October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month and as I am not only the Marketing Director, but also a pit bull mama and a proponent of the breed, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t devote at least one blog post to pit bulls this month.
I never understood the people who owned one breed of dog over and over again. Maybe it’s because I’ve fostered for so long, but there are so many breeds that I like and that I could see living a harmonious life with my family. Why wouldn’t you want to change things up? Try something new? Walk into a shelter and just let fate runs it’s course?
And then I met Stella. Before becoming an Ireland, Stella was used solely for breeding and likely spent most of her life in a crate. She and 20 other dogs were found in the basement of a home that police had busted on drug charges. That was four years ago.
People notoriously like Stella. She’s gorgeous with a blue brindle coat and huge almond shaped brown eyes. She’s 65 pounds, but has a small stature, a big head and cropped ears. She is extremely timid around strangers and in new places and I can assure you that she is more afraid of you than you ever will be of her. But at home….oh man. She’s a maniac. She and our dachshund Jackson are best friends. They play and cuddle and chase each other and steal toys. She can hop straight up in the air, her lips flap when she runs, and she is so lazy in the mornings that she does the army crawl just to avoid walking. If “sofa long jump” was an Olympic event, she would win the gold medal. “Crazy eyes” are a sure sign that she’s in a playful mood. She refuses to jump onto our bed and will only use the doggie steps that we’ve had since we fostered two ancient dachshunds that couldn’t get onto the sofa without the extra help. She is just now learning how to “jump up” and runs to the sofa when my husband gets home from work and waits for him to come close enough that she can stamd on her hind legs and put her front paws on his chest….and then she falls over because she hasn’t mastered balance yet. She makes me laugh – constantly. She is gentle with children, loves other dogs, and is terrified of cats. And she is hopelessly devoted to us. I don’t know how I know that…but I do.
When people see my Stella and ask “What kind of dog is she?” I tell them she’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a response that is always met with puzzled looks. So I sigh, and say “she’s a pit bull.” Eighty percent of the time no one flinches when I saw the “P” word, but the other 20% of the time I see “the look”. You know the one. It’s the look that says “I’ve heard about pit bulls and I know they are vicious, violent, good-for-nothing dogs, and nothing you can say is going to change my mind.”
I KNOW there’s nothing I can say. I KNOW the people reading this fall in the 80%. I KNOW that I can’t overcome the stereotypes. But that doesn’t stop me. Give me an opening and I will tell you how amazing my dog and why you should think so too.
I will tell you that “pit bull” is a generic term that four other breeds fall under: American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terrier. They are individual breeds just as labradors, goldens and tollers are all retrievers.
I will tell you that pit bulls have a long and rich history beginning in 1800’s England. Their courageous nature made them valuable as “bull bait” until baiting a bull with a dog was deemed inhumane. The lower class turned to dog fighting as entertainment but the dogs were never bred to be aggressive towards humans. The dogs were brought to American and highly valued as they protected their family from predators, were agile in the fields, and could be trusted with their children. Many felt that their friendly, brave and courageous nature was symbolic of the American people and the dogs could often be found on posters and advertisements and were synonymous with Americana.
I will tell you that trying to find an unbiased report about dog bites is impossible. Websites are either pro-pit bull or anti-pit bull and the numbers can be manipulated in either side’s favor. What I do know is that in the very micro-population of the ARL, pit bull residents far exceed that of other breeds known for biting like Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Great Danes and Saint Bernards. One COULD conclude, if one wanted to, that there are more pit bulls in shelters because there are more pit bulls out of shelters. I don’t think anyone would argue that pits are more prevalent than St. Bernards and that it’s likely if we look at the population of a breed vs. the occurrence of that breed biting, it’s possible that the numbers are not quite as black and white as the news would have us believe.
I will tell you that so much of what you hear is myth. Pit bulls don’t have locking jaws – no dog does. Most pit bulls are bred for…..nothing. Not to fight, not to breed. Nothing. Pit bulls are not “naturally vicious.” If raised well (like any dog), they are naturally loving.
I will tell you that I’m not blind. I work in shelter that services a large urban population and every single day, I see pit bulls come in that aren’t all of the things I love about my Stella. Even knowing that…SEEING it first hand – it doesn’t change my mind. Those dogs aren’t born that way. Period. They are the victim of their environment. I think this quote from DogTime.com says it perfectly, “The bull breeds are often grossly misunderstood. The qualities that make these dogs tenacious players in obedience and agility games also attract highly unscrupulous people looking for strong competitors for their dog fighting rings.”
And I will tell you that now; I’m one of those people. I get it. I’m a dog owner that just wants to own a million more pit bulls. I love everything about the breed and I just want to smothered in pittie kisses and post Instagram pictures of huge pittie smiles and fight tirelessly for the breeds (plural, because there are multiple breeds under the pit bull category…remember?) that I’ve grown to know and love.
The thing that spurred me to write this post is that I’ve noticed lately a large number of adopters coming through our doors saying “I have a pit at home, and I’d like to adopt another one.” I love that. I think good pit bull owners are as tenacious as the dogs they love. We are loyal to our dogs and we will do anything to protect them and we’ve all taken an unspoken pact when we became pit bull parents. We’ve vowed to be breed ambassadors. We’ve taken on the responsibility of always setting our dogs up for success, of being the voice for those that can’t speak, and to stand up for the rights they’ve had taken from them. I can’t change minds by myself, but together? Yeah. Together we can change anything.
The ARL is celebrating Pit Bull Awareness month by offering reduced price pit bull & pit bull mix adoptions. View our adoptabulls here.