Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Pitties— Unlikely bond shared by two neglected pit bulls.

By Randi Bildner

A summer of broken hearts leads to a spring of renewed spirit.

In August 2009 the collective hearts of New Mexico’s “animal community” broke as we said goodbye to Salvador, the beloved yellow pit bull and resident of Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary.

Salvador left a legacy of love for all who were lucky enough to know him. While saddened to learn that this wonderful creature had crossed the Rainbow Bridge, visions of his magnificent smile linger, while lessons of forgiveness remain deeply ingrained in our souls.

Salvador arrived at Kindred Sprits by way of The Santa Fe Humane Society; his severe injuries were consistent with those of a bait dog used in fighting.

Love, patience and the ability to “know” he was safe restored Salvador’s spirit.

One cannot help but reflect upon the memory of Salvador’s noble character when meeting Trooper—it is impossible not to draw a parallel about the forgiving nature of the dog.

Named for his incredible will to live and persevere, now it’s Trooper’s time to teach. His sweet temperament allows us to marvel at the depth of the canine spirit once again.

Found wandering in Valencia County on June 4, 2010, Trooper’s face was swollen beyond recognition. Blood and ticks had gathered in such dense proportion it was difficult for authorities to tell what breed he was.

Trooper’s wounds suggest that he too was used as a bait dog for fighting. Evidence reveals that Trooper’s mouth had been wired shut (a tactic used by dog-fighters) to prevent him from retaliating against aggressive attackers.

Veterinarians state that Trooper’s collar had become embedded in his neck (a result of being on the dog for too long). A deep gash and pools of blood indicate the collar was ripped off the dog before his rescue.

Lynne Vito of Jemez Springs Animal Amigos states,“ When found, the dog’s ribs bulged through his body from lack of food and he was covered with ticks.”

Patty Mugan, Animal Control Technician for Valencia County found Trooper a wonderful foster home with Claire Leonard where he could mend while awaiting permanent placement. This serendipitous occurrence provides another link between the two dogs. Leonard (a volunteer for Kindred Spirits) knows first hand about the recuperative power of love as well as the resilient nature of the dog.

As part of her duties at Kindred Spirits she personally cared for Salvador. Leonard was very happy to report that Trooper is thriving under her care. Incredulous, she states that Trooper shows no bitterness towards people or other animals. “He is simply happy; he loves playing with toys and has not stopped wagging his tail.”

They say, “time heals all wounds” and this adage proves true with regard to Trooper’s physical injuries. But once again it is the dog’s uncanny ability to forgive that transcends time— and above all— human comprehension.


Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) is offering up to $5000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest of Trooper’s abusers.

Animal Protection of New Mexico’s Cruelty Hotline: (505) 821-9142
Attorney General’s Task Force Hotline: (877) 5 HUMANE, (877) 548-6263

Jemez Springs Animal Amigos
PO Box 333
Jemez Springs, NM 87025
(888) 828-JVAA (5822)

A forever home for Trooper is pending.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Singularity: Building the Perfect Beast?

Near-future visions of hi-tech human and animal lifeforms

from Mat Thomas
Some scientists believe that, within the next three decades, humanity will reach an evolutionary turning point called the Singularity when we create a living, conscious intelligence that is superior to our own. This history-making event will essentially usher a new and unprecedented species into existence—a race of TransHumans who would be ultra-intelligent, virtually immortal and perhaps physically unrecognizable.

Though it’s still much more science fiction than actual fact, some researchers (and billionaire investors) believe the Singularity is not only possible but inevitable. Technocrats speculate that the convergence of exponential advances in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, cybernetics, cloning, and other inconceivably-complex disciplines will someday allow people to synthetically enhance their minds, bodies and lifespans beyond the narrow limits that nature has otherwise imposed upon us mere mortals.

Among the more mundane proposals: surgically implanting fully-integrated microprocessors in humans’ brains, growing vital organs in test tubes, designing smart swarms of nanobot doctors that can routinely cure life-threatening diseases, and downloading people’s memories and personalities onto hard drives so they can “live” forever on the digital plane.

While it seems that their supreme goal is to turn humans into real-life superheroes (or perhaps demigods), Singularity scientists certainly don’t confine their theoretical “improvements” to us Homo sapiens. They claim that tomorrow’s pets, for instance, will also be custom-made in the lab—from parts of different animals, that is, and perhaps spliced with human DNA. The chimeras of mythology (from mermaids to unicorns) could then be made flesh-and-blood, along with freaky Frankenpets like furry fish, flying cats and feathered dogs.

And then there are the cyborg species: animals with bionic bodies and computerized brains designed for military security and surveillance. The Army has already fitted insects with electrodes connected to tiny circuit boards and radio receivers that allow human operators to remote-control their flight patterns. As for the Singularity’s impact on farm animals, factory farms already harbor mutants who’ve been genetically selected for commercially exploitable characteristics like rapid growth and oversized body parts. However, the Singularity could enable bioengineers to manufacture farm animals who are even more “adapted” to the artificial assembly line environment, like featherless hens, pigs with toes for standing on concrete floors, and cows with stretchy silicone udders.

On the plus side perhaps, Singularity technology could also be the key to mass-producing meat in vitro, which could conceivably end factory farming (and the suffering it causes). Yet, for all their forward-thinking, Singularity scientists appear to have no more ethical concern for animals than their more traditional colleagues—even though the realization of their ideas could visit new and even greater forms of pain on other species by changing their very nature. Indeed, they could construct self-aware creatures who, lacking legal rights, are just as exploited as today’s animals.

