After 20 years of working for others in the Restaurant and Catering Industry, I decided I had had enough and
started my own Catering and Personal Chef Service in 2003. Like all small business owners, I learned to starve and
struggle for the first few years. Soon, my reputation was built and I was able to dine on the fruits of my labor.
Life and business were grand.
In early 2006, I joined an animal rescue email list. Almost daily, I received emails about lost dogs, litters of kittens
needing homes, the re-homing of a family dog, etc. By the end of the year, I started seeing emails about a female
Pit Bull mix running at large in one of the canyons not far from where I live here in Southern California. These emails
went on for several months, so I decided to respond to the emails and ask about her. We corresponded for a few
weeks, but then “the dog” disappeared. A few months later, the dog re-appeared. I found out that the dog
belonged to a group of homeless people, who were unable to take very good care of her. It was now summer 2007
and I decided that it was time for me to step up to the plate and take a very active role in this particular situation to
get the dog to a rescue. I coordinated with the local contact person, and arranged the best time to “relocate” the
By July of 2007, Daze left Trabuco Canyon and the homeless people, never to return. Our bond occurred
immediately. She never saw a rescue or foster home. Daze was a one year old American Pit Bull Terrier/Yellow
Lab/Shar Pei mix. She was unaltered, a little thin, and a little dog / people aggressive. It’s no wonder considering
the life she had led up until this time. Using common sense, I scheduled Daze to be spayed, get her full panel of
immunizations, get her micro-chip, and finally licensed. It took Daze a long time to recover from her surgery. My
father, who was recovering from by-pass surgery, kept her company and she him. By the end of that summer, we
were inseparable. We hiked, we kayaked, we went to the dog park, and we visited friends and family. My good life
became our even-better life together. Daze learned to live indoors, to be polite to strangers, to not fight every
other dog, and to be my constant companion.
Like most new pet parents, I Googled Daze’s breeds looking for specific ailments, special dietary needs, training
tips, etc. Using the terms “breed” and “specific” lead me to a place in my life where I would gladly never return
from. This place was called Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Breed Specific Legislation are laws that apply only to a
certain breed or breeds, but not all dogs. Over the years, Rottweiler’s, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinchers,
etc. have all taken their turns at being the target of BSL. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, people with no regard for
the law, chose the Pit Bull Breeds as the new and preferred dog of choice for organized dog fighting. This is the
root of the problem with Pit Bulls and why they are now the target of BSL. Cities all over the United States started
seeing more and more dog bites and maulings by Pit Bulls. Rather than finding out why this is happening,
municipalities took the easy way out of treating the symptom and not the problem. It is much easier to create a
new city ordinance to ban or restrict ownership of these dogs rather than hunt down and prosecute animal abusers.
Not believing this type of discrimination could occur in the new millennium, I spent every spare moment reading and
studying this atrocity that was going on in the U.S. The most frustrating ideal of all was that main-stream America
was unaware and unconcerned about this discrimination. That led me to create my very first video for YouTube:
“BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION: Nothing More Than A Witch Hunt.” From the moment the video went live, the
emails of praise and hate started rolling in. It made an impact! This only fueled the fire for me to further entrench
myself in the war on BSL.
Summer 2008, our local dog park celebrated its first anniversary. The celebration was an expo type event. The
Mayor said some beautiful words. There were all kinds of “Best (fill in the blank) Dog” contests, a ribbon cutting
ceremony, and a couple dozen vendors peddling their wares. One of the speakers was Dr. Paula Terifaj, DVM, of
Founders Veterinary Clinic in Brea, CA. “Dr. T” who spoke about dietary needs, immunizations, etc. Coincidently,
Dr. T is one of the most active and vocal advocates for anti- BSL efforts in Southern California. A mutual friend
introduced us and a force to contend with began to form and take shape. I joined her organization “Roverlution.
org” and jumped in face first. We attacked:
• Municipalities currently enforcing and/or considering BSL
• Corporations, such as PetSmart, who discriminated against Pit Bulls
• And, we attacked Verizon Wireless for portraying all Pit Bulls as ferocious in one of their commercials.
And yes, we won. Verizon yanked the ad within 24 hours.
Late that summer, we got wind of Chris McGahey of Commerce City, Colorado. Chris’s dog “Forrest” wandered out
of Commerce City and into neighboring Denver. Because of the absolute zero tolerance ban on Pit Bulls in Denver,
Forrest was incarcerated and scheduled to be euthanized.
Chris lost his job and his home to sit on the floor outside Forrest’s cage on Denver Municipal Animal Shelter’s
(DMAS) “Death Row”. This vigil went on for two months, until we rushed in with a major email/phone call/fax
campaign, media, and protests.
