Animal World
 
Shining World Compassion Award: Tia Torres - A Passion for Pit Bulls      
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Everywhere in the world, we can observe and be touched by acts of kindness. People from all walks of life, faiths, and cultures extend themselves beyond the call of duty to help others unconditionally. Through their noble deeds, humanity as a whole is elevated.

To commend virtuous actions and encourage more people to be inspired by their examples, Supreme Master Ching Hai has lovingly created a series of awards, including the Shining World Leadership Award, Shining World Compassion Award, Shining World Hero and Heroine Awards, Shining World Honesty Award, Shining World Protection Award, Shining World Intelligence Award, and Shining World Inventor Award, to recognize some of the most exemplary, generous, caring, and courageous people who walk amongst us.

Today’s program features Pit Bull dog lovers Tia Torres and Ben Arnold of California, USA. Ms. Torres operates the largest rescue facility for abandoned and abused Pit Bulls in the US called the Villalobos Rescue Center, caring for as many as 200 dogs at a time, runs Underdawgz, a program in which prison parolees care for the animals, and is the star of the popular Animal Planet channel show, “Pitbulls and Parolees.” One extremely cold winter night Ms. Torres noticed Ben Arnold, then homeless, and his two beloved Pit Bull mix friends in the town of Tehachapi, California.

I stopped at a gas station last winter, just north of here. And it was a full-on blizzard, snowing. It was absolutely freezing temperatures. And I saw this guy with a big, big backpack and a sleeping bag, and he was playing with his dogs off to the side, and you could tell they were part Pit Bull, it was pretty obvious. And he looked homeless. So I left, and came back later that night to get something, and it was late, and by now the snow was just coming down.

And it was so cold, I can’t even tell you how cold it was, wind blowing, and there he was. This same guy, he was now in front of the building. He was trying to get underneath the little overhang. But he had his blanket and sleeping bags wrapped around his dogs. And there he was just sitting with his jacket, just shaking. And he was all dirty, and the dogs, I could see their little heads peeking out.

And I am watching from the comfort of my car and the heater going. People just walking past him, just walking past him, not one person said anything to him. I thought, “How do you not notice that? How do you not see this man trying to keep his dogs warm?”

So I got out, and I just asked him who he was and his dogs’ names. And he was a nice, friendly guy, and he told me his story. He said that he was originally from Kentucky (USA), and he’d had some problems at home, and he had to leave. He had nowhere else to go, and he had made his way across country to California.

As she has done countless other times in her life, Ms. Torres decided to help the young man and his Pit Bull mix companions, Nina and Angel.

And I said, “Well, I’m not leaving you here.” So I went down to a hotel and asked if they could have dogs there, and came back, got him and took him to this hotel. And I didn’t really know what I was going to do with him, and they kept him in the hotel for a couple of weeks. The word got out. We started asking for help because the hotel was getting really costly, and people started donating a little bit of money here and there to pay for him for another night at the hotel, for another pizza, bought him some clean clothes, and stuff for his dogs. He said he wanted to go back to Kentucky, and so we raised a little bit of money and drove him back to Kentucky.

Mr. Arnold is very grateful for Tia Torres’ warmhearted assistance, and believes that through generous and kind people such as her, God is always taking care of him. Today he lives in a motorhome that Ms. Torres gave him.

I've been through some tough situations traveling, but I've never gone hungry. In situations like when I met Tia, He didn't let me starve. He didn't let me freeze to death. I've got all my fingers and toes. You just have to ask the right questions and you have to have the right intentions. You put out positive, positive comes back.

Pit Bulls are very gentle and completely devoted to their caregivers. But many people misuse this loyalty and train them to be aggressive towards other people or to participate in dog fights. However, Tia Torres knows from her own experience that these dogs can be readily rehabilitated.

The retraining process should be fairly quick, especially with the animal aggression. We get a lot of former fighting dogs. There’re cupcakes. We have a 100% success rate, let’s put it that way, with rehabilitating fighting dogs. And they are in great homes and doing wonderful things now. So it’s a very good success rate.

Animal shelters often have a challenging time finding homes for Pit Bulls, because people often mistakenly believe that the dogs must have been taught to be violent before being placed in the shelter.

