Help People. Help Dogs.
Stacy & Sterling
Sterling was one of the most amazing dogs to ever come through the GDG program. He was great always and with everything and never ceased to amaze us. We loved him and were thrilled to place him with Stacy. She has become a good friend of ours and is an amazing person with an education, ambition and career we can only shake our heads at. This was a one-in-a-million match made in heaven:
Since all pit bull owners are high-school drop out, drug manufacturing felons, how did you get a job at such a high level of government?
I've skirted by most of my life on my good looks alone - this is the only reasonable explanation for where I am today. I am the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I received a B.A. in Neuroscience from Colorado College, and a M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Kansas. While in graduate school I worked part time in the Governor's office doing minority health policy and constituent services. I am also a certified EMT and assisted autopsies for the Shawnee County Coroner's Office, which provided me with training in mass casualty. When Governor Sebelius was appointed as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, my resume found its way to my current boss, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Our office is responsible for the planning of, response to and recovery from health related emergencies including bioterrorist attacks such as anthrax, smallpox and radiological and nuclear threats, natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods, and health pandemics such as H1N1, for the nation. My academic training in science, bioethics and political philosophy, combined with my experience in emergency response and health policy made me a good candidate for my current position.
Since owning a pit bull shows you have a questionable moral character, how much time of your security check did they spend looking into your pit bull adoption - 98%, 99% or 100%?
They interviewed Sterling for hours upon hours - however he was sworn to secrecy and as the upstanding dog of the U.S. that he is, he won't reveal any of questions they asked him.
How much time do you think the NSA spends keeping Sterling under electronic surveillance?
I imagine they spend more time keeping a watchful eye on him than me. I mean, he's pure muscle, and I'm....well...not.
How does it feel knowing you play a key role in monitoring the health and welfare of US citizens but you are not allowed to live in cities like Denver, CO or Miami, FL just because of the dog you own?
A few weeks ago I took Sterling to the Honda dealership to hang out while I waited for an oil change. There were a number of people in the waiting room who looked skeptical when we walked through the door. Within an hour Sterling had made friends with everyone in the lobby. He sat with one lady while she pet him for at least 45 minutes. As we got up to leave she told me that before we had come in she'd been anxious and enraged at the amount she was about to spend to have her car fixed, and that spending time with Sterling had deescalated her anxiety to the point that she no longer felt irritated. She was an artist and planned to go home and paint his portrait. Sterling did in an hour what I try to do on a daily basis as a public servant - change people's lives for the better. I took my current position with the hopes of making people's day to day lives better, and while I don't go home everyday believing I've changed people's lives, every day I take Sterling out on his walk we make someone's day. He has that effect on people, naturally. So how does it feel to know that technically Sterling should have been muzzled because the car dealership was a few hundred feet on the other side of the line in a part of Maryland where it is mandatory that pit bulls are muzzled at all times? Frustrating and sad, and scary because a few hundred feet could mean the difference between his freedom and his demise.
Is Sterling your first pit bull?
Do you have your pit bull for dog fighting, to guard your drug house, terrorize the neighborhood with your machismo or other? If (other) please list reason:
I didn't mean to get a pit bull. In fact I didn’t mean to get another dog at all. My life-long family dog had recently passed when I ran into a good friend who had adopted three pit bulls from Anthony. Anthony and Katie convinced me to come meet Sterling. I thought maybe I would foster him until they found him a good home, except when I met Sterling it was love at first sight. If I were to ever want another dog, I'd adopt a pit bull in a heartbeat. In truth Sterling is my protector. Even though I don't worry about him showing aggression towards anyone (quite the contrary in fact) I still sleep better at night knowing he is there.
Has anything changed in your life since you adopted a pit bull?
Shortly after I adopted Sterling I moved to DC. I wanted a place with enough space for Sterling and my two cats to live comfortably. To do that I ended up moving into a not-so-good neighborhood. Because of Sterling I became immediate friends with all of my neighbors. He has managed not only to break barriers between people's fear of pit bulls, but helped to break down racial and socioeconomic stereotypes between people in my neighborhood that may have otherwise prevented us from becoming fast friends. In a very strange but real sense Sterling has brought my neighborhood together into a community.
How do your coworkers react when they meet Sterling?
Hesitant, and within 20 minutes, he has melted them into total love. My softball team has officially made Sterling our right fielder, and my office mates can't wait for our company's family day and holiday party so Sterling can come and partake in the events.
How did your family and friends react?
My parents were incredibly skeptical of me adopting a pit bull. The first time I brought Sterling home to meet them he puked all over their rug. But it didn’t take long for him to win them over. I realized how far we'd all come when last week my mom mailed me a newspaper headline from the Topeka Capital Journal that described the release of pit bulls for adoption in Topeka. She was so happy the ban had been repealed. Sterling has turned my mom from being a skeptic into an advocate.
Have you seen any people/pet issues in any of the disaster areas you have visited?
Pets are an incredible part of every disaster and response. I know people in New Orleans who didn’t evacuate during Katrina because they didn’t want to leave their pets. I saw kids all over Haiti after the earthquake with nothing left, but a cat under their arm, and I worked directly with a rescue team that relied solely on the use of a search and rescue dog to locate victims trapped in the Hotel Montana. Our federal response teams include their own division of veterinary services to manage all of the lost and stray pets that result from a major disaster. A pet that survives a disaster can be one of the best therapies to prevent individuals from suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and can be the glue that brings together families to cope with devastating losses. (See GDG'S article FEMA & BSL for more on this.)
What is your favorite thing to do with Sterling?
...our daily walk around the neighborhood when I get home from work. And in a close second, curling up on the couch with him on a lazy Sunday afternoon. He loves watching the New Orleans Saints... good boy.
Can you tell us about Sterling's relationship with your cats?
He's a big baby around the cats. Sometimes he wants to play with them - I'm not so sure he realizes his actual size. Sometimes he gets REALLY jealous when the cats get to sit in my lap and he doesn't. But what happened this morning really sums it all up. I just got a new kitten. He's tiny - just two months old. He's very playful and I've been worried about Sterling being too rough with him. The kitten sleeps by my head and when I woke up this morning he was gone. I started to panic, thinking of everything that might have happened while I was sleeping. As I started to hop out of bed I looked down as I stepped over Sterling's bed that is right next to mine, and there was Sterling, curled up on half of his bed fast asleep as usual, and on the other half of his bed...Professor Longhair, the new kitten, curled up right next to Sterling, both of them sleeping peacefully together.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Sterling is an incredible dog. He is an old soul. He is the most gentle, loving, caring and happy animal that has ever graced my life. When I got Sterling I had just broken off a 5 year long relationship, was moving to a new city where I hardly knew anyone and taking a new job. I would not have made it through the (at times) ugly transition and past year in D.C. without him. I feel blessed every day that he came into my life. I also feel extreme gratitude and appreciation for the work that Anthony and Katie do with all of the pit bulls they work with. A dog like Sterling is a true and incredible gift, and it doesn’t take a genius to recognize the level of energy, time, dedication and love put into these dogs by Anthony, Katie and the rest of their team. This, in its purest form, is public service - and often goes unrecognized for the powerful and positive difference they make in a person’s life, such as mine.
Stacy and Sterling take the White House Photos by Lisa Rauch