No dog is more maligned, mistreated, or misunderstood than the pit bull. A generation ago, the pit bull was the loyal sidekick to The Little Rascals on TV, was the mascot of the Buster Brown children’s shoe company, and was a companion to the likes of Helen Keller and President Theodore Roosevelt. While you are browsing these pages we here at Out of The Pits hope you leave with a better understanding of the pit bull terrier, and hope that you open your home and hearts to one of our dogs.
What you will discover here, are some amazing and true accounts of people, Pit Bulls in need, and their efforts to help each other. Some of these tales will make you smile– others will infuriate you as you read of abuse and neglect– and some will undoubtedly leave you with a lump in your throat. An important fact to note is that everyone involved embarked upon a personal journey through uncharted territory. Neither man nor animal had any real sense of what lay ahead. Yet, through patience, love, trust and respect, all arrived at their destinations changed for the better.
Every day thousands of dogs assist people as therapy dogs. Many visit senior citizen homes and give residents something to look forward to each week. They literally wait for the moment a therapy dog walks through that door so they an lavish attention and praise on them. Pit Bulls serve as outstanding therapy dogs. The following dogs highlight their remarkable diversity.
TT, CGC, TDI
In the spring of 2008 Out of the Pits lost its first therapy dog when Alex, the beloved working companion of OOTP president Cyd Cross, suffered a fatal stroke. Originally rescued by police from deplorable conditions during a drug raid, Alex was, for many years, Out of the Pits’ star performer. In addition to being seen, handled and loved by thousands of school children throughout the Northeast, Alex appeared on TV many times on behalf of her breed. Her sparkling, people-loving personality was the subject of an Associated Press article published in newspapers coast to coast. For more than 10 years Alex, with Cyd at her side, could be found in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, drug rehabs, camps and at many special events – anywhere a little canine love and kindness could brighten someone’s day.
She became the symbol of all that pit bulls could be and it is Alex’s image that can be seen today on the Out of the Pits logo – on our posters, t-shirts, mugs, etc. Her memory remains with us forever, but her legacy lives as our ever-expanding group of Out of the Pits’ working Therapy Dogs follow in her footsteps.
Like Alex, each dog below was rescued after being thrown out, abandoned and/or abused and, like Alex, each has come back to offer only comfort and healing love to mankind who has made them suffer so much. We invite you to meet some of that ever-growing list of our working Therapy Dogs certified by Therapy Dog International. If interested in having one of these extraordinary dogs visit your facility please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TT, CGC, TDI
It was in the summer of 2000 that this gentle dog was discovered skeletal, filthy and shivering with fear, on the meridian of a six lane highway by a veterinary technician while driving to work. Somehow, the vet tech managed to pull over amid rushing cars and lead the terrified two-year old across three lanes of traffic to the safety of her Bronco. Because there was nowhere to put him, Myka lived in that Bronco for three days. Then when Mary Allen of Out of the Pits was finally able to pick him up to take him to our rescue kennel. she made the mistake of stopping home and taking him into her house for a moment or two.
Myka, now ten years old, still loves the couch he crawled onto that day but he has come down to perform his therapy dog work in schools, hospitals and nursing homes many times in the past eight years.
Although pit bulls are known for their enthusiasm and high energy level, we always say that Myka “didn’t read the book’ for he is one of the most laid-back, easygoing dogs that has ever entered our program. But he still embodies the people-loving nature and complete trust of everybody – that pit bull magic – which has endeared OOTP therapy dogs to people of all ages throughout the Northeast.
TT, CGC, TDI
Piggy “showed up” – literally – in 2000 as a stray on the street in downtown Albany – shortly after the loss of our most beloved dog, Hermie. We humans were in no place to welcome a new dog into our hearts after our recent, enormous loss. But Pig would have none of that… We quickly found Pig’s real “home”, but his person wanted nothing more to do with him. Apparently an uncontrollably friendly, wiggly, wonderful five month-old pit bull was not what that person was looking for.
So the Wiggler came to share a home with his new pack of three other dogs (and a few cats): A lab/shepherd mix, a black lab, and a westie (and those small, furry felines with the sharp nails). A motley crew, for sure, but Pig settled right in. His name, Piggly Wiggly, simply, came from the fact that his hiney never stops moving – and that his nose smacks of that of a pig. A sweetie, for sure.