On that dire note, here’s hoping humanity’s techno-transcendence is accompanied by an ethical Singularity of planetary mass consciousness-awakening. Ultimately, without greater understanding and respect for life itself, our evolutionary leap forward will merely lead us from the frying pan into the fire.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Story of Leo

Former Vick dog heals hearts

Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall. -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

By Randi Bildner

Words are tools that wield incredible power; used effectively they can make a positive contribution to society. Unfortunately, sensationalism and the promise of the sale can skew reality and turn innocent statements into dangerous rhetoric.

Such is the case for the sad situation facing many pit bulls in this country and around the globe.

Leo is the name Certified Dog Trainer Marthina McClay chose for the American Pit Bull Terrier who made his way into her loving arms on December 16, 2007. McClay rehabilitated the animal,and then, in just five short weeks, turned him into a therapy dog. His name (a reference to “Leo the Cowardly Lion”) was chosen as a testament to his meek demeanor—a sharp contrast to the public perception of the pit bull.

McClay’s accomplishments would be impressive for any dog or any trainer for that matter— but Leo is not your average canine.

In April 2007, Leo, along with 50 other pit bulls, made worldwide news when he was confiscated from suspended NFL player Michael Vick’s home in Smithfield, Virginia. Evidence indicated that Vick was running a full fledged dog fighting ring under the guise Bad Newz Kennels.

Now serving much-deserved time in prison for the atrocities committed on his property, the former football star is also digging deep (by court order) into his well-padded pockets to pay to rehabilitate this once-fighting dog Leo along with the 47 other remaining dogs who have been sent to trainers and sanctuaries around the country.

It is important to note: of the 50 dogs confiscated at Vick’s property only one was deemed too aggressive for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, one additional dog was euthanized when it was discovered he was suffering from cancer.

Well aware of the media’s uncanny ability to misrepresent facts about pit bulls to create sensational headlines, McClay is extremely protective of Leo’s reputation. It became her mission to make it impossible to misread Leo’s intentions. McClay cleverly dresses Leo in a clown collar when he is “on the job,” visiting oncology wards and other medical institutions.

Leo’s intentions are undeniably clear as he places his huge head on the lap of a distressed patient. With deep, soulful eyes he peers directly into their hearts, causing them to muster a smile. For a few moments, all is well with the world—as Leo brings light to someone facing a dark day.

Each time the media puts a negative spin on a story to grab a headline; it is a tacit endorsement of the people who are part of this unsavory sub-culture. McClay points out, “With each misstatement these dogs are being pushed further underground and away from society.”

McClay is the founder of, a San Francisco-based organization that rehabilitates pit bulls— including “fight bust dogs” like Leo. McClay credits these dogs in particular for teaching her much about the world of dog fighting.

What McClay learned is contrary to what most people believe and would be very surprised to hear: these dogs do not want to fight. McClay states, “The fear in their eyes clearly tells the story,” saying, “The dogs are shoved and pushed into the ring or pit leaving them no place to go.” According to McClay, dog fighting is something dogs are forced to do by horrible means and do not enjoy.

The understanding gained from fight bust dogs supported what McClay observed throughout her years of experience, confirming her theory: insecurity, fear and in some cases lack of socialization were often incorrectly interpreted as aggression.

Ironically, McClay believes that Leo is the most balanced American Pit Bull Terrier she has ever known, saying, “He is extremely confident with people; his behavior clearly showed that he did not want to fight.” Leo shows his love for his fellow canines too. He now resides with McClay along with two additional pit bulls and a Chihuahua Pug mix.

Calling pit bulls “biddable”—willing to do what is asked and very obedient—they are actually loyal to a fault, which it the very tendency that can lead to trouble when placed in the wrong hands.

With proper assessment and training many pit bulls can thrive as therapy dogs.

McClay states, “One thing you can’t teach a dog is to want to love; this is simply in their nature; you can’t just make a therapy dog.” Unlike fighting, love is innate; it is something that cannot be taught.

Leo’s work is a multi-faceted service. Not only does he bring joy to those in difficult situations, he is showing the world what he is all about. He clearly demonstrates the fact that when nurtured and loved, pit bulls can make an incredible contribution to the world.

Additional credentials:
Marthina McClay, CPDT
AKC Certified CGC Evaluator
Certified Tester/Observer
for Therapy Dogs, Inc.
Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer

Visit Randi Bildner's wonderful website The Bully Beat

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lam of Our Pack

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pilots N Paws Organizing a fly-in on June 20th

Fly-In to save lives is scheduled for June 20, 2010.

Pilots N Paws is having a fly-in on June 20th. There is a list of locations where pilots are coming from and flying back. The flights are free, completely volunteer, and all you will need to do is meet the pilot at the airport to pick up your animals!

The website for Pilots N Paws is www.pilotsnpaws. org

The list of locations are as follows:
-St. Augustine, FL
-Bessemer City, NC
-Emmitsburg, MD
-Lexington, KY
-Heath Springs,SC
-Flagstaff, AZ (flying commercially, could take small in cabin animal)
-Meansville, GA
-Midland, MI
-Chesapeake, VA
-Waxhaw, NC
-Knoxville, TN
-Williamsburg, VA
-Kansas City, MO
-Memphis, TN
-Baltimore, MD
-Norwalk, CT
-Gettysburg , PA
-Savannah, GA
-Chattanooga, TN

Their website is intended to be a meeting place for those who rescue, shelter or foster animals, and pilots and plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of animals. It is not the intent of Pilots N Paws to coordinate or arrange those providing these valuable services, but to provide the environment in which those involved can come together in a common place and arrange or schedule rescue flights, overnight foster care or shelter and all other related activities.
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