused on making Savvy’s last days as good as they could possibly be.

He got a photo shoot thanks to his good friend Joni Moore of Pawtography and Moore.

Savvy at the fireplace

Savvy at the fireplace

He went on small field trips

Field Trip to the park

He took quick car rides to enjoy the sights.

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He even visited some of northern California’s dog-friendly wineries

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He slept in.

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He even got tucked in to keep him warm on the chilly mornings.sleeping in

He snuggled with new toys.

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Savvy got special food from his friend Kris with VibraPet (chicken and steak, yum!)

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Of course, he also got Hamburgers, since life is too short to always eat well.

hamburgers on the couch

His friends threw a party for him.

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And, on his last day, Savvy got more hamburgers, with fries, and all the yummy junk food he could eat…

more hamburgers

Before he took his final sleep, free from the misery of lymphoma.

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Goodbye, Savvy, my friend. Follow your buddy, Joey, like you did when you were just a wee pup.

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My Pit Bull Valentine photo show!

It’s the month to spread love, and dogs are masters giving unconditional love. Since 1997, Chako has been rescuing Pit Bulls and spreading awareness. Below are some members of our Chako family who have found their forever valentines! Click any thumbnail below to start the slideshow or, for a simpler view, scroll down to read their stories!

When you’ve viewed the slideshow, head on over to our Facebook page to post a photo of your Pit Bull Valentine in the comments of our Valentine’s Day thread! (Thanks to Joni Moore of Pawtography and Moore).

  1. Annie came to Chako when she was abandoned at four weeks old in a dog park. Her foster mom, Suzi, fell in love with her and adopted her.

    Annie with her forever mom

    Annie with her foster mom turned forever Mom–Suzi!

  2. Cha Cha came to Chako deaf and with a broken leg. She had surgery to fix her leg and found a great foster Dad, Mike, then lucked out and found true love with her forever family!
    Cha Cha with her foster dad, Mike

    Cha Cha with her foster dad, Mike

    Cha Cha with her forever family.

    Cha Cha with her forever family.

  3. Mouse is a new Chako dog who came to us from the Sacramento County shelter. Here she is with Chako founder, Dawn Capp, while she waits to find her true forever love with a new family!

    Mouse is a Chako dog waiting for her new home. She's available for adoption and gets along great with dogs and cats! Here she is happy to be out of the shelter and snuggled up to Dawn, Chako's founder.

    Mouse is a Chako dog waiting for her new home. She’s available for adoption and gets along great with dogs and cats! Here she is happy to be out of the shelter and snuggled up to Dawn, Chako’s founder.

  4. Hank came to Chako as a 3-4 month old puppy with an autoimmune condition known as puppy strangles. After months of treatment and a foster family who stuck with him, he recovered and JUST celebrated his first birthday with his forever family!

    Hank with his forever family!

    Hank with his forever family!

  5. Star, now Tesla, needed surgery to remove a cancerous lump when she came to Chako. We got her all fixed up, and now this older gal is loving life with her new mom!

    Tesla with her mom.

    Tesla enjoys the sun with her forever mom.

  6. Nina was a youngster when she found her way into a Chako foster home, and now she’s doing great with her new family. She loves them, and they adore her!

    Nina really loves her family and they love her!

    Nina really loves her family and they love her!

  7. Darla was just a wee pup when she and her brother came to Chako and foster Dad Mike took them in. Mike and Darla fell in love, and now she’s his forever! Another Chako “foster failure!”

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    Mike and Darla – True love, rescue style.

  8. Sirius had a bum leg when he went to his wonderful Chako foster home, and now he’s got a new family and a beautiful collar!

    Sirius (L) has a new forever family!

    Sirius (L) has a new forever family!

  9. Frankie liked to sing the blues when he was a pup looking for his forever home. Here he is, the apple of one particular little girl’s eye!

    Frankie is adored by one particular adorable little girl!

    Frankie is adored by one particular adorable little girl!

