HugABull had “Best Parade Spirit” in Vernon!

Okanagan Coordinator Brittnee Van Bruegel has been doing a great job of rallying community spirit in her region. There is no greater proof of this than the honour she received earlier this year. We asked Brittnee to share her experiences in her own words.

Vernon super herosThis year our HugABull Okanagan team decided to join the “Carnival of Superheroes” known as the Vernon Winter Carnival Parade. Our goal was to show the public that being a responsible owner made you a superhero no matter what breed of dog you owned. We had a lot of fun putting together superhero-themed outfits for ourselves and our pups, and I was smitten by the positive screams and applause we received as we strutted fully costumed down the street.

vernon super hero batman dogShortly after the Carnival was over we received an invitation to join them at the awards banquet.  Without knowing why I accepted.

We applauded all the other great teams that received awards that night, and my eyes filled with tears as I heard them describe the “Best Parade Spirit” and then tell us that we won! The community awarded us for having the most fun, enthusiasm, zeal and passion during the parade. I was honoured to be part of such an amazing organization and couldn’t have done it without the help of all our devoted volunteers.


A huge thank you to all the volunteers who helped organize and participate in the parade. We were invited back and look forward to hearing what next year’s theme is.

And a big thank you to Brittnee for all the work she does in the Okanagan and as our Volunteer Coordinator!! If you would like to become more involved in the Okanagan area, email Brittnee at or join our Facebook group for the Okanagan and Interior:

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Pit Bull Hero – The Titled Muay Thai

Muay toyGuest writer Nomi Berger is interviewing and writing about some of the “pit bull heroes” in our community. While Muay Thai is no longer with us, she was a titled champion as well as a confident and poised presence at many HugABull events, carrying a rainbow flag at the Pride Parade and a maple leaf version on Canada Day. We miss you Muay, and you will never be forgotten.

Muay Thai. It’s a form of kick boxing, and the American Staffordshire Terrier given that name would lie on her back with her legs kicking the air.

Muay Thai. If every ribbon she won were draped over her body, only her head would be visible.

Muay Thai. The onetime stray turned one-of-a-kind trophy winner, becoming the only dog of her breed to earn the title Agility Trial Champion of Canada (ATChC).

Muay showed up at the Burnaby SPCA in 2003, overly bred and ailing. After languishing for months, she was adopted and trained in agility, earning the Canadian Kennel Club’s Canine Good Neighbour title. Surrendered two years later by her owner, Muay Thai was placed as a foster with Lisa and John who already owned a pitbull/American bulldog mix named Tucker. To their surprise, the two dogs bonded instantly. The whole family knew four-year-old Muay Thai was a keeper.

Muay Thai jumpingBuilding on Muay Thai’s agility experience, Lisa trained to handle her properly and the pair began competing together. The more competitions they entered, the more titles Muay Thai won, including the Silver Award of Merit and the Expert Silver Standard. Although she qualified three times to compete at the AAC Nationals, two of the events were unfortunately held in Ontario, and because of the province’s breed specific legislation, she was unable to attend either of them.

And therein lies the irony. If ever a dog did NOT fit the stereotypical profile of a “dangerous breed”, it was Muay. Sweet and mellow by nature, she was the kindest and gentlest of dogs. While she was competing, she changed the minds of many of the other dogs’ owners about the breed and they told Lisa how much they enjoyed watching Muay.

canada day muayAway from competition, Muay was an active, happy and spirited dog. Seldom seen without a toy in her mouth, she loved swimming and walking with the family to and from the river every day during the summer. She loved people and always stopped obligingly when they wanted to pet her.

“Everyone was drawn to her sweetness and gentleness,” Lisa says wistfully. “She was calm and confident, never reactive. She also had especially soft eyes, and the way she looked at you made your heart melt. She even remembered the officers and volunteers from the SPCA, who often watched her doing agility or saw her at the park. Muay would pull on her leash to go to them and give them kisses.”