Coincidentally, this was the moment the idea of the Run Forrest Run Campaign 2008 was born. At this particular
time, the Democratic National Convention was scheduled to be held in Denver. The Denver City Fathers would not
have us tarnish their good name at their own party, so they allowed Best Friends Animal Society to negotiate
Forrest’s release. This release was to be conditional: Forrest would have to be relocated to an out-of-state rescue
and he was to never return to his original owner. Chris signed away for Forrest’s freedom, but lost his dog forever.
Best Friends sent a van and Forrest was driven out of Denver under police escort.
While the powers that be in Denver played their games, I sat and thought a lot about my life with Daze, our
freedoms here in Southern California, and what would become of this dog exiled from Colorado. I decided to adopt
Forrest and bring him home to live with us. I submitted my application to Stray’s Rescue of St. Louis, MO. After a
debate over a 2800 mile away home visit, calling my references, and a credit card payment, Phil Adams (Forrest’s
foster dad) called me to say “Come and get him”. My parents, my friends, my co-combatants alike all could not
believe the news! “Daze and I are taking a little road trip to Missouri” I announced.
Word spread though the anti-BSL community that some guy in Southern Cal had adopted Forrest and was driving
all the way to get him. Cheryl Kaminski of the Dallas, TX based rescue transport organization “Get Me There Please”
got wind of this road trip. We were in contact and negotiated a trade: Forrest would be brought back into Colorado
if I would transport “Lodi” (an 8 year old Rottweiler bound for Omaha, NB) from Los Angeles as far as Colorado.
Going only as far as Colorado would cut my total driving distance in half, so I whole heartedly agreed. On
September 16, 2008; I rented a car, scratched off my work calendar for a week, pack a toothbrush and some
clothes, and drove off into the unknown.
We got to Vail, Colorado around 5 a.m. on morning number 2 of my road trip when my cell phone rang. It was Dr.
T asking about my itinerary for the next few days. “Can you get another dog off death row?” she asked. “Line them
all up, I will trade in the rental car and rent a truck for our return trip!” I proclaimed. “Kane” was the second dog to
be negotiated out of DMAS by long time opponent of Denver’s Breed Ban Sonya Dias. Kane was taken at gun
point from his owner Gema Martinez of Denver a month earlier.
I reached the home of Sherry Moore that morning, who lives in a Denver suburb, where we met for the first time in
person. We had become very good friends through email with our work with Denver and Pit Bulls and so forth. It
was a great opportunity to get caught up. We let our dogs play together, we took walks with the dogs, discussed
BSL, and plotted our trip to Death Row in a few days.
Being fairly new to rescue and BSL, I hadn’t a clue of what I was about to walk into. We met with Sonya Dias for
lunch that Friday. We discussed a minimalistic approach to springing Kane. We got in our cars and drove to Denver
Municipal Animal Shelter (DMAS). We were met outside the shelter by Kane’s mom Gema Martinez and her entire
family. At the time, the Martinez’s were complete strangers to us. That did not stop them from hugging us and
shaking our hands and praising us for saving their dog. While Sonya signed the papers, I took a stroll back into the
This little walk emotionally knocked me on my rear end. I walked back to Death Row. I saw the wet noses and claws
poking out of the rusted chain link gates. I smelled bleach and urine and feces, I heard deafening barks and squeals
of frustration. As much testosterone and manhood as I could muster was not nearly enough to hold back my
tears. I recall a deep pain in my chest. I felt my heart hurting as it was broken in half. The papers were signed, I
was asked to leave Death Row and bring my car around to a secured yard, and Kane was brought out.
Sonya signaled me to drive and meet her up the street where we were to follow the Martinez family back to their
home for a final good bye. We reached Gema’s home where I opened the tail gate of the car and opened Kane’s
kennel door. Each of the family members took turns hugging and kissing Kane goodbye with tear filled eyes and
sorrow. I was feeling both the ultimate in evil and the holiest of standings at that curbside. I have helped in saving
their dog, yet I am taking him away from them as well. We said our final goodbye’s and left Denver. I wailed.
Kane was taken to Dr. Diana Roberts ,DVM, of Harmony Animal Wellness in Kittredge, CO. With the exception of
being a little underweight, slight atrophy in his hind legs, and the need for a bath: Kane received a clean bill of
health. This was also Kane’s way of acclimating me to his love for women, all women, two legged and four. Kane
made fans of that entire clinic that day with his charismatic way and sad tale of woe.