  10. Chako founder Dawn with her two dogs, Savvy and Soli. Soli is a Chako dog who was in the Yuba shelter at a mere 5 weeks, all alone. She was to be made available to whomever had his or her name drawn out of a box, so Chako volunteers showed up to make sure she went to a good place! Check out her video.

    Chako's founder with her two Pit Bull valentines!

    Chako’s founder with her two Pit Bull valentines!

  11. Chako volunteer Windigo is totally in love with her year-old gal, Dara!

    dara

    Dara and Windigo, true love.

  12. Daisy loves her former Chako foster mom, Mary. Daisy came to Chako from a bay area shelter, and she adores her forever family. Check out the happy family portrait below.
    Daisy and her forever family!

    Daisy lounges on the lap of her former Chako foster mom.

    Daisy and her forever family!

    Daisy and her forever family!

  13. Suzi is one extraordinary puppy foster mom. Here she smooches her newest Pit Bull valentine, Nimoy, who is up for adoption through Chako! This 14 week old boy is mellow as can be and loves dogs and cats.
    suzinimoy

    Nimoy wholeheartedly loves his Chako foster mom!

    If you’re doggie-lonesome and interested in finding your own Pit Bull Valentine, adopt a Pit Bull!

Could autoimmune conditions cause anxiety, fear, or behavior issues in dogs?

by Dawn C, M.S., J.D.

A recent NPR article has piqued my interest and had me thinking about something I’ve suspected and mentioned a few times in the past regarding many of the dogs I see in shelters, foster homes, and loving pet homes that have both behavior issues and allergies or other autoimmune conditions.

Could the two somehow be related?

At first glance, it seems counterintuitive. Anxiety, fear-based, or other behavior issues are based in the brain and generally involve neurochemistry. Allergies and autoimmune issues involve the immune system. However, I’ve noticed that a high percentage of dogs that exhibit fear-based, hyper-reactivity, or anxiety-based behaviors severe enough that their owners seek help often have moderate to severe allergies or other autoimmune issues.

Of course, lots of dogs have autoimmune or allergies issues and lots of dogs these days have behavior issues, so it makes sense, even if the two aren’t at all related, that a fair number of dogs would have both conditions, just as a coincidence.  Association doesn’t mean causation.

But some doctors are coming to just that conclusion, according to the article. “Dr. Roger McIntyre, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, tells Shots that he believes an upset in the “immune-inflammatory system” is at the core of mental illness and that psychiatric disorders might be an unfortunate cost of our powerful immune defenses….[I]t would be reasonable to hypothesize that a subpopulation of people with depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia ended up that way because an infection activated their immune-inflammatory system.”

I’m interested in hearing from dog owners:

  • How many of you have dogs with fear-based, anxiety, or other behavior issues (hyperarousal or reactivity, etc.) that also have allergies or other autoimmune conditions?
  • If your dog’s autoimmune issue gets better (either through treatment or seasonal changes), does his or her behavior improve?
  • How many of you have dogs with such behavior issues that have no allergies or autoimmune conditions?
  • How many of you have dogs with allergies or autoimmune issues that have no such behavior issues?

Let me know in the comments and/or take the poll below.

Eight Rules for Dog Foster Parents

Foster dog Raven, now adopted

Foster Dog Raven, now adopted!

I’ve been fostering Pit Bulls since about 1996, even before Chako Pit Bull Rescue became a formal 501(c)(3) nonprofit. As an individual and as part of Chako Pit Bull Rescue’s foster network, I’ve learned a few solid basics about how to be a successful foster. Of course, the following rules don’t represent everything one should do or know to be a successful foster parent. These are just eight important rules I’ve chosen to highlight.

  1. Keep your foster dog separated from your other pets for at least a week.This means no off-leash play, no hanging out on the same bed or couch together, etc. A week is the minimum separation time, but go longer if necessary. You can take your foster dog for short walks with one of your resident dogs, so long as there is only dog being walked by a person at a time (that means you need at least two people); and you should keep about a ten foot distance between dogs during the walk at all times. Make sure each dog is on secure equipment.

