Loving life and destroying basketballs.
Playing with friend Cam
It was five years ago today that a former death row dog arrived at his new home. His name is Mickey, he is my dog and his arrival marked the beginning of a new life for both of us. Today I will share some of my favorite pictures from the last five years. I hope you will enjoy them.
The Facebook picture that stole my heart.
With canine brother and best buddy Oscar
First "re-birthday" February 25, 2012
Sure is exhausting being so busy all the time!
So many pictures to choose from so we will save some for next year. Happy 5th "Re-birthday" Mickey and thank you for an amazing five years!
photos courtesy of examiner.com and facebook.com
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.” Sophocles
Everyone loves a love story, myself included. This past week, just before Valentine’s Day, Cupid’s arrow struck countless people’s hearts and what emerged was a love for one lonely shelter dog most of them will never meet.
The dog’s name is Bobby. His picture was seen across the globe. It looked like he had the weight of the world on his forlorn shoulders. He clearly knew the pain of being abandoned by people he loved and trusted. At just one year old, Bobby had been dumped in a high kill shelter in Florida about a week before Christmas. The image that was seen far and wide was of a despondent and heartbroken dog, two months later, head down in a shelter cage, still wearing the green Christmas sweater that a shelter worker had dressed him in.
For two whole months Bobby sat in the shelter, daily losing hope. For two whole months no one showed any interest in adopting him even though he was by all accounts a great dog, loved by shelter staff and volunteers alike. His situation had become critical. Then, suddenly an article appeared, accompanied by his heartrending picture. It went viral on social media and just like that people were lining up to adopt him.
In less than twenty four hours Bobby had a home. In less than twenty-four hours, we see Bobby out of the shelter with his new mom, head up, ready to take on the world. Bobby may have been repeatedly overlooked because he had some minor, treatable skin issues and because he was not the bouncy, happy pup that many adopters are looking for but Bobby’s new mom believes he has the temperament to make an excellent therapy dog. He has already begun his new job, bringing joy and hope to nursing home residents where his new mom works..
There are so many lessons we can learn from Bobby’s story. Here are a few to ponder:
Lesson one: Sometimes the most overlooked are the ones that need us the most. Do not judge a book by its cover. Look inside and try to understand what that shelter dog has been through. Keep an open mind and an open heart and you may be surprised at what you find.
Lesson two: There is strength in numbers and we can all help. It is easy to look the other way when we see sorrow and sadness but if no one had taken the time to share Bobby’s story, his life might have ended in that same shelter.
This is the power of social media. So, each day, take a little time to share these shelter pets on your social media pages. It costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time. It is the fastest and easiest way to reach a large audience and you will be amazed at the impact a few clicks of a computer mouse can make.
In the world of rescue we see far too much heartbreak but a story like Bobby’s reminds us of why we persist. We do it because there are still a whole lot of good people out there and sometimes all it takes is making them aware.
Lastly, lesson three: And this is one that is easily overlooked as we celebrate Bobby’s new life. Many people went to the shelter that day hoping to adopt Bobby, but only one was chosen. For those who were not, there were many other wonderful, adoptable pets in the shelter who were still there at the end of the day. Those who left empty handed may have missed out on the gift one of those shelter pets could have given them – the greatest gift of all, the gift of love.
For every happy ending like Bobby’s there are thousands of dogs in shelters waiting for happy endings of their own. Adopt one until there are none.
It was five years ago today, February 9, 2011. When I woke up that morning I had no idea it would be the day that would change my life. That was the day I decided to do something.
For several months I had been aware of the plight of the dogs who came into the New York City Animal Care and Control (NYCACC) facilities. I was reminded of it every night as I saw the sea of hopeful faces in a situation that was often hopeless.
Each night the NYCACC posts a list of dogs that are scheduled to be destroyed the following day. It is a race against time for area rescues and potential adopters to break through the red tape and try to save these precious lives in just a few hours.
