Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck,and a Few Turtles

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9780670021161: Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck,and a Few Turtles

The true story of ten tough and tattooed bikers who rescue animals in danger

Though Joe Panz, Johnny O, Batso, Big Ant, G, Angel, Des, and Eric initially met and formed their friendships at tattoo and motorcycle conventions, they soon learned that they shared another passion: animals. Each had been rescuing troubled animals on their own for years. They decided to form Rescue Ink to combat the problem of animal abuse on a larger scale.

Working from tips from concerned neighbors and anonymous sources, they have rescued countless animals, including a dognapped bulldog and 180 cats from the home of a hoarder. In between rescues, they’ve protested the barbaric practices of a horse slaughterhouse, visited schools to educate children about animal kindness and that “abusers are losers,” and participated in Puppy Mill Awareness Day in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Former Newsday writer Denise Flaim chronicles their adventurous tales, detailing just what these brawny bikers, who will stop at nothing within the bounds of the law, can teach us all about respecting the creatures in our midst.

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About the Author:

RESCUE INK is a nonprofit animal-rescue organization based in Long Island, New York, comprised of tattooed motorcyclists. DENISE FLAIM was a staff writer at Newsday from 1994 to 2008 and is the author of The Holistic Dog Book and Getting Lucky: How One Special Dog Found Love and a Second Chance at Angel's Gate.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 14: Rebel

Happy Ending

The Piper aircraft taxied up to the hangar at Republic Airport, a small suburban airport in Farmingdale, New York, on the westernmost edge of Suffolk County. Scheduled to arrive from Murray, Kentucky, at 11:30 P.M. on a windy Sunday in February, the plane had been delayed by ice formation on its wings. After landing in Pennsylvania for an hour-and-a-half detour into a heated hangar to melt the ice, the pilot had finally arrived in New York at 1:00 A.M.

Even before his aircraft rolled to a stop, the pilot was eager to be back in the sky. He was far behind schedule, and his sole goal was to drop off his cargo—two muscle-bound men and one strange-looking dog.

The door of the small propeller-driven plane opened, and G emerged, carrying some duffel bags and two sets of noiseblocking headphones. He looked relieved to be on solid ground again, and exhausted after some twenty hours of round-trip flying. It seemed impossible to him that he had left Republic Airport at 7:30 the morning before. It felt like a week had passed.

Then Joe ducked out of the impossibly small-looking aircraft. The pilot helped him open a small door on the side of the plane that accessed the cabin. Joe reached in and then leaned in deeper, struggling to remove something from the cabin. Finally, he extracted a medium-size red dog wearing a harness so new it still had its price tag attached. He set the wriggling animal down on the tarmac.

The dog shook himself good-naturedly and wagged his tail. He had very little fur on his face, which was mostly covered with large patches of shiny pink skin. He had no outer ear flaps at all, and his ear canals were so swollen, they bulged out of either side of his head. He looked more like a walrus or a seal than a dog, but that’s what he was: Rescue Ink’s new clubhouse dog.



On January 31, 2009, an emaciated red-nosed pit bull wandered into a garage in Murray, Kentucky. When the homeowner returned, she found him there, getting along placidly with her own two dogs. He had puncture wounds on his face and neck, and his face was so swollen he looked like a shar-pei. He had once had ears, but they had been cut or torn off, leaving ragged ribbons of cartilage framing his skull. That soon became his temporary nickname: Ribbon.

The homeowner took the dog to the Humane Society of Calloway County, which arranged to have him boarded at a veterinary office, where he was given antibiotics and pain medication. The strips of flesh that were all that remained of his ears were neatly trimmed and sutured. He just needed time—time to gain weight and for the many wounds on his head, neck, and legs to heal.

But Ribbon also needed a home, and that was a far bigger problem. The humane society’s executive director, Kathy Hodge, was at a loss over what to do with the obviously abused creature. Her shelter had no expertise in abused pit bulls, and she was reluctant to adopt him out. She also did not want to euthanize him if there was any possibility of getting him the rehabilitation he needed.

Kathy had no idea what Ribbon’s story was, and probably never would. She knew that police had busted up a dogfighting ring in a nearby county. Perhaps Ribbon had been turned loose from there. Either way, she had no leads and very few options. So she sent an urgent e-mail out to four reputable pit bull rescue groups that she trusted and respected. One, in Tennessee, forwarded the e-mail to Joe.

“I got the e-mail with the pictures and called Mary,” Joe remembers. “I told her to call these people and tell them we would do whatever they needed. Mary said we have no money to give them. I told her I would get it even if I had to steal it. I know what it feels like to be in this dog’s situation, left for dead, and not know where to go and who you can turn to. I told her, I want this dog here. I will go pick him up even if I have to drive there by myself.”

