Debra and Ripley

May 16, 2011  

All types of people from all walks of life love pit bulls

Name: Debra Geihsler
Occupation: President at Advocate Medical Group

I did not select Ripley (aka “The King”), nor did he run up to meet me and select me.

I had been one of those people who selected dogs because of their breed type. Although the dogs I took in were rescues, they were still English bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds and Labs. I always based my selection on the breed. I had never heard of a pit bull, and I didn’t really know that pit bulls existed. As an executive, pit bulls were not in my circle of friends.

I had not had a dog for some years. The last love of my life passed away early. He was a cute English bulldog with a heart condition. I did not rush to replace him.

My faithful Detroit city alley cat had been living with me, but he was now 18 years old and getting crankier by the day.

After seven years without a dog, I felt my life was settled enough to go back into the dog world.

I selected a dog to be rescued, a Basset Hound, but was not given the go ahead to adopt the dog because of special requirements. The shelter believed I didn’t have the time to devote to the dog.

A week later they called me with two dogs that needed homes, one that peed on carpet and one that had been severely abused and distrusted men. Since I had more carpet then men, I said, “Let me take the dog that doesn’t like men.” I didn’t ask what he looked like or how old he was; it was an impulse “yes,” and I had no idea what I had done.

Ripley Comes Home

The day came where I needed to go pick up the mysterious dog. They brought out a wild eyed, skinny, homely dog that was jumping all over everything, wouldn’t settle down to be petted and had the ugliest ears I had ever seen. What on earth had I done?

I put him in the front seat of my BMW. He wouldn’t give me eye contact and I couldn’t help but glance at him and wonder why I was doing this, but my good Midwest values said I made a commitment, and I need to try to follow through on that commitment.

As I was walking him into my duplex condo in Chicago, my neighbor yelled to me, “Looks like you got yourself a pit bull.”

“What?” I said.

“You know, a Staffordshire terrier,” he said.

I still didn’t know what he was talking about. I just wanted to get the wild animal into my condo. Soon I named him Ripley.

I got him into my condo and he immediately bonded with my 18-year-old cat. She liked him and he liked her. It was weird.

I had a dog walking service waiting. My plan was two walks before I left for work, a service at noon and two walks at night, but I had all weekend to get him used to the routine.

The next day we went to obedience classes. They immediately told me to take my “pit bull” to the corner as he might “frighten” the other people and their dogs and to listen from afar. What the heck was this? This was extremely frustrating to me.

Ripley was growing on me and I thought he was just as cute as the other dogs, and clearly he hadn’t done anything to offend the people or their dogs.

We sat in the corner watching the group go through their rituals. I learned that Ripley wasn’t food motivated, so he wasn’t going to do anything for a treat. Fortunately he did find toys pretty darn interesting, so we worked with toys. But I was irritated with being treated like a second-class citizen for no reason at all, so we went home to learn how to work with each other by ourselves.

Tough Times

I have to admit after 90 days I was ready to give up. He would drop to the ground and shake when there were loud noises. When other people entered the room, he hid behind my legs. He wasn’t a cute and cuddly dog and he didn’t like affection. We were shunned from most activities, and most people would cross the street when I was out walking him.

I called the foundation to see if they would take him back. They said they would probably have to put him to sleep because of his behavior. I couldn’t have that, so my last resort was to get a bigger house.

I sold my condo and bought a bigger house with a dog run outside that he could access day and night. My first day back to work I got a call that the dog walking service had lost him. They lost him at noon and didn’t call me until 6 p.m.

I called the foundation and they were horrified. They told me if he was found he would be used for bait.

People were mad at me for letting a pit bull loose in the neighborhood. I was frightened; I had never had a dog that would be accused of being in a dog fight.

I fought back and I called everyone I knew across the city of Chicago, and fliers were put out. The Chicago police called me to see if I had an army of people looking for this dog, as there were so many fliers. Everyone told me a pit bull would be caught for fights and it was a lost cause.

Three days later the police called me and thought they knew where he might be. He was at someone’s home with a group of rescued dogs.

I picked him up and once again he sat in the front seat of the BMW not giving me eye contact, but this time I could tell it was because he wasn’t happy with me. He sat on the front porch all night and wouldn’t look at me when I tried to get him to come in the house.

Finally he came in and we became friends.

A Happy Ending

Yes, he is a pit bull, and today—despite all of his quirks— I’m darn proud of it. He grew into a beautiful, handsome, warm and cuddly dog. He has participated in fundraising events within my professional circle of friends, social activities and, regardless of where we live, he becomes the neighborhood’s favorite pet.

Now people don’t yell at me that I have a pit bull. When I tell them his breed, many people who have never experienced a pit bull are shocked. He has friends of all sizes – small children to people in their 80s. The neighborhood dogs all love to visit Ripley. He is lovingly called Ripley, “The King,” as everyone knows that he comes first, and if “The King” is happy, all is well with the world.

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2 Responses to “Debra and Ripley”
  1. skreidle says:

    << Since I had more carpet then men, I said, “Let me take the dog that doesn’t like men.” >>

    Favorite line, right there. 😀

  2. StubbyDog says:

    @skreidle haha, we know, Debra is quite humorous.