This weekend, the Blockhead Brigade celebrates an undervalued doggie breed

In the doggie domain, calling your best buddy a “blockhead” is kind of an affectionate dig if the pup is one of those big-headed breeds—pit bulls, bulldogs, boxers or mixes thereof. The Blockhead Brigade, a community group that celebrates them all, proudly waves the name flag in their honor, holding pack walks, training sessions, behavior counseling, and other events and workshops. On Saturday, Oct. 15, they’ll be holding their Pit Bull Appreciation Day (see Great furballs of fun!). Your blockhead buddies’ attendance is encouraged, and there will be adoptabulls if you’ve always wanted one and have the patience and willingness to train and love them properly. Because, as with many animal breeds, or any pet, there are things you must know and do.

“There are so many great basic practices to follow that will set you up for success when you’re adopting a blockhead or any large dog, which I think are also essential for all dogs of all sizes,” said Laura Vena, Blockhead’s executive director and head blockhead (affectionately speaking, of course). “And there are many resources in the community to help you get on the right track.” Here’s some good doggiema from Laura for you who love to butt heads with blockheads:

  • Teach your dog an off switch: Relaxation staves off the stress and separation anxiety when you’re about to leave the house without them. Even when it’s something exciting like a walk, relaxation needs to be taught and practiced. “Teach your dog how to place on a dog cot or in a crate—make it fun!” Laura said.
  • Create structure, and be predictable: Unlike Nana from “Peter Pan,” dogs do not want to be in charge, Laura said. They do better with structure and predictability. “Structure means that we are calm when we walk through the door for a walk,” Laura said. “It means that before they receive a reward or a ball, we ask for a behavior we want: sit, look at me. Dogs generally prefer to engage with us, know the rules ahead of time and have a set schedule of eating, exercise and sleep. A leash offers a dog structure.”
  • Learn how to communicate with your dog: “Dogs don’t speak human, so we need to learn to speak dog.” Put that on a little wooden block and put it in your kitchen or on your windowsill. “Speaking dog” seems to mean to watch and listen. ”Watch for things that overstimulate your dog or make them uncomfortable,” Laura said. “The first step to getting your dog to trust and bond deeply with you is letting them know you understand when they’re uncomfortable and will avoid that thing that triggers that response.”
  • Tell your dog what you want: You also need to teach your dog to speak human. “Teach them what you do want them to do instead of trying to stop them from engaging in a behavior you do not want,” Laura said. “They may understand your anger or annoyance when you react, but they do not understand what you want unless you tell them.”
  • Fulfill your dog’s needs: Well, duh! That separates the real dog parents from the ones that just want someone to keep them company, do a trick, or accessorize a home. “Walk your dog. Play with your dog. Do enrichment. Know what satisfies them and make it a regular part of your routine,” Laura invites. “Have fun with them! Come hang out with our pack, and we will absolutely help you figure it out!”
  • Accept your dog’s limitations: That goes hand in paw with the previous suggestion. Laura considers both the challenges and the rewards of helping a dog through any issues. “But some dogs will just never comfortably be coffee-shop dogs,” she said. “And that’s okay. I’ve found that some dogs who are amazing in a home might be nervous out in public. We are all individuals. So are dogs.”
  • Say yes to no-contact pack walks: Long Beach has 11 dog parks, including one dog beach. Many dog owners, especially the ones in apartments or with no backyards, find them invaluable for off-leash running and free play. However, there is potential for bad outcomes. Dogs and other humans can get nipped, fights can start, and people can bring unaltered dogs to the area. That can have unwanted consequences even if the other dogs in the park have been fixed. Laura recommends attaching a long line or leash to the dog’s harness when you’re in dog parks or parks where leashed dogs are permitted. Being respectful of other people’s space, controlling your dog if need be, and of course, cleaning up after your dog are essential. For a controlled, nifty outing, Blockhead Brigade’s pack walks are free and offer safe socialization. “And if your dog is friendly, you will most likely meet others to have a play date with,” Laura said. Learn about the pack walks
  • Advocate for your dog: People often want to interact with every dog they meet on the street (I’m guilty.) Some dogs just don’t like it, though, and people may not want random humans to touch their dog for safety or health reasons. Let people know this by telling them that your dog doesn’t like interaction with humans or other dogs, or just say “No, but thank you.” “You don’t have to conform with what others want—you just need to keep you and your dog safe,” Laura said. Oh, and if you’re dying to pat that adorable fuzz-face mutt on a leash, ask first. Always.
  • Teach your dog to be neutral Laura said that excitement is often the culprit when dogs get into scuffles or bite another dog. “If your dog is always hyped up around other dogs or people, they are out of balance,” Laura said. A dog rushing up on another dog because their excitement can’t be contained isn’t necessarily “friendly” and could be dangerous. Laura recommends starting neutrality practice with a no-contact pack walk. The dog might start out excited, but they’ll learn while doing and have fun with it.
  • Know your resources: There are many reasons why pit bulls end up in shelters, among them overbreeding by backyard breeders, lack of training and awareness on the part of the owner, and discrimination against the breed by landlords. “There’s really nothing special about pit bulls except their absolute adorableness,” Laura said. “They have the same promise or challenge of any other dog except for a persistent bias that makes them vulnerable to many unfortunate things, including breed discrimination in housing.” If you live with a pit bull and are a renter, have an HOA, or need to buy insurance for your dog, be aware of resources. Surrendering your best buddy to a shelter is the last thing you should have to do—they might not get out in the best way possible. The Blockhead Brigade website features several pit-bull advocacy organizations and workshops that can help you with resources.

