Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Banned in Berkeley

Rebel at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2005
I haven't written about Rebel since he died in September 2011 at the age of 17. It broke my heart. I was so filled with despair and grief, I didn't want to go on. Something in me died when I lost Rebel. My rescue work and the animals in my care pulled me through, because I knew they needed me.

I had to push Rebel's loss way down deep inside. In fact, until today, I've been unable to look at his photos and remember the wonderful days I spent with him.

Rebel and I moved to Berkeley in 1995. He was only 6 months old and we were both like country kids off the bus wide-eyed with wonder. We were living in one of the most picturesque cities in the United States and the two of us took full advantage.

I have Rubbermaid tubs filled with Kodachrome slides shot of Rebel in every possible corner of that wonderful town. We were explorers, adventurers, embarking on a mission, destination unknown. Every day was a new journey.

We sniffed every petal at the Berkeley Rose Garden, maneuvered Grizzly Peak, spent hours losing and finding ourselves in the terrain of Tilden and luxuriated at the Berkeley pier while we gazed across the water at the skyline of San Francisco where so many others have come to dream their dreams.

Rebel and I were a team. I'd begun to rescue in a de-facto fashion years before. When Rebel and I would embark on one of our daily adventures, there was a sad element. Mookie, a beautiful German Shepherd, was owned by the white rastas who lived downstairs. They beat him for barking and kept him tied up to the side of the house. Most hurtful of all was the longing look in Mookie's eyes when Rebel and I would close the gate behind us.

One thing led to another over the course of the next year and Mookie through the help of Berkeley Animal Shelter's Sgt. Wolfe and ACO Evan became a part of our family. On the first day we leashed Mookie up to go on a walk, the local postman interrupted us with a can of pepper spray. He didn't point it at Mookie, but at me. Knowing he'd messed up, he beat a path back to the Berkeley post office and filed a fraudulent claim that Mookie had attacked him.

I wasn't about to let a black mark and a lie ruin Mookie's life. I took on that battle and fought for a year and a half. I still have the file on it and wrote about the experience in the second chapter of my book, Pit Bull Nation.

I fought the Berkeley post office for a year and a half. An investigator was sent from Washington D.C. and although they never issued a formal statement, the claim against Mookie was removed. The postman, who'd lied under oath, was fired and the postmaster disappeared in the system.

Two other dogs from our hood crossed our path. One day, I was looking out my kitchen window to see a man in the next yard beating his dog. I called Berkeley Animal Services to report this and they were there instantly. BACS took the dog for safekeeping. Another neighbor overcome with the stresses of life began to beat her puppy. We reported the incident to BACS and they saved this puppy as well.

In fact, every experience I had with BACS as a resident of Berkeley, California was phenomenal. Here was a shelter committed to saving lives. At the time, they had a night drop box where animals could be sheltered safely.

That was then. I've gone on to rescue pit bulls and write about the ones I don't have room and funds to care for in my American Pit Bull Examiner articles. In my work, I hear about the changes that have gone on at BACS. Since the loss of Astrid and Judy who founded Home at Last Rescue, the mission to save animals seems to have shifted.

A Berkeley citizen alerted me to two dogs at the Berkeley Shelter, Joel and Ethan. These two dogs were to be killed for going kennel crazy at the shelter. How could that be? In the early days of Home at Last run by Judy and Astrid, the dogs at the Berkeley Shelter were advocated and worked with for months until they either found homes or were taken into the Home at Last program.

Like the Bob Dylan song, Times Have Changed. Today, the city of Berkeley pays Oakland group BAD RAP 20 thousand dollars a year to run the world famous pit ed class earmarked in the dialogue to help Berkeley Shelter dogs. Then how come Joel and Ethan were killed for being kennel crazy at the Berkeley Shelter?

Yesterday, I and Reunion Rescue were banned from posting on the Berkeley Animal Services Facebook Page. Hmmmm. I posted a link on their page to Craig Malisow's article, "Bad Rap: California Group Won't Come Clean on Spindletop Dogs." In addition, a Maureen Valdes Marsh issued this letter to me:

Cindy - You have been banned from the BACS page. As admin, I feel your constant badgering of BAD RAP is spiteful and malicious. It goes against everything we try to accomplish for our animals and for our followers of this page. Donna Reynolds, Tim Racer and the rest of the BAD RAP organization are all of the highest quality caliber humans. We have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for everything they do. Your continual witch hunt is disappointing and unwelcome on our page. It will no longer be tolerated.

Best regards,

Maureen Marsh, Admin.

#6 on the day of her arrival at BAD RAP
So ends a long term relationship between me and Berkeley. To ask for the whereabouts of two dogs who disappeared the minute they arrived at BAD RAP August 21 is 'spiteful and malicious.' I am the witch who continues to try and find out where these two dogs are. One, #6 according to BAD RAP, was previously known as Bindi and was as near perfect a dog as could be, cat, kid, people and dog friendly.

Then why havn't Bindi and #7 been advertised ad nauseum as the others BAD RAP 'saved' from Spindletop? The other five have been paraded across the internet with name contests, photo ops, multitudes of donations requests, meets and greets and parties galore. Why have these other two dogs who experienced the horrors of Spindletop simply disappeared off the face of the east bay.

#7 on the day of arrival at BAD RAP
BAD RAP began their fundraising and networking the day of the raid. We issued a request that they hold off until those of us who had dogs at Spindletop were able to get some answers. Our fears were that dogs would end up at BAD RAP only to be 'humanely euthanized' like many of the others they've saved from high profile cases and Hurrican Katrina. These two, #6 and #7, wouldn't be the first southern dogs to meet their maker on the million dollar BAD RAP estate in the Oakland Hills.

I am angry about these two dogs. I am angry about Joel and Ethan and all the dogs that have been killed while this group parties, draws six digit salaries, travels and lives large while dogs die. How many others have died that we don't know about?

Is BAD RAP just another Spindletop with a fancy zip code? Yes, I am angry. We all should be very angry. Reunion Rescue is on the same group emails that go out daily begging for the lives of dogs who are dying daily in California shelters.

...receiving the same automated BAD RAP replies.

I guess a half million dollars a year in donation money only goes so far.

Anyone's guess is to how many dogs are dying at Berkeley Animal Services who once had refuge and safety at that shelter. With so many unwanted animals in the nation, it's nearly impossible to keep track of the ones who turn up missing. Impossible has never run me off.

In the name of Rebel and Mookie, in the name of Stella and the so many others with no one to advocate for them I promise to try and find some answers. This time, I'm watching. Just like my hero, Tom Joad....

"...I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.

Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there."

This time, we are watching.