The story of Armando "Mando" Galindo is a tale of second chances. Or perhaps it's a tail.
Galindo is spokesperson for the Villalobos Rescue Center and appearance representative for Animal Planet's show "Pit Bulls and Parolees." He started with the show as a parolee, fresh off a recent sentence for fraud.
Galindo, 41, was a featured guest at the inaugural Wheels for Hope car show, held at Hillcrest Park Saturday. Organizer Karen Eschenbauch said the organization uses interest in cars to spread a message of responsible pet care —especially spaying and neutering of animals.
Q: Explain the show to somebody who's never seen it.
A: Basically, it pairs pitbulls, which are the most maligned breed in the world, and parolees, who are the most maligned humans in the world. Because of the stigma that is put on both, what the show does is pairs a pitbull with a parolee and they rehab each other. They go through training. The parolees learn compassion, they learn responsibility. Basically, it gives them purpose and a way to integrate back into society.
Q: Is a lot of what happens to pitbulls the brunt of a bad owner's actions?
A: For sure. I believe because of negative press, negative media, there's been this stigma that's been placed on pitbulls. The do get the short end of the stick, so to speak, when it comes to an incident that involves a pitbull.
Q: Is it, in your mind, like General Motors getting blamed for drunk driving crashes?
A: I think so.
Q: How did you get involved in the show?
A: The show started at Villalobos Rescue Center. The owner/operator is Tia Torres. The show is based on her everyday life. She decided, along with her husband, to give parolees an opportunity to integrate back into society. Her husband became a parolee.
Q: How did you come in?
A: I got involved since the very beginning of the show four years ago, about 2008. I've been with the program ever since. I was a graduate of the program. I was the guinea pig, and that's how we figured out the program worked.
For me, it's been life-changing. I went from being very discouraged and possibly going back into my crime days, to now being in my fourth season on an award-winning show. It's amazing. With the help of pitbulls and Villalobos, I've been able to turn my life around.
Q: How did you get to Clovis for a car show?
A: The great people at H&H Tattooing, Karen and Greg (Eschenbauch). Villalobos moved from California to Louisiana and New Mexico. Karen heard about it online, and they decided they wanted to spend their vacation volunteering for Villalobos helping dogs move from California to New Mexico. That's how I met Karen.
She brought (the show) up to me two months ago. She thought Clovis was ready for something like this, to bring awareness and education. Five years ago, they used to gas the dogs here. Since that has changed, the community has changed. We figured there would be positive response to an event like this. We figured since Villalobos is in New Mexico, we figured why not loan our status and bring awareness and education and a sense of community and family to Clovis?
The purpose of Wheels for Hope is to bring education, awareness and responsible pet ownership; not just pit bulls, but pets. It's just to bring a sense of community and family fun to Clovis.
Q: As a person who has some experience with animals now, what's the No. 1 mistake you see of animal owners?
A: The No. 1 mistake animal owners have or do is they don't know what kind of pet they have. They don't research where their dog or cat came from. They don't have genetics or history. Was the dog abused? Does it come from a puppy mill? All of those factors come into play, because that's going to determine the temperament of your animal.
I'm going to compare it to being in prison, because that's my past experience. You have all kinds of difference backgrounds. You have races, like you have dog breeds. You never really know what you're going to get until you're around that person or animal 24 hours a day. You get to know them, spend time and open yourself up. You get to experience what they have been through, or at least try to understand compassion.
— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Kevin Wilson