Blog Share Thursdays: How Sal Changed Lives March 20 2014, 0 Comments

This week's guest blogger has a heart of gold. Her love for helping animals has fueled her path since 2007. Read below to hear Tara's story about how she co-founded Save A Bull, and how much her pet "babies" mean to her!

How Sal Changed Lives

I began volunteering for the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society (MHHS) in 2007, shortly after we adopted our first cat from there and I thought to myself, I bet that would be a very rewarding thing to do: matching up pets with their forever homes!  In 2008 my husband, Carmen, and I became homeowners, and immediately started thinking about adopting a dog.  One day in July, MHHS' Animal Welfare Manager Nancy Haynes reached out to us and asked if we'd be willing to foster a puppy.  We had been fostering cats for some time, but, this would be a new adventure!  We knew nothing about dogs at that time, but figured it would be a great learning experience and also a great way to "test drive" dog ownership before adopting a dog of our own. 

I will never forget the moment we met Sal (then named Costello).  He and his brother Abbott were sitting in the kennel staring at us: two nearly bald, mangy, smelly puppies who had been found wandering around Albany together at just 3 months old.  When I picked him up, we had to wrap him in a towel to protect his skin because it was so irritated and covered in sores from the mange. Bringing him home was an adventure: not only did he not know how to walk up stairs, but he didn't know what grass was!  Once he figured out he could walk on it, he became a big fan!  About three months later, after countless baths and visits to the MHHS vet, he was considered healthy enough for adoption.  It wasn't even a choice at that point; it was a given that he was becoming a permanent member of the family!  We changed his name to Sal, after Sallie the pit bull who served in the Civil War.  I had recently visited the battlefield and saw her monument there; she was a war hero, loyal to her troops until the end.  It seemed like the perfect pit bull name!

Sal when he was first adopted by Tara & her husband, Carmen.
Four years later, Sal is a happy Therapy dog!

Sal has since changed our lives in so many ways.  Before him, I had no clue about the plight pit bulls are currently facing in this country, and around the world; with a completely undeserved bad rap based on myths and media-based fear.  The first time I felt the stigma for myself was when our neighbors wouldn't allow their children to play with Sal once they found out he was a pit bull.  I was shocked; he was a bald puppy, completely harmless!  They eventually came around and apologized, and until they moved those boys loved Sal and they played together all the time!  But, I still remember the feeling of being judged and discriminated against for the type of dog we had.  It made me want to do something about it.

In January of 2011 I reached out to five friends, including Nancy at MHHS.  We were all MHHS volunteers who were aware of this problem and wanted to change it.  We knew that pit bulls made up 60% of all dogs that came into MHHS, and that they stayed there nearly twice as long waiting for a home as dogs of other breeds.  Knowing these dogs, it made no sense; they were sweet, smart, loving and happy; perfect for families and adopters of all kinds.  We wanted to show their true nature to the community.  We sat in my living room that first night, discussing what we could do to help, and thus, Save A Bull was born.   Our main goal is to find homes for the pit bulls at the shelter through positive community education, and to keep them in homes they already have through offering free obedience classes for all pit bulls and pit-mixes in the community.  We also offer low-cost spay/neuter services for the community, and children's educational programs in libraries and schools.  We invest in interactive toys and have an Enrichment Committee, all designed to keep the dogs stimulated and occupied while they wait for homes.  Our overall goal is to show the true nature of pit bulls through positive community education and awareness. 

Since our start, I am so proud of the things we've accomplished.  Hundreds of pitties spayed or neutered, and hundreds more through free obedience classes, many that led to Canine Good Citizen or Therapy Dog certifications.  I personally have seen a difference in the overall trend of how pitties are viewed.  There are fewer at the shelter, and they seem to find homes faster too.  I think this trend is mirrored throughout the country: more states making breed specific legislation illegal, and seeing pitties pop up in clothing and car commercials is proof of this in my opinion!  Overall, we're seeing them being treated as just dogs.  And that is really all that they are!  We know that this trend will continue as people are educated about the dogs and the myths; and more importantly, meet a pit bull.  In many cases that's all it takes!  

I saw this on a t-shirt once:  "Adopt.  If you can't adopt, foster.  If you can't foster, sponsor.  If you can't sponsor, volunteer.  If you can't volunteer, donate.  If you can't donate, educate."

Tara & Carmen with Sal and his brother, Dewey.
Happy 5th Birthday Sal!

The bottom line is, there is always something you can do to change the problems you see in the world.  There is no action too small to "count."  Every little step (a Facebook 'share,' recommending adoption to friends, attending a fundraiser) is a step in the right direction and does make a difference.  In my case, a little mangy puppy taught me that; among many other things!  He is proof that sometimes when you set out to do good for others, you can actually end up with good in your own life, tenfold.  Save A Bull has given me such fulfillment and pride these past three years, and brought some truly amazing people into my life.  Sal is now a Therapy Dog; he attends Save A Bull kids' storytimes and Community Ed programs, as well as a local hospital.  He loves making people happy with his wiggle butt and pittie smile!  Sal just turned 5, and I can't imagine my life without the changes he has inspired.  Another great rescue quote comes to mind:  "Who rescued who?"

Tara Wallace
Save A Bull Co-Founder

You can help Save A Bull by purchasing from Bo's Favorites List. One of Sal's best friends!