Even when she was ill — which she was quite often throughout her life – Lisa was told repeatedly by those who treated Muay how great a dog she was. That she was a marvelous testament to her breed. Stoic until the end, Muay was 11 when she died at home in the arms of the woman who had so adored her.

“To put it simply,” says Lisa, “Muay was a hero to me because she changed my entire life.”

muay and lisa


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February 2014 Foster Roster

Spring is around the corner, which means green grass and sunny skies and wonderful weather to romp around in! What better time to give a dog a new start out of the shelter? We are always looking for foster homes, and we are incredibly excited to welcome our new Lower Mainland foster coordinator, Christine!

christine and baileyChristine and her rescue dog Bailey have been longtime HugABull volunteers and supporters, and her amazing organizational skills will help us better serve the dogs and humans in our program. If you have questions about our foster program, visit our website or email If you are not able to foster, you can help a dog through our sponsorship program, just like the following generous supporters:

Steve Krafte, HugABull Angel to Bentley and Teddy
Anaz Gamadia
, HugABull Hero to Oden
Andrea Fraser, HugABull Angel to Babs
Sarah, Mike, and Harli Rowley, HugABull Heroes to Mila and Bentley

Frank puppyFlirtatious Frank is one of four 9-week-old puppies who will soon be looking for a forever home.  Just like any puppy, Frank is full of energy and will need lots of positive socializing and training as he grows.

Wendy is an 8 year old who’s soul is as gentle as they come. She is good with larger dogs but can be fearful of the small ones. Wendy is a quiet easy going girl Kira feb rosterwith great leash manners who is looking for a family to call her own. 

It just goes to show you that in rescue, whether you are looking for an adorable ball of puppy energy or a well-mannered senior to warm your couch, we have it all!

If you are interesting in sponsoring Frank, Kira or any of the dogs in our program please contact us at

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Toonies to the Rescue!

toonies to the rescueOur wonderful Okanagan team has organized a toonie drive throughout the region for the month of March! “Toonies to the Rescue” is an opportunity to help raise money for the care of the dogs in our program.

Want to join in on the fun?  Swing by any of the below businesses and drop a toonie in their jar.

Healthy Spot - 200 – 3115 48th Ave
Bean Scene - 20923 30th Ave
Spa Pure, 4300 27th Street
U Weight Loss Clinic105 – 5100 Anderson Way

Fermco Party Shop - 2812 27 Ave
Vernon Management - 2805 35 Street
Diana’s Monogramming - 303 – 2520 53 Ave

Bark N Fly5830 Old Vernon Road
Bone & Biscuit136 – 1876 Cooper Rd
K9 Dog Grooming164 Rutland Rd North
Sunshine Pet Supplies5 – 1725 Baron Rd
Perfectly Polished Nails1310 Aldon Rd
A-1 Boarding Kennels, 3755 Gordon Drive
Shambhala Tattoos  - 201 – 255 Victoria St 

White Valley Veterinary1710 Shushwap Ave

Have questions or want to get involved? Contact Brittnee, our Okanagan coordinator at

A huge thank you for all the support and love from our community! 



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Pit Bull Hero – Billie, My Billie

Bilie and RockyGuest writer Nomi Berger is interviewing and writing about some of the “pit bull heroes” in our community. If you attend HugABull events in Vancouver, you have probably met Billie and her sidekick Rocky as ambassadogs. While Billie was not adopted through HugABull she will always be considered an honourary HugABull dog: we are so proud to have her as the face of our organization, and an example of how fantastic a rescue pup can be.

Billie might not have an official birthday, but for this brindled brown and white beauty, every day is worth celebrating. It wasn’t always like this, however, at least not at the beginning.

When Arran first saw her at the Vancouver SPCA, the one-year-old pit bull had already been there for a discouraging 6 months. A stray from Prince George, Billie was so emaciated that Arran could see her ribs and the beating of her heart. Each time he dropped by, it was the same. There she was, huddled in the back corner of the kennel, sad, shivering and responding to no one. He knew he had to save her.

billie ballWhen he brought her home, she was completely shut down. Timid and distrustful, her tail was tucked fearfully between her legs, and she refused to eat. “She pulled so strongly when I tried walking her on leash,” says Arran, “that I actually wore a hockey glove because it hurt my hand. But after taking some excellent obedience classes with Shelagh from Dizine Canine, we learned to walk well together.” As for her appetite? Arran laughs. “She got that back fast enough, and she’s been a food monster ever since. Her favourite treats: mini carrots and anything with peanut butter.”