But what is perhaps best about this magnificent boy’s story is that the face of every person that meets him – a PIT BULL – changes. Softens. Smiles. He is the embodiment of the true nature of the breed. And in his endeavors as a TDI-certified therapy dog, this striped superhero does, in fact, change the world. With his gentle nudge and patented wiggle, this pit bull saves the day.
Story by Kathleen Pierce
TT, CGC, TDI
This beautiful chocolate and white dog had lived with board member Bonnie Kelleher for only a few short days before Bonnie realized that she had a truly special dog. Like Pit Bulls everywhere, Annie had that special love of life but she also had a charisma and presence that touched everyone she met so it wasn’t long before she had earned her Therapy Dog International title.
Almost immediately Annie was out and about with Bonnie visiting schools where she is always a BIG hit with students.
She’s also a great favorite in nursing homes throughout the Capital District. Likely to show up in costume whenever she can, Annie is one of our most popular and active therapy dogs. Based on her huge number of visits she was recently awarded the TDIA title by Therapy Dog International. In addition to her ongoing and extensive therapy work Annie can also be found participating in local “Children Reading to Dogs” programs in area library summer programs.
Over the Rainbow bridge- July 5, 2009, until we meet again, our “angel in a dog costume”.
This plucky little dog was picked up on the streets of Hudson, NY after having been forced to birth a litter. She then was abandoned by the local drug dealer who owned her. Once adopted by Out of the Pits member Mary Allen, Cali, who is completely deaf, quickly learned many American Sign Language signals and soon qualified as a certified therapy dog. Owning a deaf dog is almost a “spiritual experience” according to Mary who says that she’s still in awe of the many ways she and Cali can communicate without words.
And when she’s not out there doing her thing in schools and hospitals, Cali has begun to pursue a second career as a model on behalf of her breed. Here she is on New York’s Upper West Side, posing for the dust jacket of “The New Yorkers” the tale of Beatrice, a beloved white pit bull who shows us that living in this dog-loving city with a dog like her is like living in a tiny village that has a rhythm all its own.
TT, CGC, TDI
Tara was abandoned in a filthy, empty apartment as an eight-month-old pup until a kind soul heard her cries and called for help. She was brought to a boarding kennel where she met board member Suzanne Bunney who took her home to foster. As Suzanne and Tara spent time together, it soon became clear that this beautiful and talented pit bull was home to stay. Tara soon earned her TDI and CGC titles and became a busy ambassador for her breed, happily greeting children in schools and people in nursing homes throughout the Capital District. She is pictured below with the newest member of Suzanne’s family, Reese.
Tara and Reese quickly became best friends, and Reese is already honing his dog training skills and knows how to get “Tawa” to sit, stay and lie down.
TT, TDI, CGC
This courageous girl had been tied to a tow chain and forced to mother several litters of puppies in deplorable conditions when she was picked up in a drug raid in Newburgh, NY in 2006. Riddled with heartworm, suffering from curable but untreated cancer, a torn-off ear and chronic ear infections Grace suffered a lot even after being rescued by police. At first nobody could adopt her because she was being held as a cruelty case. Then nobody seemed to want the courageous survivor whose scarred body and ragged ear bore testimony to all that she had suffered.
For two years, Grace was moved from shelter to shelter and she barely escaped euthanasia each time. Even though nobody seemed to want to adopt the pathetic little dog with a broken ear and crooked legs, volunteers always seemed to see something special in Grace. One particular volunteer actually spent her evenings with her sipping wine and feeding her treats. Finally at a Dutchess County, NY shelter she came to the attention of Merle Borenstein, owner of Kingston’s Armadillo Restaurant and champion of pit bulls and homeless dogs everywhere. Recognizing Grace’s pathetic plight, Merle called OOTP president Cyd Cross.
It wasn’t long before Cyd realized that she had found just the right dog to follow in the footsteps of her beloved Alex, Out of the Pits’ very first therapy dog . In spite of all that she had suffered, Grace loved everybody and she brightened the day with her comical ways. Within a short time she had finished obedience at the top of her class and when it came time for testing for Therapy Dog International, and Canine Good Citizen titles, Grace breezed right through.
Today this courageous survivor is enchanting people in nursing homes and entertaining children in schools just as Alexis, her predecessor did. And she and Cyd have already made their mark for the breed with a feature on ESPN and several other TV programs. Watch for her story to be featured in Elise Lufkin’s upcoming book on service dogs.
