Wednesday, October 1, 2008

For the love of a dog...

If you have ever tried to rent a house, you know how hard it is to find one that allows you to have a pet. For me it's twice as hard. Why? Because I try to find places where I can live with the pit bulls that I dream of adopting from the SPCA (like Puddin', a hyper, brindle female, at left). The least-regulating place I could find near where I worked had only 1 exception: No pit bulls. They don't care if you have giant dogs or tiny poodles, as long as it's not that single breed, you're okay. And in my area, pit bulls are always in the news, spiking last summer with the dogfighting case against Michael Vick (The case that put pit bulls on the front page ; Loving Vick's Pits). To me, this is just wrong. It borders on discrimination, only its a dog so I guess it doesn't warrant concern.

I'm sorry, but I'm tired of telling people that my favorite dogs to work with at the SPCA are pit bulls (they are actually either Staffordshire Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Bull Terriers) and having them stare at me like I'm crazy. I'm tired of hearing that all pit bulls should automatically be put down. It's just stupid.

I'll be the first to say that dogs can be dangerous, especially when trained to be so. Most people get dogs for all the wrong reasons, refuse to train or control their dogs, or even specifically train their dogs to kill. But you can NOT label an entire breed as demon-dogs or dangerous. What you should be doing is actually punishing those people who are the cause of these problems. Why did this Neglectful Owner who starved his 16 pit bulls into being aggressive not get charged? Why is Michael Vick only getting a few months in jail for his involvement and funding of a dogfighting ring?

The funny thing about this 'man-killing, dangerous' breed is that they were originally meant to protect humans from bulls. The muscular bodies, heavy skulls and extra-strong jaws were designed by breeders to take on huge bulls and take them down when their owners were threatened. And it's this human-protecting instinct that caused the breed to also be so eager to please their owners. Which is why they are so easily trained to become killers, unfortunately. That is the real tragedy to me. In their quest to please their owners, they were willing to do something against their nature on command.

As a volunteer with the SPCA, I've had the opportunity to work with dozens of 'pit bulls.' It's that instinct to please that I've most noticed in these misunderstood, mistreated dogs.

For example, Charlegmagne (above) is a beautiful, white and brindle female Staffordshire Bull Terrier who got sick and depressed at the shelter so I got the chance to take care of her. I nicknamed her 'Charly,' (she is a girl, after all). She is so calm and loving. Her need to please is obvious. When I got ready to open her cage and I asked her to sit and stay. She did as she was told and accepted the peanut-butter treat (I totally recommend this kind, even dogs without an appetite will eat snacks with some peanut butter in them.) and daintly ate it. Then I got ready to take her outside for a walk. She was terrified of all the yapping dogs in the quarantine room but I was able to get her to walk outside (I've had to carry a few out because they get so scared). I sat down to rest while I waited for her to go to the bathroom and the next thing I know, this big, beautiful dog was completely curled up in my lap. She slept like that for a good 20 minutes snuggling her head into the crook of my arm, her legs almost falling off my lap onto the ground, light snores coming from her big snout. It was the worst part of my day to have to wake her up and walk her back into the shelter so I could finish my work with the others.

I challenge any person to spend five minutes with almost any pit bull at the shelter I work at and not walk away a lover of the breed. And it's ridiculous that I can't take one of these wonderful animals, like Charly, out of that scary and depressing environment just because of a stupid stereotype and uneducated regulations.


  1. My apartment complex doesn't allow pit bulls either, or any in a long list of breeds that are unacceptable. I find it discriminating as well. All of the pitts at the SPCA are so nice too!

  2. i. want. this. puppy. she sounds/ looks adorable. but i don't think i can have pit bulls either- nor would i be able to afford her... or know what to do with her. I hope she finds a good home that will love her!

  3. I'd take Charly in a heartbeat. The roomies and are I looking into getting a dog soon. Our apartment complex only has a weight limit (35lbs) that no one follows and they don't enforce. We're thinking of a bull terrier.

    I hate the discrimination against pit bulls. I've known pits/Staffordshires/Americans that are the sweetest damn dogs in the world, and I've known pomeranians that are devilspawn. I'd be more terrified of a small yappy-type dog taking a chunk out of me than any other kind of dog.