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Mr. Smiley-BobJune 1, 2012

I found a dog while driving home today. Meet Mr. Smiley-Bob: 

You know what pisses me off? That this is so flipping common in my neighborhood. I love Oakland, and even more, I love East Oakland. I have mad love for where I live. But the pit bull problem? It makes me so mad I get those choked hot tears stuck in the back of my throat. 

Mr. Smiley-Bob here had his ribs sticking out of his chest. It's hard to tell because he has the unneutered male's broad head, but this guy was skin over clackety bones. I yanked the car to the side of the road because I'd never seen the bones in a dog's tail before. He barely noticed me coming up to him, he was so busy trying to jaw a chicken bone out of a grate in the gutter. 

And you know what he did when a stranger came right up to him? When I said "Hey, boy, what's goin' on here?" He collapsed against me in joy. Tail whap-whap-whapping. Gave up trying for the chicken bone in favor of getting his head scratched. He had a nice heavy leather collar on WHICH MEANS HE HAD A HOME at one point, goddammit, but no tags. And I pray to god he doesn't have a microchip because the rat-bastard who would starve and/or abandon a dog like that doesn't deserve to get such a sweet boy back. Also, I would like to punch that guy in the nuts. Twice.

I opened my car door, and the dog jumped in. Oh, joy! I put the window down a bit, O frabjous day! I brought him the few blocks home with me and gave him a big bowl of water and dog food, THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD! Tail still whap-whap-whapping, his head pushing under my armpit just to get a little more cuddle. 

I loaded him back in the car to take him to the shelter (legally, we're at the dog limit for Oakland residents, as well as also being at our house and financial limit, too). The Oakland shelter does a great job -- that's where Clara came from (via the SPCA).

But you know what else? They have no money. Just like everything else in our city -- schools, public services, roads -- they can't do much with no cash. And on Fridays the shelter closes at 4pm. I got there at 4:30. 

Oh, nuh-uh. I couldn't bring the dog into our home -- Clementine is the best people dog ever but doesn't appreciate other dogs (besides ours) in her house. The outside one-way dropboxes were closed and locked. No one was answering the phone (well, they never answer the phone). 

So you know what I did? (Did I mention I was in a mood?) I hopped their locked fence. I said a chipper hello to some startled people working with a dog outside. I waited until a volunteer opened the door to leave and I literally stuck my boot in to wedge it open. "Hi! I have a dog!" 

"Well, we're closed." 


The volunteer turned his head to talk to the shelter officer. "Are we taking any more dogs?" 

"HE'S IN MY CAR AND I'M DROPPING HIM OFF. Would you like to help me open the fence, or should I carry him over?" 

The officer just shook her head and followed me to her car. 

See, the Oakland shelter partners with the nationally acclaimed pit rescue Bad Rap, which is honestly one of the best adoptions organizations out there. Take a look at some of their Happy Endings -- the photos are amazing. This boy will find a safe, loving home, I absolutely know it. He had me laughing during the whole drive. 


His ears fly back like this all the time! This was him just chillin'! 

Jumping backward in time for a moment, as I was trying to get into the shelter, the gate opened as a car drove out. The minivan driver rolled her window down. I said, "I found a dog!" She said, "What kind?" I said, "The sweetest pit bull ever." She wrinkled her nose and said, "No way," before speeding up.

You know what, lady? Bite me. Thank you for opening the gate I couldn't get through (oops! your bad!) for me, but otherwise, can it. We own a pit bull who would only like to rapturously lean you to death. Many of our neighbors and friends have wonderful, loving pit bulls. (Yes, occasionally pit bulls do bad things. So do Golden Retrievers (of all my 911 dog-bite calls, the Goldens have been the worst calls). And Rotts. And Dalmations. And, and, and -- the list goes on. Almost any dog trained to be bad will be bad. Almost any dog who is loved (and well-trained) will be loving. There.) 

But people keep throwing these dogs away, like they're trash. At the shelter, by the dropboxes, was a plastic bag with a dead pit bull in it. How's that for awful?

Remember when Lala found Bart? He was a pit that had been thrown out (literally) on the side of the road. He lay with a dead puppy pit bull, but he wasn't quite dead yet. He couldn't move or stand, and was only a skeleton covered in skin, but instead of taking the treat Lala offered him, he just wanted her to pet him (he had a lovely storybook ending -- the director of the SPCA kept him in his office until he was well, and eventually, when he was fat and happy, they let him live with a man in Danville where he probably eats steak dinners every night). 