Meeting a lot of bully breeds in the past couple of decades got rid of any discomfort I’d had about them and also taught me to respect and , and love them. Friends and neighbors live happily with them, and I can attest to “adorable and goofy,” which are common descriptors.

Shed a Pitty-ful Attitude: National Pit Bull Awareness Month

I’ve met only one pit bull who was a jerk, and that’s because, put kindly, his owner was a jerk. Pit bulls are big, powerful dogs, and anyone wanting to take one home needs to consider the attention, socialization, training, size and everything else Laura mentioned before you fill out the adoption applications. Our shelter’s blockheads are lucky to have the friendship of volunteers who know how to work with and socialize them and, furthermore, fall in love with each of them. If you’re willing to provide one of these adorabulls with what they need, read on.

Virtually pets

Best Friends Animal Society is sponsoring Love Large month through October, and adoption fees for big dogs are waived all month at our shelter. If you’re up for adopting a pittie, Long Beach Animal Care Services’ Adoption Waggin’ is motorvating down to Marina Vista for the Blockhead Brigade event. They’ll bring pit bulls who are longing to get out of the shelter and into a forever home with humans who have enough bandwidth to know what these dogs need and bring it. If any of these sweethearts tickle you, come meet them at the event. You can speed the process to adopt or foster any shelter pet by emailing [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also call 562-570-4925. Even better, stop by at the shelter, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach during the open walk-in hours every Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. No parking fee for shelter visitors.

Dog volunteer Susan said that the top Leo zodiac traits are boldness, intelligence, warmth and courage. “Leo (ID#A670804) couldn’t be a better match!” Susan said. “He enjoys people and affection, and he becomes fast friends with the new volunteers he meets. He’s approximately 5 years old, athletic, active but not hyper, and a good mid-size at 60 pounds. He’s treat motivated and eager to learn. This poor guy hasn’t had the best luck with finding his perfect family and has been tossed around quite a bit between homes and shelters. He’s been waiting here since February for the right person to come along. We feel Leo would thrive in a breed-savvy home with patience and experience. He’s a volunteer favorite that with consistency and guidance could blossom into the best Leo he can be.”

tan boxer with white muzzle and chest stands on all fours on grass, looking at camera

Big dogs take up a lot of space at shelters, and it’s not because of their size—it’s that there are so many of them! Big dogs are as cuddly as any dog, and that describes Barbara (ID#A684311), a 4-year-old boxer-type girl. She’s as friendly as that smile of hers suggests! Shelter volunteers say that she’s a great dog and wonderful with people.


brown dog with blue collar sits up and smiles at camera

Favorite (ID#A679113) has been at the shelter for three months now. He’s just a year old and grew up in a quiet household. Staff said that shelter life has taken a toll on the quality of his own life. Favorite was surrendered by his owner because of what the pet behaviorist calls “teacher’s pet syndrome.” He’d become defensive whenever another dog in the home tried to interact with his owners when he was getting affection or spoiled. So they turned him in. Some favorite. He’s since enjoyed interactions and playgroups with other dogs at the shelter without any issues. Favorite originally was shy and nervous, but he warmed up to volunteers quickly. Sadly, he’d become increasingly stressed when it became time to return to his kennel, and he’s been placed on the urgent list. He needs to go home and would make a wonderful pet and live up to his name. That, of course, is up to his adopter or long-term foster.


dark-brown dog, head protruding with exceedinly long, pink tongue coming out of his mouth and an orange scarf around his neck, looks at camera. Shadows of a fence seen on sidewalk.

So named because of his propensity to zip around the play yard, Zipper (ID#A680098) will also zip out that megatongue to give you a big kiss! He’s only 2 years old and the volunteers all agree that he’s an absolute sweetheart!


A helping paw

Pet License Amnesty extended to Dec. 31

The city of Long Beach has extended the fee and penalty waivers for pet licenses to Dec. 31. Anyone living in the highlighted Community Development Block grant neighborhoods, as shown on the above map, may request a waiver by phone at 562-570-7387, by applying by mail at 7700 E. Spring St., or in person at the shelter. The waiver program is not available online. Visit this link for license requirements. Call 562-570-7387 for additional information.


