Softest Pit Delights

March 1, 2011  

Anne Calcagno’s story, Part Three

As tough as pits are, oh they like to be pampered (like their people!)

I used to think people who discussed the thread count of their sheets lacked much of a life. Until I was gifted a set of pillowcases with – ah, maybe – a five million thread count per square inch of Egyptian cotton. It’s like falling asleep on a pillow of cream (without the wet curdling part).

Qalilah instantly discovered the new pillowcases with radar-like focus. She leapt onto the bed, pulled back the comforter cover, dug away the fuzzy blanket, untucked the tucked sheets, displaced the deceitful top pillow, and dragged the high thread count wonder into perfect position under her big red sensate head. Now, none other will do. I’ve had to learn how to share. This is how I found out that love for expensive linens is an interspecies trait.

Well, after all, the brilliant author Vicki Hearne, wrote this, too, about her pit bull, Belle:

“The most violent thing she has done to date was, one day when her pillows were in the wash, to go about the house appropriating everyone else’s pillows. Not all of the pillows, only the newer, plumper, and more expensive ones.” (Hearne, Vicki, “Lo, the American (pit) Bull Terrier” in Adams’ Task. Calling Animals By Name, The Akadine Press, pg. 204)

Thread count, anyone?

Paint by Numbers, Anyone?

When you own a pit bull, you find yourself plunged into the truth that, once upon a time, they were not discriminated against. They were frequently and fondly dubbed “America’s babysitter.”

Well, that’s no more. But I didn’t experience many rewards when ranting and raving about who was wrong now and what was true once. So I began to collect examples, evidence from the past, of how pits used to be viewed, at first mostly to reassure myself I wasn’t insane.

I trawled the Internet, but, even more, I hunted through second-hand stores. I unearthed the cover of the August 1904 Twentieth Century Home magazine. A rowboat dawdles among water lilies. On the bucolic shore, a young gallant leans in toward his intended, so pretty in a long white dress, eyes downcast, both in modesty and because she is loving focused on her dignified pit bull. This, the perfect picture of domesticity at the start of the 20th century.

One of the best sites I know for terrific vintage imagery is Catherine Hedges’ site, Don’t Bully My Breed. Diane Jessup’s Working Pitbull offers rare vintage bully breed books for sale.

I have the original ads, the salt and pepper shakers, and a life size plastic replica of the black and white pit bull used to sell Victor Victrolas, with its logo: (Listening for )”My Master’s Voice”.

I have stamps from around the world sporting bully breeds.

But I confess that my favorite find is a set of paint-by-numbers canvases of two pit bulls puppies. The pups are pushing up, eager to see over a box, heads foregrounding a summer sky. Paint-by-numbers?

How absolutely mid-stream, how homey, how safe? Yeah, pit bulls.

Holiday Madness

Being a dignified 8-year-old lady, Ms. Qalilah likes to lie around soaking in the sun on the softest possible surface.

Our bedroom is her favorite post, as it provides both. Additionally, it’s just right of the front door, so if the door is open, it provides the ideal vantage point.

It used to be that, the minute I inserted my key into the door, Q was already flinging herself toward my impending surface like some keen Olympian high diver – her tongue out mid-air.

Four years ago, we got her a BFF, young Luna, a rescued German shepherd. I don’t know at what point it started, but slowly Q realized she could remain calm, in her blanketed oasis of comfort, observing me while Luna did the ablutions. She could fairly claim a supervisory role as she responsibly studied the greeting.

These days, our Q sleeps more and more. She loves nothing more than summertime, when we find her sleeping, legs and belly up, on the yard grass, like a tipped-over side table.

So I did not expect much action when my husband and son dragged down our fake old Christmas tree to decorate with the usual four billion ornaments. Nor did I worry when I gathered up some of the gifts I’d stored to send to nieces and nephews, and put those, unwrapped as of yet, in gift bags alongside the dining table.

In one bag, was a particularly delectable sparkly T-shirt for my teen-aged niece. The next day it suddenly went missing. Until the dog walker noted that she’d found the dogs charging back and forth in the yard, playing “Who has the T-shirt now?” Which she handed back to me, muddy and saliva-streaked, looking less than the gift I had anticipated offering.
This Christmas, Qalilah is reborn. She lies in wait for any moment one of us isn’t on full alert, then charges in toward the Christmas tree, grabs an ornament (all pet-safe, but intended otherwise), and charges out the pet door, victorious queen of repossession, and she and Luna run a whirlwind of celebration until the thing is shredded.

That’s how my dogs celebrate the holidays, and Q seems to grow younger by the minute.

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Anne Calcagno is the author of Love Like a Dog and the story collection Pray for Yourself. Her honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. She is the recipient of the San Francisco Foundation Phelan Award and an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. She lives in Chicago with her family, which includes two dogs and a cat. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute.

Buy Anne’s book Love Like a Dog and mention Stubbydog in the gift message box at the checkout and 20% of your purchase amount will go to StubbyDog!

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