It turns out that some of the pit bulls aren’t so tiny. There’s Hank, the giant 90-pounder who has been with the rescue for four months. There’s Sterling, the Great Dane/pit bull mix who is deaf. There’s Rusty, the “giant puppy” who loves kids.
“Tiny” doesn’t begin to describe the Tiny Pit Bull rescue. Or the residents. Or the work the rescue does for the pet community.
It’s been about four years since Christine Del Ponte worked to save Tilly, an actual tiny pit bull (relatively speaking, since Tilly clocked in at 40 pounds) who had simply run out of time at the shelters in and around Sonoma County, California. Christine launched a social media campaign to find Tilly a home, and the smallish pit bull was living it up in a forever home within days. And in Tilly’s honor, The Tiny Pit Bull was born.
Tilly has more than paid it forward, even if she has no idea. That one rescued dog has turned into thousands. In early 2019, the Tiny Pit Bull moved into a new 11,000-square-foot facility to meet its demand. The rescue is on target to arrange more than 700 adoptions this year, after 600 in 2018. On average, Christine and her crew take in 22 dogs every week and find happy homes for 15. And they do it mostly by leveraging the power of foster homes.
Christine has built a wide network of willing foster parents, some of whom can take care of more than ten dogs at a time. Statistics show that dogs who have been fostered are more likely to be adopted, and the Tiny Pit Bull’s network proves it to be true.
Proving doubters wrong
“We have very few ‘foster fails,’” Christine says, using the term that describes foster parents who end up keeping their foster charges. “Mostly because our dogs are adopted to permanent homes within two weeks after we get them, on average.” In Christine’s view, a foster fail isn’t always a positive, because in a weird way, foster homes can be more important than forever homes. “I need our fosters to save lives more than I do to provide permanent homes,” she says.
The fact that so many of the Tiny Pit Bull’s dogs are adopted so quickly is incredible when you know the context. The rescue specializes in pit bulls and chihuahuas, two breeds that are notoriously hard to home. On top of that inherent difficulty, Christine specializes in underage pups and dogs with behavioral problems. Have an eight-month-old pit bull that weighs in the triple digits and has social anxiety? The Tiny Pit Bull will take them!
“I do this to prove everyone wrong,” Christine says. “In our area of California, there is an abundance of these dogs, and people believe that they are unadoptable. But we find loving homes for them every single day. It’s all about marketing. These dogs don’t deserve their reputation.”
The goodest special boy
The aforementioned Sterling is a great example of a bad reputation preceding a dog. Sterling had been hit by a car and picked up by an animal welfare officer, who took the cranky and agitated big boy to a “kill shelter” where he did not get along with the staff. He was so unpopular that he’d been locked in a supply closet while the staff waited for his euthanasia date.
Sterling wasn’t cranky. He was deaf. And he was scared.
“No one took the time to understand why he was the way he was,” Christine says. “And now he’s the most sociable dog we’ve ever seen. He loves other dogs.” Sterling currently lives in Christine’s house (where all of the not-yet-fostered dogs hang out) while he awaits an adopter who can take care of his special needs. But Christine knows he won’t be there long.
More than just a home finder
The Tiny Pit Bull is more than a home-finding service for wayward pups. Christine and her staff of seven volunteers remain a part of the dog’s life for as long as his or her owners need them. “Every dog who leaves us is enrolled in the free training program,” she says. “It’s training for life. We stay in your life for the life of the dog. If you call me with a behavior problem, I will fix it.”
The Tiny Pit Bull dogs are also Taste of the Wild dogs. Christine feeds it exclusively. “Pit bull skin is horrible,” she says. “They get blemishes and boils all the time. Taste of the Wild is the only food that helps. It fixes everything. We swear by it.”
Christine found this out by accident and necessity. She’d rescued a dog that had had a rough life; he had been regularly beaten and was completely unhandleable by anyone but Christine, who came into the picture as part of a court issue. “When I took him, he was 40 pounds. He was dehydrated. His skin was falling off his body.” She tried all types of dog food to get him back to some semblance of a normal weight. “Taste of the Wild was the only thing that worked. We ended up bulking him up to 85 pounds.”
The Tiny Pit Bull is so successful at finding homes for seemingly “unhomeable” dogs because they never stop working at it. A large number of their adoptions take place at adoption events that Christine and her crew organize. “We’ll take 30 dogs to an event and adopt 18,” she says. She tries to make the events fun, coming up with themed adoption days, like a Star Wars event on May the Fourth (complete with Storm Troopers!) or an event called “Tax-a-Bull” near the dreaded annual tax deadline. “They’re fun events,” she says. “They’re good fund raisers, and we find a lot of homes.”
If you live in the Sonoma County area of California, you can check out the upcoming events here.
In the meantime, the Tiny Pit Bull will continue fighting for these problematic dogs that aren’t so problematic. “We want to showcase that dogs are dogs,” Christine says. “No matter the breed or the history, with a good support system, you can do anything.”
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.