She also blossomed into a gentle, affectionate and perenially happy dog, “loving everyone and everything, and just simply loving her life.” But Arran hasn’t been alone on this amazing adventure. A certain cheeky Chihuahua, Rocky, and his human, Teresa, have been the other half of the family.

When he looks back on the last four years, Arran admits that adopting Billie was the best thing he ever did. Rain or shine, she loves being outdoors, swimming or playing in the snow. She is a fixture at most HugABull events, as her calm and loving nature makes her an excellent “ambassadog”. Arran and Teresa felt that she could do even more to change people’s minds about pit bulls, and Teresa contacted Vancouver’s Pets and Friends, hoping to turn Billie and Rocky into a pet visitation team. The proud pet parents watched as their furbabies passed their tests and were officially declared ready to serve.

Billie on floorArran, Billie, Teresa and Rocky now visit the Cavell Gardens retirement community once a week, where they have a devoted fan base. They join the participating seniors in the meeting room, where Rocky breaks the ice and Billie cuddles with each of them in turn – receiving gentle pats on the back and giving tender face kisses in return.

“She may not win any trophies,” says Arran, “but she gets her fair share of rewards in loving thanks and grateful snuggles.” When one senior confided, “I love Billie so much; she’s the highlight of my week,” he asked if she was bothered by the fact that Billie was a pit bull. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” she replied. “I love all creatures the same.”

Billie and Rocky’s fan base was made obvious in 2012, when they were entered into the annual calendar competition for Pets and Friends. billie blogParticipating dogs were posted online and the public was invited to vote on the photo they would like to see on the cover. Guess who won by a landslide!

Arran’s final thoughts? “I’m so lucky to have Billie. Next to Teresa. she’s my best friend, and she’s made me a better person.”

Written by Nomi Berger. Nomi can be found at

Billie and Arran

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Pit Bull Hero – Exceptional Elsa

elsa smileGuest writer Nomi Berger is interviewing and writing about some of the “pit bull heroes” in our community. In this post, she writes about Elsa, a dog who is truly a survivor. “Whatever she has experienced, she has more than endured,” Nomi reflected after learning Elsa’s story. “Whatever she has suffered, she has more than survived. She has triumphed!”

At just under four years old, Elsa has already lived several lifetimes in her single one. At the age of three months, she was one of a large group of puppies seized by the SPCA in a high-profile cruelty case. HugABull promptly placed the tiny blue and white pit bull pup in foster care, and two months later, she was adopted by Kelly, husband Nik ,and stepdaughter Kalyx.

For the next nine months, Elsa battled and overcame severe mange, parasites, and an acute respiratory infection. Despite a long recovery with many setbacks, she emerged from the lengthy ordeal a remarkably energetic, athletic, and sociable dog.

Then, two months later, while playing at her favorite doggie daycare, the 14-month-old suffered a fibro cartilaginous embolism — a blockage of the blood vessels between her T1 and T2 vertebrae — leaving her paralyzed from the T2 vertebra down. Her stunned and anguished pet parents decided, without hesitation, that Elsa, their feisty and spunky Elsa, would begin a program of rehabilitation as soon as it was feasible.

elsa rehabFor the next 19 months, Elsa and her loving, supportive family worked steadily, with dedication and determination, day after day, week after week, on her physiotherapy.  They were heartened by the fact that her progress was steady and that, as the months passed, Elsa continued to make great strides in her mobility. Although the schedule was rigorous, Elsa’s perseverance paid off, as gradually, she learned the mechanics of walking again.