Great furballs of fun!

LBACS volunteer Patti with her favorite goofball. Courtesy photo

LBACS volunteer Patti and her BFF, shelter alumnus Griffin. Courtesy photo


Blockhead Brigade’s Pit Bull Appreciation Day: Saturday, Oct. 15, 10 a.m.–3 p.m., Marina Vista Park., 5355 E. Eliot St., Long Beach, free event.

Anyone who lives or has lived with a pittie and has dealt in any way with bad rap against the breed knows that they all deserve recognition. The Blockhead Brigade, a local pittie-advocacy organization, will hold an appreciation day for this often-maligned group of dogs and their humans. The event will feature some pretty pittie-centric groups, including a pack-walk group, a Day of the Dead pet-memorial altar, a canine-home wellness check group, merch, food and, of course, some of these goofy canines for adoption. The Blockhead Brigade is requesting no dog intros, 10 feet of space between dogs, and all dogs on six-foot or shorter sturdy leashes. The event is free to the public, but the organizers want to know how many to expect, so click the register balloon on the event page.

CatPAWS’ Le Chic Chat Soiree fundraiser: Saturday, Oct. 15, 5:30 p.m., Navy Golf Course Seal Beach: Bldg. 800, 5660 Orangewood Ave., Cypress, general admission $175, VIP tickets and full tables also available.

 Slip on your fanciest cat suit or your tie and tails—tails in particular—and join Helen Sanders CatPAWS at their most glamorous! Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet and dessert, silent and live auction items, and a presentation featuring an overview of CatPAWS programs, lives saved and lives changed, and salute to adopters. Guest emcee Meg DeLoatch will preside over the fur-stivities. All funds raised will go toward saving so many more! Buy tickets and see details here.

Strut Your Mutt

Best Friends Strut Your Mutt: Saturday, Oct. 22, 9 a.m.–11 a.m., Warner Center Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, or virtually at this link from 8 a.m.–4 p.m., $20 registration fee

Put on your walking shoes or strap on a virtual pair, and get ready to step up, step out and save lives! Strut Your Mutt, the fundraising walk that saves lives of dogs and cats across the country—is back in the flesh and fur in select cities after an interruption by COVID-19 last year. Although live events were canceled virtual Strut Your Mutt participants raised $1.45 million for homeless pets! Your participation helps to reach Best Friends’ goal of becoming no-kill nationwide by 2025. Registration includes an official 2022 Strut Your Mutt event T-shirt, and the money you raise, including your registration fee, goes directly to Best Friends’ adoption candidates—cats and dogs, of course, and also horses, birds, rabbits and pigs—or to your favorite local participating animal welfare organization. Fundraising runs through Oct. 31. Access this link for details.

Courtesy photo

Howl-o-ween Event: Saturday, Oct. 29, 5–7 p.m., Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St. (at entrance to El Dorado Park), Long Beach, free event, parking free to shelter visitors.

RSVP here for LBACS’ inaugural Howl-o-ween event! Put on your costume, grab a bag of treats, and come to the shelter for adoption specials, fun family activities, Bark-O-Treat, Best Cat Room Contest, costume contests and raffles. Remember your fur angels with our Day of the Dead Pet Memorial. Note: For safety’s sake, please do not bring your pets to the shelter.

Haute Dog Howl’oween Parade: Sunday, Oct. 30, 12:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m., Marina Vista Park, 5355 E Eliot St., Long Beach, $5 to reserve a chair, otherwise free to spectate; free for costumed humans in parade; $10 for dogs paid in advance of event; $20 for dogs that day.

Halloween in Long Beach wouldn’t be Halloween in Long Beach so much without the Haute Dog Howl’oween Parade! Dogs and their humans engage in a whimsical competition—all tongues and no fangs—to win prizes in several categories. Enjoy vendors, food and rescue pets, in case you need a candidate for next year or a buddy for your boo baby! Sponsors include Port of Long Beach and Red Barn Premium Pet Products. To enter your dog and maybe yourself, visit this link.

 Foster for awhile—or furever!

Tuxedo cat with white tummy, legs and paws sprawls on a white-covered bed with his human, who is reading a paper and is dressed in a black T-shirt and blue plaid pajamas

Herman and Louise McCune: My cat, Herman, was born in the backyard of the house where I rent soon after I moved in. When we noticed that one of the feral cats living nearby had had a litter of kittens, we decided we wanted to help. Once the babies were weaned, we socialized the three of them, and we also TNRed the mom cat and the seven other cats who are a part of her colony. The plan initially was to find forever homes for all three kittens. Herman’s siblings were adopted, but he was a classic “foster-fail.” He went from being the hissiest kitten of them all to being a full-time indoor cuddle buddy—he convinced me to keep him!


Long Beach Animal Care Services has expanded adoption hours as follows: Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests are welcome to browse until closing. To speed up any adoption process, email [email protected]. To foster, email [email protected].

If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”