Isn’t That a Pit Bull?

March 19, 2012  

A dog guardian shares how her outings often lead to conversation

By Lisa Hopewell of StubbyDog Trekkers

My husband and I hit the streets of our neighborhood several times a day. Once upon a time, this was a very private thing that we did, even though it was in public sight. We were part of the background, just another couple out for a walk or a bike ride. No one took notice of us, and up and down the streets day, after day, it was rare if anyone even said “Hello” to us. That all changed the day we adopted our Voodoo. Since the day we brought him home, we haven’t taken a single walk without attracting someone’s attention. More often now, everyone we see notices us. The following responses are likely:

• People walk towards us for a better look.
• People walk away very quickly.
• Children stop their games momentarily.
• Adults stop their conversations.
• Some people wave.
• Some people stare.
• Cars pull over.
• Perfect strangers feel inclined to comment or ask questions.

It was a big adjustment for us; we are people that value our privacy. Now that we have to deal with all this attention, I find that Voodoo has been one of my greatest teachers. He only pays attention to the positive vibes and comments that come his way. He is always eager to make a new friend. He stops and sits patiently when children come screaming over to him. He uses great restraint when children are running away because he really wants to run with them. He shows his joy and excitement when encountering any of the many friends that he has made. Most importantly, he has taught me how to deal with the negative attention. He just forgets it when people cross the street because they see us coming. If someone makes a foul comment like, “You should muzzle that thing,” he invites them to play by very politely bowing and wagging his tail, or he ignores them. If someone takes the time to ask us questions, he sits patiently waiting to be addressed so that he can show the new person some love. This allows me to have a conversation that may go something like this:

Question from stranger: “Isn’t that a pit bull?”

My answer: “The short answer is ‘yes,’ but the long answer is ‘no, pit bulls are not a breed.’”

Stranger: “I hear about pit bulls on the news all the time. They are supposed to be really dangerous.”

Me: “The news may tell you a lot of things about pit bulls, but they rarely fact check the information they present because drama sells. For example, a pit bull is not really a breed of dog but a way to describe a wide variety of dogs that look similar – regardless of their breed. It has become common. Voodoo here, while he would be described by many as a pit bull and was described that way by a shelter, is really a terrier/Boxer mix, per the DNA testing. More importantly, he is just a dog. The only difference between Voodoo and a Labrador or spaniel is that he is discriminated against because of his looks.”

Stranger: “I don’t know, that doesn’t really sound right – where are you getting your information?”

Me: “If you’re interested you really should do some research., and all have some great information. There are a lot more out there, but those are the easiest to remember.”

Some days I wish I could go back to being part of the scenery because I am just not up for the attention, but that would mean not having Voodoo with me, and that is just not an option. He has brought some of the most amazing people into my life. He makes me a better dog guardian, person and friend. He has taught me to focus on the positive things like cherishing the people in your life because they are who matter, not the passing-by naysayers. When someone judges him on myths and news induced paranoia, he acts as if that person could be his new best friend and they just don’t know it yet. It reminds me to be open to love from anyone that is willing to give it and to do what I can to spread love around.

Now, a question for you: How do you handle the extra attention you and your dog get?

« « Coal the Super Dog | We Can’t Do It Without You » »


32 Responses to “Isn’t That a Pit Bull?”
  1. Awesome read! We live in a friendly “pit bull” community.  Since we’ve adopted Sasha & Krush more people in the community have pit bulls.  The only person that verbally made a comment about our babies was a neighbor who no longer lives next door.  He loved Sasha from day 1 however, was not fond of Krush. Krush was a puppy (a big puppy, he’s a pit bull/boxer mix); he was rambunctious, full of energy and loved to chase birds & cats.  However, Krush is the biggest cuddle bug and loves attention almost more than Sasha (they compete for affection). Kids love our pitties and all who take the time out to know them fall in love with them as well!

