Wags: How did Barbells for Bullies come about, and why did you decide to run with it?
Bullies: It's both a long and a short story. Short story - we realized how many homeless pit bulls languishing in Atlanta area shelters there were when we went to go adopt one (ended up being two). I decided we needed to do something, so we leveraged a zealous community (Crossfitters) with an even more rabid bunch (Pit Bull / Bully Breed advocates) and it just kind of took off. I went into it expecting to do one or two events in Atlanta, and it just kind of exploded to the point where I had people all over the country reaching out, telling me about their experiences with Bully Breeds and how they have a bad rep in their locale too. We went from 2 competitions in 2016 in Atlanta, to 7 events in 6 cities in 2017, to even more on the horizon in 2018. It's gotten bigger than I could have hoped, and it's immensely rewarding and humbling to stand on a plyo box at these events, and watch people sweat, grunt, smile, laugh, and get puppy kisses. It renews my faith in humanity in so many ways. Every. Single. Time.
Wags: How do you manage having a job and owning a non-profit? What challenges do you face?
Bullies: Manage is a strong term. I'd say more like orchestrate organized chaos, lol. But in all seriousness, it's hard - very hard. The main challenge is time. I (Alex) work for a Fortune 50 company in marketing and advertising, and have a deadline and dollar driven job - I need to hit goals and perform; and Lindsay works in a deadline and dollar driven job as well, that is much higher pressure than my own, in the legal field - and when I step back and vocalize what we do for our day jobs, taking on something like Barbells for Bullies looks absolutely insane at face value. Obviously we come up against the whole mythos of the breed, and ignorance of people - but we expect that. We know bully breeds are the underdog, but that's why we fight so ferociously for them. I think there's also a balancing act of running the charity, working our day jobs, and being able to foster and champion the breeds. I mean, we need to walk the walk if we're going to tell people to foster and adopt - we need to foster and adopt, and we take in the urgent dogs; the one's getting beat up in the shelter, the one's that get passed by day in and day out. Those are the one's I want to help personally, because I think some people will be more likely to engage with the problem of shelter overpopulation and foster or adopt. I look at it like an lead by example situation. If you see my wife and I - going hard at work, in the gym, and on the non profit - but we also foster the hard cases - you might think, well hey, I can do it too. If they can, I can; and that's what we need more of. Random acts of kindness. People stepping up because someone has to, and they realize, it's them. It's all of us.
Wags: What do you think has been the most successful thing that has come out of promoting these events across the country?
Bullies: Simply - awareness. There are so many other benefits and successes - like meeting people, fostering a fitter and pittier community, hearing peoples' success stories in both the fitness and rescue world, but I think awareness is the biggest thing. In certain locales, people don't know about the issues facing bully breeds, specifically pit bulls. For example, there is some serious BSL in Denver; and us being there brought awareness not only to the breed and how pitties aren't murder dogs or vicious, but to the insanity of BSL. How we're blaming breeds, not deeds, and how we're punishing dogs for looking a certain way : block heads, strong bodies, wide jaws; and leaving out the big hearts, goofy personalities, and intense loyalty intrinsic to the breed.
Wags: What is the long term goal for Barbells for Bullies?
Bullies: Oh that's a loaded question. I mean the long term goal in the macro sense is to end the 93%... 93% of pitbulls (and I hate saying that since there is no such thing as a pit bull, but pit bull type dogs. Other bully breeds like Mastiffs and Bulldogs don't have nearly the same euth rates) that enter shelters, don't come back out. In some locales, they are euthanized immediately, simply for being born a bully breed. Which brings me to my next point - some dogs that look like bully breeds, aren't event 1/8th bully!! So the end goal is to clear the shelters - of not only bully breeds - but in general by advocating, fostering, and adopting - but also safe and mindful spay and neuter practices. Seriously, if you're reading this, spay and neuter your pets. If you do nothing else, do that. Education would also be a long term goal - making people understand dogs more, and bully breeds more. I would say in a macro sense - educate, advocate, and stop the unwarranted killing of dogs that are great companions by and large. As an ancillary goal dovetailing on this - I'd LOVE to get some of these bullies with high prey drive or play drive into working roles with police, fire, EMS, or military - so people can see for themselves that they're not murder dogs, they're like any other pup. Goofy, lovable, loyal, and smart.
Wags: Any advice for people looking to rescue a pup?
Bullies: Honestly, I'd say just do it - but that's an irresponsible response. If you did your homework, then go rescue.
But foster if you can. Learn about dogs, about the breeds. Find them a good home, be their champion. I used to be of the school that i'd get attached to the animal - but I got some great advice from someone who is in the trenches with the worst of the worst - he saves the game dogs, the bait dogs, the ones that have been chained outside with embedded collars - "The good ones you give away...the troubled one's, those are the ones you keep." And in just over two years, we've personally fostered and adopted out 4 "urgent" dogs. One of which was in the shelter getting passed up for 7 months, but now is living the good life in Massachusetts. We have one as I write this who was getting literally beaten up in her kennel and was unable to eat, but now she is sociable and coming out of her shell. And we're not the only ones responsible. Our two bullies helped. They taught her how to be a dog, how to be in a pack, how to be happy and live in the moment. We could all use some of that lesson.