Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sweet Apple

It’s the dead of winter in serendipitous Santa Cruz, and things are about to heat up. With a simple turn of the calendar comes the buzz of lovers, from the romance-obsessed to the cold and lonely. For me, I’ve been pre-warmed by a hot new sensation, at least in my Facebook feed, and her name is Apple a Pit Bull like no other.

Just in time for the V. holiday comes an A. love story - one that’s been playing out largely behind the scenes - until now. So, listen up crusty Cruzers, because even you can be swooning in love by February 14 if you play your cards right.

After nursing a semi-secret crush for about a month, I finally asked the Apple of my eye’s people how they found their true love. “I first heard about Apple in the Sentinel newspaper, where I work. There was a story about her being dumped along Highway 152 without food and water,” says adopter Kalin Kipling, “and who wouldn't feel for her/be touched by her story?” A few months later Kalin was volunteering with Animal Friends Rescue Project at the Santa Cruz PetSmart when “she walked in with her shelter ‘Adopt Me’ vest. I recognized her right away with that adorable face and those expressive eyes.”

Kalin discovered that Apple was being rehabilitated at Irie Times in Soquel, a 45-acre facility where, among other things, shelter dogs in foster care receive training and interact with a variety of other animals. “When I got home that evening, I gushed about her to Omar [Mojaddedi, Kalin’s fiancĂ©] and he excitedly agreed to meet her.” Kalin relayed that Apple was being introduced to cats, which was especially important because they had a resident feline in their home. They arranged to meet Apple the following week and “Omar fell head-over-heels for her right away, and I was already sold.” After a standard application process and a “thumbs up” from the shelter director [Melanie Sobel], their tale of love, which first caught my attention in updates and photos on the shelter’s Facebook page, was beginning to unfold.

“I love to discover new trails, hikes and climbs with her,” Kalin says about Apple. “She and I both have a strong love of climbing, from trees to boulders. I love to cuddle with her and act goofy with her. I'd never owned a Pit Bull before and didn't realize that they are cuddling pros! Absolutely the most affectionate pup I've ever had, and after meeting other owners of the breed, I've found that to be true in most cases with Pit Bulls.”

Omar is just as fond of Apple. “I love to take Apple out for long walks along the ocean and down to the beach (when it's allowed),” he says. “She really loves other animals, and through her, I've met some really amazing people and dogs. I'm the head trainer of the family and love to see her learn, grow, and overcome her anxiety that she was left with after her ordeal/upbringing. At night Apple always finds a space between Kalin and I to snuggle and I refer to her as my personal heater.”

Apple has become the official-unofficial heart of Santa Cruz, with quite a following – I guess I wasn’t the only one with a crush. And best of all, an exciting love story just like this can be your reality too! There are four-legged beloveds available at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, as well as other local rescue organizations. The shelter currently has 47 dogs, 41 cats, more than 30 rabbits and a hodgepodge of other furry characters patiently awaiting loving homes.

Shelter director Melanie Sobel, who admits to being smitten with Apple herself, states “approximately 17% of the dogs that enter Santa Cruz Animal Shelter are Pit Bull or Pit Bull mixes” and “it is definitely harder to adopt out Pit Bulls due to the negative stigma that surrounds them,” a stigma that Kalin, Omar and Apple are helping to break.

“Whenever we see a person who looks nervous or apprehensive,” Kalin says, “we make sure to put on big smiles and let them know before approaching that Apple is super friendly. The same goes for when we see other dog owners with their dogs off leash. We also take her for walks and playdates with other, ‘less intimidating’ dogs, which immediately erases the stigma.” Apple also wears a pink collar to help those meeting her for the first time immediately see her sweetness.

So, are you ready to date yet? If you’ve been looking at Apple’s pictures and have read this with an open heart, the shelter currently has Warren, an 8-month-old male Australian Cattle Dog/Pit Bull Terrier, Fancy, a 10-month-old female Pit Bull Terrier/Mastiff, and Macintosh, a 3-month-old male Pit Bull Terrier available to meet during shelter hours, and others in foster sites.

Kalin can’t say enough about the breed. While she and Omar weren’t specifically looking for a Pit Bull, Apple stole their heart and has been showing them her enormous capacity to love ever since. Kalin and Omar are impressed with the “tight-knit community” of friendly and responsible Pit Bull owners here in Santa Cruz who are presently changing the public’s perception of the breed.

“In the end, Kalin goes on, “every breed of dog needs patience and guidance and will flourish and develop with love and direction. We know each dog is an individual and all of them just want a family to please and love and fit into. With a Pit Bull, you might have more pressure to combat the stigma that comes with them, but they are worth every second and give you so much love in return.

“The breed generally aims to please and even reportedly used to be called the "nanny dog" because it was often the trusted caretaker pup used to watch over kids. Helen Keller owned one, and Petey the dog from "The Little Rascals" was one.

“Pit Bulls are just dogs, plain and simple. They just happen to be one of the chosen breeds for people who mistreat them and train them to be fighters for people’s twisted idea of amusement. The most important thing when visiting a shelter to find a new family member is to go in with an open mind: Dogs, no matter the breed or how they look, have a way of capturing your heart by just being themselves, and they'll often pick you.”

To find your true love:

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is located at 2200 7th Avenue.

The Santa Cruz SPCA is at 2685 Chanticleer Avenue.

Animal Friends Rescue Project has cats available daily while Animal Shelter Relief Rescue hold adoption events on weekends at PetSmart in downtown Santa Cruz at 490 River Street.

Project Purr has a variety of domestic and barn cats available to adopt.

The Rabbit Haven holds adoption events at Pet Pals on the second and fourth Saturday of every month, located at 3660 Soquel Drive.

Please consider adoption.
This article was also published in under the title Apple, heart of Santa Cruz.