Meet Gabby the …?
If you are wondering what kind of dog I have, she’s an “Australian Brindle Hound.”  Her disposition is as pleasant and loving as the name sounds.  I have to confess, she wasn’t always an Australian Brindle Hound.  She used to be a Pit Bull.  Can you believe it?It was horrible.  Every time Lori, my wife, and I would be out with Gabby and people would approach to ask us what kind of dog Gabby was, once we said, “She’s a Pit Bull,”  the color would drain from their faces and if they happened to have a child with them they’d snatch them up quick and look at us with, “how could you?”

Soon we both dreaded hearing the question and if asked I began to immediately explain how sweet she is, that we have 2 cats she loves, that not all Pit Bulls are bad, that it depends how they are raised, etc… It was so much work.  I would even catch myself firing off a quick Pit Bull history lesson on how at the turn of last Century the Pit Bull, AKA, the American Staffordshire Terrier, was considered America’s Sweetheart breed.  Theodore Roosevelt had one, the Buster Brown dog was a Pit, so was Petey on the Little Rascals, Wells Fargo’s mascot was a Pit, and even Helen Keller’s guide dog was a Pit Bull.  All fascinating stuff, but it never seemed to convince anyone, besides it was exhausting.

Then something wonderful happened.  One day while Lori and I were having lunch at an outdoor cafe with Gabby a couple at the table next to us asked the dreaded question.  “What kind of dog is that?”  I took a deep breath and tentatively let it out, “She’s a Pit Bull.”  The lady immediately responded, “I thought so, we had a Pit Bull exactly like her.  She was so sweet.  She loved our grand kids.”  Lori and I were overjoyed.  Someone knew the truth about Gabby and most Pit Bulls.  I began to tell the woman how most people freak out when they hear she is a Pit Bull.  While the lady was loving up Gabby she said, “I know isn’t that terrible, my husband would tell people she was an Australian Brindle Hound.”  Lori and I were blown away, could it be that simple?

From that day on Gabby was no longer a Pit Bull she became an Australian Brindle Hound.  As we began introducing her we discovered that everyone loves an Australian Brindle Hound.  Some people, after we answer their question as to what breed she is, have told us how they thought that she was an Australian Brindle Hound by her sweet disposition!  At first I was concerned I was being deceptive.  But then I realized introducing Gabby as an Australian Brindle Hound wasn’t deceptive, introducing her as a Pit Bull was.  And although Australian Brindle Hounds only exist in that wonderfully sweet and loving part of everyone’s imagination, so does the notorious Pit Bull.  So just like someone once said, “I thought she was an Australian Brindle Hound by her sweet disposition.”  So she must be.

*The actual history of the “Australian Brindle Hound,” aka the American Pit Bull Terrier is even more fascinating than you probably imagine.  Click here to read about how this heroic breed played an important role as an American Mascot.

*Just in case you need some more reassurance about Gabby, click here to visit Bad Rap – for all the monster myths you may have heard about Pit Bulls, along with the facts you probably haven’t.

HeARTs Speak member Nancy Furstinger is the author of nearly 100 books. Her latest, The Forgotten Rabbit, due out in 2014, is based on Marshmallow, a giant New Zealand rabbit.

How did you become involved in animal rescue and rabbit rescue?

I’ve been rescuing animals for years, but became involved in rabbit rescue after discovering a warren of domestic rabbits who were struggling to survive in my old neighborhood in the Catskill Mountains.
I humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, and rehomed. Then, after moving, I found a seemingly endless supply of domestic rabbits on the lam—people had either become bored with their kids’ former pets or they mistakenly thought that pet rabbits could adapt to living in the wild.

I have several house rabbits who were former strays (one, about to be dumped at age 11, lived to the amazing age of 15!). Word spread and two local humane societies contacted me to help them with four rabbit hoarder cases (I rehomed dozens of rabbits, including into my own home). A wildlife organization also alerted me about the New Zealand white rabbits who were going up for auction when the old Catskill Game Farm was closing (I won all 28 rabbits and again spayed/neutered and rehomed).

