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They Deserve Better…

“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” – Joaquin Phoenix

Everyone has seen the news stories about dogs being beaten, left for dead, intentionally starved, and the list goes on and on with the depraved acts inflicted upon Pitbulls by people who see them as mere property or a means for a profit.

In 2017, in Winnsboro, SC, a malnourished pitbull was unfortunately euthanized after being found tied to a porch and severely emaciated. In 2015, Caitlyn, a pitbull mix, was found in Charleston, SC with her mouth taped shut with Duct Tape after being dropped off in a neighborhood. In 2011, Richland County deputies discovered a dog fight in progress with at least 30 pitbulls present that were confiscated.

The examples of cruelty cases within our state over the past 10 years could go on and on. The Pitbull is the most abused, neglected, and underprotected breed in our state. They are used for profit from breeding or fighting, as well as being kept as guard dogs with little socialization or training. These acts further the negative stigma and poor reputation of the breed.

Through legislation, such as mandatory spay/neuter, the appeal of breeding for profit or fighting would be significantly reduced. This would also eliminate unwanted litters, overbreeding, and overpopulation of Pitbulls.

It is our duty to protect the breed and ensure that they not only deserve better, but are treated better.

Join us in the mission to ensure the safety and protection of this misunderstood breed.

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Fact vs. Fiction: Protect the Pitbull

Over the past 60 years, the Pitbull type dog has gone from ultimate family dog to ultimate bad dog with a reputation for aggression due to factors beyond their control. The bully breeds are not wired for aggression, but are a direct product of their environment. In this article, with the myths published by Best Friends Animal Society, we explore the truth behind this loving, care-free group of dogs that yearn to be accepted and protected from constant persecution.

MYTH: Pit bull terriers are more aggressive than other dogs.
THE TRUTH: Aggression is not a breed characteristic or personality trait, and is not specific to any one breed of dog. The American Temperament Test Society, which provides a uniform national program of temperament testing for dogs, has found that pit-bull-terrier-like dogs passed the test at a higher rate than many other dog breeds, including golden retrievers and border collies. While Pitbulls rank the highest in medical costs associated with dog bites due to their muscular body and strong jaws, they are not inherently aggressive without external influences of their environment.

MYTH: Dogs of certain breeds are more dangerous or likely to bite than others.
THE TRUTH: Breed has nothing to do with it. A peer-reviewed study found that nearly 85 percent of dog bite fatalities were from unaltered dogs. Other factors that contributed to bites were abuse or neglect, tethering for long periods of time, and lack of socialization with people and other animals.

MYTH: Pit bull terriers have locking jaws.
THE TRUTH: There is no such thing as a dog with a locking jaw. Pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes are no different physiologically from other dogs.

MYTH: Pit bull terriers are not good family dogs and that’s why you see so many in shelters.
THE TRUTH: Pit-bull-like dogs are actually some of the most popular types of dogs in America. According to, the American pit bull terrier is one of the top three favorite breeds in 28 states. Because pit bull terriers are so popular with unlicensed breeders and criminals, they are being overbred for profit, under socialized, and thrown away when they no longer serve a purpose. These factors, along with lack of breed education, have led to an influx of pit-bull-like dogs in shelters.

The key to keeping the bully breeds safe and out of harms way are mandatory spay/neuter regulations, education, and stronger penalties for backyard breeding. Without proper socialization, training, and treatment, the bully breeds can not be the ultimate family dog that they so long to be once again.

Join us in the crusade to protect and provide justice and understanding for dogs that are bully breeds.

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Lio: A Tail of an Amazing, Adoptable, Misunderstood Dog Part 5 — Roomies

On a sweaty, sun-shiney, famously hot Cola Monday, July 9th, 2018, Pawmetto Lifeline Medical Director Mike Kokernak drove Lio over to our house, Lio’s head undoubtedly pressed up against the car door window so as to give Mike a hint to roll it right on down. Cue, then, a heck of an ear-flopping, jowl-flapping time in the wind and a smooth highway ride to Lexington. This would be the beginning of the first day of Lio at our house for a 4-month foster period (set to end November 9th, by the way, unless he finds a forever home by then). 

