Noah, The Bait Dog

In dogfighting, baiting is the act of pitting a potential fighting dog against a defenseless animal, often another dog—a bait dog. Bait dogs are used to test a "game" dog’s fighting instinct... and to further train them to fight in the ring.

To render bait dogs helpless, their teeth and nails are often filed or removed, and their mouths are duct taped shut. Then, they are restrained to further impair them... as a fighter dog is instructed to attack. During the baiting process, bait dogs are horrendously mauled and killed. Those who survive each attack receive no treatment for their wounds, which can include loss of their ears, eyes, snouts, and limbs. Many survivors are subjected to the same baiting torture, every single day, for as long as they live. Others are dumped to suffer slow, painful deaths.

 Often, bait dogs are obtained from “Free to a good home” ads, animal shelters, and Craigslist. Others may be stolen from your backyard. In addition, many of the “weak” or submissive Pit Bulls— those with the sweetest dispositions—are deemed worthless by dogfighters… and turned into bait dogs. Then, the nightmare begins…

For these dogs, their gentle nature is used against them; their friendly demeanor is exploited; their loving spirits are purposely broken. Their smiles are duct taped shut; their joy is snuffed out; and their desire for affection is denied. Their hopes, dreams, and love are stolen… and replaced with terror, pain, and heartbreak. Their innocence is stripped away, layer by layer, until they have nothing left...
The lucky ones die in the ring. The others can only pray for such mercy

Ultimately, the purity in their hearts... will be their greatest downfall… the very cause of their suffering and torturous deaths. Sadly, their unwillingness to fight... won't save them from the fighting. It will only ensure... that they are always the losers. Always.

In order to survive this level of torture, these dogs must retreat to a place deep inside themselves… and hide. In turn, they completely shut down… because the physical pain has wounded their hearts… and the emotional pain has wounded their souls.

Bait dogs are dead… long before they die…

If you save them…
They can come back to life…

Noah’s Story
Noah has been a bait dog almost all of his life. Last week, in Macon, Georgia, witnesses saw a group of thugs dump a lifeless little dog in the street... and speed away. That dog (who I later named Noah) was completely emaciated, with severe, painful wounds covering his entire body... which led to massive, widespread infections. His eyes were swollen shut, and his head was swollen to more than twice its normal size.

Onlookers were horrified at this scene... assuming that this poor dog must be dead. There’s just no way that a dog in this condition could still be alive...

But then… this gentle, broken boy... slowly lifted his swollen head off the pavement, to show that he was still among the living.
A tiny, heartbreaking whimper said, “Please help me.”

Noah was picked up by Animal Control and taken to the local pound. When he arrived, he was utterly terrified… a feeling he knows all too well. As they led him into the shelter, my amazing rescue friend, Myshea of ARC HS, saw him… battered, wounded, and broken. As he passed by, she reached for him, and despite his fear and pain, he gently licked her hand.

Myshea began to sob, because she knew his fate all too well: Ater surviving a lifetime of abuse... this little boy had arrived at the one place... where he'd have no chance of survival: the pound. Dogs like Noah are not placed up for adoption at the pound. They are killed. Immediately.

Regardless, Myshea began treating his wounds... and showing him love for the first time in his life. In that moment, she made a promise to herself that she'd find help for this baby… and she made a promise to him that he wouldn’t die there. So, the pound gave her until the next morning to find rescue for him, or he would be killed.

Myshea called me in tears, and told me his story. Then, she said: "Ash, I know you already do so much... but this dog needs you. He’s so gentle; he’s so loving; he’s so forgiving. He deserves to live... and he shouldn’t die there. We can’t let him die there!”
That’s when I said: “He won’t die there. Call the pound tomorrow morning and tell them not to euthanize. I’ll take him.”

The next morning, Myshea made the call that would save Noah’s life. Then, ARC HS pulled this sweet boy from the pound, on behalf of Lucky Dog Rescue. Next, two amazing volunteers, Lucia and Carla, transported him to Meridian, Mississippi.

