Dear Enzo

December 5, 2011  

A foster mom in Ontario shares how she had to say goodbye to her beloved puppy to save him from breed-discriminatory legislation

By Allison Gregson

Here in the Province of Ontario, Canada, we have had breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) since August of 2005, and it includes Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and any dog “substantially similar” to these breeds. More than 5,000 dogs and puppies have been affected. Enzo’s Story needs to be told and read. His foster mom relates the story – it is recent and her feelings are raw.

Enzo’s Story

Enzo came to me quite by accident. Though I have been fighting against BDL since its inception in Ontario, and have my own 11-year-old “substantially similar” grandfathered dog at home, I hadn’t been so deeply affected by the implications of this legislation until Enzo arrived. He was born illegally into the province, owned and then abandoned in a vacant apartment, temporarily rescued twice and then he landed with me. Four months old, he had already been bounced around more times than I care to think about. The fact that he had escaped detection by authorities all this time is still baffling to me. His life had been at risk for the entire four months he existed, and no one before me seemed to realize or care.

He was my perfect puppy, except that he couldn’t stay.

I agreed to foster him for the weekend, just until I could find a rescue that would take him in and smuggle him out of this province. I was hopeful and afraid. I was hopeful that someone would be able to help me, but afraid that we would be caught before that happened. Without ties to a legitimate rescue, Enzo was a fugitive, an illegal dog in a province with legislation calling for the extinction of all dogs like him. I contacted several rescues, all of them having experience in banned dogs and in shipping them by plane or car-transport to safety. One replied immediately.

I had dealt with the ANML-RESQ Network of Ontario a few times before, mostly when I worked at the humane society. I knew their reputation as a hard-working, honest, realistic group of animal rescuers who all had a soft spot for pit bull type dogs. One of their volunteers quickly replied to my e-mail, offering any help they could. They agreed to take on the responsibility of getting Enzo vetted, neutered and sent to Nova Scotia. We had a plan. I felt with this group, he would finally be safe.

Over the weekend, Enzo fit in remarkably well with our other dogs. The three of them learned from one another, and my two older dogs taught him important life lessons. I had been considering adding a puppy to the household, and Enzo was here. He was wonderfully clever and cheeky, bold and sweet, tenacious and playful, sassy and soft all at the same time. He responded quickly and accurately to clicker training. He walked beautifully on a leash. He loved people. He was fearless but not aggressive, assertive but not problematic. He was my perfect puppy, except that he couldn’t stay. Politicians had put into place legislation that laid out plans for a systematic program of extinction of dogs like Enzo.

Enzo stayed with me for just over a month, and in that time I fell so in love with him. I came into pit bull companionship after the ban was in place and so had never had the opportunity to experience the joy of raising a puppy like this, one so resilient and undemanding at the same time.

As the time approached when I would have to put him on a plane for his flight to Nova Scotia, his freedom flight to safety, my heart ached. I spent my last days with him doing everything a dog loves. We went for a trail walk, and my dogs taught him the joys of swimming, chasing deer, playing tug, snuggling on the couch. He was just a normal dog for a time, in a province that saw him as a monster in training.

My husband had to drive us to the airport that Saturday morning; I knew I would be too blinded with tears after we left Enzo there to drive home. We arrived very early, not having been there before, and we worried that we wouldn’t find the right place. So we sat in the terminal, watching people watch us. My husband bought him a snack-pack of donut holes and I fed them to him, one by one, working for the last time on the tricks he had learned. He chased a bird that had flown into the terminal seeking warmth, and I pulled him into my lap and kissed his head over and over.

When we walked over to the building where I would leave him for the first and last time, the knot in my stomach got bigger. Enzo was oblivious, and having a grand time meeting all the nice strangers coming and going. We filled out his paperwork and weighed his crate. Then they told me it was time to load him up.

I wish you could understand how hard we are all fighting for you, how desperately I wish you could stay.

I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in that crate when I turned and walked away from his little face questioning what kind of adventure he was on. It’s been just over two weeks now, and I still miss him – my heart still aches terribly. I tear up when I think of him playing tug with my young dog, or climbing clumsily up on to the couch with me for a cuddle. I have fostered before, but never with this kind of implication. Never with the realization that no matter how badly I wanted to adopt Enzo for myself, the government elected to run this province six years ago had declared him a monster, a threat to public safety, long before he was even born. This was much bigger than just letting go of a dog I loved.

