Pit Bull Redemption

October 18, 2011  

Part II of how one pit bull motivated his mom to co-found a rescue, become a certified trainer and start a pit bull hiking group

By Tracey Cutler

(Photos by Bark Photography)

During the days that followed my Birthday Girls announcement, my mind became preoccupied with my own inadequacies, plus visions of all that could go wrong, including “Presa Pits” running wild through the streets of Saratoga, terrorizing my friends and neighbors. I would then be handcuffed and taken off by the authorities, a permanent reminder of my own impulsivity and how I had jeopardized the good citizens of Saratoga and the lives of those around me. I envisioned my life, living in solitude as a permanent resident of the California penal system, forever scorned for the simple, stupid mistake of having loved one cute puppy just a little too much!

As the week wore on, my initial panic subsided, and the visions of mayhem began to fade. I decided it was time to give a name to my new friend. After weeks of contemplation, desiring to find the perfect name for what would soon become my full-time raison d’être, I decided on the name Shmooly. Yes, Shmooly it would be, after an army commander (Shmuel) who had been the spokesman for the Israeli army during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. I had first seen this Israeli commander during a segment of the nightly news, speaking about his mission with an air of absolute confidence and determination. Without even flinching, he held his ground while bombs exploded behind his back. In the months and years to come, I would refer back to this vision, recalling the inner strength and bravery of this man who had been standing in the middle of a war zone. I liked to think of my own boy Shmooly as my “comrade-in-arms.” We would become a team, and I would stand by my friend as we made our way through the maze of negative public perception and all that it would entail.

Shmooly and I continued to bond ever more strongly, his sweet face a constant reminder of the initial infatuation and tugging at my heart. In fact, he was soon to become my lifeline out of a deep depression, when I was faced with the dire news that my beloved 8-year-old dog, Getzel, had been stricken with a devastating bone cancer.

As the illness progressed and Getzel lay in his bed, too tired to get up and not wanting to be touched, it was Shmooly who lay by my side, quietly and calmly, displaying no puppy antics that would have disturbed the solitude of these moments. It was as if he sensed the gravity of the situation and lay there with me in a show of compassion and respect. He seemed to display a keen understanding of emotional nuances from a very young age.

Before Getzel had gotten too sick to leave his bed, he had gently licked and kissed Shmooly on the forehead, as if to say, “I like you, little guy.” I was so touched that I smiled for days when recalling that simple gesture. There were other incidents of sweet solidarity between the two dogs, but the last one came at a very poignant moment, when Getzel lay on my bed, the final hour before he was to be put to sleep. Shmooly jumped up on the bed, and this time it was he who smeared Getzel’s face in kisses.

In the days and weeks following Getzel’s passing, I cried my way into healing, Shmooly always at my side. The torch was passed to this new little guy, who would continue to bring me so much comfort as the days passed slowly and sadly.

Shmooly had become the “savior of my heart,” and I committed myself fully to this little pup, determined to do everything possible to make this relationship work.

Close Encounters … Both Sweet & Sour

Throughout the months and years to come, I began to immerse myself in a variety of pit bull endeavors. Soon, I would find myself adopting and fostering several more pit bulls. My world and I had changed: From being fearful and concerned about what friends, family and community would think, I now felt strongly that it was my duty to show the world that a pit bull is a wonderful dog – and so different from media portrayals.

Shmooly and I were faced with both negative as well as positive encounters within the local community. One sunny afternoon, walking with Shmooly through downtown Saratoga, I passed by a man and his young daughter. I nodded and smiled, and uttered a congenial “hello.” I got no response, as the father quickly grabbed his daughter’s hand and muttered, “One of those evil pit bulls … they shouldn’t be allowed on the street.”

I was completely taken aback at hearing such a strident statement as I walked my perfectly well-behaved, happy dog in my own town. It took a minute to sink in, to really believe that someone had the audacity to make such a statement. “How dare he express his negative viewpoint,” I thought, “and lump my dog into a category that was so far from the truth.” I was angry, but more than that, it made me feel sad. I felt as if this complete stranger had invaded my space and burst my bubble of contentment on that sun-filled day. I had tasted, firsthand, the sting of unadulterated pit bull prejudice.

Yet, there were happy moments, too, such as the time a young man in his 20s enthusiastically approached Shmooly as we made our way through town. “Oh, a pit bull, I love these guys!” he exclaimed. “I just lost mine; he was 9 years old and died of cancer about six months ago. I am still grieving … once you have a pit bull, you are owned by them forever … it is hard to ever go back to anything but ….” He bent down to pet Shmooly and kissed him on the head before saying goodbye, continually looking back at us with a huge grin and giving us the thumbs up as he disappeared down the street. Ah, that was a happy moment. It felt so good to be greeted with such unconditional enthusiasm. It did my heart good!

It was through a variety of such encounters, both public and private, that I felt I had no other choice but to immerse myself in the world of pit bull “redemption.” I knew that it was important to help redeem the reputation of the pit bull because they could not speak for themselves. I made it my mission to educate not only myself, but family, friends and whoever else would listen. By the time I had jumped into the ring for the “fight,” I was also preparing myself to become the best pit bull owner and representative that I could be.

See Part I

Next: A Pit Bull Hiking Group is Born

« « Great Dates! | StubbyDog Hero: Karen Delise » »

Comments

8 Responses to “Pit Bull Redemption”
  1. TeresaParkerRincones says:

    This is such a great story!

  2. Great title! This made me cry and smile at the same time. Like many pit bull owners my family faced discrimination against Krusher. My neighbor loves Sasha to no end however, maybe me having another pit bull in our quiet community was a bit much for him. He told me didn’t “trust” Krusher. May I remind everyone Krusher hasn’t done anything to my neighbor. Sasha is more laid back and a girly girl whereas Krusher is all puppy (he’ll be 1 next Monday the 23rd). Recently, visiting PetSmart we faced both positive & negative reaction with our babies. One gentleman did the same thing the guy mentioned got down on his knees and starting petting and playing with Sasha & Krusher without permission “) whereas a lady buying fish reacted nervously which upset my children. Continue to share love the stories

  3. Misty Song says:

    I have been in downtown Saratoga and I made note of how I saw “designer dog” after designer dog…and of course, no pit bulls. This sleepy, well-to-do, quaint little town, I thought, would never accept something so “inappropriate” as a pit bull. Thank you so much for being the brave one and for letting your huge heart give you the courage to make change in the face of severe social pressure. Pit bulls need the “good people” of society to embrace them if they are ever to be lifted out of their current media fate.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @Misty Song So true, we can all do what we can to help the media see pit bulls are we do… devoted, smart, silly, wiggly, hunks of love.

  4. Lisamichele says:

    Wow, Tracey!! This is an awesome article!!! So articulate!!! It really gives me a full picture of your journey and a lot more insight into Shmooly and where you are today because of him!!!! What a wonderful testiment to you both and an understanding to others about how wonderful pit bulls are. Knowing Shmooly, I am in much agreement with the gentleman’s statement about how once you have had a pitbull there is no going back to wanting any other kind of breed!!! They truely are the best!!! : )

  5. RendaLuvaas says:

    Wonderful story of growth knowledge and enlightenment. My favorite part….”once you have a pit bull, you are owned by them forever”…..that young man was wise way beyond his years.

  6. avegas72 says:

    He is so cute! He reminds me so much of my Kyah girl. Such a sweet face!