Rooting for the Underdogs

June 16, 2011  

Pit bulls gain a new champion, and one abused pup gets a second chance in the process

By Erin Hanson

I root for the underdog. The team on a straight losing streak? Check. The least popular member of the boy band? Check.

So when I decided to become more involved in my other passion – animal rescue – it didn’t take long to hone in on the underdog of the crowd. The pit bull.

Pit bulls are feared, discriminated against, over bred, abused and abandoned more than any other breed in our society.

I remember reading a statistic that only one in 600 pit bulls ever finds a permanent, loving home. That means the other 599 live some or all of their lives in shelters, on the streets, or are forced into fighting. Sign me up.

I found Jasmine’s House, a fairly new pit bull rescue in Maryland, and began the process to foster one of their rescued pits. Sadly the dog we were hoping to foster fell ill and crossed the Rainbow Bridge before moving into our home.

My husband and I decided to postpone the foster process for a couple weeks to get through the holidays. But a few days before Christmas, after a series of desperate “Can you help us, no one else can” e-mails from a shelter in West Virginia, we found ourselves taking in Rosie, a 2-year-old black lab/pit mix (we were told) who was rescued by a good Samaritan minutes before her previous owner tossed a lit match on her gasoline-soaked body.

Rosie – we later learned – had never lived inside a home, never received proper socialization, and she didn’t even have a name.

We postponed fostering for Jasmine’s House as we took in the skinny, scared dog with open wounds on her face and back.

Around this time Tori entered my world. Tori was a new student at the school where I worked, and one day she appeared at my office door with a clear plastic tube covered with pictures of dogs. Inside the tube were coins and a few dollar bills.

“I’d like to raise money for abused pit bulls,” she said. “Will you help me?”

Still feeling badly that I had to postpone fostering for Jasmine’s House, I showed Tori their website, and she decided to collect money and gently used supplies for the new rescue.

It was an honor to witness the compassion Tori has for the breed and the efforts of Jasmine’s House. To Tori, the founders of Jasmine’s House are rock stars.

Kate and Catalina, the founders of Jasmine’s House, offered to visit our school with some of their dogs. Tori was on cloud nine as we diligently made posters, flyers and invitations for other students to attend the after school event. The dedication and enthusiasm of 10-year-old Tori has inspired me to become even more committed to raising awareness, changing misconceptions and supporting this misunderstood breed. Always an animal lover, I’ve made a personal commitment that any dog we foster or rescue in the future will be a pit bull.

Fostering Rosie has been a challenge, to say the least, but a rewarding one. She has come a long way. She will let me clean her paws, clip her toenails and brush her teeth, as she’s learned that human touch can be kind and gentle. Her food aggression has dissipated as she’s figured out that food will always come. She can be a bit skittish and defensive with other dogs, but will play with our beagle mix, Finn. Housebreaking is a work in progress, and loud, sudden noises will sometimes cause her to cower and instinctively urinate. But she is the best cuddler and tries to climb in the lap of everyone she meets. For the most part she seems happy and content in her new life, but there are still moments when I look in her eyes and see fear, confusion and pain, and I wonder what kind of emotional scars she will carry from her previous life.

Recently, while in the waiting area of our veterinarian’s office, I was chatting with a woman about canine DNA tests. She had just had her mixed-breed rescue tested, as we did with Rosie.

“I just hope mine’s not a pit bull,” the woman fretted, and I cringed. She was taken aback by my response.

“Really?” I said. “I hope mine is.”

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5 Responses to “Rooting for the Underdogs”
  1. JMattHicks says:

    “…who was rescued by a good Samaritan minutes before her previous owner tossed a lit match on her gasoline-soaked body.”

    Who does this? Who can in good conscience even THINK of doing something like this, much less actually follow through with such an atrocity? Sickening.

    Very happy to hear that Rosie is in a loving home and progressing well. I can’t imagine how tough the transition must have been for her, but it sounds like she’s in the perfect environment to keep making great progress!

  2. Rosie is a beautiful, beautiful dog — I love the last picture of her! Like @JMattHicks said, I can’t imagine who would ever do such a horrible thing (or any of the horrible things we hear/see are done to innocent animals). I love your comeback to the woman in the vet’s office. My aunt and uncle have had similar experiences with Rottweilers, and it’s just sad. Never judge a dog by its breed — odds are, you’ll be wrong!

  3. StubbyDog says:

    @JMattHicks Thanks for your comments, we are happy about Rosie too, and you’re right, she is in the perfect environment with Erin to keep making great progress.

  4. StubbyDog says:

    @annedreshfield @JMattHicks Thanks for your comments Anne, you can’t judge a dog, or anything for that matter, but how it looks.

  5. urfcerin says:

    Thanks for the comments! Rosie is a great dog and is available for adoption to the right family! Please contact me if you or anyone know you know might be interested!