It is not the city's fault. It is not the fault of breed (good god, after the pit bulls I've gotten to know in the last few years, I don't ever want another kind of dog. There has never been a more loving dog than Clementine in the history of the world). 


Until the city finds the money for more services and more education, we're going to keep finding pit bulls in the trash. And I bet this is the case in many, many poor cities. 

And it's making me ill, and sad, and still, I have hope that Mr. Smiley-Bob will find a wonderful home, because that dog is the BOMB, yo. He needs a home. He's young (maybe a year?) and very strong aand has a heart the size of a taco truck. I wish we could have him. But if we can't, I hope I see that guy at the dog park soon, carrying his favorite squeak toy. 


Awww, you did good. It's absolutely heartbreaking how misunderstood those dogs are. The one my dogs meet up with near our park is very sweet. The dog that attacked my beagle unprovoked this winter, gave her some pretty serious puncture wounds and a fear of other dogs? A golden retreiver.

Yay for you and Mr. Smiley Bob! XO

dude you are making me BAWL.
I wish Mr. Smiley Bob could be mine.
I want him to have a good home.

What a wonderful story! Love you perseverance!! Woo hoo!

You are a damn good person, Ms. Herron! I hope Smiley-Bob finds a loving home too.

Thank you for writing such a long post about Mr. Smiley-Bob. I love seeing his big ole' mug. And I love to see your great sentences put to work in that way.

Pit bulls are banned in the UK (which is where I am right now), and I just think that's odd.

It's possible that our dog is part pit bull--he has a bit of the Smiley-Bob look--but who knows? Whatever his mix, the herding part is fairly dominant. You should see him when we go sledding. :)

Way to be BOLD, Rachael!!!

When I lived in NC, it was near some of the largest pit bull breeders in the US, who bred them for fighting. One night I saw a pit puppy who had been mauled by the dogs in the adjacent pen - dragged his legs under the fencing and chewed the hell out of him. We gave the owner an estimate to treat the pup and his response was, "Why would I spend that when I can just get another one from the pit farm for $400"

There's a reason I'm a misanthrope.

You are awesome, for all the actions and all the words in this post.

Rachael, you rock. Thank you for rescuing Mr. Smiley-Bob and I hope the perfect home finds him soon! (The ears-back picture still has me grinning.)

Oh honey, you had me in tears this morning with this story. He is adorable, especially those ears. I hope and hope that he goes to a loving home.

He's adorable! I'm so glad you rescued him! What a happy, even with a tough life so far, looking dog! I hope he finds a wonderful forever home.

I agree that the bad things pit bulls do are not the fault of the breed, they are the fault of the bad things people do to pit bulls. However, when you find a pit bull on the street or in a shelter, you have no way of knowing how that dog has been raised. How do you know the dog you're adopting hasn't been trained to fight, attack, kill? If you rescue a golden retriever, a beagle, or a standard mutt, it's far less likely--for reasons having to do with human culture--that that dog has been trained to rip your throat out. When there are so many dogs that need homes, I can't imagine taking the chance of adopting a pit bull with an unknown background.

You are such a good people. I wish I could take him, or I wish you could.

My parents live outside Redding, and we are used to people taking their dogs out to the 'country' to 'let them live in the wild'...usually they are hit or killed by coyotes before we find them, but I couldn't agree more on the pit bull stigma, one of our best rescues is our friend's dog Sunny who wandered onto on our ranch, half starved and with a crippling UTI three years ago. Same big smile, though he was so abused it took us two days and bribery to get close enough to touch him, he is now one of the best cuddling, loving dogs we know.

Bless you I would have done the same thing. I probably would have brought him home though. I run a fiber rescue in the country so no darn dog limit here. I loved your tenacity with the shelter! Your amazing!

Oh, Rachael. LOVE you and Lala, honey.

Love this story! You are such a great, loving person. My granddog, Bella, is also a loving pit bull rescued from a pet farm. Why haven't those places been put out of business??

If only I could convince Ben to get a dog right now we'd be up there in a second. We love pit bulls. They have some of the nicest smiles and are the best cuddlers.

