Producing, pit bulls and preconceptions
by Jack Leslie
Since a lot of my rescue efforts tend to focus on Pit Bulls, I often get calls from strangers, who need help finding a home for a Pit Bull. Sadly, all I can often do is offer advice since I usually have a full plate and most of the rescues are already over capacity. Quite often, the people who call me have trepidation because of their preconceived notions about the Pit Bull breed.
I think the most important thing I’ve learned from my years working with Pits is to have empathy for groups that are marginalized based on bias and prejudice perpetuated by society and the media. I have to admit that I used to roll my eyes if a particular group complained about its stereotypical treatment at the hands of the media. However, after encountering so much irrational fear and hatred for the breed by people who have never even met a Pit Bull, I better understand the basis for this frustration.
A year or so ago, I was put in contact with Jenn Noble Bauman, a TV producer. Her husband, producer Beau Bauman, was working with a friend of mine, who has also adopted a couple of Pit Bulls, and she told them to call me for some advice about a Pit Bull that they had rescued but could not keep. Jenn is one of those people, who has had a profound connection with the dog in her life. “Our sweet lab, Bear died on February 5th, 2011 at 16 years old. I had him since he was 5 weeks and it broke my heart losing him. After he was gone, I didn’t want to come home ever. Bear was gone, my reason for coming home was gone. I just hated being in an empty house with no wagging tail, no best friend.”
After Jenn and Beau decided it was time for a new dog, a friend forwarded them a posting for a Chocolate Lab at an area shelter. Jenn traveled an hour and a half to the Lancaster Shelter, which Jenn describes as, “The most depressing shelter I had ever seen,” where she met the dog in question. However, according to Jenn, “as much as I wanted to love the dog and have another new best friend, the connection just wasn’t there. The shelter told me that this dog would go to their adoption facility, so I knew he was getting out regardless.”
Before leaving the shelter, Jenn decided that she would go through all of the buildings to give all of the dogs a bit of attention so that they would know that someone cared about them, even though she couldn’t take them home. One particular building contained the many Pit Bulls that had been dumped or confiscated, and most of them ran to the front of the cage or jumped up and down, begging for attention. However, when Jenn got to the last cage, she discovered a female Pit Bull who was different from the others, and it was a moment that would change both their lives.
As Jenn tells it, “unlike the other dogs, when I approached her cage, she didn’t jump up, she didn’t put on a show for me, she had no hope in her eyes. She slowly stood up, and when she did, I let out an audible gasp. She was severely emaciated with every rib showing, and her nails were so long they were curling under. She had cuts and scars all over her face and body, her teeth were broken, and she had been bred several times. It turned out that aside from being starved, she was not only a breeding dog, but was also a bait dog – those monsters used her to train fighting dogs because she was too gentle to ever fight back.”
Odds-makers would have given this dog, soon named “Drew,” a zero percent chance of getting out of the shelter alive. Sadly, Pit Bulls are over-represented in city and county shelters and are the first to be euthanized. However, destiny and Jenn, had other plans for Drew.
Jenn and Beau were very honest about their initial concerns about bringing a Pit Bull into their lives. When I visited Jenn and Beau at their home a few days later, these concerns had apparently evaporated. Although I was ostensibly there to meet Drew and give them advice on finding her a new home, I instantly recognized that the couple was in love with this skinny, frightened dog. When I said goodbye to them that day, I even told Jenn and Beau that I seriously doubted that they would be able to give Drew up.
As Jenn recalls it, my instincts were correct: “Beau and I agreed that we would foster Drew until we found her a home. Beau didn’t think I was ready for another dog, and he was apprehensive about having a pit… but when two days later, we had someone interested in adopting her, Beau said he couldn’t even think about letting her go. He and I both had fallen in love with her immediately. She was our dog from the second she walked into our house and laid down on one of Bear’s old beds.”
I’m sure that most of us deeply love our dogs. However, I firmly believe that rescuing a homeless dog adds another dimension to the relationship between the animal and its guardian – particularly when the dog in question is part of a pariah group. This transcendence is epitomized by Jenn’s and Beau’s relationship with Drew: “Adopting Drew has changed our lives so much. I could never and will never be able to replace Bear, nor would I want to. Bear was with me since I was 21 – he watched me grow up and often times, I felt like he took care of me. Having Drew in our lives has been a daily opportunity to show her unconditional love. And from the first day we took her in, it’s as if we answered her prayer and gave her someone to love.”
Being even a small part of Drew’s rescue was extremely satisfying, and I figured I might occasionally hear from Jenn or at least read about Drew’s progress on her Facebook page. However, I got a call from a very distressed Jenn in December of 2011 year. She and Beau, while driving though a very bad neighborhood, had seen two emaciated Pit Bulls. They were in pitiful condition, and the female had obviously been bred several times. Unfortunately, all I could tell Jenn to do was call Animal Control and report the owner. Before leaving the neighborhood, Jenn and Beau not only bought food for the starving dogs, but she also rescued a Poodle mix who was lying in the middle of the road, and found it a new home a few days later.
Jenn called Animal Control numerous times, but, other than giving the owner a warning, there was nothing that the officers could do. They also warned Jenn not to enter the property herself since there was apparently illegal activity taking place on the premises, and it was extremely dangerous. Even though Beau had recently proposed to Jenn, and she was busy with work, she just couldn’t get those two dogs out of her mind. Consequently, in January, she drove back by the house to see how they were doing. However, there was no sign of the male dog, and the female dog was pregnant again. Jenn was horrified by the idea of this poor dog giving birth in those deplorable conditions, only to have her puppies abused or sold to a dog-fighting ring. Although there was no way she and Beau could adopt another dog, she promised that they would figure something out if there were any way the dog could be rescued.