In response to my heartache, I wrote a letter to be published far and wide. I hope to see this letter in newspapers worldwide, on social media outlets, blogs and read on television. While it is addressed to Enzo, it is really a letter to every foster parent who has put a dog they love on a plane, to every owner who has had a dog they loved torn from their home. To every politician who dares to take away my right to have the dog of my choice. To every citizen who blindly believes what they hear on the media and, most importantly, to every dog that is judged on his looks rather than his heart – this letter is to you.

A Letter to Enzo

Dear Enzo,
I wish you could understand how hard we are all fighting for you, how desperately I wish you could stay. But long before you were born, politicians decided that an entire group of dogs, lumped together by their looks alone, must be extinguished. How blatantly unfair it is that politicians have decided that because of the way you look, you are too dangerous to stay in Ontario. You already show such promise and have so much potential. In the right hands you could be anything: an agility athlete, an autism dog, a therapy dog or a dog that helps children learn to read. But if you do grow up and become such an ambassador, it will not be within our province. How glad I am that the rest of Canada has opened their hearts to wonderful dogs like you. They are the lucky ones.

I wish you could understand how humans can be so short sighted. We created your kind, we shaped you over years of selective breeding to become the dog you are today: steadfast in your loyalty, generous with your affection, tenacious against dangers and sadly, but in true terrier fashion, sometimes aggressive with other dogs. We created a breed of dog that would fight to the death for our entertainment – a trait which goes against every living being’s natural instincts. What other creatures on earth kill for pleasure? Only those who have been touched by ignorant, careless, selfish humans. And now, rather than accepting our mistakes and finding a solution to the problem, our politicians have decided dog aggression might one day cross over into human aggression. Perhaps it’s our own guilt, speaking from our own sub-consciousness that causes us to think that you could ever be as dangerous to us as we are to you.

So our politicians refuse to acknowledge that our attempts at creating a vicious dog have failed. That, despite being the most scape-goated dog on the earth, you shine with your unwavering devotion and your uninhibited affection. That despite the cruelty, the ignorance and the abuse that you have suffered, the idea that you are a danger to humans is, frankly, absurd. Yet fear-mongering politicians have found in you a villain. A danger lurking in the shadows against whom they can introduce legislation and “save the day.”

Those of us lucky enough to have met you understand the truth, Enzo, and this is why we fight. We remember that our grandparents were often left in the care of your ancestors, the nanny dogs. We understand that we are more dangerous than you. We have seen your rock-solid loyalty and have been humbled, knowing that humans have never been capable of such a noble feat. We watched Sgt. Stubby fight alongside our soldiers. We fondly recall Petey watching over “The Little Rascals.”

So when I put you on a plane, little Enzo, it isn’t because I don’t want you anymore. I do, very much. I see your potential and I know how great you can be. When I put you on a plane and watch you fly out of this province, it is to save your life. And you will take a little piece of my heart with you, for I understand that while you would never hurt a human, if you were to stay, humans would surely hurt you.

Your Foster Mom

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23 Responses to “Dear Enzo”
  1. WOW really, I should’ve read this story. As soon as I read the first line my eyes watered and now I can barely type because I can’t see becaue of the tears flowing. People really get on my nerves and are inconsiderate all the way around. Instead of focusing on the real problem “PEOPLE” they rather focus on a temporary solution which isn’t a solution at all. I wonder how hard would certain folk fight if it were their beloved breed of choice on the chop block. So many emotions flow when I read stories such as this along with the ignorant comments of those from this weekend spreading more lies and continuing with the myths they heard. As much as I think I’m doing there’s much more that needs to be done. This woman along with many have to give up their furever family members because of sheer ignorance. Forgive me if this offends anyone that’s not the impression I want to leave just frustrated.

  2. larshine says:

    My heart is breaking for you. I am sure Enzo will land with another family who will love him forever, but I understand the pain you endure at having to watch him leave. This should never happen to anyone who loves a dog the way you do. Shame on the people who want to bury their guilt by ruining so much joy for others.

  3. evemariew says:

    I had to dry my tears for several minutes before I could focus on the screen to type a comment. So many beautifully put, astute, prophetic and all-too-true passages in your letter to Enzo … how articulate and emotional. I feel everything that you feel reading those words … and pray for a time when BSL is something we remember only in the tragic areas of our history, both human and canine. Thank you for your eloquent message and the tenderness within which it was packaged … I will most certainly be sharing this with everyone …

    • StubbyDog says:

      @evemariew thank you Eve, we were all teary too. Let’s all hope for a time when BDL is just a memory.

