On June 10, 2011, 25 dogs were seized in Milwaukee’s largest dog fighting bust to date. One of the dogs, “Renato” – the Latin word for rebirth, is believed to have been used as a breeding dog. He spent 22 months at MADACC on hold as evidence for the criminal trial. During that time he had little interaction with people, other than to be fed or have his kennel cleaned.

The Brew City Bully Club rescued Renato on April 1, 2013 and took him into their facility in Pewaukee to begin his true rebirth. For 14 months they worked to rehabilitate him in hopes he would be able to live in a family environment. They spent many hours desensitizing Renato to sudden movements and teaching him the value of human touch. Under their care he learned what it truly meant to be a dog and be loved.

I learned about the Brew City Bully Club after adopting a Pit Bull/Boxer Mix from the Wisconsin Humane Society in Saukville. I became an avid BCBC follower on Facebook and one day, there he was … a dorky, big-headed white dog with a black and white spotted nose and huge perky ears. Renato was ready for adoption.

Renato really captured my heart, but my family wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of a second dog. I watched the BCBC ‘adopt Renato’ posts hoping someone would step forward. Months passed with no interested parties and Renato continued to call to me. We finally decided in early May of 2014 that we wanted to meet him and see if he would be a good fit for our family.

We made the trip to the rescue facility, and it was love at first sight for all of us. This crazy-looking dog was a giant lover who just wanted to snuggle and kiss everyone. We made plans for him to meet our dog and moved forward with the adoption process.

On Monday, June 30, 2014, Renato came home to live with us FOREVER!

It has been 2 years since we brought Renato into our family, and he is as happy as can be. He spends his time playing and causing trouble with his doggy sister, Brulee’, and is a whiz at figuring out new ways to chew through our backyard fence (tempted by bunnies).

While most dogs won’t pass up the opportunity for a snack, Renato attacks food, wolfing it down with a vengeance. I suspect that behavior is the ghost of his past still haunting him. After the disappearance of an entire loaf of bread, we learned it’s not safe to leave food unattended on the counter. Antics like that have earned him the nickname ‘Renaughty’.

He sleeps curled up with my son at night and is my daughter’s ‘shadow man’ showing an understanding of her emotions I can’t even grasp. He gives everyone he meets a giant grin and then proceeds to cover them in his signature drool (envision scenes from the movie “Turner and Hooch”). We spend countless hours snuggling him, kissing his over-sized head and giving him more treats than any dog should be allowed. He loves to have his tummy and ears rubbed.

Renato has remained active with the Brew City Bully Club family and serves as poster dog and ambassador for their annual “Ride to End Dog Fighting”. He also loves to make appearances at other BCBC functions throughout the year and is currently campaigning for the upcoming presidential election – although we’re not sure if he’s a Repuplican or a Dogmocrat. He has his own Facebook page (follow ‘Renato Enchilada’) where he stays in touch with all of his fans, old and new, posting photos and updates on his latest shenanigans.

We suspect Renato is 10 years old, but there is no way to know for sure. By becoming his family, we’ve accepted all that his is and isn’t, and we’ve promised to fill his remaining life with love. For all of the care and affection we’ve shown him, Renato has given us so much more. He continues to show us every day just how wonderful a rescue with a horrific past can become when given the chance to just be a dog!

Story and photos courtesy of Andrea Mlejnek

Audree loves kisses. In fact, there is nothing the 4-year-old English Bulldog/Pitbull Mix seems to enjoy more than cozying up to one of her favorite humans: Jessie Neassen.

As a volunteer for Milwaukee-based 501c3 nonprofit animal rescue organization Canine Cupids, Neassen provides care and love to the area’s most neglected and abused dogs as a foster “mom”. Audree is one of the foster animals currently in her care, and when Audree wants kisses, Neassen is happy to oblige.

“She just wants love and attention,” Neassen says. But when Audree was rescued by Canine Cupids 1.5 years ago, she needed much more than that.

“She had severe mange, secondary infections and was anemic,” Neassen says. “She also had entropy in her eyes, a heart murmur, ear infections and partial tears in her back ACLs.”

Audree’s mange resulted in swelling and inflammation and “weeping” open wounds on her skin.
“She could barely walk,” says Neassen. “The first couple of days I was scared that she was going to die. It was bad.”

