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Rescue Story: the Quiet Presence of Bela Lugosi, Part II

Rescue Story: the Quiet Presence of Bela Lugosi, Part II

This article is the second part of a Tooth & Honey Original Perspective Series.  Part 1 was released last week.

Bela’s Necessary Creation of Clothing

The years with Bela that followed reinforced those ideal concepts of being comfortable in your own skin, but Bela came with some challenges: she suffered from literally being uncomfortable in her skin.  After moving to North Carolina, the environment presented no shortage of pollen, and Bela suffered constant skin allergies. Her painful, itchy rashes persisted through most of the year, despite dietary changes, oatmeal baths and various medicines.  The thing that I noticed that helped the most, however, was wearing clothes that minimized allergen contact with her skin.

It started with a t-shirt, then a modified t-shirt, and eventually fitted shirts and pajamas that she looked forward to getting into to escape the pollen. I found myself getting carried away with all the possibilities and designs, and she enabled this craze of creativity that I enjoyed.  When allergy season ended in the winter, she still wanted to wear something, not for the allergies, but because of her thin coat of fur dwindled down by allergies. This was key when I realized that she loves wearing clothes because it relaxes her and swaddles her, turning her into a cuddly teddy bear that only wants to snuggle you.  I realized that a lot of people had similar experiences with their pit bulls, and I started casually selling clothes under the brand I’m a Dog, Keep Me Warm.

Bad Perceptions and the Pink Tutu

I decided to share Bela’s warmth with the world, and eventually Bela became a Canine Good Citizen, as well as a certified Therapy Dog.  I signed her up at a nearby hospital to spread her therapeutic vibes, excited to show people what loving creatures pit bulls are. When I showed up, I was disappointed when the hospital director pre-judged Bela and said she can’t visit the hospital because she looks like she bites, and it will scare the patients.  I was heart-broken, and I wanted to throw in the towel, or at least look for another hospital who wasn’t so judgey. But after thinking of Bela’s values and what she taught me, it became clear that THIS hospital and THIS individual needed to be educated and exposed to Bela, and what she represents for the breed. After a little back-and-forth, the director agreed that Bela can visit the patients if she is made to “look more approachable.”  I didn’t know what that meant, so I did what anyone would do: make a pink tutu for her.

 

When we went back to the hospital, no one could resist the little brown dog wearing the fluffy pink tutu.  She made tons of new friends and created countless smiles and memories for people who needed a boost of serotonin in their day.  My favorite part was when patients asked, “what kind of dog is she?” and I got to proudly reply, “she’s a pit bull.” Their reaction was normally surprised or in disbelief, as most of their perceptions of pit bulls were informed by false narratives and negative stereotypes.  That’s when I knew that I was onto something larger here. I had a vehicle to change those perceptions and beliefs: Bela and I met each other to make this happen.

 

 

The Creation of Tooth & Honey

Merging the “physical necessity” aspect of functional clothes with the “perception enhancement” aspect of cute designs is what led me to change my company’s name and mission in 2015.  I wasn’t just casually selling dog clothes anymore, and it wasn’t just to keep dogs warm. I now had the mission to educate people about these animals who have a bad reputation, but really want nothing more than to love you; the exact thing I felt when I first saw Bela’s honey-colored eyes 6 years before that.  Some people have been conditioned to look at dogs like Bela and only see her teeth, but if they gave her the chance, they would really see that she is as sweet as honey.

Bela has taught me lots of personal lessons, but I credit her mostly with creating Tooth & Honey.  More than just inspiring the name, she inspired me to patiently create this platform to change perceptions, to help more dogs like her, and to spread warmth and love through the world one rubber-ducky pajamaed dog at a time.

 

Drop a comment below! We LOVE hearing from you!

 

Comments (24)

  1. Cathy Kosmann says:

    Love you and your work fir what you have done for Bella and her breed. And many other breeds who get a bad rep. I have a Doberman who is as sweet as our but that’s not what people see. Would love to get some PJ’s for him because he’s always cold but his legs are too long for anything you make. Hope your brand go bigger ! Z

    You made me smile ❤️

  2. Terry Vance Sheldon says:

    Love the story of Bela and how she inspired you! Like her, you don’t stop looking for a better way, and it shows in your doggy wear. Kisses to you and Bela! ??❤️

    1. Ally says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words Terry!! I truly appreciate it!! XO

  3. Thank you for sharing your story!!! It’s making me ugly cry at work!!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you have learned from Bela and what she is able to teach us in return! Please never stop the amazing work you do with advocating for this amazing dog and her misunderstood breed!!!
    I have to admit that I’m a superfangirl of your store and own 90% of the store! I too have felt the ugly discrimination of people and their pre-assumptions of pitbulls. My pretty baby, Tiger Lily, loves wearing sweaters during winter because of her short coat and love of being warm (she got that from me). I love when I walk her around our neighborhood and people say, “You can’t be scared of a dog in sweater.” I don’t know how to say thank you enough!!!!