Why not buy a rabbit for a child for Easter?

Rabbits are neither cuddly nor low maintenance. They are very fragile and, as prey creatures, don’t enjoy being held or carried. Consider giving a child a stuffed or chocolate rabbit instead of a real one. If you live in a quiet household with older, gentle children, and you’ve all done your homework, you’ll discover that rabbits make wonderful indoor companions. However, the parent has to take responsibility as the primary caregiver for any pet.

There’s a fantastic article detailing why Easter and rabbits don’t mix at the House Rabbit Society, a great international organization where I volunteer: http://rabbit.org/easter-and-rabbits-do-not-mix/

Why is it so easy for people to justify purchasing a rabbit and then abandoning him or her?

Many people think rabbits are easy starter pets, which can’t be further from the truth. They purchase the rabbit in a pet store or from a breeder for a cheap rate and then refuse to spend money for an exotics vet to spay/neuter or treat the rabbit when he or she becomes ill. They also aren’t prepared when the rabbit reaches the “teenage stage” in a matter of months and has a surge of hormones that bring on unwanted behavior, which is easily resolved by spaying/neutering.

In our disposable society, it’s easier to abandon the rabbit than take him/her to a shelter. Others cruelly imprison rabbits outside in hutches with little human contact. Indoor rabbits can live into their teens, while those housed outside in hutches usually don’t survive to celebrate their first birthday. Outdoor rabbits are more prisoner than pet. They endure extremes in weather, attacks from predators, loneliness, and stress. Why have a pet of any kind if you don’t invite him or her inside to become a member of your family?


Tell me about your upcoming book (I believe it’s about a rabbit!)?

Yes, very exciting! The Gryphon Press, who published Maggie’s Second Chance: A Gentle Dog’s Rescue (based on my dog Jolly who was abandoned in a house after the people were evicted—in the period before massive foreclosures), has a list that focuses on dogs, cats, birds, and horses, but no rabbits (who are the third most popular pet). I wrote a manuscript based on my huge New Zealand white bunny, Marshmallow, who lived the first three years of her life in a tiny outdoor hutch, and who has now transformed into a house rabbit. My publisher suggested incorporating a story line about rabbit agility (a sport similar to dog agility) to appeal to the picture book crowd. The Forgotten Rabbit has a Spring 2014 pub date—I can’t wait!

Many of your books focus on children readers. Why is it important to involve children in thinking about animals and rescue?

We’ll be passing the reins to the next generation and it’s never too early to get kids involved in treating animals humanely. I meet many young readers during book festivals and school visitations, and they bubble over with excitement. They always have a marvelous selection of questions to ask about animals.

What inspired you to focus on writing about animals?

As I explain to kids, my teacher always told me to write about what you love. I love all kinds of animals—wild and tame—and I love books, so I combined the two and became an author of animal books. I like to tell people that I’ve been speaking up for animals since I learned to talk, and I haven’t shut up yet!

Do you have any advice for writers who’d like to break into the publishing world with stories about animals/rescues?

Read, read, read! Bring home stacks of books from the library and bookstore on animal topics to see what is being published. And join a professional organization (I recommend the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators if you’re targeting a young audience) to make connections and get feedback and advice. And then revise, revise, revise! You can’t believe how much work it is to write a 500-word book. It’s like writing poetry: every word has to count so you end up cutting nearly as much as you write.


Me and Jolly

Nancy Furstinger is the author of nearly 100 books, including many on her favorite topic: animals! She started her writing career in third grade, when her class performed a play she wrote while recovering from chicken pox. Since then, Nancy has been a feature writer for a daily newspaper, a managing editor of trade and consumer magazines, and an editor at two children’s book publishing houses. She shares her home with 2 dogs and 7 house rabbits (all rescued), volunteers and fosters pets for several animal organizations, and is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Maggie’s Second Chance

by Nancy Furstinger

illustration by Joe Hyatt

In a compelling story, movingly illustrated, the issue of animal abandonment is brought to life. Maggie, a pregnant lab mix, is left behind in an abandoned house. Discovered by the realtor, Maggie is brought to the pound where her puppies are born.