While Neassen had cared for dogs with mange before, never had she encountered a dog with such extensive – and costly – health issues. Audree required constant supervision. She slept beside her just to make sure she didn’t stop breathing. She bathed Audree every other day, massaged her with
essential oils, administered many medications and coordinated all of her vet visits – anything to give Audree a chance.

Neassen’s effort paid off. Within a week Audree’s condition began to slowly improve.
“I could just see a difference in her,” says Neassen. “Through it all, her tail was wagging.”

Audree’s tale is one of betrayal and forgiveness. Despite suffering such neglect at the hands of her prior owners, Audree has given humans a second chance.

“She just loves people,” Neassen says. “Any person she’s ever met she adores. Aside from knowing and seeing the pictures you wouldn’t guess she had such a horrible past.”

Story & photos courtesy of Jessie Neassen


A permanent smile outlines the Samoyed’s face, matching its happy, warm personality. But don’t let this gorgeous dog fool you: he’s not just a pretty face. In fact, the Sammy or Sam, as the breed is known among fans, is a highly functional, hardy dog.

The Samoyed takes his name from the nomadic tribe who, thousands of years ago traveled from the Iran region to the tundra of Siberia. Once there, the dogs and Samoyed people shared trust as the dogs earned their working status. In addition to Artic exploration, the Sammy pulled sleds, herded reindeer and hunted and guarded property.

These dogs became companion animals, babysitting children and warming beds on cool nights. Extremely cold nights were three-dog nights, in which three dogs would be placed on the bed to warm its occupants, explains Maria Kirylo, state coordinator of Playing Again Sams Wisconsin Samoyed Rescue.

According to the American Kennel Club, during the early 1900s, the breed was brought to England to breed enthusiast Queen Alexandra. Present-day American and English Samoyeds are descendants of her dogs. Today, the Samoyed is one of the purest breeds around, the most similar to the primitive dog, with no fox or wolf DNA.

At Home
“Samoyeds make terrible, terrible outdoor dogs,” Kirylo says. They are very much part of your pack and want to be with their families. Gentle, friendly and easygoing, the Sammy is said to love everyone—intruders included. Needless to say, the Sammy will adapt to life perfectly fine with children or the family cat.

Speaking from firsthand experience, Kirylo advises that “if you can’t walk your dog several miles a day, don’t get a Samoyed.” Besides Wisconsin’s three warmer seasons, her four Sams will walk all winter long. And they do need the exercise. She says these dogs are sometimes labeled as stubborn, but it comes down to motivation. Make sure to give your Sammy an interesting job to do, one that keeps him mentally and physically active.

Because they are working dogs, Sams instinctively need daily exercise. A fenced-in yard is nice, but long walks are even better. Showing their very high intelligence, Samoyeds also participate in agility. “They are up for anything, any time, any moment, but they know how to relax,” says Kirylo She also notes that Sams “bark a lot and love to dig.” If you want a perfect lawn or garden, the Samoyed might not be ideal for you. “They’ll eat anything,” she laughs, as she pictures those tempting vegetable gardens.

One of Kirylo’s favorite characteristics of the Samoyed is that it takes a lot to ruin this happy-go-lucky dog. In rescue, she sees the dogs’ different backgrounds, but the dogs exhibit healthy levels of trust. Sure, they can bite and snap like any dog, but that’s just not who they are.

Samoyeds are typically healthy. However, almost all tend to get weak in the back end, she says. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can prevent this. Glaucoma can develop and incidences of diabetes are a little high, but cardiac issues are not common.

Coat & Grooming
Stemming from his ancient beginnings, a Samoyed’s gorgeous coat repels water—it was a necessity to stay dry amid those artic temps. If he rolls in the mud and it dries on the coat, the mud will flake off as if the dog’s coat is nonstick. You’ll be left with a white-turned-slightly-gray dog.

Overall, the Sammy’s coat requires a great deal of care. Weekly brushing (if not more) is needed, especially during the once or twice a year seasonal shed, reports the AKC. Plenty of hair is shed but unlike Lab or cat hair, a Samoyed’s hair falls out akin to human hair. Maria likens it to picking up little dust bunnies—they lift easily off the floor.

