Hello Bully

Exploring The World of Animal Shelters: An Inside Look At Hello Bully

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An interview with Hello Bully from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Introducing Hello Bully

Hello! I’m Daisy Wise, Founder, President, and Behavior Director at Hello Bully. Dogs have always been an important part of my life and I’ve been involved in animal advocacy since I was a pre-teen. Hello Bully is my baby and, at 18 years of age, I’m proud of this kid! We do work that is focused on our mission, and we do everything we can to be intentional with the resources we have. There is an incredible family that has blossomed through our mission-based work. The volunteers at Hello Bully are here – first, foremost, and above all else – for the dogs.

Daisy Wise

How did Hello Bully Start? What Are The Challenges Encountered Along The Way?

I’m a life-long animal advocate and have been rescuing animals since I was a teen. I adopted my first Pit Bull in 1995, and became a passionate advocate for the breed. When I lost Kaneda in 2005, I made it my personal mission to create something that would honor and serve dogs like him. Hello Bully is that creation. 

American Pit Bull Terriers  have faced unfair bias for decades, but with rescues stepping up to help crush some truly ridiculous myths, Pit Bulls have regained more popularity as family companions. Unfortunately, the APBT is still the most abused and exploited breed in our country’s history – as the only breed specifically used for bloodsport. 

Hello Bully focuses specifically on dogs who have survived dogfighting, cruelty, exploitation, and neglect. While our mission homed in on survivors of dogfighting for more than a decade, we are now an all-breed rescue. What we realized is that our American Pit Bull Terriers from dogfighting cases gave us all the skills we needed to heal dogs with other forms of trauma. At Hello Bully, Pit Bulls forged a path for other dogs in need.


Tell Us About The Most “Unusual” Animal That Hello Bully Has Ever Taken.

Every single dog at Hello Bully is unique and special, but Tyrion Pittister might take the cake. Tyrion is a small, buckskin-colored American Pit Bull Terrier. He was rescued from a dog fighting ring in Georgia and has substantial damage, from dogfighting, to his face. Tyrion doesn’t have much in the way of lips, so his teeth are always out in front. He definitely gets some looks when he’s out on the town. We love introducing people to Tyrion, as he truly loves people and animals alike. He’s a fabulous advocate for dogs like him. It’s hard to look at Tyrion and not feel empathy for what he’s survived. 

Tyrion’s stay with us was longer than normal as he had a tough case of Babesia – a serious illness commonly found in gamed dogs. He also had surgery to remove scar tissue in his sinuses to help him breathe easier. Tyrion was adopted and lives a fun and full life in Sewickley, Pennsylvania with his parents, Laurie and Bernie. Tyrion has written two children’s books with the help of his Mom. He hosts readings at local bookshops and is active on social media. @realtyrionpittister

Tell Us More About The Most Unique And Creative Fundraising Campaigns Hello Bully Has Done

Hello Bully has had some wild times in our almost nineteen years! We hosted a “Lovers Not Fighters” gala for a decade where we raised awareness and money for dogfighting survivors. Tyrion has had some spectacular birthday parties, one of them even included his own team of male dancers – the Tyriondale Dancers. 

We have hosted tea parties, cocktail parties, dog walks, and 5k walks. We are also fortunate enough to have some incredible partners who help us raise the funds to do our work. Every October, Hello Bully is invited to partner with Studio 42 Tattoo in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, for our “Ink or Treat” fundraiser. Guests can choose from a series of dog-themed tattoos. There are also baked goods, crafts, and Hello Bully merchandise available at the event. This is one of our biggest fundraisers every year and we can’t even explain the level of joy we feel when we show up with dogs at the beginning of the day and there’s already a line around the block. We get a lot of love from our local community in the Pittsburgh area. We couldn’t do what we do without people like this who step up to help support our work. 

Tell Us More About The Most Rewarding Part Of Running An Animal Rescue

The most rewarding part of rescuing animals is the individual cases where you’re able to help dogs heal and see them off to the next chapter of their lives. It is also true that many people step into volunteering or mission-based work to heal something in themselves. Dogs helped me endure a very abusive childhood; so for me personally, I am just paying forward the love and support that dogs have given me. 

Dog from Hello Bully

What Do You Think Might Be The Greatest Challenge Of Running Hello Bully?