I tried to do my little part each day to help these “death row dogs” through networking and researching rescue options so I could help interested parties navigate the system. There were times I was able to help and times I was not, but I kept trying. Seeing healthy adoptable dogs being killed every day does take its toll, but I knew that if everyone turned a blind eye these dogs would have no chance at all.
Five years ago, I had legitimate reasons for not taking one of these dogs myself – or so I believed. My almost fifteen year old Shepherd/Husky Oscar had lost the use of his back legs, was unable to walk without the help of a cart and caring for him was almost a 24/7 job. These were his last days and this was his time – he had to be my first priority.
Then, on February 9, 2011, everything changed. Every justification I had for not taking in a death row dog went out the window when one dog that I had been trying desperately to save was placed on the dreaded list. Out of the hundreds of dogs I had tried to help, this one was different. Through one picture and one sad story he had grabbed onto my heart and refused to let go.
He was not the kind of dog most people would take a chance on. He was between two and three years old. He was a pit bull who had some serious fear issues and many red flags – the type of dog that often falls through the cracks. As I had been doing for the previous ten days or so, I continued to email rescues begging for help, but no one was responding.
He needed to be reserved before six o’clock the following morning and, being a work day and living more than two hours away, I was not able to go to the shelter in person. I needed the help of a rescue. To top it off, I was leaving for vacation the following week and, even if I could find a rescue, I also needed someone to keep him for me for at least ten days.
Since I could think of no way to save him personally, I vowed to stay up all night if necessary trying to find someone else who wanted him. It seemed hopeless, but then a miracle happened. A rescue got back to me - just one out of all of them but one was all I needed.
The woman who reached out to me was not able to take him into her rescue, but she did offer to get him out of the shelter for me if I wanted to adopt him. She even knew of a place to board him until I was able to bring him home. Without knowing anything about me, she was willing to take a chance. It was up to me now. Was I willing to take a chance? Was I willing to do something? I knew no one else was going to come forward at this late hour. I knew I was the only one who could save this dog’s life. Without even knowing what I was saying I agreed to adopt him. The home I so desperately wanted for him would turn out to be mine.
His name was Mickey and when he finally arrived on February 25th after two weeks in boarding, I began to think the shelter had been wrong about him. He came in, met my dog and they became instant friends. After exploring the house he put his head on my lap and went to sleep. I thought, “This is easy.” Boy was I wrong.
For reasons known only to him, Mickey trusted me but he would not let anyone else near him. He growled and lunged at anyone who came within ten feet of him. While I will never know what he went through before coming to me, whatever it was traumatized him so badly that it took a good ten weeks before I was even able to take him for a walk outside. Our house was his safe place and my dog Oscar, even in his compromised condition, was his friend who did his best to show Mickey the ropes.
I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Would the children and dogs in the neighborhood be safe? Would I ever be able to have people come into my house? Were his past experiences too much for him to overcome? So many questions.
“If you believe, it will happen….a faithful heart makes wishes come true."
Without getting into details, I will just say that these past five years have been a challenge and a learning experience unlike anything I have ever faced, but I believed in Mickey’s potential and the good news is we are both here today and better for the experience. After much anxiety and self-doubt, what I discovered underneath all the false bravado and the overwhelming fear was one of the sweetest dogs in the entire world.
Mickey has come so far in five years. He has mentored a new puppy, been a foster brother several times, had his picture taken with Santa and even appeared on TV. He has met people who have had a lifelong fear of pit bulls and changed their perceptions about his breed in a way that I never could. He has made me a better person. It was not easy, but knowing what I know now I would do it again in a heartbeat and I would do a better job the second time around because Mickey has shown me that I can.
What I have learned from this one dog I could never have learned from any person or any book. Mickey has taught me patience, he has taught me how dogs communicate and how to listen. He reinforces every day that it is not the way one looks that matters but what is on the inside.
