Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bully Breeds in the Blue Room

Every day at the Shelter, we get pit bulls, American bull dogs, American Staffordshire Terriers and all the possible combinations of bully breed mixes. It is an endless parade of bully dogs.

Some arrive with thick collars strapped to their muscular necks or with sun-bleached nylon harnesses encircling their barrels. Others come bearing full teats and protruding ribs from a recent litter. Many show up with mange—-bright, strawberry-red raw patches cover their faces and ears or splatter across their hind quarters. Many dogs come in with cropped ears—-some just tip-cropped, others sporting badly done home-jobs where the ear tips have been clipped so close to the head that the inner ear is horribly exposed to the elements.

Then there are fighting dogs—with old or fresh scars. The ones that are seized in connection with drug busts or other criminal activities are hustled straight into the “Red Room”—the quarantine room for bite cases and dogs held as evidence. Volunteers and the general public never get to see these dogs. However, many come in as strays or owner surrenders. Most end up in the Kill Room, but a fair number make their way toward the Adoption room, especially if they are young enough and not too blemished. Badly scarred dogs, however, don’t have as a good a chance.

My latest Advocacy Dog is “Blacky,” pictured above. I found him in the Blue Stray-Hold Room on Sunday night, well after the Shelter had been closed to the Public. I was there late putting dogs away after taking them an Off-site event. I have taken to doing a full walk-through of all the rooms each time I go to the Shelter. It is emotionally wrenching, and not all the volunteers will do walk-throughs. But I do.

Blacky (he does have a kennel card with a name, which is a good sign) was in a kennel with three other dogs. A huge black lab with a milk-white splotch on his chin was vigorously humping Blacky when I first saw the dog. Blacky, a bully breed mix of some sort, was trying to sit, and was hunched over so far that his head was between his forelegs. He could not curl up any tighter and remain upright.

I banged on the kennel to get the lab’s attention, but the dog was so caught up in his dominance that he just glared at me and lifted his lip, growling as he continued to hump Blacky. I went and retrieved a kennel worker, George, who got the big lab to back off and moved Blacky to another kennel as his last task before heading home.

I checked on Blacky again, and he was cowering as his new kennel mates pushed and growled at him. As a Volunteer, I’m not really authorized to move dogs, but it was late—just the Volunteers remained. I decided to move him again.

I grabbed his paperwork and hauled Blacky out again and put him into the next kennel to the right. Immediately, a fight broke out. I kicked on the door and hollered at the dogs. They broke up, and I dragged the now shivering, hunkered Blacky out. I didn’t have my leash, so I scrounged a broken slip-leash for Blacky, but he’s a big dog and he wouldn’t move. We keep male dogs on the A side (left) and females on the B side (right), so I cajoled Blacky around to the B side. He relaxed a little bit, pushing hard against my leg, head down and tail tucked. He looked just like the beleaguered little kid in the 1st Grade with a “Kick Me” sign taped on his back.

He was injured—something was wrong with his right front paw—and he could barely walk. I got him back around to the A side, and the dismay on his face was clear. He was terrified. Frantically I scanned the kennels. There was no way I could take an unevaluated, large Stray-Hold bully dog home with me at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.

I had to find him a safe kennel. There was only one available, Kennel #3 with—a single dog, an adolescent lab mix about 6 months old in Kennel 3. He was lethargic and had bloody stools. Someone had scrawled a note about the stools on his kennel card. Sharing a kennel with a sick dog (worms, most likely) was better than being bullied by the other dogs, so I shoved Blacky in. Blacky looked at me as if I had betrayed him. I knew I had, but I could do nothing else. I turned off the lights and left the Blue Room.

I couldn’t get Blacky out of my mind. I went to the Shelter on Tuesday, and he was still in the Blue Room, and still with the young black lab. To my relief, they both looked much better.

One good thing the Shelter Director has done is to hire a dog behaviorist. Mr. G. is one of our dedicated Volunteers, but now he has some authority as an employee to evaluate the dogs. He was working, so I got him and asked if he would come see “my dog.” We all have our “projects,” so Mr. G. agreed.

We got Blacky out and after an informal evaluation, Mr. G. said that Blacky most likely was very young (brilliant white teeth) and had probably been used as a bait dog, based on his extreme submissive behavior and the scarring patterns. Like most bully breeds, Blacky is extremely people-oriented. Mr. G. speculated that Blacky has been kicked by his handlers, but appears very sociable in spite of this. He let us both look at his teeth and handle his injured paws (both front paws and one rear leg) appear to have either old or new bone-joint injuries. We had to put him back in the Blue Room, but now Mr. G. has Blacky on his project list, too, and we spoke to the Blue Room Kennel Manager, and she’s going to try to move Blacky into surgery ASAP so he can get neutered.

This isn’t a happy ending, though. Even if Blacky makes it into the Adoption Room, we’ll have the challenge of finding the right home for a traumatized bully dog. This is all-too common situation at our Shelter, but it’s the only option we have. There is an awesome Bully Breed rescue in our region called Spindletop, but they are always full-up, plus it’s expensive to move a dog into their system.

If you have any rescue contacts in Texas, or if you can offer us a guess as to what sort of bully dog Blacky might be (we’re not thinking pit bull because of his large ears and mouth shape), leave a comment.


  1. Quite honestly he doesn't look like much of a bully boy to me. Maybe it's the pic. I am SOOOO glad you were there to help him get off on the right foot in the shelter there. I have my own project I'm still working on too so I know what you mean. It can be heart-breaking! I'd reccomend lookign through to see if you can get some additional contacts. Sadly all the rescues here are full and the shelters are right now too. Keeep up the good work! You DO make a difference!

  2. He looks sad. I hope he does well. Keep us updated

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. I have been away for a motn and am checking in and catching up with everyone on my blog list. How's Blacky doing? Some of these dogs are just amazing arent, they? here's a boy that has every reason in the world to hate humans and other dogs, and yet all he wants is some loving... Poor boy is black, too, another strike against him... I don't get that either...

    Give us an update when you get a chance...


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