Pearl the Pit Bull

April 11, 2012  

Once abandoned and in need of a leg amputation, this pit bull now helps children learn to read


By Wendy Fox

My registered therapy dog, Pearl, is a rescued pit bull. We are certified through Love on a Leash and participate as a team for our local pet therapy group Pals with Paws in Elk Rapids, Mich.

We adopted Pearl after my 12-year-old son spent his Christmas vacation volunteering at our local vet clinic, Torch Lake Veterinary Clinic. He participated with the vet as part of the surgical team to remove her badly damaged front leg. Pearl was surrendered by her previous owner to animal control authorities, so we don’t know how the leg was damaged. She was only about 5 months old when the surgery was done, just before Christmas 2010. Her temperament was amazing; she was loving and happy even though she had been through so much.

I was an existing member of Love on a Leash, sharing a cat we also adopted, so I was familiar with what it would take for Pearl to be certified. After Pearl healed from surgery, we attended obedience classes to gain some knowledge and experience, as well as socialization, which was so important.

We visited the school both my sons attend, and I knew she would be awesome, but really wanted to see how she was received. Boy, what a surprise – she loved the attention from everyone, and all of the kids and staff really enjoyed her. Pearl generally brings a welcome smile to anyone who decides they can’t resist petting her! What a wonderful way to show to the kids that Pearl, the pit bull, is a prime example of what pit bulls really can accomplish with proper training, commitment and of course, love!

We are one of four visiting R.E.A.D. teams in our group (Reading Education Assistance Dogs, Intermountain Therapy Animals, Salt Lake City, Utah). She is calm and attentive, sometimes listening to the same book being read over again. One special child we worked with was a boy who had just moved from another country and had difficulty reading and speaking English. He really enjoyed reading to Pearl and always asked when he could read to her again! You could see the comfort she provided as he was reading; he was able to relax and enjoy, he even smiled when he could read a paragraph aloud to her – what a gift to be able to share!

I was once a person who moved away from a pit bull when I saw one being walked. I don’t do that now! I was uneducated and now hope to be able to educate anyone I come in contact with that this is a fabulous type of dog – powerful, yes, but loyal, loving and always wanting to please.

I am so in awe of Pearl’s joyous nature. She loves to have a bunch of kids surrounding her, petting, hugging and talking to her – she is just so at ease. She really loves everyone and almost begs for the attention.

Our goals for the future include obtaining her Canine Good Citizen designation and the AKC Therapy Dog Program designation.

We will be doing more reading program work this summer for our local school district summer migrant program and summer school programs. As we are a newly certified team, I can see that Pearl and I have many, many more years of therapy visiting ahead of us, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her! We have only just begun, and I am proud to say I am owned by a pit bull!

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