I now know that Mickey will never be a dog I can take to a dog park. He probably will never get to run loose on the beach, frolic in the water or chase balls in the sand. He will never get to play with other dogs at dog day care. It was difficult for me to accept but then I realized that these were the things I wanted and not the things he wanted.
What he can do is enjoy time with family and other dogs that he has come to know. He can go for car rides and on long walks, play with his toys in the yard and lay in the sun. He can give kisses with the best of them, snuggle next to me to watch TV, hang out with me while I work and sleep on my bed at night.
Mickey has taught me to accept others as they are, that it is okay to be different and to embrace our differences as they are what make us unique. Most of all, he has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. He may not have the life I imagined for him but he has a life where he is safe and happy and loved beyond words. I guess that’s not such a bad thing at all.
As for me, by taking a chance on this one dog I have found myself. I have discovered a determination I never knew I had to help homeless animals through advocacy and rescue. I have written two books to promote a positive image of pit bulls and I will continue to be a voice for the abused, the neglected, the abandoned and for shelter dogs everywhere. While I thought I was doing a good deed by giving a scared, unwanted death row pit bull a home, what Mickey has given me is far greater. He has given me his heart. I hope I am worthy.
Five years ago today I put aside my apprehensions and jumped in with both feet. I stopped existing in the shadows and I took a giant leap of faith – faith in myself and in one dog that no one else believed in. Five years ago today the lives of one person and one pit bull converged and two lives were changed forever. The rewards for me have been immeasurable. I just hope Mickey feels half as thankful to be mine as I feel to be his.
How many of us have said, “If I could I would own an animal sanctuary?” I know I have. We all have dreams and making our dreams come true is something we all strive for. Sometimes, though, we just don’t know where to begin.
Today I am very excited to introduce a very special young Cape Cod woman who, at only seventeen years old has already begun. Jordan Ayres also dreams of one day having a sanctuary and plans are already underway to make it happen.
Rescuing animals often involves rescuing people as well. Jordan understands this and her goal is to help, not only animals but the community as a whole. She was kind enough to consent to an interview which I am excited to share today.
Without further ado, here’s Jordan!
Photos (c) Pawsitive Rescues
Q. For those who have not heard about Pawsitive Rescues, please briefly describe your mission and goals in your own words.
A. Pawsitive Rescues (PR) would be all about building bridges and destroying harsh or demeaning stereotypes. This sanctuary would not only be for dogs, but for people as well, which is one of the things that separates us from other organizations. Our primary focus in the canine world would be rescuing what we refer to as death row dogs; dogs who are living on borrowed time due to overcrowding in kill-shelters. Each hour, these pups get closer to their euthanization appointment. The PR staff would swoop in and bring these dogs to our sanctuary, where they could live out their lives with other dogs who have been in their paws, free of worry. Better yet, we would also hold adoptions, so if we find a suitable furever home, you can bet your tail that that is where they would go. But, regardless of adoption, they would be alive, and most importantly, happy and healthy. My dream for our property would be similar to that of Territorio De Zaguates, a mutt rescue in Costa Rica; so plenty of socialization and exercise would be guaranteed. I have high hopes for these dogs, and because of that, I want to give them the best chances at being the "poster-puppies" for dogs in that situation. Many times, because of the large amount of bully breed dogs in shelters as well as the world's vast misunderstanding of them, they would find a new start on our property. Given that they have the right potential, I'd love to see them go through the training process to become service dogs. Whether they become emotional support animals, or dedicate their smarts to caring for children with autism, they'd be making a "pawsitive" impact on the world. There are so many options for these dogs that are often neglected because people cannot see past breed or circumstance.
