Love in a Parking Lot

Senior Milestone Dogs Reunite

Early this summer, five elder dogs and their people gave our soon-to-be-developed Pit Ed Class training grounds the very best send-off. Set next to the waterfront in West Berkeley for the past 20 years, the memories they brought were the perfect way to celebrate a spot that's seen a small tidal wave of positive change and progress for the dogs, their families and the breed in general. Not gonna lie, there were some big tears at the end of this day. Here are the stories from the senior crew:

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From Top Left:

1. NALU stopped by to represent all the hundreds of leash reactive dogs who've found new manners here. She was a beefy, headstrong youngster when we met a decade ago, and she weighed almost as much as her owner, Lisa Marquez. Lisa told us she was very anxious about the job of managing Nalu, but we could see that she was determined. Not only did this dog/handler pair work out a wonderful training relationship together, Lisa later dedicated her new handling skills to helping dozens of ruff-around-the-edges Berkeley Animal Care Services dogs who attended Pit Ed while they lived at the shelter. Nalu is ill now and approaching the end of her days, so this reunion was bitter sweet. Dogspeed, sweet Nalu. We have so much gratitude to this girl for bringing Lisa into our circle and to this work. 

2. MONKEY came by to represent for all the survivors of the numerous dog fighting operations who found their groove at class. We met her in Florida while working with the HSUS to care for a large group of dogs swept up in a multi-state dog fighting raid (the #367 case). She came back to Oakland with us along with others (THEN).  Kana Takahashi adopted her in 2014 and it's been such a joy to watch their evolution. After everyone had gone home, Kana unclipped Monkey and she pranced and danced all over that lot like a youngster again. It was more than a little epic. Kana kindly penned some big feels about the day:

This parking lot where I first learned about Bad Rap Rescue and how they saved a bunch of Michael Vick’s fight bust dogs, is being developed into an office building I remember meeting the now famous Johnny Justice (a Vick rescue) that cloudy fall day in 2008. And six years later, I would meet Monkey in the same parking lot. And for 2 years, this was our Saturday school, our church. For an hour or two, Monkey would learn how to walk, heel, sit, stay, make left turns (the most valuable command), socialize and learn to see me as her trusted guide in life. Tim is hands down the best handler of dogs west of the Mississippi. And here, Monkey thrived. She loved returning to this parking lot every week to see all her misfit classmates with their devoted caregivers. Together they’d go on to be well behaved, well adjusted, beloved dogs that they were meant to be all along. This is a priceless service that they offer for free to all adoptees and their owners FOR LIFE. It’s across the way from the Berkeley shelter and the Aquatic Park. It was the most convenient and accessible location for everybody involved. One cannot put a price on such a gift. Not only did I learn invaluable lessons to get through to my most obstinate dog, I also became part of a warm, eccentric, and emotionally intelligent community. While the parking lot will disappear, Tim and Donna’s wisdom and dedication to educating owners and dogs alike will continue on elsewhere. I am honored to have joined this tribe by way of Monkey. Monkey and I were happy & sad to exit this asphalt schoolyard together with Donna, Tim, Bernice and Jessie one last time. It was a gorgeous Saturday. - Kana Takahashi

3. FAR RIGHT: Wild child success story. Connie Hwang brought JESSIE to Pit Ed Classes for training way back in 2014. It's hard for us to remember the rowdy dog Connie described in her first message to us:  "She will destroy the house with her chewing. We also have issues with skateboards and small dogs.  She lunges and barks and jumps up which scares everyone around us. She is very strong and sometimes I have difficulty in controlling her."

It was gratifying to have both Connie and Jessie in class because they worked so hard back then. They sorted out their communication style and kept coming back for refreshers, eventually earning their CGC (Canine Good Citizen certificate) together. Jessie's manners became so smooth and dependable that Connie started incorporating her into sessions with clients as part of her family practice. From wild child, to model helper.

4. AYSE: Anti-BSL Change Maker dog. We met her in Ohio back in 2011 while doing some work to dismantle discriminatory language in the State of Ohio's animal control regulations. Ayse's life was in limbo then, although since a progressive shelter was getting ready to end their ban on Blocky dog adoptions, she found her purpose by helping us demonstrate our method for assessing dogs to a well attended audience of shelter workers. She was so fun and so gorgeous that after the summit, we asked the shelter if we could fly her back to Oakland.

Once in CA, Ayse got trained up and ready for a home. She was such a high-energy wild child! Ayse wasn't an easy dog to place but she attracted the hearts of Rudy and Jarvia, who were martial artists and teachers with long patience. It was the perfect match - Energizer Bunny matched up with two Energizer Bunnies. Now an elderbull, Ayse has lost her mobility but not one ounce of her spunk. She FLIES in that chair and was one of the most enthusiastic members of this special reunion class. It did our hearts good. Ohio has since removed their discriminatory laws, and Ayse is still here to celebrate the joy of being alive. Blog post from BACK THEN. 

5. DARLA JANE: Foreclosure victim and BR program inspiration. Eleven years ago, we pulled this pretty girl from the Pinole Shelter after her foreclosed owner sent one of the saddest 'please help' messages we've ever read. Her situation inspired us to pivot from a shelter support mission straight to our current 'KeepEm Home' dog owner support focus. She found the best home with Jennifer and became an important part of a growing family including a baby son and second dog. Our reunion at class was so gratifying - Darla clearly remembered us and offered some of the biggest wiggles her old lady bones could muster. It had been years since we've seen her. We were so flattered.

The big love fest she offered got us thinking - Would Darla remember her first owner who had to give her up so many years ago? We sent off a text, hoping the cell number was still current. It was!  What a pleasure to relay news to her first owner that her girl was not only still alive at 13yo, but doing really well. Even better, Jennifer gave the green light for all of us to meet up together this coming weekend. On pins and needles!
Read about Darla's beginnings: BACK THEN.

So many stories, connections, adoptions and friendships. This parking lot has seen it all.

Help us continue!



We're hunting for a new East Bay location to hold our Pit Ed classes. Please let us know if you might have a spot that could work. As our thanks to you, we can offer you a free spot in class if you can make that happen! Our needs list:
  • - Largish parking lot in Berkeley or Oakland, preferably fenced. Available on Sundays.
  • - Enough easy parking nearby for up to 20 cars.
  • - Proximity to public bathroom. Proximity to coffee would be great if possible!