When he arrived... he walked right into my arms… and fell into my heart...

I named him: Noah.

That night, I watched… as Noah laid down, closed his eyes... and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then… he drifted off to sleep.

I can only imagine it's the first time he’d ever felt safe ...in his whole life.
When he woke... he looked around the room… with uncertainty of his new reality. 

As his eyes found me, a huge smile spread across his face. At that moment... I saw the years of terror, pain, and heartbreak... leaving his little body.

Knowing in his soul... that the nightmare was finally over.
But the dream… has just begun…

Noah is currently being treated for his wounds, infections, and heartworms. He will also be neutered, dewormed, and fully vaccinated.

When Noah is feeling better, he will be placed up for adoption through Lucky Dog Rescue. If you are interested in adopting Noah, please fill out the online Adoption Application: http://www.petpardons.com/adoption/


My Meridian Star Article: Heartworm Smarts

I write a weekly Pet Column for my local newspaper, The Meridian Star. This week's topic: Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Smarts
By: Ashley Owen Hill, guest columnist

We’re all looking forward to the scorching heat of the Mississippi summer; with temperatures so hot…we’ll wish for the mercy of death. But along with that fun in the sun, we receive another precious gift: mosquitos. If you think you hate mosquitos now, just wait until you find out what those nasty little boogers are doing to your pet’s precious heart.

Heartworms are caused by a parasite, which is transmitted when a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito. The bite of just one infected mosquito will give your dog heartworm disease, and trust me, these infected bugs are everywhere. Following a bite, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. At that point, the heartworms lodge into the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels of your dog, and begin reproducing. Heartworm disease is extremely painful and tragic for dogs, leading to congestive heart failure, multiple organ failure, and death.

Heartworm disease is a widespread and fatal condition. However, heartworms are far more common in areas with a high mosquito population, due to the greater concentration of infected bugs. As we all know, mosquitos freaking love Mississippi, so every pup in the dirty south is at risk. This means that ALL dogs in Mississippi need to be on heartworm preventative. No exceptions, mister.

Monthly heartworm preventative medications are crucial in protecting your pet from heartworms. That’s right, heartworm disease is preventable! Great options include Iverheart Max and Heartgard Plus. In order to fully protect your pet, these medications must be given year-round, at the same time each month. If you forget for even one month, your pet is at risk. Important note: deworming medications used for removal of internal parasites DO NOT protect your pet against heartworms.

Heartworm preventative can only be obtained by vet prescription. First, your vet will need to run a heartworm antigen test on your dog. Following a negative test result, preventative meds will be prescribed. Pets should be re-tested annually to ensure that heartworms haven’t been contracted. Even dogs on heartworm preventative should be re-tested each year to check for medication efficacy and early detection of any problems.

If you think that heartworm testing and prevention is unnecessary or too expensive, you should see the costs associated with treatment and progression of the disease…

Warning signs of heartworm disease include coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and fainting. If your pet is exhibiting any symptoms, visit your vet immediately for a heartworm test.

If the heartworm test is positive, your dog will need to start treatment immediately. The longer the heartworms inhabit your dog’s heart, the higher the risk of irreversible damage. While heartworm treatment is expensive, it’s essential to your pet’s health and lifespan. Depending on the progression of the disease, your vet will determine the best treatment plan. Following treatment, heartworm preventative must be given monthly to maintain your pet’s negative heartworm status, re-testing each year.
Would you want worms living in your heart? I’m thinking no. So please, don’t make your dog suffer from this easily preventable and treatable disease.

Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/luckydogrescueblog.


My Dog, Riley

When Rudy died, I was an absolute wreck. The tragic, unexpected loss of my baby was almost too much to bear. During that time, I'd replay his little life over and over again in my head… sobbing uncontrollably. I was paralyzed by my pain, by the realization that I came home to find my little boy... dead, at 3 years old. I never even got to say goodbye...