As I said though, this is not a sanctuary that closes its doors on people. In the future, PR plans to partner up with other mental health organizations to expand our helping hand. Our focus for the people would be to help those that suffer from mental illnesses (such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, etc.) as well as substance abuse/addiction. And, of course, we are completely LGBT+ friendly. Everyone is welcome, no matter if you're here for the rehab part or just for the dogs and community. It is well known, especially to the sufferers, how difficult it can be to hold a steady job when you're battling internal demons. But here, there would be an understanding for those things that many employers simply do not have. This kind of acceptance, as well as motivation, could be enough to push people forward into the happy and healthy life that everyone deserves. Because, each day they got out of bed, they would see the impact they have face to face. Each day they wake up, they would be one of the reasons that a dog can have its own second chance. They would get to see how each bit of effort they put in is instantly rewarded with compassion and excitement, from both the staff and the dogs. There isn't anything else like it. In the future, I would love to also incorporate suitable living quarters on our property for our staff and, with the help of a skilled attorney, I have no doubt that it will be possible. Pawsitive Rescues would be all about second chances and proving stereotypes wrong. We are all much more than our past tells us we are. Each and every person and dog can do incredible things; Pawsitive Rescues would just be offering the opportunity and support to do so. To find out more, I highly recommend checking out our website as well as our Facebook page!
Q. What is your timeline for accomplishing the tasks necessary to make this happen?
A. Due to the fact that I am seventeen, this year is all about preparations. Things like funding and spreading awareness are my priority, so when my eighteenth birthday arrives, the transition and paperwork will go smoothly. However, there are still so many things that PR and I can work on in the meantime to create "pawsitive" change in the world around us. I hope that in the next five years, our organization will be up, running, and gaining velocity. I am dedicating my life to this, and I have no doubt that it will succeed. There are too many good people in the world for something like this to fail.
Q. How did you become such an animal lover?
A. I have loved animals ever since it was physically possible for me to do so. In fact, I recall one time in elementary school - it must have been in third grade or something. I have always been excessively passionate about animals, dogs right there on top. So, of course, when I caught wind of the local pet shop's involvement with puppy mills, I was livid. Don't ask me how I stumbled across such information, because I really couldn't tell you. All I can say is that I was, and still am, very obsessed. Anyhow, during our snack break I started my mission. It all included stealth, passion, paper, a hole puncher, markers and yarn. I made one of those signs that goes over your neck/shoulders, with the words "Stop Puppy Mills" or something along those lines boldly written on the back and front accompanied by messy sketches. I then wore it to lunch in the cafeteria. Now, my efforts didn't close the pet shop (though that did indeed eventually happen, thank goodness), but it did earn me a complete scholarship to the Cape Cod Audubon's summer camp, which I adored. I grew up with Rottweilers, and throughout my childhood had been sidekicked by turtles, cats, rats, guinea pigs, fish, dogs, and the many wild creatures I considered my friends. I have never been afraid of animals, or any encounters with them; snakes, alligators, allegedly aggressive dogs, rats, etc. I love them all, though I'd be the first to tell you of the one exception - spiders. But other than that, I am a lover, not a fighter, though I won't hesitate to fight for them. Currently, I am employed by Nauset Pet Services, a dog boarding kennel, which I love. Then I return home every evening to a beautiful Saint Bernard, a handsome Rottweiler, and a rescue cat with crooked eyes (still totally purrfect). I am always eager to care for people's pets while they are away as well as help with my neighbor's horses, Jack and Skip. As I approached my eighteenth birthday, I looked to my future. My love for people and animals collided and Pawsitive Rescues was born.
Q. This is a very ambitious project for a teenager to be undertaking. How do you hope to accomplish the outreach, funding, etc. that will be necessary. What have you already done and what comes next?