When I worked at Croc's corporate office we had a guy with a pit that was so well behaved he was allowed to bring it into the office. Not just to visit us in the office, but to stay the entire day. He would just sit happily under the desk unless someone came by to pet him and he's also lean you to death if you don't have your balance.

Ben's brother, Nick, has a dog that is a pit mix and he'd rather have a soft bed and a big bone to chew on then anything else in the world. When Ben and I watch him he knows the sound of Nick's car and before Nick has even parked he is waiting for his best friend by the door.

My ex's pit Tony looked like the scariest dog in the world when he was barking, but he was scared of lightening and we would either have to haul him into bed (he was old) or go sleep with him on the couch so he would calm down.

Every dog, like every person is different, but we all need love.

I hope Mr Smiley Bob finds the BEST forever home -- how could anyone do anything bad to a dog with a face that adorable?

We have a very energetic but extraordinarily loving lab/pit cross, and all she wants is someone to rub her belly or scratch her ears all day long (unless she's at agility class, in which case she just wants to do agility). Rescue dogs are great, and all the other rescued pit bulls I've known have also been the sweetest dogs.

You have an amazing spirit-that is why Smiley Bob jumped in your car and knew you were safe. Thanks so much for taking time when others would have driven off. We have a rescue who literally jumped in my car one night as well-Henry is so sweet that I ended up keeping him after heavy cajoling by my boys. These animals don't choose to have this be their life. Pits (and other dogs) have been dumped by us(we live in the country by the a river) and it breaks my heart as not ONE of them has been aggressive. Keep this issue in the spotlight and good job!

You simply are THE MOST AMAZING WONDERFUL person! Smiley Bob will find a good home because you have set that process in motion. Thank you for being such a caring, loving and kind human being. That about says it all (heart..heart).

Hi Rachael!

Thanks so much for the blog post about the pitty that you found. I am a consummate puller-over for dogs, so I really, really know how you feel. I also own a pit bull. Where I lived in FL, pit mixes were the "All-Floridian mutt" of the area.

I love my pit mix, Micheal. He couldn't move with me when I went to the UK, so he retired to the farm with my folks and has become a big spoiled pup!

Mr. Smiley-Bob is so lucky that you cared enough to stop for him. He sounds like a dolly, and I wish I could bring him home. I have never had a pit bull, but the ones I know are MUSHES!

You are a really good person. I love pit-bulls and think that they are some of the cutiest and most loyal dogs in the whole world. I personally don't get the mean pit-bull stereotype.

You have the most amazing way with words. Thank you for caring enough to rescue Mr. Smiley-Bob. He looks like the sweetest dog EVER.

These kinds of stories always make me weepy. Thank you for rescuing him, he will make someone very happy, just look at that face!

I read about BadRap in The Lost Dogs. Don't read that book without a HUGE box of kleenex and some way to get your aggression out afterwards. <3 Badrap is awesome and amazing.

Thank you for being awesome and telling it like it is for dog lovers in Oakland.

As a fellow Oaklander and pet rescuer -I have seen this scenario time and time again. It never fails to amaze me -the positive power of an animals gratitude and the surge of pure joy when you take the risk and do the right thing. And this is how the important work of the world is done - one sweet, smiling life at a time.

I have tears in my eyes. You are a HERO. That is all.

Thank you. For saving dogs and for this post, it needed to be said, and you said it perfectly.

THANK YOU! Pits are lovely dogs and they get such a bad rap, indeed. I've worked at two different shelters and every pitty who came through were the best dogs ever and just wanted to love you to death.

This past summer, my town flooded extensively and we had to open an emergency pet housing facility. Everyday volunteers would come out to walk the dogs and help clean the kennels. There was a pit there named Scar who was the most wonderful dogs I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and I was the only volunteer who had the balls to walk him. When I was walking him, people would literally stop in their tracks and do a 180 and walk the opposite direction. It made me so, so sad. One beefy, air force type guy told me to "get away from that beast before he eats your face" while I was laying on the ground with him and getting licked to death. I told him to put his money where his fat mouth was and come and meet the dog before passing judgement. Didn't work. So thank you for being a breed ambassador! And Clem too! Yay for happy pits! (PS: Join the "For the Love of Pits" group on Rav! Lots of fabulous pit pictures and stories. Good people. Pit people. Gotta love 'em!)