One day, during one of her routine sessions at the rehab centre, a couple passed her on their way to see some of the staff. They were there to thank them for having helped their beloved family companion, a Rottweiler, who had recently passed away. Upon meeting Elsa, they were so moved by her happy, loving spirit that they not only made a donation towards her rehabilitation, they admitted that she had changed their notions and preconceptions about pit bulls in general. This ultimately inspired them to adopt a pit bull of their own through HugABull.

elsa strollerWhen Elsa was two, Kelly registered them for the pet visitation program at BC Pets and Friends. This non-profit organization has, for thirty years, been providing free pet visitations to long-term care facilities on the Lower Mainland. They screen and train volunteer pet-owner teams to interact with the disabled, elderly, chronically ill and mentally ill in an institutional setting, then help them select the facility they will visit on a regular basis.

Team Elsa-Kelly passed the screening process and the irrepressible Elsa was certified to be a pet visitation dog at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver. And so began their weekly visits to the Centre, where Elsa, most appropriately, provided friendship, support and encouragement to people with brain and spinal cord injuries.

One of Kelly’s proudest moments was in November, 2012, when Elsa was chosen to  appear live at a seminar in Victoria, hosted by TV’s “Dog Whisperer”, Cesar Millan. Touched by Elsa’s ability to inspire people to never give up, Millan noted that she was a “rescue dog that has gone on to do something extraordinary.”

elsa awardBut the best was still to come. One year later, three-year-old Elsa was honoured at a ceremony held by the BC SPCA, where she was awarded the “Animal Hero Award 2013″ for her triumph over adversity and her community service.

Today, Elsa, the indomitable Elsa, continues her weekly visits at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, doing what she does best: making people happy. Brightening their days, boosting their morale and showing them, by example, that uphill battles can indeed be won.

She spends the rest of her time living the life of  the luckiest dog alive. Rarely apart from her adoring family, she accompanies them on fishing trips, road trips and camping trips. She chases after sticks at the beach and even goes on hikes – albeit with a slight, hind wobble – but always with that special bully wag to her tail.

elsa and friend

Written by Nomi Berger. Nomi Berger can be found at


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End of the Year Foster Roster

Sasha sweater_optThank you to the final sponsors of 2013! Each year we struggle over the holidays, when shelters are full and foster homes scarce. But we made it through, and even managed to move a couple of dogs from the shelter to foster homes for the New Year. Thank you to everyone who stepped forward for little Sasha over the holidays…she is doing great and making wonderful progress in foster care.

Kanchana Fernando, HugABull Angel to Kai
Ashleigh Ballevona, HugABull Angel to Lola
Lynda Matthews, HugABull Angel to Tenshi, In memory of Molly’s Amaretto and Robin’s Loki & Jade
Helen Whitehead, HugABull Hero to Tucker
Morgan Glover, HugABull Hero to Leo
Sarah and Mike Rowley, Hugabull Hero to Bentley
Anonymous, HugABull Helper to Hannah
Mark and Todd Schumlick, HugABull Angels to Babs
Arley McIntosh, HugABull helper to Gracie, on behalf of Tori Tucker from Flirt, Punk & Loo Pet Services
Jeff and Christine Warner, HugABull Angel to Teya
Susan Boyd
, HugABull Angel to Mila

oden weight pullSometimes adoptions don’t work out, but we are always there for our dogs. Oden is one example of a dog who has bounced back into our program. He is looking for a home and a sponsor. Although mature at 3-4 years of age, he is full of energy and loves to work – look how happy he is at a recent weight pull session! He has lovely house manners but is working on his dog-to-dog social skills. He is also battling an ear infection and some skin problems.

If you would like to sponsor Oden or any of our adoptables, please visit our sponsorship page for more information.  If you have any questions please email



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Pit Bull Hero – Tiger

tiger and monica_cropGuest writer Nomi Berger is interviewing and writing about some of the “pit bull heroes” in our community. Today we meet Tiger, a dog who suffered unspeakable abuse, but whose love for humans never flagged. Through the SPCA and HugABull, he found a very special family who has given him a life of comfort, care, and as much joy as he gives them in return every day.