Without going into too much detail, the female dog, soon named Fiona, was transported to Jenn’s duplex a couple of days later. Having fostered several litters of puppies myself, I honestly thought she was crazy for adding a pregnant dog to their already busy lives. Three days later, I got a call from Jenn saying that Fiona had gone into labor. Since Jenn had to go to work, I dashed over to their home to help Jenn’s two friends with the delivery. I had never experienced an animal giving birth before, and it truly was a miracle the way that Fiona remained so calm and instinctively knew how to take care of her babies. Sadly, one of the puppies was still-born and didn’t make it, but when I left the house, there were six healthy and happy puppies, latching onto their mother for sustenance. Fiona wasn’t finished, though, and, after I left, she gave birth to one last puppy. Unfortunately, it was also still-born, but Jenn gave it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and he soon joined his brothers and sisters for dinner.
For Jenn and Beau, though, the adventure had just begun. I tried to warn them of the challenges waiting in store for them, but, in hindsight, perhaps it was better that they entered into the situation as innocently as they did. In the eight weeks that they cared for Fiona’s seven puppies, Jenn traveled quite a bit for work, they planned and threw their own wedding, Beau had knee surgery, oh, and Jenn found out that she was pregnant. Despite Beau’s incredible organization skills and the presence of a professional dog-sitter, the couple still was in no way prepared for the trials and tribulations of caring for seven rapidly growing puppies who soon became extremely mobile. Despite all the pee, the poop, the expense, and the sleepless nights, Jenn says, “If we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing.”
Jenn was very picky when she started looking for homes for the puppies, and she had more than enough adopters lined up before the puppies even turned eight weeks old. I did a home-check for one of the puppies since the adopter lived close to me, and the puppy’s new dad turned out to be Jonathan Sadowski, an actor with whom I had worked with a few years earlier. It was a very happy coincidence, and it is a joy to see how much Jonathan loves Moxie as illustrated by his constant Facebook updates about her. The latest photo of the two of them is labeled, “My best friend.”
Jenn had a reunion for the puppies at a park last year. “All seven dogs came, which is a testament to the owners themselves. They all immediately bonded and chased each other around the park. It was heartwarming to see how well taken care of and loved each of these dogs was.”
What about Fiona? She is doing well. Jenn and Beau paid for her to go through a training program with David Roe at Blue Dog Ranch, and he is now looking after her pro bono until she finds a new home. Like Drew, she has done a 180 in terms of personality and appearance. Here is the link to her adoption profile in case you would like to know more about her:
As for Jenn and Beau, they are leading especially busy lives since they now have a three-month-old baby girl. While Jenn was pregnant with Kai, she and Beau were concerned that once the baby arrived, that Drew would be jealous of the new addition. However, Drew has proven to be extremely protective of baby Kai, always wanting to be in the same room as her and constantly giving her kisses. This is a great reminder that Pit Bulls were historically known as the “Nanny Dogs.” According to Jenn, “With all these changes, it’s been a challenge juggling everything, but it’s all about team work and sharing responsibilities. Of course it’s been the best experience of our lives.”
When Jenn reflects back on the craziness of the past twelve months, and what she has learned from it all, specifically from the unexpected arrival of a Pit Bull in their lives, she sums it up like this: “Drew has shown us what it means to forgive. For a dog as abused as she was to be willing to give any human another chance is truly a miracle and something I believe only an animal has the capacity to do. Specifically, having a pit bull in our lives completely and utterly shattered any misconception we had ever heard or read about the breed. In fact, they are some of the most loyal and loving dogs you could ever have in your life.”
There are a lot of life-lessons to be learned from this story: How one small act of kindness can have a ripple effect that becomes greater than all of us; how we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; how animals have an amazing capacity for forgiveness, which is something we should all try to emulate. And, thanks to Jenn’s and Beau’s kindness, not only are Drew and Fiona safe and secure, but there are seven other families out there who are experiencing the love, satisfaction and other rewards of rescuing a dog. All those lives changed in a matter of twelve months, not to mention the arrival of a brand-new baby girl. Here’s to a less-stressful, but just as fulfilling 2013 for Jenn, Beau, Drew and Kai.
Jenn Noble Bauman
Jenn has been producing television entertainment news for over 10 years. She worked her way up from production coordinator to producer at syndicated “Inside Edition.” Then at TV Guide Network, she produced “InFanity”, “Hollywood 411” and “Fashion Team”. She currently produces “Hollywood Dailies”, “Reel Life”, live events, and specials for Reelz Channel. Jenn majored in marketing at Oklahoma State University.
Beau Bauman most recently ran Branded Films, Russell Brand’s Warner Bros-based production company. He was the producer and co-writer of Rogue Pictures’ Cry Wolf starring Jon Bon Jovi, and was the consulting producer of Picturehouse’s The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a Broadcast Film Critics nominee for Best Documentary. Beau is currently developing the scripted remake of The King of Kong at New Line. In television, Beau has produced the pilots “Hail Mary” starring Minnie Driver and Brandon T Jackson, and “The Odds” starring Donald Faison and Sullivan Stapleton, both with Joel Silver for WBTV and CBS. Beau has also produced award-winning shorts starring Steve Carell, Kevin Spacey, and Topher Grace. Beau graduated from Yale University, and USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program. He was a Presidential Scholar and is a published author.