A. I am very fortunate to live in the time of social media. Without it, even my business consultant said, 'such a dream would be considered impossible'. In between work, the PR launch, school, and personal things, it has been quite the juggle. However, impossible is one of those words that tends to make me more motivated. What can I say; I'm still a teenager and I like to prove the world wrong! As far as outreach goes, the feedback I have received has been amazing. So many people and groups have referred me to different places, organizations, people and places. Still, I am in shock. Word travels fast, especially on Cape Cod. The support has been overwhelming. I hope soon to be able to involve my own school district. Getting the community on board is something I am very passionate about, and I think even when PR is this small, it has the potential to help a lot of people. So far, I have been funding through GoFundMe; and we're nearing the $1,000 mark! Although I haven't used any of the donations yet (all costs have been paid for from my own paycheck as my donation), watching the funding grow has been beyond exciting for me. To see the messages I receive, I just don't have words. It is heartwarming, and the stories people have told me in response to my mission - it is exactly why I'm dedicating my life to this.
So far, I've accomplished quite a bit. Our website is up, and I spoke with an attorney to get my Articles of Incorporation checked over. We have pages on social media, and are being sponsored by a handful of local stores. Word has gotten out, and progress is being rapidly made. Anyone who wants to get on board is more than welcome!
Q. Tell us about your current project (Project Doggy Bag)
A. This project is still under construction so to speak. However, the main goal is to help the local homeless population get through the remainder of the winter safely. I will be speaking with the NOAH Homeless Shelter in Hyannis in hopes of getting some feedback to figure out how many of each supply we will need. The plan is to fill one gallon Ziploc bags with basic necessities that we often take for granted; things like Tylenol, toothpaste, deodorant, protein bars and canned goods, hand warmers, etc. and, with help of our volunteers, a small letter of encouragement with phone numbers to available local help services. It is well known that homelessness often times goes hand in hand with substance abuse as well as mental illness. Not only is it PR's mission to care for our people, but it should be the mission of the community as a whole. It is my hope to get a group of people involved with the project. You can read more and follow the updates on our website!
Q. How can people help?
A Every bit of support helps; whether it is in the form of a donation or a supportive email. I have been so touched by the stories people have told me in response to my efforts and it is things like that which will keep me motivated. I am always looking for people who share the same like-mindedness. Of course, connection-wise, attorneys, veterinarians, mental health care specialists, graphic designers, real estate agents, etc. would all be helpful. One of my biggest issues will be forming a trustworthy and passionate board of directors; so absolutely anyone who is interested in this project could be an enormous help. If you'd like to donate, we are currently accepting online contributions at gofundme.com/pawsitiverescues. And, in case anyone would like to contact me, my work email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Anything else you would like people to know.
A. If there is anything I could tell to a person who is struggling, it is that you have meaning. You, whoever you are and whatever you have been through, you are important. Your life has more value than you realize, and your past does not account for who you can become tomorrow. Don't ever give up on yourself, because someday you could be the reason someone else can live another day. Your life can bring smiles to others, and that is what matters most. There are many, many people out there who are more than willing to help you, whatever it is you are going through. Sometimes, all anybody needs is a nudge to begin to move forward. If you think Pawsitive Rescues would be the right nudge for you, or for someone you know, please contact me through my email. Even if PR is not fully established yet, I am happy to point you to trusted sources/organizations that are.
So there you have it. Remember the name folks – Pawsitive Rescues. You will be hearing lots more about this organization in the months and years to come. If you are able to help with referrals, donations or as a volunteer, please contact Jordan by emailing email@example.com.
Thank you Jordan and thank you to the loyalpitbulllove.com community for your support.
About the Author
Sue Torres is an animal advocate, rescue volunteer and proud owner of a previously abused pit bull who was slated to be destroyed for being tense and fearful in the shelter environment.
Inspired by their resilience, devotion and ability to forgive, she now devotes herself to restoring the image of these once-esteemed and cherished family pets. She works tirelessly to promote the adoption of pit bulls in our nation's shelters and change perceptions about this extremely misunderstood and unjustly maligned breed.
She lives in Connecticut with her rescued pit bull, Mickey. Her first book, Loyalty Unleashed was published in May, 2014 and is avsailable in paperback and e-book formats. Loyalty Unleashed II (her second book) is now available, also in paperback and e-book formats.