At first, all you see is his smile. That full, open-mouthed, happy smile. And you’re instantly smitten. Only then do you notice the mismatched ears, the patchwork quilt of skin, the irregular shapes of his limbs.

There’s just something about Tiger. It’s called grace.

tiger in hospitalHis remarkable and indominable spirit was forged, literally, by fire. In the summer of 2008, he was doused with gasoline and set ablaze. He suffered severe burns to 30 percent of his body, including his legs, face, nose and one ear. Seized by the local SPCA, he was originally scheduled for euthanasia due to the severity of his injuries. As he lay on the table in what would have been his final moments, he caught the eye of the humans around him and – weakly but unmistakably – wagged his tail. It was enough to make them re-think their decision, and they transferred him to Vancouver to begin a long, painful recovery, including the amputation of one ear.

Anyone who met him was amazed by his resilience and awed by his sweet and gentle nature. In the fall, the SPCA deemed him ready for a forever home, and transferred him to HugABull so that he would have the best chance of finding a breed-experienced family. The door to a sweeter, gentler world opened when Monica and Tom welcomed this wounded warrior into their lives and into their hearts.

“We adopted Tiger for two reasons,” explains Monica, with a special smile of her own. “We loved how calm and wise he looked, and how gentle his eyes were, in spite of his ordeal. And although the first five years of his life were informed by cruelty, we wanted him to spend the rest of his life being loved and cherished.”

tiger (2)Less than a year after his horrific ordeal, Tiger was presented with the Animal Courage Award by the BC SPCA. Not only was this remarkable dog Monica and Tom’s hero, he was now, officially, the province’s hero as well.

If his first years were bruised by cruelty and abuse, these past five years have been blessed by caring and adoration. He is a popular resident of two very different communities: Victoria, BC for most of the year and Tucson, AZ during the winter, where he is loved by his neighbours (both human and canine) and where, to Monica’s delight, “he happily shares noisy, smacky kisses with everyone.” He loves escaping the Victoria winters as much as his parents do, relishing his walks through desert and mountain terrain. His favourite activity is lying in the sun, his sensitive skin thickly slathered in sunscreen. When evening rolls around, it’s time for another favourite pastime: cuddle time together on the couch in front of the TV. If Monica and Tom are otherwise occupied, Tiger politely “reminds” them.

And just recently, Monica learned that Tiger can swim! In the midst of a beachside playdate, Tiger sprinted gamely into the ocean in the wake of one of his doggy friends, and while Monica stood ready to rush in and rescue him, Tiger made it clear that he was fine on his own, thank you very much.

Despite some residents’ initial, negative reaction to the sight of a pit bull, once they learn Tiger’s history, which – as always – is reinforced by his own, sweet disposition, their turnaround response is immediate: tears and the sudden urge to pet him. How easily this unofficial ambassador of the bully breed can shatter a stereotype by simply being who he is.

Written by Nomi Berger. Nomi can be found at wwTiger in the


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New Year, New Faces at HugABull

Running a busy non-profit organization is hard work! HugABull is fortunate to have an incredible leadership and volunteer team that works tirelessly to stretch scarce resources kristen-and-kodaso we can rescue dogs, educate our communities, advocate for change, and promote responsible ownership. Each year, these volunteer roles change, and we’d like to keep our community informed about this year’s changes to our Board of Directors and Steering Committee.

Kristen Neratini has been involved with HugABull since 2005, and has managed most of our mainland events during that time. Kristen worked tirelessly throughout the years to ensure we were out in the community and hosting events that supported our mandate and built awareness about our work. Kristen is stepping back as a Director to leah and dogs_for webspend time with her family but will continue to be an active volunteer presence.

Leah Gilmour has led our Okanagan division for the last three years, building a large and supportive pit bull rescue community in the region and creating relationships with shelters and many others. She has worked alongside Steffie Brenner, who coordinated foster and adoption placements, and Alana MacKinnon, who ran events. These three ladies will be leaving HugABull to start a new rescue Pet Planet dog washthat is focused on the needs of the Okanagan with the mandate to prevent owner relinquishment and euthanasia of pit bull type dogs in the region. They are still working on their website, but check out their Facebook page for Sit Pretty Pit Rescue. We wish them all the best and look forward to working with them!