    You can separate your foster dog by using a crate or even a very secure baby gate. For the first couple of days, you might even want to put the foster dog in a separate room, in a crate, so he or she can calm down and decompress from the shelter. Of course, take him or her out frequently (and put away your other pets when you do). You can also set up a crate  in the main living area of your home, but you might want to put an ex pen or other barrier around the crate so your resident pets cannot hassle or invade the crate space of the foster dog. This gives your dog a chance to acclimate to the environment, observe you and your pets and how you interact, and start to feel more comfortable that you all are fairly nice beings.

  2. Take lots and lots and LOTS of photos and video of your foster dog. Always have a camera ready. Sure, you’ll probably take 30 terrible shots for every 1 great one, but it’s important to have lots of cute, clear photos that showcase your foster dog’s personality and inherent adorableness. Good photos and video will really help get your foster dog adopted.
  3. If you do start to let your foster dog interact with your resident pet(s), keep the initial interactions short and well-supervised. Make sure you’re familiar with and paying attention to dog body language, and of course, keep dogs on loose but untangled leashes for initial physical interactions. Never force one dog to approach another dog. Let the interaction happen as naturally as possible, but if one dog starts to object or stiffens and seems wary, casually but quickly put distance between the dogs.  If introducing your dog to your cat, on leash is always preferred, and of course, know your cat. You may want to put your cat in a crate or behind a baby gate to see how things go initially. Also be aware that a still cat is very different to a dog than a running cat.
  4. Never let dogs who belong to other people play with your foster dog. You are responsible for keeping your foster dog safe. You can assess what level of risk you are comfortable with for YOUR OWN dogs, but don’t bring other people’s dogs into the interaction with your foster dog. Sure, it may work out nine out of 10 times, but the one time it doesn’t, your actions may very well result in injury to a dog or person, and you’ve likely caused a lot of stress for the agency you’re fostering through.
  5. Keep your foster dog well groomed, especially those nails! A well-groomed dog is a more adoptable dog (and long nails can do bad things to a dog’s feet, legs, and gait).
  6. Do physical inspections of your foster dog at least once a week (check ears, mouth, toes, and run your hands gently over the dog’s body). This assumes, of course, that your foster dog is amenable to such handling. If your dog isn’t, work on that (your rescue or shelter organization can show you how). Check for anything out of the ordinary (bumps, rashes, etc.) and report those immediately to your organization.
  7. Be honest with your organization about the dog’s personality and behavior so they can make the right decisions for your foster dog. Never lie or sugar-coat behavior issues. Rather, work on these issues. Be honest with any potential adopters so your foster dog can find the right forever match. If you lie or sugar-coat issues, your foster dog is likely to be returned as soon as  the adopters realize the foster dog is not for them.
  8. Keep Copies of Records for Your Foster Dog.This is especially true if you’re fostering through a rescue rather than a shelter, but it is helpful regardless (assuming you have access to the records). Keeping records organized and easily accessible means there’s always a copy readily available where the dog is physically located. Sometimes potential adopters have questions about a dog’s medical history, and having the records handy can prove invaluable. In addition, many small rescues have disorganized record-keeping systems since they often cannot afford expensive data management systems, so you can help the rescue by keeping a copy of the record for your foster dog (I even encourage foster providers to take photos of the records after each procedure and store those images on their smart phones, if they have one).

How I’m Raising My New Puppy — Lessons Learned

Author: Dawn C., Founder of Chako

I’ve raised a few dogs from puppies in my time, fostered a ton of puppies and dogs, and worked with many shelter dogs. I’ve shown dogs in ADBA, UKC, and ADBA, participated in weight pull, flyball, agility, obedience, Shutzhund and even tried some paws at dock diving.

Every time I start a dog from a puppy, one that I’m going to spend the next fifteen years with, I reflect on what I’ve learned from the last dog and how I’m going to use that knowledge to help raise a puppy into a respectable adult dog.

These are the things that, ultimately, become important to me as the dog grows and in how my relationship with the dog develops, and they might prove useful to you. Even if you’re not starting with a puppy, wherever you’re at in that relationship, some of the suggestions below might prove useful to you.

