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Ivy’s Tale

Dog, owners work to change stereotype about breed

March 11, 2012
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

On a recent visit to the PetSmart in Amsterdam, Ivy the pit bull was her usual self: calm, happy and interested more in relaxing than running around.

Her owners, T.J. Hall and Christie Rust, said that is part of the reason she has become something of a mascot for the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society. Whenever they take her into schools or adoption events, she always does her part to serve as an ambassador for the humane society and her breed.

"People have a lot of preconceived ideas about the breed," Rust said. "Meeting Ivy can help change them."

Article Photos

T.J. Hall of Wells, standing, watches as his niece, Hannah Damphier, sits with his pit bull Ivy, center, and Vinnie — an adoptable dog at the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society — during an event at PetSmart in?Amsterdam on March 2.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

It is hard to believe that when the married couple from Wells acquired Ivy, she was a day away from being euthanized.

Ivy, who is 8 years old, spent the early part of her life in the South, going back and forth from the fight ring to abusive homes.

Hall said Ivy was actually being used to breed puppies, who would one day enter the fight ring themselves.

"She is a good spokesman for the breed," Hall said. "To go through what she did, and still be willing to trust people."

Hall and Rust were in Jacksonville, N.C. in August 2010, when they visited a local shelter. The couple has a habit of doing that when traveling, to see if there are any ideas they can take back to Brennan, where they both are board members.

However, when they walked in they met Ivy, who was scheduled to be euthanized the next day.

"We fell in love with her," Hall said.

Since coming back to Wells with the couple, Ivy has visited classes in a number of local schools.?School districts including Northville, Gloversville and Broadalbin-Perth all have welcomed Ivy.

While Hall or Rust talk about the shelter's work or educate people about pit bulls, Ivy used a very different method for people to learn about the breed.

"She'll walk into a classroom, amble around some, then lay down. The kids will practically pile on her [trying to pet her] and she just loves it," Hall said.

Hall said because of Ivy's background, the couple feels it is important to have her out in the community.

Not only are more local people learning about pit bulls, Rust said, nationwide more people are getting the message that each judge has to be judged as an individual. Judging a dog solely by its breed is unfair.

"More people are seeing these can be good dogs," Hall said.

Ivy herself has even gotten attention on a national level. In the March issue of EveryDay with Rachael Ray, Ivy's story - along with a photo of the dog and Hannah Damphier, Hall and Rust's niece - was featured in the "Talk about Pets" section.

"It's a win-win," Hall said. "They got a good story and we got some good advertising for the shelter."

Pat Buell of Johnstown, a volunteer with the humane society, said when she sees Ivy greet people at the adoption events at Tractor Supply and at PetSmart, she knows the dog is changing peoples' minds about pit bulls.

"Ivy gives people a new perspective," she said.

Both Hall and Rust said the volunteers at Brennan make the shelter work, and community involvement in general is needed for animals to find good homes.

For example, both said the opening of PetSmart in Amsterdam has been a boon for the shelter. About 40 animals they have brought to PetSmart have been adopted since December.

"PetSmart has been a godsend," Hall said.

Hall and Rust, along with Ivy, have no plans on slowing down anytime soon. In addition to visiting schools and doing adoption events, they also have their big Raining Cats & Dogs fundraiser lined up for May 12 at Ruby & Quiri in Johnstown. Of course, that's just for starters.

"Anything we can do to help the shelter, and pit bulls, we'll do," Hall said.

Buell, who has been volunteering with the group since May 2009, said Hall and Rust are "the ultimate board members."

"First and foremost, their interest is in finding homes for the animals," she said.

For more information, visit the humane society's website at



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