The day after Kane’s release, we were to take Lodi to Denkai Animal Sanctuary near Fort Collins, CO. From here,
she would make her final leg to Omaha. While at the sanctuary, Daze was introduced to farm animals, she ran and
played with an Australian Shepherd on the prairie, and chased the Buffalo living there. Kane was put on a lead, I
borrowed a bicycle, and we ran and ran and ran. Not only was this a one of the highlights of the road trip, but it is
a memory I will keep forever. We left the Sanctuary in the afternoon as we had a dinner time appointment: Forrest
was arriving on a rescue transport.
The City of Aurora is a suburb of Denver and also a BSL city and is where the rally was to take place. We arrived at
Walmart, drove to the side parking lot, and waited. I was under the impression that a single car with a single dog in
it was who we should be watching for. I was wrong, dead wrong. Over the next hour, these odd people showed up,
parked their cars, and were just wandering around in the parking lot near us. I asked one of them “Are you
dropping off a dog?” They replied, “No, I’m picking one up.” This was what all these people were doing here. Some
were with rescue groups, some were picking up and continuing on to other states, and some were new pet parents
like me. And then, it arrived.
Like a bus full of kids returning from Summer Camp, a Ryder rental van pulled in with what sounded like a full animal
shelter inside. Barking, barking, barking! I could not believe my eyes or ears! This was one of the most amazing
events I have ever witnessed. The side door of the van slid open and 27 dogs in kennels were found inside. The
driver asked that we all help lower the kennels to the ground, put the dogs on leashes, and get them over to the
lawn to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Mastiffs, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds, and a
few others were all unloaded.
And then there was Forrest, a dog I had only known and seen on the internet, a dog we had all fought to save, a
dog that had drawn so much attention in Denver and across America. Forrest is a big boy. He is so big that he
doesn’t wag his tail like other dogs: He wiggles. And wiggle he did, right into my arms. I wept some more. Forrest
was excited and friendly and anxious. Forrest wanted to make friends with all the other dogs he just traveled with.
The driver even explained to me how Forrest ate his way out of his kennel and chose to travel in comfort: on a
giant throw pillow on the floor of the van.
After we took what seemed to be a million photos and 8 hours of video, we introduced Forrest to Kane and Daze.
We all hopped back in the car and retreated back to Golden for some supper. Chris McGahey and his mom, Pat,
were called to arrange a private good bye party. The following day, they arrived and all these internet strangers, all
these people who had worked into the wee hours emailing and coordinating, all these people who clung to one
another from thousands of miles away met for the first time. Again, tears found me. We all spent that entire
Sunday together talking and laughing and watching the dogs all play together. In my opinion, it was “The Party” of
the century. We called everyone who helped make this day happen to share in our joy. I think all of our cell phone
and camera batteries were dead that evening. We said our final goodbye’s that late afternoon. I began to pack my
bags as we would be leaving for California that night.
As I loaded the three dogs, dog food, water and bowls; I hesitated for a moment. “I don’t believe in the public
stigma about this breed” I thought to myself. None the less, I was about to drive 1400 miles with three strange
dogs in the back of my car. Within the first hour, they had all settled in for the long ride home. And I knew it. I
knew at that moment they had already bonded. They draped themselves over one another for comfort and warmth.
I again shed a tear in my rear view mirror.
We left Colorado in the dark, passed into Utah, and decided to get off the road in the town of Beaver. We found a
truck stop, nestled our car in between several big rigs, and climbed in the back for some shut eye. About three
hours later, I awoke to Daze in the driver’s seat asleep, Forrest draped over my feet and Kane’s face shoved up
against mine: snoring. It was then we were officially “A family”. I got some coffee, fed and walked the dogs, and
we continued on our journey home. We stopped in Las Vegas for gas and so the dogs could see the Strip, and
then continued on our final three hour leg into Orange County. We arrived at Founders Vet at a little after 4 p.m.
that Monday. We were met by Dr. T and her staff at the clinic. Even my parents were there to welcome us. It was
good to be home.
After spending a very intensive half year with these dogs and been involved with many others through rescue, our
local dog park, and training / acclimating, I can testify that these dogs, though very high in energy, are just like
every other dog of every other breed. They have personal quirks, they have fears, they have strong attributes,
they sleep, they poop, and they run… just like every other dog. I will gladly go toe-to-toe with any believer of the
public stigma that Pit Bulls are inherently more dangerous than other breeds. All dogs can get into fights. All dogs
can be toy or food aggressive. All dogs can be abused and fought to the point of becoming violent and dangerous.
All dogs can be family members, companions, therapists, and guardians. The issue with Pit Bulls and all dogs is not
the dogs themselves, rather, the humans on the other end of the leash. The day that we grant animals even the
most basic of rights will be the day our society gets a little better for the animals living within it.
|Search This Site For:
|A Long Road Named Exile
By Chef David Edelstein
Edited By Lynn Biggs
|Founders Veterinary Clinic-
|Fact vs. Myth