ABOUT US

Tilly's Pit Crew was founded on the idea that every dog deserves a chance, no matter what they look like, and pit bull dogs are no different.  

You may be wondering "who IS Tilly"?  Tilly was a very special dog who spent months at our shelter.  Over time she became the favorite of many of the staff and volunteers, but she was instantly my favorite.  I was not in a position to adopt her so I spent as much time with her as I could.  I looked forward to our walks twice a week as much as she did.  I truly saw her shine when I took her to a fundraising event for the shelter.  She was the life of the crowd and had everyone in the place, puddy in her paws.  She had quite a few people inquire about her.   She was definitely changing minds about pit bulls that night, and I was so proud of her!

A few weeks went by and we got word that she had someone interested in adopting her.  We were all so happy for her.  But I will admit, a little part of me was sad to know that I may never see her again.  How do you cry tears of happiness and sadness at the same time?  We all waited as the adoption became final.  I will never forget the last time I saw Tilly before she went to her new home.  It was a Thursday night and she had a "donut" on so she couldn't lick her spay incision.  She just layed around in her kennel looking as sad as she could.  I went in and sat with her and talked to her.  I told her how much I love her and that she needed to be a very good girl because her new mom loves her very much.  I cried, she licked my tears.  Then I left.  I was so very happy she was going home,.  I mean that IS the whole point of the adoption thing...getting dogs and cats into homes.  But I was sad to see my Silly Tilly go.

The next week I went to the shelter to walk dogs and knew her kennel would have another dog in it, and it did.  I smiled knowing she was in a home where she deserved happiness and love.

Weeks went by.  I remember thinking about her at Christmas, and hoping she was having a wonderful life playing with new toys.  A few more weeks went by.  Again, I was at the shelter walking dogs and I saw her name on the board labeling which dogs were in which kennels. Tilly was returned.  My heart sank.  I had a pit in my stomach.  It was, indeed, MY Tilly.  She was being kept off the adoption floor which isn't completely uncommon when a dog is brought into the shelter, but something wasn't right.  It felt "off".  So I left to walk another dog, sobbing the whole time.  Nobody said animal welfare was easy on your heart!  

The next day I received an email from the shelter director wanting to talk to me about Tilly.  To make a long story short, Tilly's owner brought her back due to no fault of Tilly, but she didn't want to say that.  The owner said Tilly was severely people aggressive and that the trainer she hired said there was nothing more that could be done.  My first thought was that she needed a new trainer.  Tilly did not leave the shelter a "people aggressive" dog, and she didn't come back that way.  However, the shelter needs to take owner information seriously, and if we're all being honest, nobody wants any type of dog in their neighborhood that is severely people aggressive.  So a decision had to be made based on the information that was given to us.    
 It is NEVER easy to make decisions like this, but sometimes in the animal welfare world, you have to do things that absolutely BREAK your heart.  As we stood there hugging and crying we accepted what needed to be done.  I left her office and played with Tilly one last time.  I hugged her, I kissed her, we played, I laughed, I cried, and she kissed away my tears.  

As my sweet Silly Tilly took her last breath, I held her big beautiful head in my hands with my tears dropping on to her face, and told her over and over again how much she is loved.  I promised her that she will live on and that I will see her again someday at the bridge.

It was some time later that we were given the true information of why she was returned, and by that time is was too late.  Yes, I lose sleep over it, I cry over it, and I HATE that it happened the way it did.  It pushes me EVERY SINGLE DAY to fight HARD  for these dogs, and I will never stop.  Tilly will live forever through us.

The origin of the name Tilly means "mighty in battle". We don't know her background, but with Tilly on my side, I will do everything in my  power to defend pit bull dogs, and sometimes it seems like an up hill battle, but all dogs deserve a chance.  Together WE can make a difference! 

They say you shouldn't cry because it's over, rather smile because it happened.  I say....do both.

~Tracy
Founder of Tilly's Pit Crew



Who Are We?

 Tracy Firgens, President / Founder
   My "pit bull" life started  in the spring of 2009 when my family adopted a 5 month old "terrier mix" we named Lewis.  He was a ball of energy and so much fun.  He fit in great with our other dogs, got along great with kids, and loved to play with our cats.  That summer our community proposed Breed Specific Legislation and my whole world changed.  I found myself  having to defend my puppy just because of the way he looked.  I decided to speak in front of the common council along with others from the community.  I am happy to say, the ordinance was unanimously voted down!  A few of the common council members wanted to form a commity to re-write our "dangerous dog" laws, and I was happy to be asked to be included.  I am very proud of the ordinance as it stands, making sure that it was specifically written that no dog can be deemed dangerous based on its breed. 
 
  After that, I became an advocate for pit bulls and sought out more people like me.  Let's face it, if you own a pit bull, you're dog isn't always loved by everyone.  Belonging to a group of people who love these dogs as much as you do can be very comforting.  I found Brew City Bully Club in Milwaukee.  I started volunteering for them and quickly loved it.  Eventually I became their volunteer coordinator.  I found myself training others on how to represent these dogs in a positive light to our communities.  Our meetings were held at MADACC which opened my eyes even furter.  Sheboygan doesn't have an "animal control" like large cities do, but we do still have a "pit bull problem".  

  Fast forward to present day...I began volunteering at our humane society in early fall 2015.  Of course the pit bull type dogs were my favorite to walk and hang out with.  Then Tilly happened.  (read the above story).  Do you ever just "know" when your calling is standing in front of you?  That thing that you can't shake?  That inner voice that would scream at you if it could?  Ya, that's what happened.  I wanted so badly for SOMEONE to do something for these dogs, and then I realized, that voice has been telling me all along that the person to do something, is ME! 

  Whether you have a pit bull type dog or know someone who does.  Whether you are reading this because you are thinking about adding one to your family or looking for help with yours.  Whether you want to get involved with our organization, or just want to know about what we do...THANK YOU for taking the time to find out about us.  We encourage you to spread the word about us, and to volunteer or donate if you can.  We can't do it alone!






Tara Johanek, Lead Trainer

  
  Tara has been working with dogs for over 20 years.  Her love of dogs started as a young girl in 4-H obedience courses through Packerland Kennel Club and continued through adulthood.  She has worked with many rescues and shelters focusing on pit bull type dogs, along with difficult behaviors for new adoptive parents.  She has also successfully worked with and rehabilitated dogs from dog fighting cases.    Her passion is behavior based training working with the human to learn strong pack leadership mentality and building that bond with your dog.  Tara has taken part in advanced obedience training, dock dog competitions and agility with her own dogs.
In her own words:
My true love of pit bull dogs began in 2000 when I started volunteering at a local shelter.  I noticed the highest percentage of dogs in the shelter were pit bulls.  I did my research and worked with a local behavorist who focused on pit bull dogs.  As I started to volunteer, I noticed a skinny tan & white female in a kennel.  She was quiet and sat in the corner waiting patiently for someone to save her.  She had been there for 9 months, and sadly was being put on the "list".  I began to work with this skinny little pit bull; one who they said would never be able to be around other dogs.  Her past was an unfortunate, sad story.  Her name was, and still is Cali.  I took Cali home for a two week trial.  After day 1, she was mine.  That is what began my journey with this type of dog and also being a positive advocate to showcase who they really are if given the chance.  Cali May started my passion and she is my rock, heart, and soul.  After Cali went through 6 months of training with me, I got my second rescue pit bull, Kaesha.  I now have 4 dogs total.  Cali, Kaesha, Diesel (also a pit bull), and Repo, a Chihuahua/Jack Russel mix.  
In the end, my dogs saved me, and I want to share that love and passion with the community.








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