I was only a six month old puppy wandering the streets of Cohoes, NY lost, lonely, cold and scared when I was picked up and taken to the local shelter. There I met Cydney of Out of the Pits who eventually arranged for Bonnie Kelleher to foster me in her home. Once I was settled in, Bonnie began taking me to special events so that people could see me hoping that someone, somewhere, might give me a home. Then one day I was sitting anxiously in a crate at Petsmart, in Latham NY when Ed Platkin came up to ask why I was alone in that crate.
When he was told that there weren’t enough people to hold all the leashes Ed immediately volunteered. And let me tell you …. When he opened that crate door, I just jumped in his lap and slobbered him with kisses. Later when he introduced me to his special friend Giselle she declared that it was love at first sight. I was cute as a button and made the heavens sing, she said. And before you know it I was living with Ed and Giselle. Toby their beautiful rescued bull terrier and their cats Minkie and Zoey. Now we’re all fast friends.
And I have become not only a Canine Good Citizen, but also a Therapy Dog International TDI dog. I look pretty cool in the TDI vest I wear when I visit people in nursing homes and schools. You can also find me in local libraries and bookstores where I have a job as a Tail Wagin’ Tutor.
Thanks to Ed and Giselle, I’ve come a long, long way from the little, lost street dog picked up in Cohoes that day. It’s a wonderful life. I couldn’t ask for more.
Toby is our blue and white teddy bear – he is a soft chiseled love muffin that makes the cutest grunts and moans when he is hugged, kissed and snuggled with. He has a “Big Daddy” persona – our silly, happy peacemaker.
The moment we saw him we thought he was drop dead gorgeous and knew that this boy needed to have some fun and be socialized so he could find his best forever home (little did we know it would be our home). I decided to volunteer to bring him to back to back obedience and agility classes at Crawmer’s Training Facility and brought our 11 year old friend Rainna to help me handle our girl Abby and sir Toby during both classes. Toby was in good hands, boarded at Creekside Kennel while waiting to be adopted.
Such a wild child – he bounced off the walls with excitement whenever he was off on his weekend adventures. He chewed through 1 seatbelt and 1 canvas crate in “I can’t wait!” anticipation during our drives to Crawmer’s, until I finally wised up and brought along a proper crate to transport him in.
At the time- we already had our male and female pitties – Kayto and Abby. I didn’t think it would be wise to bring another male pit bull into the mix. But the news that our beloved Kayto had cancer turned the tide. Bringing Toby into the fold, to do ride-a-longs with Ed in his 18-wheeler, and ease our transition when the inevitable day would come to say goodbye to our Sweet Prince, now made sense. I could go on and on – Toby, Kayto and Abby became fast friends. Toby’s presence comforted our distinguished, gray muzzled Kayto during his final months.
Toby was a natural Therapy Dog from day 1. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out – he was OUR therapy dog. We thought it only fair to share the gift and he was tested and pronounced “TDI”.
What a privilege to share our hearts and home with gentle handsome Toby, and to watch others delight in his antics during TDI events.
Thank-you Out of the Pits for this wonderful ambassador of the breed – our forever friend Toby.
TT, CGC, TDI
All the dogs in the shelter were barking, except for one. She sat remarkably quietly amidst the chaos, her eyes pleading, “I’m a good dog; please take me home.”
I didn’t know much about dogs when I adopted Lexi; but training her was easy. She is intelligent, obedient, and eager to please. Her temperament is rock solid, and contrary to the breed’s tarnished reputation, she is gentle, elegant, and refined. Lexi has profoundly changed my life.
I now devote all my spare time (and then some) to changing the world’s perception of Pit Bulls and to changing the world Pit Bulls live in, so that they are no longer abused or neglected.
Lexi made her first therapy dog visit to Goff Middle School on December 23, 2009. She had a blast, as did all the children who got to meet her. True to form she was gentle and sweet and gave the kids tender little kisses on their cheeks.
We’re looking forward to many more therapy visits in the coming years!
Kaylee looks truly contented tonight. Exhausted and contented. I believe she is basking in the glory of passing her TDI test today. She is lying at my feet and as I write this I imagine her dreaming of what a full life she has and how far she has come. Learning she was several days beyond her death row sentence we decided to take Kaylee home to be our first “foster”, but as luck would have it she quickly let us know that her forever home remained right here. She was given a second chance because the staff at Glens Falls Hospital (thank-you Jessica!) took special interest in her placement.
