Alex at Full Bloom

September 9, 2011  

A rescued pit bull learns how to be a confident pack leader and loving caretaker

By Nichole Staib

The second year we lived in Virginia, we adopted Alex and created a family of four.

I met him when he was in a dog crate at the local farm supply store during an adoption event for the local shelter.

I took one look at him and rushed over to see him. I’ve always had a soft spot for pit bulls; I love the way they’re built, and I’ve never bought into the hype.

Alex was built like Adonis and who could resist that?

When I checked the information sheet on him, I was devastated. It said adults only. At the time, my son was 6 years old and small for his age.

The lady from the shelter noticed me looking at him and practically ran over to talk to me. She said that the adult only warning was required for pit bulls because of their strength and power. She told he was one of the best dogs they had. They even had a problem with him getting into the other kennels to snuggle with the other dogs! He had been picked up wandering the area, and when they contacted his owner, she told them she wasn’t going to come get him.

When the woman from the shelter let him out of the dog crate, I thought he was all black, but then the sun hit him, and I realized that his bridling was reversed – only his legs were striped! He didn’t seem to know what to do on the leash, but he was so excited to be with people that I knew right away that he needed to come home with us. He weighed about 60 pounds, making him the biggest of our “kids,” He was already fixed and had all of his shots up to date. The adoption fee was only $15, and it was the best money I’ve ever spent! I think we spent more money on his new red collar.

Part of the Family

All of my other “kids” – minus my son, of course – were also rescue dogs, and they each had a sad story. We had adopted a smart Corgi/Husky mix named Storm, a 9-pound little orange froo-froo dog and a Beagle named Sunni who taught Alex that he didn’t have the right to eat with her, no matter how big he was. It was really funny to see a fully grown male pit bull show submission to such a little Beagle, but that’s Alex all over. He hates to make waves. Storm became the leader of the pack, with Alex on the bottom rung.

This big, goofy, hulking brute of a dog became our unquestionable pack leader.

Alex soon adjusted to life in our home, and we discovered he loved being outside and getting to run. Getting him to come back took some doing, but he always did. And on the rare occasion that he’d find his way out of the yard, I’d panic only to find him sitting at another door waiting to be let in. He knew where he belonged!

When we took him to the vet, I got my first taste of breed discrimination. After unloading him in the parking lot, he became very sick. He was so scared of being in the car that he emptied his entire stomach. Alex was a wreck. A small elderly woman with a tiny lapdog took one look at my hulk and panicked!

“Don’t let that monster near my baby!” she snapped.

I couldn’t believe it! My husband tried to tell her that he was harmless, but she freaked out and ran off.

The vet, on the other hand, thought he was fabulous and told us that he was big enough that we could give him a half of a Dramamine to keep him from throwing up. At that point, Alex evacuated his anal glands. I was horrified. The vet laughed. He couldn’t believe this great hulking dog could be that scared. That was about par for the course for Alex.

Alex Takes the Lead

Life went on. Alex learned to go with the flow, preferring to follow rather than lead. But when Storm started the long, slow road to death, Alex suddenly started to come out of his shell. The dog that I had thought was a little “slow” was suddenly starting to show surprising signs of deep thought.

After taking control of our little pack, he has blossomed into a wonderful, brave, steady dog.

Sunni, 10 by now, was starting to go deaf. She needed to be taught hand signals to make in her new, silent world. To my utter amazement, Alex responded to them faster than she did! When we finally made the hardest decision of our lives and put Storm down, Alex stepped up to the front. He saw a need and did what he does best. He fit right in to his new place.

This big, goofy, hulking brute of a dog became our unquestionable pack leader. Sunni was suddenly waiting for him to eat first!

Being a benevolent dictator, Alex allowed Sunni the privilege of eating with him. She opened up to him like a flower. Where she had been previously indifferent to him, she started seeking out his company. She now sleeps more on him than the bed! Now that she’s almost totally deaf, she follows him around like a lost puppy.

This past spring, we brought home a new puppy. Alex discovered, at age 10, that he’s a father! Our little one can’t stand to have Alex out of his sight, and in true form, Alex treats him accordingly. If Alex has something, the puppy wants it, too. He’s not interested in little Sunni at all. I’m not even sure he notices her now that he realizes she won’t play with him.

Alex, a previously big and dumb “meathead,” has gone from an unsure, shy adolescent to a strong, courageous guardian. After taking control of our little pack, he has blossomed into a wonderful, brave, steady dog.

During my recovery from a hospital stay, Alex came to check on me every 30 minutes the day that I was home alone. This is no small feat for him in his present condition. He’s 10. That’s old for any dog and older still for a large dog. Some days it takes him until noon to make it downstairs because of the pain and stiffness. He takes things slowly these days. The effort it took him to get up and come over to me every half hour for the six hours I was home alone that day was almost overwhelming. That’s Alex.

He’s one of the best dogs I’ve ever known, and I’ve had dogs my entire life. The idea that he loves me enough to put himself through that much overwhelms me. I hope some day I’m worthy of his love.

« « What’s Your Dog’s Job? | The Pretty Lipless Pittie » »


7 Responses to “Alex at Full Bloom”
  1. AndreaF says:

    Wow, what a great dog Alex is!!! One can only hope to find a friend like that.

    Give him a belly scratch from me 🙂

  2. NicholeRyanStaib says:

    @AndreaF he appreciates your love!! thanks so much.

  3. rhengen says:

    What a great life you have given Alex, and what joy he has brought to yours!

  4. NicholeRyanStaib says:

    @rhengen you’ll never know how much he’s improved my life. he makes me happy just being here!! he’s come so out of his shell, that he’s a different dog.

  5. PennyDyan says:

    Nichole – You are the love of my life and I love you to the moom and back.

    I just read your story about Alex. What a wonderful story. I hope this changes some minds. Love does wonders.

  6. NicholeRyanStaib says:

    @PennyDyan thanks, mommie!

  7. pamelasuedeas says:

    Hi Nichole; Your story made me cry! Alex is a wonderful creature. Have you tried a rimadyl trial for him, for the stiffness and pain? We have an OldEnglish/GoldenRetriever mix who is approaching 16…do NOT ask me how! She started taking rimadyl twice a day 3 years ago, and the difference in her quality of life is amazing. After a couple of days on it, she was jerking around on the lawn and sort of writhing…I realized it was her doofy, arthritic version of a play bow! To this day, she’ll get a spark and go gallumping up the driveway. Then she’s exhausted, of course! Anyway, thank you for sharing your great story.