Maggie’s Second Chance is based on the true story of Texas fourth-graders who, with their teacher’s assistance, founded an animal shelter in their town. The final page offers factual comprehensive information on how to help abandoned dogs.

Website Links: http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Furstinger/e/B001HCXSJA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1363899529&sr=1-2-ent

Facebook Links: https://www.facebook.com/AnimalAuthor

Twitter Links: https://twitter.com/AnimalAuthor



I think it’s so important to give back to the community. I have several charities and organizations I volunteer with on a regular basis. One is HeARTs Speak. I love animals. I love photography. What better way to contribute? Combining my 2 passions.


Last week, I photographed some mini pins that are in need of a home. Picasso’s Place is a great group dedicated to finding homes for homeless pups. Here is a behind the scenes look at a rescue dog photo shoot.


Behind The Scenes


A little more about HS:


HeARTs Speak’s mission is to unite the individual efforts of animal artists and animal rescues into collective action for social change.

We will:

  1. Provide the framework, tools and resources to support animal artists working to help animals in need.
  2. Disseminate messages that inspire a better understanding of and compassion towards animals.
  3. Connect rescues and shelters with artists to break down the myth that animals from rescues and shelters are inferior. Professional photographs greatly improve adoption success and ultimately, will increase the number of animals adopted and reduce the numbers that are unnecessarily euthanized.

HeARTs Speak provides an online community for its artist members which gives them resources to develop their skills and businesses. HeARTs Speak believes artists should be paid a living wage for their work and provides grants for artists who spend time in shelters helping them to take photos or create art that features adoptable pets in their most flattering light. HeARTs Speak members serve as global ambassadors of our mission, assisting and educating their community on the importance of animal adoptions.

It’s been more than two months since Sunny came home. Wow. What a difference 60 days make. She brings me such incrdible joy and happiness. I learn something new about her every day.

Sunny is such a funny girl. Her personality continues to grow and flourish.

At night she sleeps in the living room…on the couch…or the chair…or her bed. She likes to mix it up. I’m lucky that I am able to close the front half of my house off from the back part. I found out that she loves cats. But not in the way Gabby does! I’d bet a million bucks in her younger days, Sunny loved to eat cats!IMG 1773 450x600 Sunny Update

I am extra cautious with the boys because they have no fear of dogs. They will investigate them, sniff them and walk right up to them. Enzo especially. So with any new dog I keep them separted and slowly introduce them.

Sunny stays on the leash when the cats have full access to the house (usually at night when I’m on the couch watching TV, so I can keep a hold on the leash.) So during the first week the cats came out to meet this new dog they’d been smelling for days. Francis made his way over to sofa and jumped up on the back portion and slowly walked over to where Sunny was. (I kept tight hold and careful watch) Sunny was asleep. Then all of a sudden her nose started working. CATS! She sniffed the air with gusto. Because she can’t hear and can’t see well, she didn’t know exactly where the CAT was…She started “biting” the air. (It was adorable, but also photo 49 Sunny Update made me realize I was right to be so cautious.)

Then Enzo came close. Sunny saw him and just stared. Then she looked at me. Then back at Enzo. Then Sunny looked at Gabby. Then back to the cat. You could see her brain working. “Why aren’t you chasing those things?”She didn’t try to go after him and her hackles stayed put, but she was way too interested in the boys.

Slowly her interest has lessened, but she still is very curious about them and I will never feel comfortable leaving them alone together, but now she will look and then go back to sleep. I’m grateful I am able to keep them seperated in a way that gives them both a nice amount of space.photo 50 Sunny Update

Gabby loves Sunny. She seems to know that she needs extra attention and company. Gabby always sleeps with us in the bed. When I get up to go to sleep, she will immediately get up and follow. That has changed since Sunny came home. Gabby will stay on the couch with her on most nights.

Sunny also loves Gabby. She will give her kisses. She will sleep next to Gabby, getting as close as she possible can, someetimes squeezing herself in a tiny little spot. It’s adorable.