I've shared my life with Dobermans for many years, since I was a young teen in the late '70s and THEY were the bad guys. Only, of course, they weren't. Now pit bulls are the bad guys. Only, of course, they're not.

Thank you for going to bat for Mr. Smiley-Bob. I hope he gets the wonderful home he deserves.

Oy! Rachel - Big love for your big love! We're broke as hell over here, but we just sent as much green as we could scrape up ($25) to Bad Rap from the link above. We mentioned your blog post in the notes. It's not much, but maybe it'll help them do their thing a little better. Feel like we have to do something, you know?

How about it? Anybody else feeling up to matching?

Love to all my animal-people out there!

I'm sorry about the dog's plight(I get pissed off about any dogs that are mistreated), but happy you found him. You must be finally feeling better if you hopped a fence! People really should think twice about becoming pet owners if they aren't willing to make it a lifetime commitment. They aren't throw aways anymore than children are.

I have to admit - I feel leery of pits that I see sometimes. But of course, I know that it's how the are treated and trained that makes a dog "mean", whatever the breed. Sorta like humans. And like humans, often it's so amazing how much one can take and still yearn just to be loved and to love back.

We have a neurotic cat and can't adopt any dog at the moment (gah - don't even ask, it's so pathetic!). But your story definitely will stick and make me look for one of these abandoned cuties when we are in a position to adopt a dog.

you rock, as always.

Preach! It's so infuriating how people pick a breed to hate and fear. Remember when it was German Shepherds? When Dobermans had a turn? When Rottweilers were hell hounds? We had a rotti that people literally crossed the street from but he was hands down the sweetest, best dog in all the world. I remember him one day sitting beside my sister's friend's toddler as the child ate cereal from a box. She'd eat a piece and then offer him a single Cheerio in her palm, and how gently he took it from her and patiently waited for the next one. It's all in the raising. And if people understood how horrific dogfight training is, they'd understand that a dog that has been trained to fight would be immediately recognizable. They are horribly abused, horribly! That's not a good enough excuse to hold a prejudice against a whole breed. I'd adopt a pit bull in a second.

Some of the meanest dogs I've ever met have been miniature poodles and badly-trained spaniels. A vet told me once that the pit bulls want to please so desperately that they can be trained to do anything, loving or fighting, if they think it's what you want.

Love that goofy smile, and with such a good personality, it's possible that he just got really, really lost and hungry far from home...like Digit!

The ears flying in the breeze...that did me in. We rescued our first Shar Pei & there is no love like the love of a rescued pup. Wishing all the best for Mr. Smiley-Bob.

I am so in agreement with you. It's so sad that pitbulls have such a bad reputation, when it's their human trainers who encourage them to fight and be aggressive. Pits themselves are sweethearts. I have a pit/lab we rescued from Oakland (her owner couldn't be bothered with her), she too is a champion leaner. All she wants is to be close to her people! She's such a lover, it's so bizarre that there's a person out there who wanted to throw her away.

Gah. Humans are ridiculous. Dogs are amazing!

Poor Smiley-Bob. I do hope he finds a family soon. Good for you to rescue him. Blessings.

Every dog deserves a chance....or two, or three. You did a sweet and wonderful thing.
Just Read Socks for Alex and I'm crying! Another great story! Thanks.

Awwwww! POOR Puppy. Made me cuddle mine a little tighter. Thank you for 'Socks for Alex.' What a lovely little pressie. Jude ;)

Read Malcolm Gladwell's article about pitbulls in the NYT. You will be even angrier, but the article makes many good points.

I love you for picking up Smiley-Bob!! I hope he quickly finds his forever home!!!!

I love Smiley-Bob! The Anchorage pound and shelters are glutted with pit bulls (and husky mixes). Love those incredible loyal dogs. Good for you! I know he'll find a wonderful home soon. Hoping to see you on Skype from our local yarn store soon.
Lisa (aka Midwifeknits) from Alaska

I am just bawling. I don't know if this is even readble. I lost my two girls to old age a couple of years ago. They were Am Staffs, similar to pit bulls, and I miss them every day. I am now ina place where I am unable to have another pet. How can we call ourselves human and behave in this way toward those we are assigned to be responsible to.

Rachael, you are my shero, hero whatever you want to call it. The angels are hitting high C today, for you and for Love.

You, Ms Herron, are a godsend.