The majority of Pit Bulls you see in the shelter are strays. They are just homeless dogs. They’ve done nothing wrong. They’ve not committed a crime. They don’t have any issues. They are just homeless. The thing too is that people see the way they look, and assume the worst.

Not content with simply rescuing Pit Bulls, Ms. Torres decided she wanted to help society in other ways, so in 2006 she founded the Underdawgz program, pairing up prison parolees with rescued dogs, as a way for both the humans and animals to be successfully re-integrated into society. This unique program has earned Tia Torres many accolades, and eventually led to the popular reality TV series “Pitbulls and Parolees.” How did the series begin?

It started in 2007. Los Angeles voted us one of their 10 most important people. And they did a story on us in a magazine. And production companies started approaching us. “Have you ever thought about a reality show?” And I’m like, “No, no.” Guys coming out of prison who were having a hard time getting work, having a hard time re-integrating back into society, come work here. And the thing is the dogs don't know that they’ve just come out of prison. The dogs don't know what tattoos are. So these men have nothing to explain or prove. The dogs are just the dogs. The dogs love them. They land here, and they slowly start to find their way back into the free world.

For her altruistic spirit and efforts, Supreme Master Ching Hai honored Tia Torres with the Shining World Compassion Award and provided US$10,000 for her rescue mission facility. Supreme Master Ching Hai also gifted US$3,000 to Ben Arnold and his dog companions, to help out with love, love, and love. Our Association members visited Ms. Torres and Mr. Arnold to present the prestigious Award and gifts on Supreme Master Ching Hai’s behalf.

Ms. Torres was given a beautifully framed, personal letter from Supreme Master Ching Hai, the following of which is an excerpt.

Dear Ms. Torres, It gives us the very greatest pleasure to present to you the “Shining World Compassion Award.” This Award is given in recognition of your kind empathy towards both human and canine underdawgz. Your outstanding work in providing safety and a new life for pit bulls and parolees as well as your selfless spirit of service is expanding the amount of beauty and goodness on Earth and for this, we are most grateful.

The way you offered your generous assistance to Ben and his two pit bull mix canine friends Angel and Nina, is just one example of the kindness in your heart. For selflessly working to reveal the noble qualities of pit bulls and parolees, for your strength in holding on to your vision, for your wisdom, creativity and kind-hearted generosity, and for using the gift of your life in such a remarkably useful and beneficial way, we hereby applaud and celebrate the compassionate deeds of Ms. Tia Maria Torres. With Great Honor, Love and Blessing, Supreme Master Ching Hai.

Oh, my God, I’m lost. I’m very rarely lost for words, but I am. This is great. This means a lot. Her words get to me.

Ms. Torres then received her magnificent crystal Award plaque and a check for US$10,000 for the Rescue Center. She was also given a number of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s CDs, DVDs, and books including the #1 international bestsellers “The Birds In My Life,” “The Dogs In My Life,” and “The Noble Wilds.”

Oh, wow! I love this. I absolutely love this.

Thank you so much, oh, my God, thank so much, wow!

This is one of the coolest things that has ever happened. This is great! This is gorgeous. Wow!

Ms. Torres conveyed the following thoughts about Supreme Master Ching Hai.

I feel like the woman is the strength behind a lot of what we do here. I raised my kids as a single mother, and I’ve raised my daughters to be strong, and this proves that once again there is another strong woman out there in this universe that’s doing some good things, and I’m speechless. I’m taken aback that you noticed our little old “Ben story” and I’m just touched that you saw the good in him like I did. I don't think what I did was an act of heroism. I think I did what should have been done. So I thank you for believing in him and wanting to help him like I did.

Our thanks go to you, Tia Torres, as well as to your family, the staff at the Villalobos Rescue Center, and to you, gentle Ben Arnold, for your kindness to all beings. Your lives are shining examples of love in action, and models for us all. May Heaven bless you and all your Pit Bull friends, and grant you great success in all your future, noble endeavors.

For more information on the Villalobos Rescue Center, please visit www.VRCPitbull.net
Find out more about the “Pit Bulls and Parolees” TV series at www.Animal.Discovery.com/tv/pitbulls-and-parolees

Gentle viewers, thank you for watching this edition of the Shining World Award series. May all the world’s animals and humans enjoy enteral lives of dignity and freedom.

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