Perfectly Pit – The Beginning

February 3, 2011  

Neither as children, nor as parents, have we known such trust

By Anne Calcagno

Once upon a time a girl grew up – me – with two working parents, who moved her city to city, living in apartments.

Cats lived happily inside; she had beloved cats. One day, when she grew up, she started volunteering at an animal shelter. On a lark, she chose to work with dogs. She quickly revealed her terrible ignorance. (They sit? they fetch? love unconditionally?)

Her awkward ignorance became a journey – to understand dogs. So many were “pit bulls.” This numerous fact, this large line-up abandonment, grabbed her by the hand. Those sleek hides, mischievous, yet steady, eyes, their mad enthusiasm, pulled at her. Hard not to feel a heart pulse, when most had been misused, starved, discarded.

And yet (who knew?) she discovered very little mercy for the bully breeds in the 21st century. She learned, as many before her, that to fall in love with a hated creature is not a casual pleasure; you are judged, you become defensive.

Love is just not enough. Penetrating the passion for pits was where she wanted to go. She went inward and outward, researching through books and people, recording their words. She wanted to recombine them into a novel because novels aim for the heart.

Seven years later, she finished writing Love Like a Dog, a novel dedicated to the hardship and courage of the bully breeds.

I am no longer the girl who could not imagine what could be done to a dog. I’ve learned about a dog’s ardent love. That unconditional love is a gift so huge as to bewilder. Neither as children, nor as parents, have we known such willingness, such trust. As if that were not enough, they’re likely to think nothing is better than to work with and for us. Give them “colleague of the year” awards! At the start of the New Year, let’s plan for that. Rumor’s out they love dog treats and rope tugs.

Naming the Pit

Our pit was born post-9/11.

That fateful year of 2001 my son had just started kindergarten. We all remember the grief and hysteria in that frightening time. On 9/11, responding to national panic and confusing directives, many schools quickly locked the doors even to parents. It seemed to take no time at all for violent reprisals and racial profiling to become the new way of life we still try to make sense of.

My son wanted to name our new puppy “Little” in honor of his best friend Seth Little, who had, on top of everything bad going on, moved far away. Little is not a word that rolls off the tongue. Try it: “little, little, little.”

We researched translations. Perhaps petite or piccola would do? A linguist colleague suggested Arabic: Qalilah means “little girl,” Khalila means “true (female) friend.” And Qalilah she became.

Our new friend with a name from the other side of the international divide, an eager, wagging, bridge gesturing for us to cross gap of terror.

NEXT: Qalilah Rides the Wagon

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