Sunny has also become quite a talker. She will lay at my feet when I’m editing and do her little whine/bark until I give her attention or pet her. At first I thought it was because she was in pain. Nope. As soon as I get on the floor with her, she will roll on the back, bark, paw at me and nibble the rug.

IMG 1778 448x600 Sunny Update Every morning when I wake up, I feed the dogs. Sunny loves to eat! (In fact, she’s found the garbage can and once or twice I’ve come into the kitchen to find her giant head immersed in it!)

After they eat, I let them in the backyard to pee and so I can feed the cats. Well, Sunny has decided she would rather not be in the backyard in the morning. She refuses to go out. She looks at me with such a funny face and will turn and run (as fast as her arthritic legs will carry her). She preferes the yard when the sun is out.

Sunny is pretty mobile and can get up on the couch and jump up in the car too. Sometimes it takes her a little longer, but it’s so cute watching her climb up there.

She also loves tennis balls! She’ll even chase them. And she’s still got some power in the jaw. She’s destroyed 5 of them!

Bones are also another favorite treat. She loves them.

Sunny absolutely loves going on walks. She sniffs everything and tries her best to keep up with Gabby.  I take the dogs for car rides and walks to downtown Culver City. I’ve written about her in the newspaper and several times people have recognized her. She loves the attention and greets everyone with a tail wag. She also loves the neighborhood dogs.Especially the boys.  She’s a female Hugh Hefner. haha

Sometimes when she’s in a deep sleep she’ll wake up with a start and look around. As soon as she sees me or Gabby she relaxes and then falls right back to sleep.

Sunny also does this thing that makes me so, so, so happy.  She will stop, look around intently, and then bark, roll on her back and smile. To me it seems like she is wondering if this home is real, maybe she’s dreaming…and then when she realizes, yes, it’s real, she can’t contain her joy.

Tina the wonderdog: 2008-2010

Tina the wonderdog: 2008-2010

Here’s the tragic update to the story of Tina, my dog who was stolen on December 14 of last year from the Culver City News’ office by a man I had known for 15 years. During my last failed rescue attempt, this man threatened to kill her before he’d give her back to me: I received this email from him last weekend, “[Tina] was hit by a truck last week, you can have her back now. …Dead you know?”

Heartless, nasty email aside, it was quite a blow to hear that the dog I had hoped to get back one day was now gone for good. Chances are, she would still be alive and happy today if she had been returned to me. Tina was an amazing, loving, happy, smart dog. She will be missed by many. My plan with this blog is to take this tragedy and turn it around to help others.

Why is law enforcement so skiddish about helping in the case of pet stealing? What does the law say now? Do the laws need to change? Does law enforcement need to do something differently? I’m sure I will uncover a lot more questions along the way, and I will keep you informed. I intend to dig into these issues and give you as much information as I can to help you in the unfortunate instance that the same thing happens to your pet someday.

Leslie Belfor

Under the law, dogs are property – like a bicycle, a purse or a car. But have you ever had a pet stolen … and actually gotten them back? Do you think the laws about “pet-napping” need to be different from those for auto theft? Or do the laws just need to be enforced? I got the impression that law enforcement really doesn’t know HOW to enforce the law as it pertains to pet stealing. 

Here’s my story: You may recall “a rescue story” from a few months ago, in which I talked about my dog, Tina, who was stolen from my office in front of three employees in broad daylight. I had immediately called the police and the animal services officer, who came out and spoke to me with compassion about the situation. They seemed very concerned and offered that this was indeed grand theft, larceny, and … who knows what else. I pretty much stopped listening to the list of offenses after I heard the trump cards played first.

However, even though I have all of the papers showing that I am the owner, Tina is micro-chipped with my information, all of the vet bills were paid by me for the first year of her life, and I have many witnesses to the fact that the thief left me a message three months earlier stating that she was entirely my dog, they wouldn’t do anything to retrieve her for me.

Let’s step back a second. I need to give you some history, if you didn’t read the original story. I am highlighting the history section in blue, so you can skip it if you already know this part.

