Last Saturday, October 23rd, I had the privilege of volunteering at the Humane Society of Greater Akron.
It was National Pit Bull Awareness Day and they decided to celebrate it, since we have quite a few Pitties and Pit mixes there.
Ohio is, I believe, the only state that has breed specific legislation that names Pits and Pit-types in specific. The mere fact that we have this biased law acutely shames me as a native Ohioan of over 10 generations. I am going to write to all my state reps as soon as this stupid, ridiculously annoying election is over! (And there are the even stupider insurance companies! I need say no more!)
I think the Staff and the event organizers should get Huge Kudos. They had Myth-Busting Pit Facts posted all over the place, a most informational display of Pits in History and Pits Who Are Own Their Famous People.
AND the best...(fanfare, please):
Pick The Pit!
(Frankly, I think the whole display should be a permanent one at the shelter. It might answer a lot of questions as we guide guests who come on tours.)
Pick The Pit! was a wall display of about 15 breeds, all purebred, including a Lab, American Bull Dog, Dogo Argentino, a Rottweiler, a Fila, etc. I did guess a lot of them correctly but I didn't guess the Pit. Nor did most people including some staff!!! We had a prize of a raffle ticket if you guessed it right at the first crack. No one got it right the first guess!. Most people guessed the picture of the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog as the Pit, myself included. There were a lot of bully breeds in the Pick The Pit pictures but it just goes to show. We just don't know! Appearances can be deceiving.
Until I started volunteering at the HSGA almost 2 years ago, I had had almost no interaction with Pits or the "Bully" Breeds except at AKC and UKC shows. I knew folks who had Boxers, Frenchies, English Bulldogs, etc. All I knew (and it wasn't much) was that they were strong, exuberant dogs. What training I had was from my wonderful old instructor Pat Piazza. She pretty much taught us "dogs are dogs" and she expected good behavior and focus from all dogs, from the Chihuahuas to the Rotties and Giant Schnauzers we had in class. It was from her firm tutelage that I learned to not be afraid of Rottweilers. They were my first "Bully" Teachers almost 17 years ago.
I'd read tons of dog books, watched videos, took 5 years of classes, trained and showed dogs, show them for other people on a limited basis, got CGCs, Therapy, Agility and obedience titles on my own dogs. Etc. etc. etc. Blah-blah-blah.....
When I began to volunteer at the Humane Society, I learned that all I know about dogs is Jack. These abandoned, neglected dogs have been my teachers. And since the HSGA has so many Pitties and Pit Mixes, my teachers have almost all been Pitties!
Guess what? I still don't know Jack! I learn every time I interact with the dogs, the super staff, the other volunteers.
Let me tell you what I HAVE learned about Pitties:
*They ARE strong, exuberant dogs. But so are Newfoundlands and Malamutes! If you've ever have one of those breeds jump on you at 100+ pounds, you'd get what I'm saying. I had a 28 pound dog that NEVER got the whole "walking on a loose leash" thing ever. Yes, there are some of the bigger dogs (regardless of breed) that I don't feel physically equipped to walk. But I've learned that it has nothing to do with "OMG, it's a Pit!"
* I've learned to love those ridiculously fast-wagging, whip-like, "dangerous." tails. (Yes, I've heard that, I swear!) Ha-ha! Whatever. So is a Lab tail. Just ask any Lab owner and they'll tell you The Lab Tail is a great way to clear your coffee table! When a Pittie is doing the whole Happy Butt Tail Wag it becomes a rubber pretzel of joy!
*Many of the Pitties I've met at the HSGA will try to sit in your lap and give you kisses, just like a nice little lap dog. They often succeed. They just weigh more and have bigger tongues! There is something really cool about having this wiggling bundle of love flop at your feet to get belly rubs. Or put their magnificent heads on your leg, sigh, relax, sending loving warmth through your body.
And perhaps the most important thing:
*Beauty and love comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. The Pits at the HSGA are a rainbow of colors!
Although I really love my Australian Cattledogs and I think I'd always want one or be involved with them, one of the most important things I've learned working as a volunteer at the HSGA is the "right" dog for you (or me) may be the one you least expect. It might be a Pitbull! Twenty years ago I'd never heard of Cattledogs. Seventeen years ago, I never would have thought I would be a decent Cattledog mom.
I learned that to be prejudiced about a breed or breed type (say, The Bully Breeds) makes as much sense as the attitudes I've gotten over the years because of my vision.
"My wife/husband will NEVER GET a Pitbull so forget it, I won't even look at them!" makes as much sense as: "Look at you! You read close, your eyes are funny-looking so you can't do this or that." How do you KNOW unless you let me try?
Or, "I won't let that person of color (or sex) operate on me, fix my car, be my friend!" In this day and age, we KNOW that is offensive, ignorant and bloody unfair! How do you KNOW? That person could save your life, be Super-Reliable Mr/Ms. Fix-it or be your life-long best friend.
Question: How are these things different from the Pit Mis-Judgments?
Answer: they are not.
How do you know unless you look at EVERY dog as "just a dog" that you're not standing right in front of your canine soul-mate?
How do you know if that particular Pit isn't the prefect dog for you? It's a DOG, for heaven's sake. But if we don't change the stupid laws and educate people, how will anyone be able to make an educated choice?
Here's another idiotic argument: "Well, you can't "DO" anything with a Pit! They're just fighting dogs and that's it!" (I swear, I have heard this one too!)
Boy, you need to scope out the activities in the AKC (now that they are giving Limited Status to mixed breeds) and the UKC which has AMBOR registries. You can compete with your dog, any dog, in Agility, Obedience, Flyball, Weight Pulling etc. There's Tracking, Therapy, Cart-Pulling, Back-Packing, or the ultimate: Search & Rescue or Assistance Dog! And you need to scope out the Pitties and Pit Mixes who have excelled in all these different arenas. It's all time, training and talent (the dog's), really. I personally enjoy competing in and participating in Dog Activities with my dogs. At the moment, I'm not sure I've got any dog in my house to do stuff with! Maybe my young dog. Maybe The Unknown Dog in my future.
Maybe there is a Pit in my future. I have no idea. We have three dogs now and that's plenty! But my experience at the HSGA has taught me that when I will go looking for a dog in the future, I will see if the dog is right for MY lifestyle. I will see if our energies match! And I will keep my mind and heart open to ANY breed!