Kemo, Oakland Animal Service’s blind, doggie goggle-wearing pit bull mix finally caught the break that will carry him out of the shelter and into his new life. Plans are in motion to place the handsome, brown-and-white boy at Phoenix House, an established halfway house for canine dogfight victims. The pit bull rescue group Phoenix Pack (formerly Mutts-n-Stuff), of St. Louis, Missouri, runs the house and its accompanying program.
Kemo came to Oakland Animal Services (OAS) more than six months ago as a stray. Blind from a degenerative disorder, the big, loveable dog has done his tail-wagging best to secure himself a new home. Despite the added challenge a blind dog brings with him, Kemo has come close to making that leap several times. But each time, for one reason or another, the fit just hadn’t been right. And then came Phoenix House.
Kemo will live in Phoenix House—a cottage located on the Phoenix Pack grounds. The house was originally built for another blind pit bull, Phoenix, who was blinded from wounds sustained when he was used in dogfighting. The cottage is equipped with everything a blind dog needs. It is climate controlled and provides the consistency needed by a blind dog: permanent furniture placement, no unexpected sounds, and a stable routine. These characteristics—along with a safe outdoor space where a blind dog can stretch his legs without injuring himself—were meant to give Phoenix a feeling of security. Now Phoenix House will do the same for OAS’s Kemo.
OAS Director Megan Webb is excited about the Kemo/Phoenix Pack fit. “Phoenix Pack is a pit bull rescue organization that has stepped up to assist with dogfighting busts for more than nine years now,” Webb explained. Through the staff’s breed knowledge as well as the organization’s thousands of hands-on hours and advanced training, Phoenix Pack has secured its place as St. Louis’s expert in the area of dogfighting and the pit bull breed. The group is also a member of the Pit Bull Rescue Alliance (PBRA), which is made up of independent organizations dedicated to pit bull rescue as well as education about and advocacy for the breed.
Moving to Phoenix House will open a new world for Kemo. After he settles into the cottage, Phoenix Pack trainers, behaviorists, and volunteers will visit Kemo several times a day, each focusing on his or her area of expertise to ensure Kemo receives ongoing stimulus, exercise, and interaction with humans and other animals. With Kemo, they will specifically target any dog/dog issues, moving him steadily toward his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Therapy Dogs International (TDI) designations and training him to become a breed ambassador who may even visit schools. Along the way, he will undergo ongoing temperament testing and evaluations to ensure proper placement in a forever home.
“The best part,” Webb noted, “is that Kemo is guaranteed a home at Phoenix House for as long as he needs it.”
Doggie goggles in place, Kemo will be leaving for St. Louis in the next week or two. Phoenix Pack and Friends of Oakland Animal Shelter, the foundation arm of OAS, will share the cost of Kemo’s trip to his new home. It is hoped that this is one ride that will be smooth sailing for a dog who has hung in there, despite it all.