Friday, 1 February 2008

Story reprinted at Best Friends Magazine

Many thanks to Sandy Miller and Molly Wald and the rest of the Best Friends team!

Friday, 25 January 2008

The Story of Cyan - R.I.P. January 14, 2008

I first met Cyan at a friend’s house in 1999. She was a beautiful, shiny, blue haired, 8 week old puppy born on Halloween. He said, "I’m going to sell her to a friend, but he lives in the 'hood' and I’m afraid he may raise her to be a bad dog, do you want her?" As he said this, Cyan crawled onto my lap and looked up at me with her puppy dog eyes. I instantly fell in love with her. Little did I know how much she would change my life, as well as the lives of other people.

For the next few years, Cyan and I lived happily in a small Denver suburb. I raised her right, knowing that she would be scrutinized for the way she looked. I showered her with love and taught her to never bite. I took her to the dog park everyday, where she happily played with other dogs and taught people that Pit-Bulls are just like any other dog, they just want to have fun and please their owner. Nearly everyone who met her instantly smiled when they saw how happy and beautiful she was. They couldn’t believe she was a 'Pit-Bull'. But some people were scared by her muscular physique and the 'Pit-Bull' label. People would ask, "Is she mean? Does she bite?" I would tell them, "The only thing she will do is lick you to death." And of course, Cyan proceeded to do so!

And so Cyan brought me joy for many years, never harming a human or other animal (she may have scared a few squirrels). She always greeted everyone with a smile and a tail wag, desperate for affection.

In October, 2003, Denver Animal Control came to my door, and said "Your dog is illegal, we are taking her away and she will be killed within a week." You can imagine how shocked and sad I was as there was nothing I could do to stop them from taking her. She willingly jumped into their van to be taken away, her big tongue hanging out of her mouth in a cute smile innocently thinking she was going for a ride to the park.

After the initial shock, anger and sadness subsided, I realized I had to do something to save Cyan. I scoured the internet to find out about Breed Specific Legislation and what I could do to save my precious girl. Luckily, I found the American Canine Foundation, a group devoted to fighting BSL. They taught me about BSL and how wrong it is. I had no idea that the ban in Denver would result in hundreds of innocent dogs killed every month; solely based on the way they look and not on how they act.

To save Cyan, I had to leave my home of seven years and move outside of the Denver City Limits. I found a new home in a small town called Englewood. It was two blocks away from Denver. Two blocks! It's insane to think that my dog would be killed if she were caught just two streets south of an imaginary line.

With the help of the ACF, I started the crusade to not only save my dog from being terminated, but to prevent other innocent dogs all over Denver from suffering the same fate. I created an online petition as well as a physical one, and went to public parks and dog parks to get signatures and spread the word about BSL. Over the next several months, the word spread quickly, and soon Cyan and her story were on the local TV news and in newspapers. From all over Colorado and the rest of the world, people lent their support, including Colorado State Representative, Debbie Stafford and actress Linda Blair.

In 2004, Cyan and I fought the law, and we won! We challenged the Denver breed ban in court. Our lawyer interrogated the Animal Control Officers with facts and questions, and in the end they could not, without a doubt, correctly identify a pit-bull from a boxer or any other breed with a similar physique. After reviewing several hours of facts and testimonials from veterinarians and expert witnesses, the judge realized that families and their innocent dogs’ lives were being ruined and ruled the law unconstitutional. As a result the Governor signed the bill prohibiting BSL in Colorado. It was a joyous occasion! Thousands of dogs’ lives would be spared, saving their owners from the grief and heartache of losing their beloved family member.

Towards the end of 2004, after all this hard work to save my girl, I had to leave her behind. I got a job offer in London, England, that I could not refuse. Apparently American Pit-bull Terriers are illegal in the UK, even though thousands of Staffordshire Terriers, a breed very similar in physique to Pit-Bulls, roam the land. Even if I could bring her with me, I couldn’t bear the thought of her being in a small confinement for the six month quarantine. So I found Mike and Toni Phillips of Mariah’s Promise, an animal rescue facility in the foothills of Colorado Springs, to take care of Cyan while I was abroad for the next few years. As hard as it was to leave her, I was happy to know she was in good hands and would be having the time of her life running around with several other dogs all day long on a farm.

Alas, in May 2005, about a year after we convinced the state to repeal the ban, Denver went back to court to invoke 'Home Rule' and reactivated the breed ban. It is now 2008 and the ban is still in effect. Several groups alongside Mariah’s Promise, including The Pit-bull Band, are continuing the fight against BSL and Denver’s ridiculous law. Thousands of dogs a year are still being killed based on how they look, not how they act. Nothing is being done to stop owners who raise any breed the wrong way. The solution begins with the owners.

On January 14, 2008, Cyan passed away as a result of cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, at eight years old. No one could have seen this coming. I’m heartbroken, to think I can never see her again. I feel for Mike and Toni, who took her in and loved her like their own. As sad as this story ends, it warms my heart to have raised and known such a loving dog, to have learned so much about dogs and people along the way. To know that Cyan helped save thousands of dogs’ lives, and will go down in history as an ambassador for Pit Bulls, makes me very happy. Cyan was my baby and will always have a special place in my heart. I hope some of you got to experience the wonder of Cyan; she really was a special bully.

Please help continue the fight and teach the public the truth about dogs and BSL so one day no dog or family will have to endure the pain that Cyan, I and thousands of others have gone through.

Some videos can be seen at the bottom of the blog or at

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you.

Howard M