But with Lio coming into our home, we needed to make sure we handled the “multiple dog” situation correctly.

First things first. Lio and our dogs don’t have a “bond.” In fact, they aren’t all that crazy about each other. Ava and McClane are practically inseparable, but ’tis not the case for Ava and Lio, nor McClane and Lio—nooo way. However, Rebecca and I can provide some pretty clear insight on Lio’s preferences and needs when it comes to the commonly asked question of “what about other dogs in the home?”

Now, allow me to briefly introduce Ava and McClane, our pups, for the purpose of this post about a sort of “roommate-ship” we have among the two dog “parties” within our household. Meet 5-year-old German Shepherd/Chow boy, McClane, adequately named after Die Hard John McClane—hey, maybe he’d never had glass shards embedded deeply into his feet, but he’d definitely been through quite the troubles before finding peace through rescue: heartworm positive, shot in the foot, hit by a car, as thin as a rail, intestinal parasites, and ehrlichiosis (tick-borne infectious disease). John McClane enough. Today, McClane’s a belly-rub lovin’, Kong-slammin’, home alarm system with an affinity for “giving paw” to any person who has the pleasure of meeting him. He himself has come a long way with resource guarding his meals and high-value treats. McClane likes other dogs—particularly females, smaller dogs, and those who aren’t overly active.

McClane, with dolphin bear face.

Here’s Avalon “Ava,” 5 (or 6? Ish?), cattledoggy, staffy, husky, chowy lass (ehhhhh, let’s make this easier: “All-American Shelter Dog”). She’s unabashedly a mama’s girl, a wader of the water, and a snuggle session extraordinaire. We knew we had to have her in our lives and home forever after one sleepover, a special “PJ Party” night away from Pawmetto Lifeline. She and McClane hit it off in a heartbeat! Ava likes other dogs, but can play rough. She is remarkably good at reading other dogs’ cues and body language in interactions, though. (This would come in handy the first week we had Lio.)

Ava, sunbathing with a smile.

When Mike came over with Lio to the house, it was imperative that we establish at least familiarity between the dogs even though they all had met in the Pawmetto Lifeline indoor dog park twice just one and two weeks before. We chose to start with a very matter-of-fact, very natural walk with all three dogs on leashes down our street. And we are thankful we did! Walking as a pack seemed to be the safe way to go.

Since this walk, here’s what we know and have learned about Ava and McClane and Lio’s relationships to date:

  • Lio has continued to walk alongside other dogs on a walk. Maybe not right next to them, but alongside them with a couple feet to have to himself (we don’t blame him). He likes getting moving. He enjoys the fresh air. He’s also good on a leash with the right human control and involvement, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming post. He isn’t leash-reactive like he was barrier-frustrated on adoption row at Pawmetto Lifeline. Ultimately, these walks are a nice opportunity to provide exercise for all simultaneously. 

McClane, Ava, and Lio on a walk in our neighborhood, August 2018.

  • Animal Care Specialist Leon Panoo will tell anyone this until he’s blue in the face (and I agree with him): “Like I always say, Lio is fine with other dogs as long as they don’t get in his face or mess with him.” It’s true; if Lio’s unsettled, his ears pin back and he gives “the side eye.” He’s not a fan of being in too close of a proximity to McClane in particular.

  • Which leads me to this: McClane does not seem to appreciate Lio on his turf. We’re working on counter-conditioning right now with him, to change the way his brain perceives Lio’s presence. When Lio is outside and comes up to the sliding glass back door letting us know he wants to come in after playtime, McClane charges up to the door, growls, and barks at Lio. It’s as if he sees him as a threat. 

  • No. Toys. With. Other. Dogs. Around. Lio. EVER. PLEASE. Lio “marks” where a toy is, even if he’s not actively playing with it. On one of the first few nights with Lio, I’d cleared up all the toys on the ground in the backyard including a rubber ball with which Lio had just played. I nested/disguised it among some items on our wrought iron table on the back patio. Lio was already outside and we brought Ava out to join him. He stood next to the table after a few moments, and when Ava trotted toward it (with what I believe was with ZERO intention of getting the ball that was on top of it), Lio perceived her arrival at the table as her coming to steal his toy; let’s just say that he definitely let Ava know that the ball was his. 