My husband tells a wonderful story about Shadow, our foster dog, whose life got wonderful just after the worst day of his life. He found doctors, and us, and a new home....I hope that happens for Mr. Smiley Bob. (We had a pit bull adopt us once; I learned how really nice they can be. This one just walked into our house one day and demanded to be petted. I complied.)

Good on you, Rachael. I love your fierce mama, take charge approach at the shelter.

I hope Mr. Smiley-Bob finds a home with another fierce mama who will treat him right.

I read your short story in the sock report. I think you should branch out with that story. I love it. My brother-in-law served in Iraq twice and I have someone whom I've been friends with since 7th grade and he served as well. As usual with you other works I was instantly pulled in. I'm glad that you've shared your talents with the world.

I just posted your link on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/butterbirds - It's a huge problem here in Austin TX too. Breaks my heart!! Thank you for being part of the solution!

Good for you!

Here in the UK, pit bulls (and dogs of pit bull type) are banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act, which basically means (I think) that if one's found, it can be put to sleep with no questions asked (OK, the owner gets punished too, but the deal still seems worse fo the dog).

My problem with this is that there are no dangerous dogs- only dangerous owners. Pit bulls and Dobermans and Rottweilers are powerful dogs and they need training. I used to see a Doberman owner at the park while walking my dog and his dogs were impeccably behaved. He was a devoted owner who took the time to train his dogs (he still didn't leave the dogs alone in the room with his grandchildren, but that's because he was careful(and possibly because he knew what kids are like)). When he died, his surviving dog pined away for him and died soon after. Sad. The world needs more like him and fewer people who treat dogs as a weapon or fashion accessory.

I can only hope that the UK government comes to its senses about this- if we put down every creature that has the strength to seriously injure someone, there wouldn't be many mammals left.

This kind of stuff makes me bawl. I love how animals keep finding you (and Lala!), and I'm so glad that you are so kind-hearted and helpful to them. It breaks my heart to think of all those poor homeless babies out there; makes me want to run right out and adopt them all. I just don't understand evil, stupid people. Our Roxie is a pibble and you're right: if leaning and smiling were deadly, well I'd be six feet under. I absolutely cannot fathom how people can abuse such loving dogs, or treat them like trash. An animal's love and dedication is such a wonderful gift and they share it so freely, and I hate that people disregard and abuse it.

When I worked for a while at the animal shelter I heard plenty of wonderful things about Bad Rap. I'm sure Mr. Smiley Bob will find a home. The poor pitties....there are many of them abandoned in our shelters here in San Diego. But, I know that a lot of them do eventually end up in happy homes.

Thank you so much! And yes, the pit bulls I've had the pleasure to meet are mostly just big ol' love sponges.

We have a pitbul bassett mix who is loving and lovely. We got her from a rescue shelter. Madge had been in four homes before she was even one year old, but was afraid of children and cowered and growled at them. I am pretty sure she was mistreated. We also found out that the original owner was going to put her down because he did not like her coat!!!! She is a beautiful brindle with a funny loooong body and short front legs/long back legs and big feet. She has a pit face and long ears. She is perfectly acclimated to our family 5 years later, and though she is still fearful of new people and children, she is increadibly sweet to our 12 year old son and his friends and our two other rescue dogs. I cant imagine mistreating a dog or wanting to give one away because of the way she looks. We love our pitbul girl!

Pit bulls are banned here in Ontario too, yet some of the sweetest dogs I've ever met have been pit bulls. I know a blind lawyer who specializes in defending pit bulls from the death penalty. His office has framed photographs of clients whose lives he has saved. Keep up the good work, Rachael. Maybe you should have a wall of pictures of animals whose lives you've saved, too.

(Martha! I'd love to see a picture of your pit bull/bassett mix!)

I co-habitate with Bogey a 13 yr old AmStaff. At least that's what he was called when I adopted him from a shelter 11yrs ago. He's now considered a pit and we always walk with a muzzle (it's the law here in Ontario). He is my buddy, my companion and I wouldn't give him up for the world.

I wish more people would love at a dog as a dog and not a breed. Dogs live in the moment and can over come so many obstacles. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks - Bogey's learn several. I just want to say (like everyone else) thank you. I pick up strays too & people tell me I'm crazy but who in their right mind leaves a dog out to starve?

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