Two days after his death, I logged onto facebook. At the top of my homepage was a dog that looked so much like my Rudy… and I lost it. My heart immediately fell in love with this precious boy, but my head said, “No, Ashley. Absolutely not. It’s too soon.” The dog was later adopted by another family, but even still, I thought about him every day… somehow knowing he was mine, even though he belonged to someone else. I often kicked myself for not immediately saying, “I want him!”
But I just tried to move on…

A couple of months later, fate stepped in. A ridiculous breed ban in his county placed this dog back up for adoption. I could hardly believe it. I contacted my dear friend (his foster mom) and finally said what I’d been waiting to say for months: “I want him.” She said, “Ash, I’ve always wanted you to have him; I was just waiting for you to be ready. He’s your’s. He's always been your’s.”

And so, I adopted Riley... also known as my heart. Riley has brought more joy into my life than I thought possible after Rudy's death. He's simply incredible… he loves everyone and everything… all dogs, all people, and all activities. But most of all, he loves me. He’s just awesome, in every single way. And there's no doubt in my mind --or anyone else's-- that's he's exactly where he was always meant to be.

But Riley’s life began much differently… his early months were a living nightmare… and he honestly shouldn’t be alive today…

Riley’s Story
My Riley was rescued from a dogfighting ring. At 5 months old, some evil dogfighters placed Riley in the ring, and tried to fight him.

But my Riley, the little angel that he is, is not a fighter. He was utterly terrified… and he refused to fight. Instead, he’d just lie there, curled up in the fetal position, as the other dogs attacked him.

While it sickens and pains me beyond words to envision my scared little baby being viciously attacked by others --others who were simply following the rules-- that’s not the most heartbreaking part of this story.

As noble and precious as it is when a dog refuses to harm others in the ring, the consequences are unimaginable…

If you don’t know much about dogfighting, one of two things happens to the dogs like Riley who refuse to fight:

1)     They are used as bait dogs… meaning the “bait” used to train other dogs to fight. Their teeth are filed or pulled out, their mouths are duct taped shut, and their nails are filed down, until there’s nothing left. Then --with no defense mechanisms-- they’re thrown in the ring—often restrained to further impair them—as other dogs are trained to viciously attack…and kill… them.

Bait dog saved byTri-County Animal Rescue
Bait dogs can only hope for death in the ring… because the ones who survive each attack are forced to endure the same baiting torture, day after day, for as long as they live. Following each brutal fight, they are given no vet care for their wounds, and no medication for the severe pain. Often, their faces are torn off; their ears are hanging from their heads; their eyes are swollen shut; their limbs are falling off. They're rarely fed—if ever, they're given zero attention, and they're confined to a tiny, feces-filled cage, or a short chain with no shelter. Bait dogs live the saddest existence I can imagine.

Dogs like Riley aren't the only ones used as bait. Dogfighters scan “FREE TO A GOOD HOME” ads, animal shelters, and Craigslist for bait dogs. They also steal them from your backyard. Training usually begins with small dogs, puppies, cats, or rabbits. Then, as the training progresses, the bait moves up in size.

If you think you could easily identify a dogfighter asking for your “free” dog, THINK AGAIN. Many police officers, athletes, and wealthy individuals are involved in dogfighting. This is a MONEY sport… these people don’t always appear to be the scum they are, and they’ve certainly learned how to play the “I’m a good home” card to get your free dog for bait. 

The life of a bait dog was Riley’s first option.

2)     If option 1 isn’t selected, dogfighters go with option 2: Shoot the dog on-site.
Well, that’s what happens to the lucky ones at least. Some are used for sadistic pleasure before they are killed… subjected to unspeakable torture and abuse. The dogs are body slammed, beaten to death, hung, electrocuted, set on fire, and/or drowned… as the dogfighters laugh at their suffering.

Death was Riley’s second option.