  • Ava and Lio can be outside together. They don’t really engage, actually. More like coexist in the same space. Since the aforementioned “ball atop table” incident, Ava keeps her distance from Lio. From what I can tell, she’s not scared of him, but it’s like in her head she knows to tell herself, “okay, okay, fine, he needs his space…”

  • We rotate the dogs in our house. It is an extremely rare occasion that all three dogs are in the same exact space of the house at one time. If Ava and McClane are outside in the fenced backyard, Lio is free to roam the whole house. If Lio is in the backyard, Ava and McClane have the whole house to themselves. If Lio is eating a meal in his room, his door is normally shut unless Ava and McClane are in our room with the door shut. When Ava and McClane are eating their meals downstairs, Lio is up in his room. Sound complex? It is, but it’s what we do to make it work to create an environment for Lio that’s not a kennel while he’s still up for adoption.

Rebecca’s dog Annabelle wants to play with other dogs, and is incredibly social. Rebecca had to most separate Annabelle and Lio while she fostered him, but it was in everyone’s best interest. Completely understandable.

For Lio, a home with no other dogs at all would be first choice. If there is another dog, a very laid back, non-intrusive demeanor is much, much needed.

It’s her turn for the baby pool, and he seems to get that. Too small of a pool anyway.

It’s safe to say that Ava, McClane, and Lio are “roomies.” Roommates. They live in the same home, but they’re not heavily involved with each other, they’ve got their own schedules, and they all have separate goals and needs. Okay, fine, they don’t share a mini-fridge though.

Until soon,

Lio’s Foster Mom

That look when you just want to lounge by yourself with your humans.

Check out all of Lio’s special blog posts in his series:

Check out Lio’s very own Facebook album:

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Lio: A Tail of an Amazing, Adoptable, Misunderstood Dog Part 4 — Foster Home Findings

The kennel in an animal shelter—even if the physical shelter is a no-kill rescue organization, even if staff cares for and spends as much time as possible with the pets—is no ideal place for a pet to exist for an extended period, much less a “long-term” pet to exist for an extended period. The goal is to get dogs and cats adopted to the right fit home for them, right? And if not adopted, then surely into a foster home where they’re more free to move around, where there’s less stress, and where foster parents can assess how they’re functioning in a home setting. Actually, as of more recent, a cat or dog entering a foster home has been the first goal once they enter our care at Pawmetto Lifeline, because the idea is this: let’s first learn, learn, and learn about the pet and then have useful information to communicate to prospective forever families—sooner. In either case, a pet’s time in foster care can propel, facilitate, and help solidify an adoption.

It hasn’t been easy for Lio to find a foster home during his time at Pawmetto Lifeline. Lio’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. But he is for someone, and the right foster home fit for him can teach us how we can help “make it a forever” with that someone (the adopter). 

The first time my husband Matthew and I took Lio home was in April of 2016 for a sleepover. It would be the first time he spent the night away from Pawmetto Lifeline in over two years. I was determined to see what having him out of the kennel and with us would be like. We had our own dog, McClane, sleep at his Uncle Jason’s house as we really wanted to make the occasion about Lio, and not knowing how the two dogs would interact (particularly inside our small apartment at the time) could be problematic. 

Here are some “snippets” from an actual email I sent to our directors about the sleepover:

“[Lio] rode amazingly in the car, loving every chance to stick his head out the window and vacuum up thousands of scents with his nose as his ears flopped up and down.”

“At first [he] was pacing nervously about the apartment (who could blame him?) but relaxed after about 20-30 minutes.”

“[He] did wonderfully with my husband. Before bringing Lio into the house, I asked Matthew to be sitting on the couch so his height (6’6”) wouldn’t intimidate Lio. [He] went over to the couch to explore and give kisses to Matthew.” (It wasn’t long before they were playing fetch together.)