Also, “never, ever shave a Samoyed,” she stresses. This is an act she has never done in her 17 years of rescue. Underneath all that hair is “very pink, tender skin” that is dander- and oil-free. The coat keeps your Sam warm in winter and cool in the summer because it reflects the sun’s rays.

Fun fact about the Sam’s smile: The AKC says the dog’s upturned mouth corners keep him from drooling—and prevents icicles from forming on the dog’s face—a necessary trait in the Artic.

Saying the Samoyed is “more than a pretty face” is not only one of Kirylo’s favorite phrases but also is 100 percent true. After all, who wouldn’t want a dog that boasts both beauty and brains? Add in the breed’s pleasant demeanor and medium-level energy and you may just find your perfect companion.

Homeland: Initially, Iran. Nomadic tribe traveled to Siberia.

Size: Males 21–23.5”, 45–65 lbs. Females 19–21”, 35–50 lbs.

Appearance: Muscular yet compact. Upturned mouth corners create a continuous smile. Thick, dense coat in white, cream, biscuit and yellow.

Job: Pulling sleds, hunting game, herding and guarding reindeer.

Temperament: Friendly, gentle, intelligent, loves people.

Grooming: Weekly to daily brushing. Weekly ear checks. Monthly to bimonthly nail trims.

Average Life Span: 12–15 years.


He’ll jump on the couch, curl up next to your lap and wait for the movie to start. Then during the previews, he’ll probably look up at you with one paw resting on your leg and ask, “Where’s the popcorn?” This is typical behavior from English Bulldogs. They’re people-oriented couch potatoes with a bit of clown in them.

“They absolutely love to be with their people,” says Laura Wesseln, director of Adoptabull English Bulldog Rescue. “They’re OK with having another buddy, but they really, really want to be with you, their owner. They want to know what you’re doing, follow you around the house and keep an eye on you from their comfortable couch.”

According to breeder Mike Hedrick, English Bulldogs are “like no other dog.” “They’re more like humans than they are dogs,” he says. “I would honestly say they are probably the canine clowns. They’re goofy. They kick back and have fun. They can be athletic, but in short bursts. I have some that love to play tether ball. I have some that like to go on the toboggan or tubing behind the boat. Anything that has anything to do with people.”

Originally from the British Isles, English bulldogs were bred for bull baiting. Nowadays, though, as the fourth-most popular breed (according to the American Kennel Club), they much rather prefer their job to be as companions — and treat inhalers.

“They will do anything for treats,” Hedrick says. “They’re very food motivated, and their weakness is their stomach.”

And English bulldogs know just how to finagle those treats out of their owners.

“They’re smart but in a way that people don’t quite expect,” Wesseln says. “So a German Shepherd or a lab can do tricks, but a bulldog will do it once or twice but then ask what’s in it for me? They’re good at manipulating me. Mine have me trained to give them treats when they came in from going outside. Sometimes they want to go out just to come in and get a treat.”
Their stomach is not their only weakness, though. Like any other dog, some poor breeding has caused English Bulldogs to have their fair share of medical problems. Most common, according to Hedrick and Wesseln, are ACL and knee issues. They also have a tendency toward elongated palettes and cherry eyes.

I want one

When looking to purchase an English Bulldog, it’s crucial to have their personality in mind.

“Research, research, research,” says English Bulldog breeder Jennifer Guinn. “I can’t stress that enough. Is this the dog that fits

your lifestyle? Bulldogs are very attached to their humans so they need lots of human attention.”

Because English Bulldogs are such a popular breed, potential buyers have to research the breeders they are interested in. Wesseln says it is important to find a breeder who belongs to the Bulldog Club of America, has champions he or she breeds and is involved with local breed clubs. These are the breeders who have quality dogs and are active in the industry, according to her.

According to Hedrick, English Bulldogs are expensive and hard to find, so the price can be an initial tip-off as to whether it is a quality English Bulldog.

“If it’s only $800 to $1,000, it’s not a bulldog,” he says.

The starting price for a well-bred English Bulldog is from $2,000 to $2,500. With the chocolate, blue and lilac colors, the sky’s the limit, Hedrick says.

When you do find a reputable breeder, Guinn says to ask them if they health test and what type of health testing they do. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for puppy and vet references, as well as ask to see the parents of the puppies.