I think about my Riley… my precious little angel… at 5 months old, left with those 2 options: Unimaginable torture every day of his life, or being shot to death. For Riley, they chose Option 2: shoot him.

Before attempting to kill him, they first tortured Riley by shooting him repeatedly with a BB gun, as he cried out in agony. My vet would later find the BBs lodged throughout his body. I can only imagine his terror and pain, as he was shot over and over again. He probably wished for death… which was just the plan they had for him…

But my Riley is one of the luckiest pups alive. On this particular day—the day meant to be Riley’s last—an undercover informant was present at the dogfight. And while the other dogfighters were distracted, the informant risked his own life to save Riley’s. He snuck Riley out the side door and got him to safety…

Photo by Wayne Rawson Photography

I will forever be indebted to the courageous hero who saved my baby’s life. Riley was set to die that day, but instead… my Riley lives.

And he lives... with me.

I was broken, and Riley saved me… in every way that a person can be saved. To put it quite simply: I was dead, and Riley brought me back to life…


Why I Love Pit Bulls

My foster baby, Bonnie
Why do I love Pit Bulls?

Maybe it’s that big, beautiful head, just begging to be rubbed. Maybe it’s those soulful eyes, leading me straight into a wounded heart. Maybe it’s that childlike spirit… full of innocence and hope… despite the harsh realities of the world. Maybe it’s that joyful smile, saying to the critics: “I know you think I’m mean. I know you don’t trust me. But even though you hate me… I still love you.”

Maybe it’s the loyalty… the unwavering devotion in the face of cruelty, neglect, and abuse. Maybe it’s the fact that this very loyalty… this precious gift of allegiance… is exploited every day, by evil humans with sadistic motivations.

Maybe it’s the undying will to please their master, the drive for praise at any cost, or the endless desire for compassion of any kind. Maybe that’s what makes them so special…

Maybe it’s the love… the love that waits… often for an entire lifetime… to be given. The love that dies… in the dogfighting ring… on the end of a chain… or at the pound. The love wasted, the lives forsaken, the beauty forgotten… Maybe that’s what I see in them…

Maybe it’s because the media has inaccurately and wrongfully demonized one of the most loving, loyal, and incredible "breeds" on Earth—the Pit Bull. Maybe it’s because the public believes these mistruths, and joins in the bashing. Maybe it’s because Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) has enacted laws that ban these amazing creatures… laws that seek to destroy every last living, breathing Pit Bull in America. Maybe it’s because, for the lucky few Pit Bulls in loving homes, BSL rips them away from their families and sentences them to death. Maybe it’s because these precious souls can’t understand why this is happening to them… as they cry out for their families, just before they are killed…
Maybe that’s why I fight for them…

My foster baby, Wonder
Maybe it’s because Pit Bulls are the most abused breed in existence… and the most highly euthanized breed in shelters. Maybe it’s because, in many American shelters, strict policies prohibit the adoption of bully breeds, eliminating all hope for these dogs. Maybe it’s because, even when given the chance for a family, no one wants to adopt them. Maybe it’s the heartbreak of knowing, that after a lifetime of suffering… and then being dumped at the pound, their only way out… their only chance for mercy… is death.
Maybe that’s why I care so much…

Maybe it’s because, even in no-kill shelters, Pit Bulls often spend their entire lives waiting for someone to take them home. Maybe it’s because, for so many, that adoption day will never come. Maybe it’s because, while waiting on that unlikely chance for a family, many of these dogs will slowly lose their minds living in a tiny shelter kennel. Maybe it’s because, due to the stress of shelter confinement and the lack of socialization, their already small chances of adoption are soon reduced to no chance at all of ever getting out. Maybe it’s because, for bully breeds, the never-ending dream of having a family of their own… is only a dream…

My foster baby, Pepsi

After weeks, months, and years of waiting in a shelter for a family who will never come for them, all hope turns to despair… all desire turns to depression… all joy turns to anguish. Across the country, millions of these beautiful, amazing dogs are simply living each day… waiting to die.