“Lio had some treats rewarded to him if he did what was asked: ‘sit,’ back,’ ‘high five,’ ‘speak,’ etc. and he took them from my hand very gently. He can do this with just about anyone who is confident being around him.”

We had Lio over again one night in July of that year in our new house, McClane at Uncle Jason’s place again. It was incredibly sweet and awe-inspiring to see him take in all the scents in the backyard and run, run, run. Sleep for the night. Come up to us for back scratches. I was eager to share this experience with others who never imagined it possible that Lio could prosper in a home.

A Facebook album kept updated with Lio’s adventures and photos that captured his personality caught the eyes of a family of three. That fall, he went to a foster-to-adopt with them. We were hopeful about this placement, and he stayed with them for two months. Lio came back in early January due to them not being ready for his needs.

Lio stayed at Pawmetto Lifeline as we continued to search for a family, even if it meant writing letter after letter to other rescue organizations to find a different audience. Even if it meant asking any child-less prospective adopter if they would think about Lio. Even if it meant updating his profile picture and profile wording every couple of weeks (and admittedly, sometimes days or…hours), or continuing to share his story with rescues and “cross-posters” all over Facebook. I felt defeated but there was no way we could give up. After seeing him in a home—our home (and later, another home)—with my own eyes, I knew possible for him to succeed with the right family for him. With this said, I am not a saint. Not a hero for taking him home. I’m a gal who wants Lio to have security and success. The truth is that I think his forever person’s got to be close in proximity. If two employees in an organization of 70 of them can foster Lio—creating an appropriate environment for his needs—then his true home, a great fit for him, must be nearby.

See, I had been eager for a couple years to foster Lio, not just have an occasional sleepover. Since I understood that he didn’t care for other dogs in his face and wanted to keep to himself when it came to other canines, I was doubtful that introducing our McClane to him would be an accomplishment. In fact—and this was in 2016—I brought McClane to work and they had two introductions. Neither were enough to make me say that it would be worth it to move forward. There was a little too much interest in Lio coming from McClane one moment, and a little too much interest in McClane coming from Lio the next. It was enough to make them both tense up. Compatibility didn’t seem evident. Was I upset? Definitely. Did I want to put either dog in an uncomfortable position? No.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017 when one of our most remarkable, big-hearted employees, Rebecca, decided with her husband, Terry, that they would take a chance at having Lio at their house for long-term fostering.  They proved that with patience, practice, and quite a bit of sacrifice that Lio would make a great family member. They have a sweetheart of a pit bull mix, Annabelle, who adores other dogs. What Rebecca committed to (and made very much possible for others to begin to understand) was that Lio could be just fine separated from resident dogs—still be thriving, and still in a home. Even if Lio and Annabelle had to “rotate” within the home and outside, Lio could still grow and be loved. (This is why we took the chance in reintroducing McClane and Lio; more on this soon, but yes, they are currently living in the same house.) Lio got along beautifully with Rebecca and Terry’s special needs cat, Duddles, showering him with kisses and nuzzling him on the daily. He was as obedient as ever. He finally got to experience having a yard of his own. He had people who set necessary boundaries for him, who could be greeted at the door with his tail wags, and who would provide him with love and support.

Well, let’s talk about a huge part of that love and support provided: In a recent post, we discussed resource guarding. Let us remind you that resource guarding is considered to be normal in dogs, though it can look different for many of them. Some may growl if their space, toys, or food is threatened, some may lick their lips or show the whites of their eyes in discomfort, some may bite. And this is primarily out of fear. Lio’s own resource guarding has become very manageable as determined through his foster experiences. Rebecca invited the slow feeder into Lio’s life, which has seemed to really change his attitude about food in an extraordinary way. Instead of scarfing down his food in seconds, he takes minutes to eat and is super patient during the pour. There’s a new sense of security about his food, though we still do not dare bother him while he eats. (If I reached to steal a chewy, gooey chocolate chip cookie from your plate, it’s a given that you’d be upset.) Meal time? Made easy. Thank you, Rebecca. Check out the video below.

Pretty cool, huh? “Bone” apetit. 

