2013-10-02 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

It’s time for the third annual Bully Breed Brigade because addressing the pitiful Pit overload in municipal shelters remains top priority. On Sat., Oct. 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hempstead Town Shelter and Last Hope will host this event while teaming up with “Rock & Rawhide,” a dynamic group of animal lovers with ties to the music industry who do great things for shelter pets.

As Kylie Edmond Hillman, a singer/songwriter originally from Australia, and her husband Sean Patrick, advertising, public relations and journalism professional, the creative founders of “Rock & Rawhide” (www.rockandrawhide.org), explain: “We have two components- “Rock” represents the music and artistic (culinary and visual arts) outreach to bring awareness to homeless pets in shelters while “Rawhide” stands for the supply collection drives to bring amenities to these animals that will alleviate stress and enhance their adoptability.” The group has an eclectic Board of Directors including radio’s Elvis Duran, Z100 morning show host who publicizes adoption events that Rock & Rawhide helps coordinate, like our upcoming Bully Breed Brigade.

Rock & Rawhide’s recent ball collection drive Rock & Rawhide’s recent ball collection drive The Hillmans share their NYC apartment with two Pitties from the city shelter “Snickers,” abandoned at a construction site, and “Rolo,” seized in a dog-fighting ring raid, but a 2011 kitten experience at Manhattan Animal Care & Control (ACC) was the catalyst for creating Rock & Rawhide. “We were so upset, hearing how loud the kennels were, and noticing the stress levels with no toys, no blankets, no comforts, that on the cab ride home we resolved to get the word out via music and cultural events. At first we asked the audience to bring pet supplies to my gigs, but in a short time, Rock & Rawhide expanded into much more,” Kylie said. Well, that is an understatement. In less than two years, the group has facilitated the collection of over $600,000 worth of goodies. Volunteers are called “roadies” whereas monetary or material donors are dubbed “rock stars.”

Rock & Rawhide is all about enriching the lives of shelter animals by enlisting the help of the public and then watching the domino effect set in motion by generosity. Sean Patrick expands on that: “These efforts are affecting the community to lessen noise/stress and drive adoption rates up through distraction therapy by providing donations of toys, tough chew items, Kongs, Nylabones, rawhides, bones, blankets and more.”

Visualize the sequence and its benefits to both the pets and the possible adopters. A dog or cat is stressed, scared or agitated (barking/spinning/hiding) in the shelter cage. Rock & Rawhide provides the donated goodies. The animals are content with their new toys. The kennel is less noisy. They settle down. The dogs/cats in the next cage settle too. The environment becomes more relaxed and inviting. The furry ones’ true personalities show through. An adopter sees the pet potential within each prospect. More pets find homes.

Just the sight of a toy in the cage has a subconscious, welcoming effect on visitors. People are more apt to walk through calm kennels and catteries. Adoptions increase. These scenarios are backed up with research studies, plus Kylie recalls “Daisy,” a depressed Pit at Brooklyn ACC: “After a supply drop off, the kennels quieted down while everyone noshed on their chewies, but you could hear one lone squeaker. And that turned out to be Daisy playing with her new toy. She had come alive.”

Their massive collection drives are multi-faceted. Rock & Rawhide has drop boxes at stores, grooming shops, veterinary clinics and during events. They have corporate connections and received a grant from the ASPCA that allows drop boxes at fabulous locations like the Waltz Astoria Café. After their recent Petco Foundation “Buy a Ball, Wag a Tail” campaign, 31,000 tennis and kitty balls were distributed to 55 shelters in the Northeast including Babylon Shelter.

A Lynbrook seventh-grader learned about Rock & Rawhide because his mom is an avid Elvis Duran listener. He decided to do a collection drive as his Bar Mitzvah project. The district allowed drop boxes in the lobbies of six schools. He also encouraged his guests to bring petfriendly gifts. Kylie and Sean Patrick were on hand when the roadies brought goodies to Hempstead Shelter which helped cement our partnership for the upcoming Bully Breed Brigade. Here are the details thus far:

On Sat., Oct. 19 (no rain date) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Hempstead Town Shelter parking lot at 3320 Beltagh Avenue in Wantagh and spilling onto the closed street toward Last Hope, the Bully Breed Brigade is designed to show that shelters and rescues throughout Long Island and the NY metropolitan area are united in finding ways to help our overflowing Pit populations. The public is invited to this adoption/information event and is allowed to bring owned Pitties on leashes for the festivities as long as the dogs are both people and dog friendly.

There will be a Pit Parade of ambassadogs around 1 p.m. with optional Halloween costumes, a Pit talent show and agility fun, rescues, shelters, demos and vendors. Rock & Rawhide has arranged for a showcase of at least six musical bands to play throughout the day. Visitors are urged to bring a toy, treat, durable chewie, blanket or unopened pet food donation for the Rock & Rawhide collection drive.

Kylie says that each person’s donation is a way to pass on luck and love to shelter animals. Even those who cannot afford to buy something new can provide a toy or towel as long as the article is clean and usable. At an event in Union Square they met a homeless woman who was forced to surrender her dog to a rescue when she left her abusive husband. She vanished and then returned 20 minutes later, insisting that Rock & Rawhide take her $2 donation. When Kylie protested, the woman said: “No, you are not going to talk me out of this in honor of my dear dog that I had to give away.”

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Holly” #13-327, a staff and volunteer Pit favorite thinks she is queen of the world atop the A-frame but she would prefer to be queen of someone’s heart. “Betty White” #13-587, an older Shih tzu, came in severely neglected. When shaving Betty’s mats, the shelter vet discovered that one eye had previously been surgically removed.

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