So why do I rescue Pit Bulls? Maybe my drive to save them is because I’ve never known a breed more deserving of life. Maybe my will to help them is because they have no other hope. Maybe my advocacy for the breed stems from my desire to fight injustice… to right the wrongs and stand up for the victims.

My dog, Riley

Maybe it’s the fact that 2 of the most incredible dogs I have ever known are my children, Rudy and Riley, both Pit Bulls. Maybe it’s because many of my amazing rescue babies are Pit Bulls. Maybe it’s because I would do anything for my children, because my children would do anything for me.

Maybe it's because they have no reason to trust me, or anyone for that matter, and yet... they do. Maybe it's because they have no reason to forgive, and yet, they have.

Maybe my love for them is a reflection of their love for me… unconditional, unwavering, and infinite. Maybe I want to change the world for them… to end the unspeakable suffering… to tell them that they matter… and to return the love they so freely and unselfishly give. Maybe it’s because I realize that I possess the power to do all of these things. Maybe it’s because I know that can use my life to fix this for them.  

And maybe, just maybe, you will join me…

My foster baby, Molly


Painting With A Twist Fundraiser

Painting with a Twist in Meridian, Mississippi did a fundraiser for Lucky Dog Rescue on Sunday, April 17th! Participants each painted a fun doggie painting, with half of all proceeds from the event going to Lucky Dog Rescue!

We had a packed-house for the fundraiser, with food, drinks, music, and painting! There was even a special Lucky Dog cake!

My best friend, Tiffani Minchew, came to the painting fundraiser with me! I’m not gonna lie… we were both a little nervous that our paintings would be a hot mess… especially because we had no idea what we were doing.

Initially, I was terrified to even touch my paintbrush to the canvas, knowing that I could easily screw this whole thing up in about 2.5 seconds. Tiffani, my best friend since I was 5 years old, tried to reassure me:

Tiff: “Ash, don’t worry. You’re the artistic one. Your’s is gonna be so good.”
Me: “Tiff, mine is gonna be sick, and you know it. It’s already sick, and I haven’t even started yet.”
Tiff: “Yeah, you’re right. You probably will mess it up…”
Me: “Tiff!?!”
Tiff: “What? I’m just agreeing with you. You probably will mess it up.”
Me: “Well, you’ll probably mess your’s up. So there.”
Tiff: “Yep. I’m agreeing with you on that, too.”

Apparently we had zero confidence in our painting abilities. But Marissa, our amazing Painting with a Twist instructor, helped the entire class create paintings that were each unique and beautiful! Shockingly, this was even true for both Tiffani and myself.

When we finished, Tiffani and I decided that we are practically professionals, as long as we have an instructor to tell us exactly what to do... and how to fix it if we mess up. But aside from that, we are pretty much artists. I will be selling my future paintings for no less than one million dollars.

We all had a blast painting, talking, and laughing. It was honestly the most fun I've had in a long time, and I highly recommend Painting with a Twist to anyone looking to have a great time painting with friends!

At the end of the class, I was presented with a check for Lucky Dog Rescue! I was beyond touched by the community’s support for these special rescue pups! It meant the world to me that so many people came out to have a good time and raise money for my rescue fund!

Thank you, Painting with a Twist, for this amazing fundraising event! It meant more to me than you could ever know, and the pups of Lucky Dog Rescue and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And of course, thanks to everyone who participated, especially my friends Tiffani, April, Casey, and Morgan!


My Little Brother

This isn’t a rescue story, but it’s every bit as important to my heart.