Once you have one

One of the great things about English Bulldogs is that they don’t require 20 acres of running space. They work just fine for a dog owner who lives in an apartment because they are fairly low energy. They will go out and play for 15 minutes, and then it’s time for another nap, Wesseln says, so they can be a poor match for someone who wants to go out and run 5 miles in the summertime.

Hedrick says he does have some who have some energy and like to play, but only for short periods of time.

“They want to be Jack Russell terriers for 10 minutes, and then they remember they’re bulldogs,” he says.

They are best kept as indoor pets with a person or family in a loving environment because they are always happiest with people around, Guinn adds.

If you do have them in an apartment, though, make sure there is air conditioning. Another common issue with English Bulldogs is that they are prone to heat stroke. Any exercise in the summer has to be done in short spurts whether they like it or not to prevent any serious exhaustion.

Also important, make sure if you decide to get an English Bulldog that you don’t mind doing a little bit of daily cleaning. Wesseln says that when the rescue gets dogs, they have to wipe out their ears and wrinkles early every day. Bulldogs are also very short bodied, so you have to clean their back ends if needed, particularly if they have an inverted tail pocket.

Full of love

Once you have made the decision that the English Bulldog is the right dog for you, you will never go back. Hedrick quotes the AKC, saying “Once you have a bulldog, there is an 85 percent chance you will have a bulldog for life.”

Their kind, docile and brave character is enough to make anyone fall in love.

“Their clownish antics every day, you can’t help but laugh,” Guinn says. “When I walk in the door, they rush to the door to greet me. One plays dead constantly to get your attention to rub his belly while the other is waving her paw to get your attention away from the other one.”

Not only do English Bulldogs love to get attention, but they will return the favor.

“They just give so much love back,” Wesseln says. “They are really responsible—if you don’t feel well, they are very clingy and sit with you and give love to you.”

Homeland: British Isles

Size: 45-55 pounds

Appearance: Medium sized with a smooth coat; heavy-set bodies set lower to the ground with wide shoulders; short-faced head; shuffling gait; 10 colors including brindle and white and fawn and white

Job: Bull baiting (originally); companionship

Temperament: Kind and strong; people-oriented; couch potatoes with a touch of clown

Grooming: Regular cleaning of back-end area, as well as their ears and wrinkles

Average life span: 8-10 yrs


Nearly facing extinction during World War II due to thousands of Hungarians fleeing their homeland and leaving their dogs behind, Vizslas have survived and flourished. It is thanks to those few individuals that took their dogs with them during wartime. Today, the Vizsla is a well-recognized breed, noted for hunting and canine competition in the United States and has been re-established in Hungary as the national dog.

Brief Background/Facts: Vizslas (a Hungarian word that means “pointer”) were hunters and companions to the nomadic Magyar tribes and were selectively bred by Hungarian noblemen. They arrived in the US in the early 1950’s and the Magyar Vizsla Club of America (known today as the Vizsla Club of America Inc.) was established in 1953. As part of its foundation stock, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1960.

Today: According to the VCA, the Vizsla is one of the top three breeds used by the Transportation Security Administration. They worked in Search and Rescue at 9/11 and are used successfully in Seeing Eye programs.

Breeder and President of the Central Wisconsin Vizsla Club Rebecca Smith has handled over 40 Vizsla fosters in her home and has taken care of her own Vizslas since 1991.

With over 15 years of breed experience, she and her husband Mark have produced 8 litters, participated in conformation, field trials, hunt tests, limited obedience and agility and rally. Rebecca loves conformation and Mark is an enthusiast for the field trials. Having no two-legged children of their own, Rebecca says her dogs are her kids, and having an active lifestyle with these versatile pooches is comparable to having kids in multiple sports.

“If someone wants a dog that is going to be their best buddy, prefers to be close to them all the time (if not on top of them), is athletic and smart, the Vizsla would be a good choice,” says Rebecca. Also, Vizslas “are able to participate successfully in many activities…”

Ownership Pros & Cons: Besides their beautiful appearance, Rebecca notes, “They are a 50-pound lapdog … It is rare that I sit down to watch TV or work on the computer that I do not have a Vizsla sharing my chair or sitting in my lap.”