    1. Ally says:

      Thank you so much for reading!! It truly is amazing how much difference a sweater can make!! Hope you have an awesome day and send tons of kisses to Tiger Lily for us!! XOXOX

  4. JAMeme says:

    Bela in a tutu would help anyone feel better, no matter what they’re doing in a hospital or care center. Now, back to Swan Lake…

  5. Cheryl Sarkisian says:

    You and Bella were meant to be together. Both of you are showing the world that you should never judge a dog or even a person by their outer appearance or based on what other people have said about them. I have a pittie who absolutely loves to wear her pj’s and when she does all I hear from people who have been frightened by her is that she looks adorable in her yellow ducky jammies. ❤️

  6. Lisa says:

    Love you your company and everything you and Bella stand for. My boys LOVE their T and H fleece especially my Jack who had allergies also. You have been kind enough to include extras when I’ve placed gift orders for rescued pits from Puerto Rico who are spending their first winter in the chilly north. Rock on Ally! PS: I use the fleece when it’s raining also because my boys love their walks even in the rain. Any chance you might investigate a water resistant material in the future????

  7. Kim Morrell says:

    I love this!
    I took was instructed to be scared of pit bulls and listened to that advice until I nervously agreed to foster one. Little did I know that she would be one of my foster fails and is one of the sweetest (if not naughtiest..she STILL likes to tear into couches and pillows) pups! I realize that I must have pitties in my life from now on. ❤️

  8. Colette Skurdal says:

    Finally…we now know the story behind the name!!! We knew it had to be something awesome!❤️ And it is!! Thank you for keeping our puppers warm with clothes that actually fit and for all that you do for the many rescue pups!?

  9. Christine says:

    I enjoyed reading yours and Bela’s story. It gave me warm fuzzies. I look forward to getting my big champagne colored pittie boy some pajama’s from you. We loved the sharky ones but I didn’t order in time. Thank you for changing people’s perception of our wonderful breed – the Pitties of all kinds! XOXO

  10. Stephanie Laino says:

    We love your story and we me and faith Ann marie love your clothes thank you .

  11. Debra Keller says:

    We love you Ally! My Big Red Bull loved wearing his ducky jammies and many beautiful sweaters you made. We lost my love to brain cancer but please know my happiest memories are of my big pit bull boy making us laugh wearing his jams. Xoxo Deb

  12. Roz says:

    What a sweet story. I’ve purchased 2 of your PJs for my sweet grandog, Maxi, who also has allergies, is always cold and is a pit mix. Your clothes are spot on!

    1. Ally says:

      Thank you for reading!! Granddogs are the best!! What a lucky pup!! <3

  13. Brandy says:

    So thankful that you came up with the pj’s! My big boy just had to have a mass removed from his upper rump and he cannot tolerate a cone. After many tries with other brands I finally ordered yours and it fits! None of the others accounted for his very large chest or make it easy for him to go to the bathroom. It has been a complete GODSEND! I have two that I have been rotating. He finally gets his stitches out later today but as you mentioned I may have found another reason for keeping these on him. He has horrendous topical and inhalant allergies and is on medication. Vet says best to bathe him weekly, I told the vet he is welcome to come over and bathe my 85 pound bucking bronco if he wants because once a week is just too much for me, lol. His PJ’s have been keeping pollen or other things off his skin really well and he is less rashy!
    All in all I owe you the biggest thanks for making a part of my life that was always such a pain, pretty easy now!! Thanks to BELA as well

    1. Ally says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this!! I am so happy to hear these pjs helped your big boy!! <3

  14. Katy McCabe-Schaller says:

    This was a wonderful story and made me so happy! The rescue we foster for has many pitty foster parents who love your clothing. As well, the pittie nation group I moderate has numerous members who love your clothing. This story makes it all even better. Thank you for making our babies look even sweeter than they naturally are❤️

  15. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful story & even more beautiful pup!!!

  16. Mary says:

    Brought tears to my eyes. So heartfelt. We love all the joy you bring ❤️❤️❤️🐾🐾

  17. Patricia says:

    Thank you for your story! I adopted Bella because she jumped into my lap and kissed me. The nexr day, I realized I had adopted and pitbull and doubted my sanity. I educated myself and now I wouldn’t have any other breed. They are wonderful! I just found your site and I am excited. Bella is NOT self sacrificing. The first hint of cool weather and she wants a warm shirt! I have bought a lot of sweatshirts for her that are too tight in the chest. Harnesses that she can walk right out of because they are not meant for big chested dogs. I just ordered harnesses and a pair of pajamas. I can’t wait to get them! My son rolled is eyes so hard when I told him about this site, he could see the back of his head. Then he laughed, saying I will never be able to get the pajamas off of her!

  18. Nicole Shuler says:

    Made me cry! Reminds me of my rescue Ellie Mae. Thanks for sharing your story and great product!!

  19. Corrine says:

    We have rescued 3 now. I ever grew up with dogs, however waft a difference they make in your life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My youngest suffers with allergies, it was a process of elimination with her food. However she still gets other allergies. All theee if mine were dumped, mainly by where I work (industrial area) the youngest was the size of my hand, had to bottle feed and she was full of worms, thought she was just a fat puppy lol. Now she is a beast. To this day age sucks on blankets to go to sleep. Love you story

  20. Marci says:

    Oh my goodness I love this! I adopted my Henry who is a pit/shar pei mix with horrible skin issues from a high kill shelter. Mostly hairless, skin feels like a komodo dragon and his wrinkled legs are as crusted as his ears. But he is the sweetest, most loving guy and just wants to snuggle all the time. When I first got him I would put a turtleneck on his front and a tshirt on his back and tie them together but he kept getting out of them and I would find him and the shirts and the furniture he had been laying on a bloody mess. I follow Desmond and Luna on Instagram and they referred me to you for the pajamas! I plan to order some and am so very hopeful that will help him, not to mention me! Creativity is born out of necessity and love and you have done a beautiful beautiful service for so many of us! Thank you thank you! And much love to your sweet Bella!

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