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Published: Monday, 3/31/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Lucas County Pit Crew marks 200th adoption

Group boasts more than 40 foster homes, about 50 volunteers

BY ALEXANDRA MESTER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Titan, called Pupsicle when it was rescued from a cold doorstep, licks its new owner Michael Kurdziel, Jr., in his Toledo home. Titan, called Pupsicle when it was rescued from a cold doorstep, licks its new owner Michael Kurdziel, Jr., in his Toledo home.
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What started in 2010 as a small group to support owners of “pit bull”-type dogs has grown to a sizable network of volunteers who rescue dogs and educate and provide services for the public.

The all-volunteer, donation-funded Lucas County Pit Crew celebrated its 200th adoption recently.

The group started with two or three volunteers and about the same number of foster homes. There are now more than 40 foster homes and about 50 volunteers, with an average of 30 to 40 dogs in the program at any time.

“It’s enormous,” said Jean Keating, executive director of the “pit bull” rescue.

“We’ve really grown and people are very committed.”

The organization also offers a variety of programs such as dog training, play groups, reading buddies for children, and dog-safety classes.

Ms. Keating said a 2012 change in state law that removed breed-specific language declaring all “pit bulls” inherently vicious kicked the Pit Crew into high gear.

“There’s no comparison, really, between then and now,” she said. “Back then, this was considered the armpit of the dog world. Now, we’re a community that loves all dogs, and that’s the way it should have been all along. ... The community has really embraced the Pit Crew.

“When we adopt out a dog, the family becomes part of the crew. I think people are really enjoying becoming a part of that community.”

Two of the newest members of the Pit Crew family are Michael Kurdziel, Jr., and Alexis Cole, who adopted the puppy formerly known as Pupsicle and Tater Tot on March 16. Now called Titan, the tan-and-white bundle of energy with a black muzzle has completely left his past behind him and is enjoying the good life with his new family.

“You can’t ever forget that he’s here; he doesn’t let you,” Mr. Kurdziel said as Titan barreled across the living room to attack a stuffed squeak toy. “It’s definitely different having him in the house.”

The pup was found with its siblings the morning after Christmas. The trio had been dumped on a doorstep in Toledo, and Titan was so cold he had been unresponsive.

The puppies were taken to Lucas County Canine Care & Control and Titan was slowly warmed by Director Julie Lyle by being tucked inside her shirt. He had been snuggled for more than 1½ hours before he seemed to move at all.

Mr. Kurdziel said Titan’s new name, chosen by Ms. Cole, was appropriate for what the pup had overcome.

“It seemed to fit after we heard his backstory, what he made it through,” he said.

Ms. Keating said Titan’s success is a “great representation of the relationship we have with the Lucas County Canine Care & Control, where most of our dogs come from.”

Foster families have a large role in the dogs’ successful rehabilitation, socialization, and eventual adoption.

“We know the dog better than anyone else,” said Donna Saunders of Liberty Center. “We know their personalities and idiosyncrasies.

“When we do find that right family, it’s just awesome.”

Mrs. Saunders and her husband, Rod, have fostered about 15 dogs for the Pit Crew over the last two-plus years.

She has seen the number of dogs coming into the crew increase steadily, and volunteers continue to step up to care for them.

“Now, when I go to an adoption event, there are like 10 dogs there, versus in the beginning when there were maybe two,” she said.

“It’s good to see that we can rescue so many dogs and give them such a good life.”

Toledo resident Sarah Landesman has volunteered with the group since September, 2011, helping at adoption events and with organizing larger events such as the Run for the Bulls 5K set for May 10.

“We want people to realize that we are there to help dogs,” she said.

“We are definitely a lot bigger now, and we’ve been able to educate the public a lot more.”

Ms. Landesman said as it has grown, the group also has been able to take on high-profile cases, like dogs seized from fighting rings in addition to those with special medical needs from illness and injury.

“It’s amazing all of their different stories and the resilience they display,” she said.

“Not all these dogs come from terrible experiences, but some do.”

The Pit Crew wants to purchase property in the hopes of having a central location for its operations and events, though the dogs would continue to be cared for in foster homes.

“We’d like to have an adoption and training center, and possibly in the next couple of years, operate a small kennel for [short-term] rehabilitation,” Ms. Keating said.

More information about the Pit Crew, including how to donate or volunteer, is available at lucascountypitcrew.com.

Contact Alexandra Mester at: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.



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