The absolute greatest challenge in rescue is caring for ourselves. So many people come to this work to fill an internal need, but the work in front of us is never ending. There are always animals in need and the suffering is endless. I have learned, in recent years, that sustainability needs to be part of our plan. The calls for help never stop – but people in rescue can set boundaries so that they can continue on without burning out. 

We are also seeing more and more animals with expansive trauma histories. Trauma is hugely impactful on physical health for humans, so it is reasonable to draw some conclusions about non-human animals and trauma. There is hardly a basic understanding of what trauma does to a human being in our current vernacular  – let alone conversations about dogs. The conversations are brewing, and there are people in the field of animal welfare who understand the great importance of further understanding, and the sooner the better.

We would be remiss if we didn’t take a brief moment to speak on this from our knowledge and experience. Trauma is stored in long-term memory and is not something that animals can just get over; it changes the way they perceive the world. Some animals may need medication. Some dogs have experienced so much trauma that they have become generally fearful of anything new, or they have learned to cope through repetitive or destructive behaviors. Reactivity and aggression are largely caused by fear, anxiety, and stress, so when dogs are behaving “badly” they may simply be physiologically over the threshold where they can operate. Telling a dog who is having a reactive melt down to behave is like telling someone who is having a panic attack to calm down. We need to wrap our heads around this so that we are approaching these cases with empathy and not frustration. These dogs aren’t giving us a hard time – these dogs are having a hard time. 

Hello Bully’s Staff and One of Hello Bully’s Dogs

Tell Us More About The Volunteers In Hello Bully

We have an active Board of Directors made up of some of our most active volunteers. This grassroots approach has made it easier to be united as a whole group and not have issues where leadership and volunteers feel that they are not on the same team. 

Our rescue attracts people who are serious about doing ethical rescue and rehabilitation. We have a couple small teams but we are really one family. There’s so much crossover and people are willing to step out of their comfort zones to help because they know they will be supported. 

There is a social aspect to volunteering at a rescue, and we encourage folks to make new friends. However, we also make sure that the dogs always come first at Hello Bully. Focus and intention are so important when you’re doing work that fills a gap and saves lives. The volunteers at Hello Bully are serious about the serious stuff. We’re also extra goofy when it’s appropriate.

Volunteers in Hello Bully

Where Do Most Of The Animals In Hello Bully Come From, And What Is The Process For Rescuing And Rehabilitating Them?

Hello Bully’s dogs are almost always from legal cases where there has been dogfighting, cruelty, neglect, or hoarding. On the rare chance that we don’t have a waiting list, we will transfer dogs with special medical or behavioral needs from local shelter partners. 

The rehab process is different with every dog, but we do have a process that keeps dogs on track and makes it easy for everyone at our organization to see how they are progressing. Each dog is graded on intake according to our Standards of Adoptability. This grade is revisited regularly, and plans and goals are set for dogs to graduate into another, better category of adoptability. Some of the dogs we adopt out at Hello Bully have special needs that will need to be met by their adopters, we’re transparent about the needs of our dogs and it helps us make the best matches. 

Volunteer and Dogs from Hello Bully

Rescues or shelters who need resources for tracking medical or behavior rehabilitation are welcome to participate in our ongoing series, Hello Bully Resources for Rescues at www.hellobully.org/hbrr

What Are The Busiest Periods And How Does Hello Bully Cope?

As a small rescue, the seasons don’t impact us as much as large brick-and-mortar shelters. We struggle in the summer to staff all the events and fundraisers we have going on and are always looking to grow our volunteer family. 

What Animals Does Hello Bully Focus On?

Hello Bully’s efforts were focused solely on the American Pit Bull Terrier until 2019 when we updated our mission to include dogs of all breeds suffering from abuse, cruelty, neglect, and disaster. 

When we officially started our rescue in 2005, Pit Bulls in the United States were literally on fire. There were so many misconceptions and myths that needed to be dispelled. Pit Bulls were being abused and abandoned and our shelters were full of them. 

The landscape is quite different in 2023. Pit Bulls are now in every neighborhood in America – well, with the exception of areas with Breed Specific Legislation/Breed Discriminatory Laws. Almost everyone has met a Pit Bull, and not ironically, this has shifted public perception. When people meet some of our Official Spokesbulls they are shocked that dogs who started their lives in the dark world of bloodsports can live happy, full lives as companion animals. 