Like too many dogs she was dropped off by the animal control officer – found wandering with no one to claim her. She joined us with some unexpected surprises – ringworm, pinworm, bilateral nephritis to name a few. She was somewhat shy, but also seemed hungry for affection.
In less than a year Kaylee has truly found her comfort zone. She is reassured that she is surrounded by an abundance of love and now trusts that she is safe and people are good. This girl savors every scent, taste and sensation she encounters (with the exception of vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers). As I watch her sleep and listen to her contented sighs I can’t help but notice how still her tail is… in marked contrast to when she is awake and just a look or whisper sends it wagging furiously with great abandon and delight. Perhaps she is dreaming of today’s events and what a good job she did.
I doubt she takes for granted the simplest blessings in her life – running, walking, playing, being tickled or kissed by her humans. This girl is good therapy to those of us who love her. Now, officially TDI certified, I imagine she is dreaming of how many more people she can calm/charm with her gentleness, good humor, and sweet disposition. Sweet dreams Kaylee – wishing you many more hearts to touch in your new TDI role.
Gisele and Ed
We adopted Helen of Troy in February 2009 after a period of mourning our first pit bull Honeydew.
Helen of Troy is a small deaf pit bull who enjoyed the benefit of three rescues pulling together to help this special sweet girl. She was brought to Project Drumm at Troy Vet by animal control and from there the wonderful Barb Nizenkirk brought her home temporarily where she played happily with Barb’s menagerie.
From there Out of the Pits found her a spot at Animal Farm Foundation where she stayed until we adopted her. All along the way, Helen touched everyone’s heart due to her super sweet personality.
Helen got her CGC in June 2009 and has gone through three levels of obedience training at Mahogany Ridge. She has started basic agility training with Bonnie Murphy at MR and is really taking to it!!
Her big brother Chester may have some in-house competition on the agility field soon! But her main attribute is her happy go lucky spirit and her love of all. Now Helen will have a chance to give a little of her sweetness back as she passed her therapy dog evaluation conducted by Therapy Dog Inc. on April 30, 2010. We will keep everyone posted on her progress.
CGC, TDI, TT
As soon as Bruno came to Out of the Pits, we all knew he would make an incredible Therapy Dog and Breed Ambassador. His foster mom, who adopted him, took him to training classes where he quickly earned his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) title, his Therapy Dog International title (TDI) and passed his American Temperament Test with flying colors!
Bruno had his first therapy dog visit at the Mount Anthony Middle School in Bennington, VT. He enjoyed the attention and got in some good “snuggle time” with one of the girls. We are looking forward to many more visits.
Diesel started as a foster pup for Out of the Pits. This situation quickly turned into a permanent home, stealing our hearts by storm. He lives on a small farm with numerous other rescued animals, including a goat, chickens, horse, cats and other dogs. Diesel has the typical American Pit Bull terrier personality, doing everything with gusto, eating, playing, smiling and just loving life in general. He attained his therapy dog status in October ’10.
He enjoys working the Kissing booth and visiting a local nursing home as a therapy dog. Diesel has completed basic and intermediate obedience classes. He acts as a “Big Brother” to other foster pit bull pups. This is a role he especially enjoys. Diesel strives to be an ambassador for his breed. Wherever Diesel goes he changes people’s perception of the bully breeds. He hasn’t met a person yet who hasn’t loved him!
Pit Bulls can make amazing law enforcement dogs. Just ask K-9 handler and Oregon policeman Billy Wells, who has a canine partner many would not expect – a pit bull. Shaka came to Wells’ unit in the Milwaukie Police Department after a series of events changed the death-row dog’s life.
“K9 Shaka is something else” according to Dianne Jessup founder of LawDogs USA the Washington State organization dedicated to training pit bulls for law enforcement work. After sitting in a shelter in New York state for several months Shaka was discovered by Cyd Cross, Out of the Pits president who immediately recognized her potential for police work. Shaka was shipped across country to Seattle, picked up at the airport, driven two hours to the Washington State Police training kennel, taken out of the van and tested on the spot. She not only passed the tests, Diane reports, she soon lead the class she had started a week late!
K9 Shaka is now working in the city of Washougal, WA as a Narcotics Detection Dog.
Now’s your chance to make a difference and save the lives of homeless Pitbulls. Your generous donation helps provide shelter, food, and medical care to hundreds of Pitbulls who enter our shelters each year.