Cheryl Seguin has been a long time community member and volunteer for HugABull, and joined us as a Volunteer Coordinator in 2011, a Board member in 2012, and an Events Director in 2013 – truly committed to lending her organizational skills to many areas of the organization. She will no longer be a Board member but plans to continue volunteering and participating in events.

We appreciate all that Kristen, Leah, Steffie, Alana, and Cheryl have contributed over the years – we would not be where we are without you.

Pet expo volunteer lineupAt the same time it’s not all good-byes! We would like to welcome and acknowledge the following Steering Committee members who will be assuming some of the vacant roles.

Jeff Warner has been an active volunteer since 2009, doing everything from homechecks to dog assessments to events. He will be applying his extensive knowledge of the organization to his new role as Mainland Events Coordinator, and will be the face behind the booth at most 2014 events.

pampered pooch photo_kathleen cropKathleen Wee has also been active in our foster program and on our BSL committee and, like Jeff, rarely says “no” when asked to help in any capacity. She is our new Fundraising Coordinator and has already managed a very successful calendar fundraising program in 2013, as well as the bottle drive, with many new initiatives in the works. Kathleen will also be working with Jeff on upcoming 2014 events.

Brittnee Van Breugel will be our new point of contact for the Okanagan, while continuing to oversee volunteer and sponsorship activities for the organization as a whole. She wears many hats but has the superstar organizational skills to pull it all together and inspire people to stay involved!

For a full list of HugABull executives and officers, check out our website.

There are SO many other volunteers who dedicate countless hours to HugABull and have informal roles, but we don’t have enough blog space to list them all here. But thank you – THANK YOU – to everyone who fosters, donates, attends events, buys T-shirts, or does whatever they can to help us have an impact and speak for the breed we love.

If you are interested in joining the Board or Steering Committee, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! It is a significant volunteer commitment but an opportunity to make a difference.

We are especially interested in hearing from people who may be interested in the following roles:

  • Foster and Family Placement Coordinator, Mainland – helping to facilitate foster and adoption placements, and supporting families with foster dogs.
  • Event volunteers, Okanagan – helping run small awareness events in the community.
  • Communications Coordinator – helping with social media, blogging, newsletter production, and other ways to help get the word out. If you have any questions, check out our volunteer page or contact

btm volunteer photo-crop

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Help a puppy get better for the holidays

scabby puppyHolidays are the toughest time in rescue. The shelters are full, with cold nights and fewer staff to look after the animals. Foster and adoptive homes are scarce due to holiday travel and commitments. Each year it’s all we can do to ensure that current foster dogs are looked after – very rarely are we in a position to take new dogs into our program, despite the desperate need out there.

This year, thanks to the work of our tireless Foster and Family Placement Team, and to a number of kind-hearted foster parents that have come forward, we’ve been able to take three dogs from the Chilliwack Animal Control, a shelter that always has pitties to spare.

scabby puppy 2However, a dog’s rescue doesn’t end when it reaches its foster home. One of the newest HugABulls has significant medical issues, and during this cash-strapped time we need your help to give this puppy the help she needs. She was found wandering the streets at just 10 weeks of age, battling a severe flea infestation, mange, and worms. She’s currently in a wonderful foster home, but she needs some guardian angels…and a name.

Will you be part of her sponsorship team? For a minimum $20 donation, you can be part of this girl’s sponsorship team, and if you donate before Wednesday, December 18 we invite you to suggest a name. Her foster family will choose the one they feel suits her the best! We’ll list sponsors on our blog and you’ll receive updates about her journey to a forever home. Use the PayPal button below or email to arrange a cash, cheque, or email transfer payment.

A puppy sponsorship can also make a great gift for a dog-lover in your life. If you would like to purchase a sponsorship for someone else, email to set this up. Your recipient will receive a personalized message and all updates!


What should we name the puppy?


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