  4. Woodsmudy says:

    Now I have another area to put on my list that I cannot visit. How sad that this place in Canada doesn’t understand that its not the breed – its the owner. I can’t even fathom ever having to hide my pit or having to say goodby because of a closed mind and heart. I hope and pray that this letter goes out to all the places that have or plan on having a ban on these most wonderful of dogs. My heart just goes out to Enzo and his foster parents.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @Woodsmudy Our heart goes out to them too. thank you.

    • Idapearl says:

      @Woodsmudy I have to disagree with you that it’s “not the breed, it’s the owner,” because I can say for certain that this is not true. My son brought home a pit bull puppy 8 years ago. He was really sick… had no baby care whatsoever and ended up with distemper AND parvo. We nursed him back to health and I fell in love with him. He became our loving family dog. So, I didn’t think much of it when my son came in with the second one, a female. We never had a bit of trouble with either of them until one day, the female attacked our other dog. Then she began to attack him every single time she saw him…… so we separated them….. THEN, she attacked the male pit bull, who out weighs her by 40 pounds. She grabbed him right across his eye and would not let go. I finally had to spray her in the face with oven cleaner to get her off him. The 80 pound pit bull ran into my bathroom and hid behind the door. I wanted that female out of my house and told me son if she wasn’t gone I would have her put down. She terrified me that day. She was vicious, cruel, and extremely sneaky……. She had never been taught to be aggressive. She slept in my bed with the other two dogs. She was treated like the loving, loyal family member we thought she was…… she never knew any cruelty, AT ALL. There was no reason for her to behave that way…….so, I GET IT that people are afraid of pit bulls. I am now too. Not that they will hurt ME, but that they will turn on their pack in a heartbeat. I still adore the one we have and would trust him with my life, but once he is gone, there will be no more pits for me. Even though I love them.

      • TaraFrehlickJohnson says:

        There may be an underlying issue in her temperment you should probably consult a vet or a temperment specialist. I have seen similar stories as this in many different breeds of dogs not just pittbulls. @Idapearl @Woodsmudy

    • SelwynMarock says:

      @Woodsmudy Canada does understand that it is not the breed but Unscrupulous Politicos like Mcguinty use BSL as Political Fodder targetting the “Stupid Mass Voters”with Fear-Mongering Tactics.He is Evil,just as Hitler was..

      The solution in Ontario is for the Decent Human Being Voters to Vote McGuinty and his Lying Liberals out of Power..

  5. CjsMommy says:

    My heart breaks for you Enzo, and your foster mom. I never thought so deeply about the abuse that Pits, staffys, am staffs, and “similar breeds” go through all because of one terrible, horrible creature– the human. While reading this i had to stop several times to collect myself, Enzo i hope your life ends up being wonderful and you live up to the potential your capable for. As for you, Foster mom, Your heart is as big as Ontario its self, I too foster animals for a rescue group and know how hard it is to give up one you really seem to fall in love with. Again, Thank you and bless you.

  6. RottiesMom says:

    As a long time owner of several loyal, loving rotties, whom I trust implicitly with my children and whom have also been threatened by this sort of legislation here in the States, I feel your pain and I have to wonder how anyone in their right mind can support this blatant act of GENOCIDE. How can it be that there would be enough ignorant people all gathered together in the same room at the same time so as to actually pass this sort of legislation? I have always been baffled by the kinds of people who manage to get themselves elected into public office here in the States, and I wonder what it says about the rest of us that we blindly put them there. So sad to hear that our neighbors to the north have the same dilemma with such closed minded, ignorant, selfish people managing to get themselves elected into a position where they are responsible for writing the rules that the rest of us must live by. Good luck to you, Ontario, in someday getting this absurd legislation overturned. Keep up the fight!!

  7. Woodsmudy says:

    To Idapearl: Unfortunately sometimes there is a rouge in the bunch, but that happens with the “Human Race” too. Just because “one” has a behavor problem does not make them all bad. I understand where you are comming from, but,to be inductive is the wrong way to look at this. One bad apple does not make the whole batch bad. Perhaps there was a reason why she behaved the way she did – did you have her cked by a vet? Had there been altercations between the two that had not been noticed before? I asked this because for every action there is a reason behind it. I feel that all dogs, regardless of breed should be cked by a Vet in case there is an underlining problem that is not on the outside rearing its head. Please understand that she may have had a problem that you were unaware of.