1) I like to compete in dog activities, but I only participate in dog-related sports that we both find fun. It has to be fun for the dog, and fun for me. If one of us is not having fun with the sport, it’s time to find a new sport. This means that I don’t use things in my training that regularly make it NOT fun for the dog. I would watch trainers in the Schutzhund club rely on shock collars for everyday training in the sport. My personal motivation for engaging in dog sports is to do something that my dog and I can both enjoy, not to satisfy my ego and definitely not to pad my wallet (it tends to have the exact reverse effect on my wallet, actually). It’s more about fun than it is about getting a perfect score. Sure, the high score is nice. The ribbons are nice, but if neither the dog nor myself are having a blast, then why bother? Life is too short for the both of us. We should get the most out of our few years on this planet.

soliagility

2) I select about three or four commands I want the dog to know really well and focus on those. I train others, of course, but since I’m not a stay at home dog mom (I work, I do rescue, I volunteer at Chako events), I know I need to really focus on what the truly important stuff is that I want engraved in my dog’s brain. For me, these are “heel,” “come,” “out,” and crate-kennel training. Leash walking is a close second to those, but the all important four are the ones we practice the most, especially as the puppy matures into a teenager with attitude. Of course she knows sit, down, wait and stay, but I’ve learned in my many years that focusing on honing too much, too soon, means everything suffers just a little bit if you don’t have the time to dedicate to proofing. So, the do-or-die commands are the ones that really could save her life or that are serious foundations for later competition obedience (like heel). The rest is easy. Getting a terrier-based breed to “come” when they are chasing a squirrel across the street, with an oncoming car approaching (because they are somehow accidentally not attached to a leash and loose in public) is a life-saving endeavor. I practice come from day one, and it’s always, always, always positive. I let her harass the chickens behind the fence, say “come,” give her the best treats ever, and let her go right back to harassing them. Hopefully, this training never needs to pay off, but if it IS needed, I hope I’ve set the right foundation. (And, over time, she has learned that harassing the chickens just isn’t that entertaining, anymore, thankfully.)

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Coming, even with the temptation of her handsome Rottweiler playmate.

3) I make proper socialization a priority. This doesn’t mean dog parks. It means supervised play dates, excursions, plans that entail bringing the puppy along to expose her to new environments, sights, sounds and experiences. The river. Some doggie playmates. The Fountains in Roseville. The stuffed dog-sized bear in the Orvis store. A dog-friendly winery. Restaurant patios where we work on manners in public. All of these excursions are timed in coordination with the appropriate puppy vaccinations, of course.

solidarakiss soliriver

4) I sign up for activities that I have to go to, as long as we’re having fun. Currently, this is nosework, a new sport for me. It makes me get out every week with other dogs and practice a skill, working toward competition. Signing up for classes or workshops is a great way to make sure you take the time to work with your dog and get him or her out there, using that doggie brain and expelling some of that wonderful energy. Ultimately, it gets me away from my computer, desk, television, and phone (well, mostly, on that last one) and puts my brain into an entirely different mode where I have to connect with an animal that’s a completely different species from the one I’m around all day at work. (And here’s a plug for Chako’s Meetup, which will get you out and about with your dog thanks to classes, workshops and fun walks).

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Soli in her nosework harness

As a puppy mom, there is also one really important mindset to have. Some of your stuff is going to get messed up. A shoe might be chewed, even though you’re diligent about keeping them out of reach. Your carpet might never be the same. The new hanging lantern from Ikea–Toast!–because you thought you’d placed it out of reach, but you really didn’t. That garden? Get a puppy-proof fence or say goodbye. Such trials and tribulations come with the territory of puppyhood, especially with a terrier-based breed. Go into that with eyes open and a relaxed attitude, knowing that stuff is just stuff and if you’re consistent and diligent, the pernicious puppy phase will pass and your shoes will breathe a collective sigh of relief, no longer in constant danger of destruction.

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One of Soli’s victims – an innocent bed.