This person – the thief – used to be a dear friend of mine. His friend had picked up a “stray” on the street one day and brought the dog who would be called Tina home as a “gift.” My friend was absolutely broke, and had been out of work for more than six months. He was sharing his studio apartment in order to get some help with the rent. And his apartment didn’t allow pets. So, he asked me if I would like this dog, but since I was in the process of moving, I told him I would love to take her in a month or so, when I was settled.

He called me one day, in a panic. He had just received a 3 day or quit notice on his door and needed me to take her right away – which I happily did. I took in this sweet little puppy, whose hair was completely matted and covered with fleas, and had her groomed and healthy in no time. He wanted to “share custody,” but couldn’t keep her at his place and couldn’t afford anything like food or shots or registration … or grooming … so I took care of all of that.

Six months later, it became apparent that he just could not swing the responsibilities of dog ownership. So I told him it was time to make a decision. I would gladly keep her happy and healthy for the next 15 years of her life, or he would have to take her back. Six months is too long to be in limbo! For Tina and for me!

So, my friend called and left a voicemail message stating that he had given it a lot of thought and since Tina was happy living with me, and since I could afford to take care of her and my lifestyle didn’t interfere with dog ownership – like his did – he was officially stating that she was now entirely my dog. No more limbo.

So, at this point I had her micro-chipped and spayed. I bought her a carrier that I could take onto the airplane, so that she could accompany me to Colorado for the holidays. All of my friends, my whole family and all of their dogs were looking forward to meeting my wonderful Tina!

Now we’re back to where this blog began … this person I used to call my friend came into the office one morning, left the door open, grabbed Tina and ran out the door, down the street and jumped into an early model Honda Prelude and drove away.

As I said earlier, the law sees dogs as property – like a bicycle, a purse or a car. However, if someone stole my car in front of witnesses, and I had the registration and Lo-Jack on it, don’t you think I would have my car back by now?

The Culver City Police said they couldn’t do anything since he took her to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police said they couldn’t do anything since I filed the report in Culver City, where the actual theft took place. I spoke to many attorneys, police officers and detectives, animal activists, friends … family … and EVERYONE said that she was obviously my dog and I should be able to get her back.

If my car had been stolen in Culver City and taken to Los Angeles, would Culver City Police help me? Would Los Angeles Police help me? Would anyone help me, even if I knew who stole it and where it is now???

Yet, everyone I spoke to said that there was nothing they could do. The paperwork and witnesses would help me in a court of law, and I would definitely win, but they couldn’t get her back for me without my filing a civil suit … which requires the hiring of an attorney. And what attorney will be interested in taking a case like this? Well … none that I could find.

Tina relaxes on the grass with her good friend Bella in the summer of 2009.

Tina relaxes on the grass with her good friend Bella in the summer of 2009.

I could sue in small claims court for the $1,800+ I had spent on her since she came to live with me in early April of 2009, and although I would win that case, I would not get my dog back because small claims court is ONLY about money – not property.

Many folks told me to go and just “get her back” on my own. I attempted this last January with a few friends and a videographer to record the whole thing in case there was any dispute as to what really happened. This attempt failed, and during my rescue attempt he repeatedly threatened to “kill the dog before he gave her back to me.”  My ex-friend then harassed me and my co-workers while at the office on numerous occasions. I also got a few disturbing text messages from him. But all of that ceased after about four more calls to law enforcement.

Still, I don’t know what has become of my precious dog, Tina. I LOVE this dog. I miss her every day. I worry about her livelihood with this flake whose erratic behavior had become actually scary over the course of the eight months I had Tina with me. Is Tina still alive? Is she healthy? Will I ever get her back?

Tina's last visit to the beach before she was stolen in December of 2009.

Tina's last visit to the beach before she was stolen in December of 2009.

Has anyone else encountered the theft of their pet … and actually gotten them back? How did you do it? Did you have an attorney who took your case out of the goodness of his/her heart? Do you think the law needs to be changed or just enforced? We want YOUR opinion!