Although Lio has switched from Rebecca’s home to mine, there’s plenty more to cover about Lio’s time in each home. There are new developments practically every day. With this said, it’s time I let Lio out to potty. He took a nice long nap after a walk, so he should be awake and, hey, close to ready for dinner.

Until our next post,

—Lio’s Foster Mom

Check out all of Lio’s special blog posts in his series:

Check out Lio’s very own Facebook album:

Posted in Adoptions, Education, Fosters, Lio's Adventures, Rescue | Comments Off on Lio: A Tail of an Amazing, Adoptable, Misunderstood Dog Part 4 — Foster Home Findings

Separation Anxiety: 10 Tips to Help Your Dog

Separation anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, fear, or panic that develops when a dog is unable to be in contact with his or her caregivers.

Symptoms of established separation anxiety include:

  • Barking, whining, or howling when left alone
  • Destructive behaviors (e.g., chewing and clawing at objects in the home)
  • Escape attempts through or around doors and windows, crates, or fences

Tip #1: Give your dog at least 30 minutes of activity every day. Exercising your dog regularly encourages him/her to relax and rest while you are away

Tip #2: Provide food puzzle toys that are only given to your dog when he/she will be alone. You can use a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese, or yogurt to keep your pet mentally busy which will help them to remain calm.

Tip #3: Enroll in a reward-based training class to increase your dog’s mental activity and provide a “job” for your pet, which will help them feel more confident.

Tip #4: If your dog barks when you leave, you can leave a radio or television on for background noise so that your dog will not feel alone.

Tip #5: Don’t get emotional when leaving your dog and overexcited when you come back. By paying too much attention to your departure and return, you risk reinforcing the dog’s fear of your absence. Calmly say goodbye and leave. When you come back, quietly say hello and don’t get too affectionate until your dog has calmed down.

Tip #6: Keep greetings and departures calm. Separation anxiety in dogs increases when they sense that you’re nervous about leaving, too. If your dog is hysterical when you come home, ensure that you don’t give attention until your dog is calm and able to sit quietly. Similarly, if your dog knows your “leaving the house ritual” too well, desensitize the dog to the various steps. For example, try putting on your coat and grabbing your car keys—and then watch TV for 20 minutes.

Tip #7: Gradually lengthen periods of your absence – Stage several short departures/arrivals throughout the day, gradually lengthening each absence as your dog adjusts.

Tip #8: Take your dog to doggy daycare for socialization with other dogs, which will also physically and mentally exercise your dog for encouraged relaxation at home.

Tip #9: Create your dog a safe space in their crate. This should include giving them a Kong or puzzle toy in the crate with the door open while you are home. By establishing the crate as a haven, your dog will feel more comfortable spending time in the crate.

Tip #10: For more severe cases of separation anxiety, you should consult your veterinarian for information regarding medications or supplements to help calm your dog.

*You should NEVER punish your dog for behaviors related to separation anxiety as you will only further his/her anxiety of you leaving.

For more information on medications or supplements, please contact our Wellness clinic at (803) 465-9196 or For more information to enroll your dog in our Doggy Daycare program, please contact Alexa Sparkman at (803) 465-9178 or

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Lio: A Tail of an Amazing, Adoptable, Misunderstood Dog Part 3 — So, What’s a Catahoula Dog Anyway?

Our guy Lio’s intake paperwork from 2014 indicates that his breed is “Catahoula Leopard Dog.” We as a rescue organization that accepted Lio into our care without say, official AKC paperwork, cannot determine for 100% sure that this is indeed Lio’s true breed. Most of our adoptable dogs and cats come to us with zero history, so breed is vet’s best guess. For Lio, many physical and personality traits point to Catahoula Leopard Dog, so we’ll stick with it. We’ll unquestionably go into what a Catahoula Leopard Dog is, but as a disclaimer, our blog series on and attitude towards Lio shall focus on him as an individual. This principle is applicable to all dogs and cats, although the guessed or known breed’s history and personality is to be considered and is relevant in many cases.