  8. loveabulldesign says:

    Idapearl: Others are right- when you bring a bull-and-terrier type dog into the house with another dog of any breed, you are 100% responsible for their behavior. There is a reason the derogatory ‘b-word’ is derived from the female dog. Female dogs can truly be cruel- BUT this does not mean they need to be allowed to be so. Actual bites do not spring out of nowhere, they start with a very quiet growl between the two- a curl of the lip, maybe something you didn’t see or notice when they were both chewing on bones. Even the way that one dog looks at another when a resource is in question can forewarn of a problem. Unfortunately, it’s not your female dog’s fault that she was allowed to bite your male. Females tend to be dominant over males and it’s up to the owner to keep that dominance in check. If there is even the slightest lip curl in my house between the two dogs, both of them lose whatever toys they were enjoying. My female is a perfectly sweet dog. She is well-raised, she’s exceptionally trained, she’s never had a bad day in her entire life, and she *still* tried to resource-guard, she still will raise a lip if food is in question between her and her adoptive brother- a dog she sees as her subordinate when it comes to meals. This will never be a problem, because she has been taught where to draw the line, what is acceptable, and the dogs are never left alone with highly desirable resources. YOU are responsible for teaching your dogs how to interact with each other- this is not something they just “know” how to do. I hope your female went to a home where someone understood how to monitor her behavior, and I’m sorry for your male dog, because someone should have been looking out for him.

  9. SelwynMarock says:

    Very Very Sad,like a story from Germany late 30s.Compliments of D McGuinty and Michael Bryant who do not even have German names.The Cheek of this deal is Bryant has Murdered more Humans than all the Pitbulls in the world and him and his family walk the streets of Ontario.

    We live in a very sick world.

    “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”-Martin Luther King

  10. TaraFrehlickJohnson says:

    I have owned and raised pitbulls and found them to be wonderful family pets. We bought a house a couple years ago ad did not find out until later that the subdivision being brand new had a bylaw that restricted this particular breed and rotweillers. It has been 4 yrs since we have had to give up our dogs. My husband and I and our children now 7 and 10 all miss them terribly. It is a shame they have this kind of reputation. I believe that any breed of dog can be good it all depends on the owners. And I feel owners of any breed of dog should be screened and tested before they are allowed to take a dog into their home.

  11. BullyBreedsAreBest says:

    Do you have any follow up info on how Enzo is doing in Nova Scotia?

    • BullyBreedsAreBest says:

      My heart breaks for what you have had to go through Foster Mom. If Enzo could speak I know he would tell you that he understands what you had to do to keep him safe and that he loves you with all his heart. Thank you for all you have done to ensure he has the opportunity to live a life in a province that doesn’t discriminate against a breed. Shame on you Ontario.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @BullyBreedsAreBest All we can say is … stay tuned. 😉

  12. EnzosFosterMom says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. Reading his story and your comments keeps him close to my heart. I miss him still every day.
    I work with pets and their owners for a living. A client wondered whether I was worried about who would own these dogs if the ban was repealed. I told him that irresponsible owners are prevalent in every breed.

    And it’s the truth, it isn’t the dogs of ANY breed that are dangerous to society, it is the humans that need to be held responsible. Poor socialization, lack of training and exercise and a gross misunderstanding of dogs needs and body language are responsible for over 90% of dog bites.

    With the tri-party support of Bill 16, Ontario has never been so close to having the ban repealed. Legislation needs to be put into place to protect people from dog bites, but thus time it needs to be directed at the other end of the leash.

    Please share this story, and ask everyone to sign the petition in Bill 16 posted on MPP Randy Hilliers website.

    • SamuelWDavis says:

      @EnzosFosterMom Reading this story breaks my heart. I pray that some day you will get to meet up with Enzo!! I know I am waiting for the day to run into a little Pit named Wilma that my wife and I fostered. It is amazing how quickly they can become part of the family!

  13. MeaghanEdwards says:

    BSL is such BS!

  14. Matt.S says:

    So much suffering inflicted by amoral politicians for their own gain. So many innocent lives destroyed by people who so eagerly prey on the uninformed.

  15. millermorgan says:

    Vote, people, VOTE!!!!!