This post is a repeat post (with some edits) of one of the very first post I made to the Blog. It's a topic near and dear to my heart and one I feel justifies a re-post in honor of national dog day and to help to continue to break the walls of prejudice against pitty's. (I know some of you are rolling your eyes. Just excuse yourself and go back to Facebook if you aren't going to have an open mind).
Strolling down the street sporting quirky polka-dot rain boots, neon green sunglasses, and a hot pink top I am everything but intimidating; yet the mother walking towards me grabs her son by the arm and drags him across the street faster than a toupee lost in a wind storm. I can't figure it out; maybe it’s her purple argyle leash, or her hot pink Vera Bradley collar that make her so threatening. No, no, I got it, it's the kidney bean dance she does when she sees someone who might want to say 'hello'. I'd be pretty intimidated by those dance moves too, especially since I look like a scare crow with birds up my overalls when I dance. However, there’s really nothing threatening about her, I promise. Her name is Massey. She's a 7 year old Boxer/Catahoula Leopard mix, a Pit Bull, and you're more likely to be eaten by a shark while walking down the street than bitten or mauled by her.
First, a little background;
I am a bit embarrassed to admit that my husband was once part of the “poop on pibbles campaign.” He made it explicitly clear (on multiple occasions) that we would never foster, much less own, a Pit Bull. Being the exceptionally wonderful wife that I am, I completely disregarded his warning and brought Massey home while he was at work. She was our 4th foster and our first "foster failure". Not only does she have the BIGGEST and best personality ever, she also served as our seizure detector for our Lab, Milo up until he was diagnosed with EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Deficiency) and the seizures stopped.
It has been about 2 years since she joined our home and she is an invaluable and incredibly loved member of our family. To hear my husband say “our home will always have a pibble,” warms my heart and only stokes the fire within me to continue to be an advocate for the breed(s).
I want to clarify something; Pit Bull is NOT a breed but rather a classification of a group of dogs that all possess similar body characteristics, i.e. muscular legs and torso or boxy head; Boxers, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, American Stafford Terriers, etc. are all members of this not so honorary team.
My father always spoke to the importance of experiences in your life. A prime example is telling a child not to touch a hot stove. Naturally, the child’s first instinct is to touch the stove. We learn through experience and I fear we as a society are distancing ourselves from the idea that our experiences are the catalyst that help us to develop our opinions. Now, we simply believe what others, more specifically the media, publishes and leave it at that. I would bet 90% of all people who have ill views of Pit Bulls have never had a personal experience with this category of dog and that is truly and utterly heartbreaking. What’s more upsetting is this display of seer ignorance hurts no one other than the dogs. Thousands upon thousands of dogs suffer because people are too close minded and ill-hearted to really care at all about the reasons why they feel the way they do.
One of the reasons you hear so much about Pit Bull attacks in the “news” is simply because A; it’s what sells right now and B; they are one of the most commonly found dogs in American homes. Obviously, the more there are the higher their bite numbers will be. There are also a significant number of reported dog bites by labs. Once again, a popular family dog. You don’t hear about the Cocker Spaniel who bites its owner on the doopa because they are far less common in homes and therefore far less likely to have a high percentage of reported bites. The numbers are all relative to the number of dogs in the general population.
One of my BIGGEST pet peeves surrounding the Pit Bull debate is the theory that “it’s all in how they are raised.” Yes, if you teach a dog (any dog) to fight and be aggressive it will no doubt be aggressive in nature BUT some dogs are wired wrong just like some people are wired wrong. The mother who loved her child unconditionally, provided all the nurturing and support she possibly could is no more at fault for that child growing up to be a serial killer than the person who adopts a puppy and raises it with love and nurturing only for it to turn around and bite the mailman.
Look at Michael Vick's dogs, several of them went on to become therapy dogs or great family pets. I have seen dogs surrounded in love, trained with only positive reinforcement and they grow to be some of the most aggressively driven dogs I have ever met. I have also witnessed dogs tied to poles in backyards, taught to fight and kill who go on to be rescued and are some of the most passive and gentle creatures you will ever have the pleasure of interacting with. There is more to it then just how they are raised.
Many people forget that dogs are animals. As much as we love them and think of them as family members they are still and always will be animals. So many times I see people post a picture or a video of their toddler hugging their family dog around the neck and giggling louder than a fire cracker on the fourth of July. Sure, it’s cute but when you look at the dog and take note of the wide eyes, tense body, and tucked tail it becomes evident that the dog is uncomfortable and the situation is dangerous. Far too often people completely ignore their pups’ body language and just assume “they are going to be a good dog.” It has nothing to do with being a good or bad dog and everything to do with their natural instincts. It is in their nature to want to protect themselves just as it is in our nature to do the same. So the next time you see a story about a Pit Bull (or any dog) mauling a child or an adult, yet the details of what happened prior to the attack are vague or missing all together, ask yourself why. I wholeheartedly believe the majority of dog bites could be avoided if only people were educated about dog body language and would teach their children how to respect a dog’s space and boundaries. Would you want someone squeezing you around your neck or tugging on your ear?
Half the battle is irresponsible breeders who care more about money and less about the dogs they breed and the people whose homes they end up in. If Hill Billy Joe and Hill Billy Sue, who are siblings, get together and have baby Hill Billy Bob, Hill Billy Bob is likely to be sick. The same applies to dogs. If blood lines are crossed you may get a dog that appears normal on the outside but inside, things are just not quite right. You see this a lot with Blue Nose Pit Bulls. They are widely sought after and therefore breeders will go to whatever extent they need to, to create a product that sells, even if it’s not safe. Their negligence and greed has led to a pandemic of aggressive Blue Nose pit Bulls. Is this to say all Blue Nose Pit Bulls are aggressive? No, absolutely not but it does speak to the importance of doing your research when looking to purchase a dog from a breeder. It also serves as a reminder that as long as demand is present and people keep buying, backyard breeders will always exist.
Also, Pit Bull owners are not all gang-bangers with tattoo’s tallying their 'hits'. Most of us are ‘normal’ people with jobs and families we love. Some of us are young, some of us are single or married or even elderly. Some of us are handicapped and rely on our pibbles to be our eyes or ears, or sense when we are not well. Pit Bulls are loving and gentle, smart and loyal. Everything the stereotypes say they aren't or can’t be.
So, to the women who did the chimpanzee (when a parent is practically dragging their toddler by the arm in an effort to get them to move faster) with her son to get out of mine and Massey’s path, I implore you to learn from your own experiences and say ‘hello’ to Massey. You might decide that Pit Bulls aren’t as bad as you thought. You might even LIKE her.
As for me, I will keep being THAT person who displays her love for the worlds most hated category of dog with bumper stickers and ‘I love my Pit Bull”’ t-shirts.
With over 10 years of experience through ownership and rescue work, I hope to share my knowledge and insight to happier, healthier fur kids. Have a question, feel free to ask!