This weekend, my little baby brother, Matt Owen, got married. Now, Matt would stop me right there and say, “Ashley, I’m hardly ‘little,’ and I’m not a ‘baby.’” But lucky for me, he’s not telling this story, so he can hush it and let me finish… :)

Matt is 2 ½ years younger than me, and when we were kids, I was forced to do everything with him…
“Ashley, share your toys.”
“Ashley, let your brother play with you and your friends.”
“Ashley, let your brother ride the go-cart WITHOUT running over him this time…”

The go-cart was taken away on Christmas day—30 minutes after I got it—because I couldn’t follow the third rule.

Growing up, Matt was often my best friend and my worst enemy. You know how siblings can be…
And I allowed myself to say whatever I wanted about my brother… but no one else could. He’s MY brother. I can call him a stupid butt-face if I want, but don’t you dare agree with me.

Matt and I have always had a healthy (and sometimes not-so-much on the healthy) sibling rivalry going. Especially on Matt’s end. He’d re-take a standardized test as many times as it took for him to beat my first score. Then, he’d run around the house screaming, “I beat Ashley! I beat Ashley! IN YOUR FACE!!!” I’d laugh and say, “Well sure, if I’d taken it a HUNDRED times, who knows what I would’ve made…”

We compete out of love, but deep down, we always support each other. Growing up, we’d mostly come together to fight our parents on ridiculous rules like curfew.
My Dad: “Well maybe you kids can tell me… since you know so much more than I do… exactly what legal activities are taking place for teenagers after midnight??”
He had a point… but it didn’t piss us off any less.

As we’ve gotten older, our relationship has become much more important, as we’ve supported each other through heartbreaks, the college years, and following our dreams. You see, Matt and I were born the same passion: saving lives. For me, that’s animals. For Matt, it’s people.

I’m going to brag on Matt for a minute. My little brother is absolutely brilliant. He’s entering his third year of medical school at UAB, one of the top programs in the country. It is extremely difficult to get into the program at UAB, but they wanted my brother before he even applied. After his med school interview, the head of the program called him personally to say, “Not only have you been accepted, but you were considered to be one of the most desirable applicants we’ve ever had.” That’s my baby brother. He’s so smart it’ll make you sick.

My amazing little brother feels that he has always lived in my shadow…but I would argue that my shadow could never overtake his incredible light. I’d say that his light outshines mine by a mile. He’d probably tell you the same about me. That's the beauty of our relationship.

So this weekend, my little brother married his best friend, Molly Tilghman… now Molly Owen. And as Molly walked down the aisle, it was like I watched my brother grow up, right before my eyes...

I saw him as a baby, with those big brown eyes that always seemed to be fascinated by the world.


I saw him as a little boy, sharing all of his best secrets with me.

I saw me sharing a few secrets of my own with him, which he would soon tell my parents... getting me grounded...


I saw him as a kid, pestering me as much as humanly possible.


I saw him holding my hand through all of life's tough times.

I saw me reaching for his hand sometimes too...

I saw him as a child with a lifelong dream of becoming a doctor...


I saw him as a teenager, asking me for girl advice.

I saw him as a minor, asking me to buy his beer.

I saw him graduating high school... heading off to join me at the University of Alabama.


I saw him as a college kid, devastated over his first real heartbreak.

I saw me by his side, crying with him...


I saw him the day he graduated college… heading off to medical school to follow his lifelong dream.

I saw him as an unsure young man, asking his big sister for help proposing to his girlfriend.

I saw the smile on his face when she said yes...

And I watched him as a man… saying “I do” to his new wife, on their wedding day.

Sometimes it hits you all at once that life goes by in the blink of an eye. Seeing my little brother get married was a surreal reminder of how quickly time passes… My baby brother isn’t a baby anymore. He’s all grown up.

Matt, I don’t tell you enough, but I’m so proud of you, and I’m honored to be your sister. I don’t remember my life before you, and I hope I never know it without you. You're the best pain in the ass brother there ever was. I love you.

Congratulations Matt and Molly. I’m so happy for y’all, and I love you both more than you’ll ever know. Molly, welcome to our crazy family. I can't believe you signed up for this on purpose... :) Matt, you did good.