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Posted on Fri, Oct 7, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

A reunion of adoptive families and pit bulls a culmination of happy endings at Humane Society event

By Lorrie Shaw


Mak Diesel

Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

Adopting a dog is a pretty big deal. The anticipation of having a new life in the house, doing your best to get matched up with the right furry face for your famil, and getting through those first few weeks while everyone has a chance to settle in and get used to each other — it's a good guess that you've been there.

Many pets that make up the canine population in our area were adopted from the Humane Society of Huron Valley and have found happy, stable forever homes when, at one point in their lives, that might not have even been a foreseeable reality.

This past Sunday, a group of people — all adoptive families — gathered at HSHV for a special event to celebrate the common thread that binds them together: they all adopted pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

The event, 'Bubbly with the Bullies,' hosted roughly 50 families and their pooches to celebrate the success of bringing adoptable dogs together with forever homes. Several of the families shared their stories over brunch, graciously provided by Afternoon Delight.

Human laughter and joyous noise of playful puppies and adult dogs was abundant, as were wagging tails.

A common joke that day amongst attendees was how grateful everyone was to feel the enthusiastic sting of a happy tail whacking their leg.

Grateful, because pitbulls have a lot of unfortunate strikes against them: for one thing, they are the type of dog that is most commonly the target of neglect, starvation, abuse and torture in our community, incidents that are investigated by HSHV's Cruelty and Rescue Department.

Some don't make it out of those situations alive.

Others wander aimlessly due to being a stray, like 2 1/2-year-old Gretchen, who was picked up by HSHV as a skinny 6 month old. She attended Sunday's event with her humans, Nate Hayes and Milvi Mikkor of Ann Arbor, who couldn't be more thrilled having her in their lives.

After coming in from the outside area that had a welcome tent of sorts set up that included goodies and giveaways from Karnik Pet Lodge and Sweet P's, I met the trio as they and an especially buoyant Gretchen emerged from the outdoor entryway, the humans both wearing satisfied grins. As I learned, the pooch has just finished bobbing for edible treats at an outdoor game station.

Hayes, an ad operations specialist with notes, "Gretchen gets to accompany me at work sometimes — she loves it!"

Seth and Ayn Duimstra of Jackson are not first-time pit bull owners. They adopted their dog, 2-year-old Mak Diesel, a handsome fellow with a solid brown swoosh across the right side of his face, in February.

"I had another pit for nine years before losing him to leukemia," explained Duimstra, in a quieter tone as he tossed bits of blueberry muffin to the newest addition to the family, who looked dapper in a tie made just for him by his "grandma."

"Believe it or not, Mak plays with our ferrets, and they have a great rapport," adds Duimstra, who emphasizes that positive reinforcement in training any dog is a must.

Another dog at the event, Bell, had a fractured bone in her leg. The owners could not afford to get her leg repaired, so they did the compassionate thing and surrendered her to HSHV. She needed surgery, and after, she made a great recovery and was featured in the Diamonds in the Ruff campaign, and later adopted by Jamie Slagle.

With an obvious strong spirit and sweet disposition (she offered me several face licks), she has a good life now.

Laurie Toole was accompanied by 4-month-old Cinder, a dark ball of energy who was discovered by Toole when her neighbor was fostering the then weeks-old pup through HSHV's fostering program. Cinder was found wandering the streets before going through HSHV's intake. Toole and her playful pup have been inseperable since the adoption and have taken advantage of discounted puppy training classes facilitated by Jerry Koszednar, CPDT-KA and a member of the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club.

Koszednar quietly remarks, "Positive reinforcement in everyday situations, and especially in training is far more effective than anything in helping any dog be well-adjusted," adding that he is an advocate of clicker training and other positive reinforcement methods.

Canine training classes are offered at a discounted rate to those adopting from HSHV.

Toole said, as Cinder bounded around on the other end of the leash, that she is impressed to see the peripheral support from canine professionals being made available to dog owners and that the added discount is a boon.

"The training has been invaluable, and additionally, the socialization aspect is important. It's a fun time for Cinder, too."

Fellow dog trainer Michael Burkey, who is a former police K-9 officer and owner of Michigan Dog Trainer, concentrates on the training of older dogs when working with adopters from HSHV, echoed Koszednar's sentiments that is one of the biggest challenges that a person who shares life with a pit bull faces, is isolation.

"The stigma that families that adopt a pit bull can face can create a negative cycle," Burkey states.

For example, when out for a walk, seeing the scowls from other people as they walk by with their dog, and sometimes the comments can really dishearten a pit bull owner, causing them to tire of it and find it easier to stay home.

"Not only do the people become isolated, but in turn the dogs do, too. Isolation leads to lack of socialization — and that causes big problems." Burkey continues.

"We facilitate events where bullies and their people can get together, mingle and feel more connected: like bully-friendly outings, walks, things like that."

And events like "Bubbly With the Bullies", where it was clear that if given the chance to demonstrate it, each adoptable dog can be an asset in the community.