American Pit Bull Terriers will always have a place at Hello Bully and we will always prioritize survivors of dogfighting, as that is where the breadth of our experience lies. 

American Pit Bull Terrier from Hello Bully

Working With The Local Community

Over the years, Hello Bully has collaborated with local shelters and rescue organizations through our Pittsburgh Pets Community Outreach program. We have been able to offer free vaccines, microchips, supplies, and spay/neuter vouchers to our neighbors living in marginalized and neglected communities. These programs have served thousands of animals and families and have helped to keep pets with loving families, and out of our shelter system. We love collaboration, and we know that good partnerships make for great outcomes for the animals. 

Hello Bully’s Behavior Team also brings behavior resources to our local shelters. We have a wonderful relationship with the Lawrence County Humane Society, a small, rural shelter in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. LCHS might be a tiny shelter, but they have a mighty staff who work so hard to care for their animals. We have assisted with playgroups, assessments, and behavioral treatments and plans. We love showing up for the dogs and people at LCHS! 

Tell Us More About Your Events

We are currently recruiting volunteers! What we need more than anything are folks to help us foster dogs and fundraise for our work. If you love dogs and are a total nerd about dog behavior, Hello Bully could be the place for you! We invest time and resources in training our volunteers to be as dog savvy and knowledgeable as they can be. Hello Bully is also deeply committed to positive reinforcement and scientifically sound methods of training dogs. If you have a love for training and want to hone your skills, come to Hello Bully! 

Different Dog Breed from Hello Bully

Supporters can always participate in social media initiatives, shop in our online store, or donate to our cause. We’re a little rescue doing big things with your help! 

What Is Done Differently at Hello Bully?

One part of our work that sets us apart is a focus on helping other rescues do their best work. We have seen many rescues come and go over the years. People jump in to help with the best of intentions, but rescue is serious work and we want to give those helpers the resources to do their best work for the animals and people in their care. 

Pit Bull from Hello Bully

We also have free behavior resources and series, including Hello Bully Behavior Basics, and Hello Bully RAD DOGS – a course for reactive dogs. If you have a reactive dog and are in need of help, we sure hope you’ll join us! You can sign up for free at www.hellobully.org/raddogs

How Has Hello Bully Adapted To The Challenges Presented By The Pandemic?

We were very fortunate that we were able to sell our small facility at the start of Covid. We needed to get our dogs back into foster homes anyway, so the timing was actually okay. Returning to foster has increased our capacity for dogs ten-fold plus! We miss having space, but we know the dogs have an easier time in a home environment. 

We did pivot for the community and, through our Hello Bully Cares program, our volunteers distributed food for thousands of pets in the Pittsburgh area. We were able to do contact-free drop-offs, and the outpouring of gratitude from our city was a joyful spot for our volunteers during an otherwise difficult time.

Share With Us Some Of The Heartwarming Stories Of Animals Rehabilitated And Rehomed By Hello Bully.

In 2022 we stepped up for a small group of dogs from a dogfighting bust. One of those dogs, Tess, was so depressed and anxious that there was hardly any behavior to assess. She was just a sad lump of a dog, but we saw a spark. 

Tess was suffering from serious dental issues and Mast Cell cancer on her beautiful face. Her rotten and broken teeth were pulled and her cancer was able to be removed with clear margins. Tess was so fearful when we first met her, but with the help of patient humans and helper dogs, Tess made so much progress! She was ultimately adopted by the family of one of our volunteers. Tess now lives in the country and spends her days with her very best friends, the family’s two cats. We are so very happy that we took a chance on Tess. 

Tess and her Furparent

What Are The Help Needed From The Local Community?

Locally, we always need volunteers who are looking for an opportunity to make a difference. We operate in Western Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh, and the counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, and Lawrence. If your family has an open room and an open heart, we would love to have you foster for us. Fosters at Hello Bully get continuous support from our Behavior Team, and our veterinarians love working with our special cases. It’s such a labor of love to foster, and we need you! 

Connect With Hello Bully here:

Address: 4885A McKnight Road, #197, Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Phone: 412-235-1997

Website: www.hellobully.org

Wondrousdrifter.com is thankful to Hello Bully for the interview. 

Check out this page for the list of animal shelters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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