When the rest of the guys read the e-mail, and saw the pictures of Ribbon, there was an instant connection. He was a survivor, a tough dog who didn’t fold. But while he looked more than a little rough on the outside, wore the scars of where he had been and what he had seen, they hadn’t changed his basic good nature. He still loved life, and people, and other dogs. He was a walking billboard for both the forgiving, loving nature of pit bulls and the atrocities of the fighting ring.

The challenge was getting him up to New York. A few weeks before, at a fund-raising rescue benefit in New Jersey, the Rescue Ink guys had met representatives of Animal Rescue Flights, or ARF, a nonprofit group that transports rescued animals, many of them facing death row at kill shelters, to other parts of the country where loving homes await. Ribbon sounded like a perfect candidate, and Mary immediately got on the phone to arrange for his transport to New York.



G and Joe got some sleep after their late-night arrival with Ribbon. Then they headed to the clubhouse, where everyone had assembled to meet the dog they had heard so much about. When the amber-eyed dog walked into the clubhouse, there was an eruption of elation, curiosity, and for some, relief.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to look at him,” Eric admitted, as Ribbon wagged his tail furiously at him. “He’s going to be really good when we go to the schools. I’d like to see these smart-ass kids laugh at him. You can show all the pictures you want, but when you have an actual dog like this to show people what dogfighting is all about, there’s no comparison.”

The dog’s ears looked terrible, with each ear canal so swollen its sides touched. Still, this was a huge improvement over what Ribbon had looked like when he’d been rescued two weeks before. “The ears were so infected,” remembers Kathy Hodge, “that when the volunteer drove over to pick him up, he got in the car, shook his head, and pus flew all over her car. She spent the rest of the day cleaning it off.”

The closer the guys looked at Ribbon’s wounds, the more disturbing his story became: There were thin cuts around his muzzle and legs, suggested that he had had his mouth tied shut and been hogtied.

As Ribbon made his rounds around the room, sniffing curiously and stopping for back scratches and affectionate thumps, G and Joe told the story of their trip: The tight quarters and freezing temperatures in the tiny airplanes. The joyous reception from Ribbon’s rescuers when they arrived. The generosity of Ribbon’s vet. How Kathy and her humane-society volunteers spent the down time waiting for their delayed plane by rescuing a pig whose ears had been mauled so badly in a probable dog attack that he was Ribbon’s oinking alter ego. (“I would’ve taken the pig back with us,” said Joe in all seriousness, “but there wasn’t any room on the plane.”) How during the flight Ribbon had refused to wear the red coat that Mary had gotten for him, fussing until he eventually wriggled out of it. And how Joe and G had panicked when they tried to rouse the dog and he didn’t move. They thought he was sick; he was just in a deep, contented slumber.

At the dark, deserted Kentucky airport the night before, Ribbon was ready to follow G and Joe wherever they led him. “He jumped up on the wing of the airplane like that’s what he did,” Kathy recalls. “He just looked so comfortable, and he bounced on in there.”

During his convalescence at the vet’s office, Ribbon became very attached to the vet tech who tended to him every day. He showed absolutely no signs of aggression to humans, and was friendly with dogs, too. “We wondered if there was a situation that could flip that switch and make him angry,” Kathy says. But if there was, they never saw any indication that Ribbon was anything less than a sweet, loving dog.

One thing was very clear: Ribbon was extremely food-motivated. His nose was constantly to the ground, looking for morsels. He would sell his soul for a bit of string cheese. This was very good news, as it meant he would be very easy to train.

Then again, Ribbon didn’t need much work on his manners. Yes, he pulled on the leash. But he eagerly sat for a treat, and even offered his paw. “This dog was someone’s pet before,” G said, intently watching Ribbon as he politely took a treat from Johnny O. He was clearly well socialized to people and dogs. He didn’t growl or otherwise protest when someone stuck a hand in his food bowl or tried to take away a bone or rawhide. Even sadder than the story of his abuse was the growing possibility that he had once been someone’s beloved pet and had been stolen to be used as a bait dog.

Ribbon didn’t respond to their calls and whistles, and some of the guys wondered aloud if he was deaf. “When you tell him to sit, he does,” said G, rolling his eyes. “How do you figure he can’t hear?” The verdict would be in soon enough: Ribbon had an appointment at the vet’s office later that afternoon.

Now that Ribbon had met his pack, the next order of business was a new name. While it had served ably as an interim name, Ribbon, everyone agreed, just didn’t suit him. As suggestions were tossed out, Junior wrote them on the dry-erase board on the clubhouse wall. “JD,” short for Jack Daniel’s. “Jim Beam.” “Bourbon.” Clearly, Ribbon’s home state of Kentucky reminded the guys of some powerful hooch. “Cassius” or “Ali,” because the famous boxer hailed from that southern state. “Rebel,” a classic good-ole-boy name.

The guys put it to a vote, and all except Batso, who abstained, wrote their choice on a piece of paper, crumpled it up, and tossed it in a Styrofoam...

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