Here's some video footage of this past week's event:

Lorrie Shaw is lead pets blogger for Follow her pet and writing adventures on Twitter. She welcomes your contact via email.



Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

If I am not mistaken, Pit bulls are the most abused, neglected and abandoned of all breeds of dogs. That being the case, is it surprising that they are also the most "violent". In the vast majority of cases, ANY dog (even pit bulls) that are raised properly, with proper training and a good, loving home, the dog is a gentle, playing and loyal pet. My 10 lb puppy often plays with pit bull dogs or older puppies and I worry more about the pit bulls than I do my puppy! Each one of those pits that he plays with are loving and playful with no aggression. You know why? They are treated well and are socialized by the owners.


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 8:57 a.m.

From reading posts in the past from some of the same posters here who left negative comments, I know that Shepard hates all dogs and Nicole had a bad experience with a dog in the past. However I think it's totally unfair to label ALL dogs as dangerous because of the acts of one. I love my pit/pit mix, she couldn't be sweeter and more cuddly. I suppose if I subscribe to the thought patterns of some of the negative posters here I could say I had a horrible experience with a child once so that must mean all children are bad??? please.....


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

My issues are more with owners than dogs. I think dogs are fine company for those who cannot or will not find human companionship. They are certainly better off with a dog then spending life alone so glad to hear you're happy Katy. I have a real problem with people who confuse dogs with children and parents who risk their lives trying to save a stupid pet. I also think it's disgusting that it's easier to raise money for animal related causes then for humans - especially among leftists.


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 3:46 a.m.

Some of these comments show total ignorance-----anyone who truly knows pit bulls know they are just a sweet dog, only with the problem of living in a society of prejudice and lack of caring to understand.


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

Yeaaaaa... think of it like fireworks. I can fire off all kinds of rockets and fire crackers all day and never have a problem. Some dude down the street will blow off his I what happens? Same thing with animals bread to kill - they should be banned to protect the future victims of owners who don't know (or don't care) how to control them.


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

I hope no children were allowed at the event. We all know the stats of these dogs around children and it is not good. I for one am appalled at how Humane Society pushes the adoption of this breed. It turns out bad in so many cases. Is it really worth taking the chance around your child or someone else's child? Even one bite can mean disfigurement for a lifetime especially a bite on the face. What a tragedy for these poor children who have been killed or disfigured.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 2:28 a.m.

nicole: We meet again! How nice of you to stay abreast of the posts in the pets section. Much appreciated! I'm not aware of any pit bulls or pit bull mixes that have been adopted from HSHV that have been a threat to anyone, especially a child - are you? Be assured that out of the number of dogs that were there at the event, there wasn't even a hint of a skirmish with each other, or humans of any age. Rather, it leaned more toward each dog being delighted to see everyone. As a pet professional, I different groupings of dogs everyday, and this particular situation could not have left me more impressed. From this and past posts, you seem to have a disdain for animals of any kind cohabitating with humans, and you seem to be especially sensitive when it comes to dogs. Have you had a poor or even scary experience with a dog? Many thanks for your comment.


Fri, Oct 7, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

I thought we outlawed pit bulls and rottweilers already. Ann Arbor City Council passed a law requiring motorists to slam on their brakes in traffic for a pedestrian APPROACHING AN INTERSECTION, yet they support the danger presented by these misfit creatures? By the way, dogs are property bought or given away by the human society. Children are adopted.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

@Kathryn: That's OK. If you look at his track record he doesn't like many people, either. Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 8:52 a.m.

shepard, everytime there is nice article about dogs, you show up with negative anti dog comments. If you don't like dogs, fine, that is your issue, but please don't be so negative to those of us that have kindness for Gods creatures, one and all, not just humans!


Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Sorry you are so cynical about the willingness of many to make a dog part of one's family ; and sorry too for the blanket condemnation of an an often abused breed that can be a fine pet with proper care and training. I didnt notice anything in the article about this pitbull gathering turning into a massive bloodbath of dogs and humans.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Shepherd145: I'm not sure that I follow you. What is the correlation between pedestrians and dogs?


Fri, Oct 7, 2011 : 11:27 p.m.

I owned a dog that was part pit bull and part rottweiller, the best dog I ever owned, smart, really sweet, loved everyone. Still, there were some that wouldn't let their kids near her just because of her breed's reputation. She lived 15 yrs, never bit anyone once.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

discgolfgeek: So glad that you had a great life with your dog! I'm sorry that you had to feel the sting of the reaction from others. Your story will perhaps help others to not prejudge. I'm sure that you mids your pet. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to share.


Fri, Oct 7, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

Congrats to all the happy families! Have 'bully' group get-together ideas is a wonderful idea. Good luck to all!

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Oct 8, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.

It was certainly a joyous day. Neat to see so many caring, diligent humans -so and the dogs were well-behaved especially when it came time for the group photo. Thanks for chiming in!

Dog Guy

Fri, Oct 7, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Happy endings? It is too early to say. It is not over until it is over. As the ancient Greeks said it, "Call no one happy until he is dead."