Lovable Pit Bulls

February 28, 2011  

By Michele C. Hollow (as first posted in Dogtime)

I’m owned by a cat. And yes, I love dogs. Lately, I have been writing a bit about Pit Bulls. Personally, I think they are adorable. My neighbor has one, and he is the sweetest boy. Even my 10-year-old son, who can be intimidated by bigger breeds, loves this dog. A friend of mine wanted to adopt one, but didn’t because she couldn’t afford the home owner’s insurance that she would be charged if she gets a Pit Bull.

Photo courtesy of Melody McFarland

I’m focusing on Pit Bulls because they need ambassadors since they are often discriminated against. A Pit Bull owner named Melissa has experienced different forms of discrimination against her dog, Sam. Whenever she’s out with Sam, people shrink back and ask her if he’s a Pit Bull.

Melissa wasn’t sure exactly of his makeup, as Sam is a rescue dog. So she decided to get a DNA test for Sam; she found out that he is 45 percent American Staffordshire Terrier, 45 percent Basset Hound, and 10 percent Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Having people walk away or cross the street when they see you coming is one thing. Recently though the negativity got worse. She was in the park with her dog, Sam. Someone came up to her and said, “I don’t want my dog playing with a Pit Bull. Get that dog out of here.” Other people joined in, saying they didn’t ever want to see Sam in the park again.

Melissa took Sam home and then burst into tears. I’m appalled and disgusted by this and by dog discrimination laws that are still being passed in cities around the country.

The same day I heard about this story, I also learned about another Pit Bull. This one works as a therapy dog.

Rescued Pit Bull Helps Community

It’s hard not to believe in fate when you hear Cody’s story—a deformed puppy that was abandoned at a shelter and is now a certified therapy dog. Due to prejudice, even healthy Pit Bulls can have a hard time finding a home. But Cody landed in a shelter with a deformed foot, and his chances weren’t looking good until San Diego-based Even Chance Pit Bull Advocacy stopped by the shelter to see another dog and noticed the limping puppy.

Soon Cody was on his way to the rescue’s vet, where he was diagnosed with a congenital deformity called ectrodactyly or “lobster claw.” Through donations, Even Chance paid to have an orthopedic surgeon correct the problem. Cody underwent a successful procedure to fuse his two toes together and to connect the surrounding skin, transforming his “lobster claw” into a “mitten.”

Cody illustrates just what is possible when prejudice is set aside.

Fate stepped in again when one of the surgical interns introduced Cody to her parents, who were looking to adopt. In his new home, Cody continued to rehabilitate with water therapy. He also began training and showed a natural inclination toward therapy work. His adopter, Barbara Sulier, describes him as a “sweet little loving boy with a charisma that pulls people over to talk to him. He loves all people and wants to make them happy.”

At age 1, Cody became the first Pit Bull to be certified as a therapy dog through New Leash On Life’s Lend a Paw program in Los Angeles.

“During the wheelchair client test, he gently put his paws on the lap and kissed the client who was thrilled,” describes Sulier. And while Cody still has a slight limp due to missing bones and muscles in his right foreleg, he doesn’t let it slow him down. Sulier believes it will also help physically challenged children relate to him. Cody illustrates just what is possible when prejudice is set aside. Once discarded as damaged goods, he is now changing lives as a therapy dog.

For you purists out there, I’m using the term Pit Bull loosely. The recognized pure breed is the American Pit Bull Terrier. According to the site, The Real Pit Bull, “The media,legislators,and others use this same term incorrectly to describe a certain group of dogs that actually includes several breeds and types. Included in this group are: American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, sometimes Bull Terriers and American Bulldogs, mixes with percentage of blood of any one of these breeds and dogs that simply look like these breeds. Understandably, many people are confused about what a “Pit Bull” actually is, since the popular public definition is so wide and the breeds above actually share similar history and physical characteristics.”

Whether a dog is 100 percent Pit Bull or mixed, it doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is the way it is treated.

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