Qalilah Rides the Wagon

March 1, 2011  

Anne Calcagno’s story – Part Two

I’m not proud to share that when Qalilah was 10 months old and my son, Lucien, was 7, he and his friends were roughhousing in the basement, throwing pillows at each other.

Q, never one to miss a party, ran back and forth, in fact, I think she believed she was one of them, about to catch a pillow. That is, until my son’s X-ray vision alighted on her particular promise. As I busily prepared snacks upstairs, Lucien emptied his toys out of the red plastic wagon, “harnessed” Qalilah to it, and invited his friends to climb aboard. Thus, he established a new race course.

I ambled downstairs to Q dragging four boys at a fast pace, round and round the couch, to screams of “Gidde-up! Yippee!” Her tail wagging, eyes alert, as if she’d always intuited she was half stagecoach horse. Forget pillows!

When James Thurber describes his childhood with his pit bull, Rex, he points out Rex loved swimming, saying: “He would bring back a stick to you if you did throw one in. He would even have brought back a piano.”

Thurber offered that Rex had brought home a chest of drawers: “We first knew of this achievement when, deep in the night, we heard him trying to get the chest up to the porch. It sounded as if two or three people were trying to tear the house down.”

To a pit, astonishing labor is very possible.

Which brings me to the question …

“Why don’t more people know how incredibly pits can perform in weight-pulls?”


Early on in my research, I discovered multiple Internet sites showcasing dog weight-pulls. An amazing picture of a black and white pit bull, head and back legs slouched low, muscles lean and beautiful, revealed he pulled a massively laden wagon marked over 1,500 pounds. What was this?

To put what dogs can do in perspective, the American Pulling Association World Championship winner in the 30 pounds and under category pulled 2,652 pounds. In the 50-pounds-or-under category, the winning dog pulled 4,528 pounds. It’s mind-boggling! All kinds of breeds can participate, all of them with the same goal in mind: to amaze themselves and us. Both genetic disposition and desire to excel athletically prevail. The dog must want to do this – in fact, must like doing it, think it is rather tremendous, a source of pride and strutting rights.

We forget that so many dogs love to work, pits bulls in particular.

A well-organized dog pull event is a heart-warming portrait of breed diversity. Spirit and endurance are being judged, not appearance. Though, if one likes to match breed to breed, certain events exclusively compete pit bulls. Because pit bulls can really excel at this. That pit running grooves into the cement floor of a shelter kennel can become the tireless pit who will drag an incredible weight, because pits do not like to give up on what they think is important. I got to get me out of here! turns into I’m getting me all the way to the finish line! The intense calm of their eyes, the fact that you cannot force a dog to pull (they’ll sit, or lie down, or stop and stare until time is up), the additional good news that it takes a lot of training and collaboration to build a dog’s physical stamina and pulling knowledge, these are all wonderful attributes for a dog-to human relationship.

I was once asked how I could stand the déclassé “element” that favors weight pulls. I think the hilarious movie Best in Show reminds us that eccentrics, good and bad, exist at all levels of performance. Organizations such as the American Pulling Alliance, the United Pulling Federation, and the International Weight Pull Association are respected organizations that foster a working relationship with dogs.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a big gentle giant bred to pull milk crates and such, up and down the Swiss mountains and they love weight pulls. Fact is, a dog is either going to have this drive or not. In our contemporary society, where we sometimes see dogs as toys or decorations to be dressed up and pampered, we forget that so many dogs love
 to work, pits bulls in particular; think of pits in search-and-rescue and
 drug-detection, be astonished at pits in frisbee and flyball competitions. Different sorts of physical activity and tenacity are involved,but for the pit bull with drive, demanding play is very rewarding. Work well done is good for all creatures!

I once attended a weight pull where a competitor was verbally accused (unfairly) of illegally enticing his pit bull from the sidelines (you are required to
be more than 16 feet away, thus past the finish line, and cannot touch the pulling dog). This owner let his best bully bitch
pull the top weight in her category for 15½ before he jumped onto the pull path, which disqualifies the pull. He looked around and announced, “I won’t let you to think she won because of me.” He would not deny her the honor of owning her own extraordinary performance. In fact, he celebrated her like crazy, making sure she knew he felt her winner’s heart.

(P.S. Sadly, 
 LawDogsUSA no longer continues due to lack of funding, but you can see pictures of its talented graduates who still work among us.)

NEXT: Softest Pit Delights

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