A Catahoula Leopard Dog, as shown on the American Kennel Club website

The Catahoula Leopard Dog (also known as the Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hound, or Catahoula Hog Dog) originated in the land of Mardi Gras, crawfish, and jazz: the southern state of Louisiana. They are loyal, driven, intuitive, highly intelligent, and they’re really clowns at heart. They need strong leadership, consistent exercise, and a balance of bonding time with their human and independence. The name “Catahoula” is of Choctaw origin and means “sacred lake.” (Whoa, fancy!) They’re in hardly any sense of the word “lazy,” having been developed to catch and drive wild hogs and cattle to market. So Catahoula Leopard Dogs are technically in the herding group.  When “off duty” they’re protective yet affectionate in the home.

Photo credit: Vet Street Incorporated

If you’ve seen a Catahoula Leopard Dog before, he or she might’ve donned a merle coat. Merle is not a color, but rather a “marble” pattern of a dog’s coat, with darker patches and spots of the specified color (blue, red, etc.). See also: many Australian Shepherds, some Dachshunds, some Great Danes, etc. Some Catahoulas are single-colored or even spotted or brindled. The hair is normally short to medium length. The gene causing merle can also impact eye color. These dogs might have icy blue, mysterious green, chocolately brown, striking amber, or even two-colored “cracked” eyes.

Catahoula Leopard Dogs have a strong build, and are in the large breed category. The lifespan is generally 10-12 years. They, like any dog, should be seen by a vet regularly and be examined for potential signs of hip dysplasia or sight or hearing issues. Let it be known that Lio has been a markedly healthy dog compared to some his age, fortunately. He’s on Galliprant (NSAID) for management of some joint discomfort, but he is heartworm negative, he has no special diet, his vision is exceptional, his hearing is top-notch, he has teeth that are in great condition, and his weight is where it should be. As of about a year ago, he takes a medication to help anxiety, but this also has been curbed immensely since he’s been in a foster home (and not confined to a kennel). Lio’s mobility is also incredible! Seriously, he’s no stranger to a big leap straight into the water hose stream.

Well, do you know more about the Catahoula Leopard Dog breed than you did before? The name’s certainly thought-provoking. Catahoula? Ah, Native American origin. Leopard? Oh, got it, like spots or patches of a leopard.

Lio? One in a milLIOn.

— Lio’s Foster Mom

Lio is now 7.5-years-old and still in search of a permanent furever home.

Check out all of Lio’s special blog posts in his series:

Check out Lio’s very own Facebook album:

Posted in Adoptions, Education, Lio's Adventures, Rescue | Comments Off on Lio: A Tail of an Amazing, Adoptable, Misunderstood Dog Part 3 — So, What’s a Catahoula Dog Anyway?

State of Emergency: Protect the Breed

“Cowardly people fight to ban us; Courageous people fight to protect us.”

3 pitbulls

60 years ago, the Pitbull type dog was known for its loving demeanor and had a reputation as the ultimate family dog. Pitbulls were used in marketing campaigns as “America’s Dog” as a symbol of patriotism and were also known as the “nanny dog” because of their gentle nature and watchful eye over the children of the family. Unfortunately, the rise in popularity of illegal dog fighting caused a shift in the public’s perception from the ultimate family dog to the ultimate bad dog.

puppy puppy 2

A Pitbull is defined in legislation of many states as any dog that is an American PitBull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or any dog that exhibits physical characteristics which mostly conform to the breed standards of the AKC, such as blocky head, square muzzle, bulky, muscular body-type, almond-shaped eyes, etc.  Their owners find that their pets are discriminated on by landlords, homeowners associations, as well as city, county, and state laws.


With 33 states having Breed-Specific Legislation, and the majority including Pitbull-type dogs, this breed has a difficult time finding their forever home. Mandatory spay/neuter programs are a necessary way to protect the breed as it will limit ownership from those who seek to do the breed harm, prevent over-population of the breed that has a high chance of ending up in a shelter when owned for the wrong reasons. Animal lovers, specifically Pitbull lovers, cry out loudly on behalf of the breed, desperately seeking a solution to the Pitbull being one of the most euthanized breeds in municipal shelters nationwide.

tongue out

Stay tuned next week as we take you inside a day in the life of a shelter pitbull.

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