This is a trait she adores, but for some it may be a nuisance. Another potential bothersome trait may be their thought process. For a Vizsla it’s “Let’s go hunting,” as opposed to “Many other pointing breeds … which seem to think ‘I’m going hunting’ and ‘you keep up’.” So “… when you are hunting with a Vizsla, they may go out quite a long way [on their own] however, they will always check back to see where you are.” They are a bit needy and softer in temperament. A pro or con depending on the personality of the owner, she notes.

They do shed but not as much as a longhaired dog and are low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Brush their teeth, clean their ears, trim their nails and “they are good to go,” notes Rebecca. She suggests not bathing them more than quarterly unless they get into something undesirable.

The High Maintenance Aspect: Being athletic and active dogs, they require a good amount of exercise. “If you are not planning on exercising your dog on a regular basis, do not get a Vizsla,” Rebecca says. If they don’t get exercise or have a “job” they tend to act out. Her dogs run free for at least 30 minutes a day to burn off that extra energy. “Vizslas tend to be diggers, chewers and counter-surfers. I’ve seen more than one couch or chair ruined by a Vizsla … they are not content lying around the house.”

Highly Trainable & Intelligent: As for training, they need to use their brains. But, “You need to go easy with a Vizsla … and not push too hard,” she confirms. Rebecca advocates positive reinforcement and further states, “If pushed too hard, they will simply shutdown.” On the bright side however, “they are quick to learn things and want nothing more than to please you.” And “they are ‘wicked smart’,” she continues. Her favorite memory is about her dog Jennie who could open “ANYTHING.”

“We kept [a deli bucket with treats] underneath the basement steps. Every time I would go down in the basement, Jennie would follow me and open the deli bucket and help herself to a chew bone. I sometimes had a hard time getting deli buckets open, but she didn’t!”

Playing Nice with Others: First and foremost, they have a notable “prey drive”, and “as a rule, Vizslas are good with other dogs and animals, but remember they are hunting dogs,” says Rebecca.

As far as children are concerned, “… dogs are dogs, and I try not to leave the kids and dogs alone together,” says Wendy Kempfer, Vizsla breeder, owner and handler. However, “… our Vizslas are great with children.”

Wendy is also an active member of the Central Wisconsin Vizsla Club and mother of two young boys, Sully, 3 and Sebastian, 6. “I work hard to try to teach my boys how to behave around dogs as well as teaching the dogs how to behave around kids,” she notes.

Dogs are individuals and will each act differently around children. Wendy’s three dogs each respond and react to her kids in their own unique way. Brody is “super tolerant and accepts it all” yet gives them space. Lexis wasn’t raised around kids and tends to be grumpy and growl at them, so she stays away. And then there is Gracie, the puppy. Gracie loves them and wants to play with them constantly. Sometimes too much and they get jumped on and end up crying in the process.

Even though she finds having dogs (especially Gracie) and kids a challenge at times, she wouldn’t change a thing. “You have to be willing and able to commit as much time to that puppy as you do to your children.”

Final Decision: Just like with any dog or breed, the Vizsla may not be a good fit for everyone and Rebecca stresses visiting a Vizsla in their home environment prior to making a long-term commitment. “They [the potential owner/adopter] need to plan on spending a couple of hours with the dogs so they can see what they are really like, and maybe visit more than once.”

Also, if getting one from a breeder, “… choose a breeder that you like as a person, someone you feel you could be friends with as that breeder should be there to offer advice and help you for the entire life of the dog, not just until you take it out the door,” insists Rebecca.

Note: Rebecca and Mark Smith currently reside outside of Fall River, Wis. and have three Vizslas of their own while co-owning a number of them with friends. “It’s sort of like having grandchildren. We get the benefit of the fun but the dogs live somewhere else.”

Anyone interested in breed rescue should visit cwvc.org. There is a form on the website to fill out in order to adopt a Vizsla and/or surrender forms if someone wants to turn one into rescue.

Homeland: Hungary, nearly faced
extinction, but today is the national dog!

Size: Males are 22-24 inches, Females are 21-23 inches.
Appearance: Golden rust color (various shades), minimal white markings on chest, medium-sized, short-coated athletic body.

Job: Originally bred to work/hunt in field, forest & water. Today, very versatile
in all areas of canine competition.

Temperament: Energetic, natural hunter
yet devoted family companion.