  2. azulee19 says:

    We also do get a lot of attention, we go between, “what kind of dog is that” to “is he vicious” to “he is so handsome”. Everyday we come accross people that are truly terrified of dogs period, others cross the street because he is a “pit bull” and yes it does hurt me a little but if in my day I can change 1 person’s opinion about bullies and show how great they are, then that makes it up for all the others that never gave us a chance!

  3. IndigoJones says:

    We have that happen all the time. When One family has 6 pit bulls and a rottweiler and one of those pit bulls is also in a wheelchair , family walks often become impromptu educational forums , petting zoos, Qand A’s, and photo sessions. Sometimes people are wonderful , sometimes people are cruel , but we always use any opportunity to educate. We send people to websites , we offer to talk to their classes, their community groups , their Scout troops, their chuch groups, their Homeowners Associations etc. We give info on adoption , spay and neutering, flea , tick and heartworm prevention as well as speaking about pit bulls , rottweilers and handicapped pets. We love our family and all the dogs in it , and we will always be their biggest and best advocates.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @IndigoJones We have to continue to educate either through example or through a calm non-defensive discussion to try to make a difference in the lives of pit bulls.

  4. blazer says:

    We have similar conversations when out and about — normally it is children who approach us, sometimes adults, and I like to think we live in a fairly bully-friendly area. Our conversations sound very similar to the story above.  The last few encounters have left me sort of hanging — finding myself grabbing for the right words. It seems that each of these strangers has a ‘pit bull’ story – whether they saw/lived it first-hand or heard from their best friend/family member. These last few have been negative stories, “a pit bull attacked my dog” “my dad says it got stronger the more he kicked it”  — questions flood my mind (how do you know it was a pit bull is one of the first) but I can’t get defensive and play twenty questions to try and get the real story (especially from a kid’s mouth) so I just try to focus on my well-behaved bully and try to end on a good note and hopefully they remember that the pit bull that they did meet first hand was very friendly. How do others respond when approached with a specific negative incident?

    • LisaHopewell says:

       When someone tells me of a negative experience that they have had.  I just try to remind them that that was one experience one animal and that for every bad situations the are just as many or more situations that don’t end badly. And that they should just  try to judge each dog individually instead of what happened with another dog.

  5. camckean says:

    I get the same thing. My 11 yr old also walks her and she gets the worst of it. She wants to cry sometimes because people are so cruel. She came back after 2 min walk and said a lady told her that “some dogs just shouldn’t be around other dogs” and she “needs to walk her somewhere else”. This makes me sick to my stomach and I wish they had enough guts to say it when I walk our pit bull.

  6. RamasMama says:

    We get similar things.  I have a Cane Corso and people assume she is a giant Pit Bull.  Had a “man” approach me one day and say “I can’t wait until those dogs aren’t allowed out in public anymore!”  Very sad.  We are working toward her becoming a therapy dog.  I owned Rottweilers for many years; many horror stories there of cruel comments.  :-/  This is a wonderfully informative site.  Keep up the good work.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @RamasMama Thank you, you too, and we are sure you will change people’s minds with your dog.

    • JordanFranklin says:

       @RamasMama I have an APBT service dog and everyone is scared at first but then they start to see she’s very sweet and loving. you should definitely train her to be a therapy dog!

  7. sgreen400 says:

    I am fortunate to live in an extremely pit-bull friendly neighborhood (Wrigleyville in Chicago) and building (there are at least 5 pitties). When I adopted Nala my dad was concerned about people saying mean things to me but it’s quite the opposite! Occasionally I’ll get a question like “does she bite?” or “is she mean?” but that’s very rare and the tone is usually more quizzative than accusatory. I would guess that anyone who avoids us doesn’t like dogs in the first place (Nala is black, 50 pounds and her ears aren’t clipped so not everyone realizes what breed she is – that is until she smiles!”

    Just in the past three days she has bonded with a girl with Downs Syndrome, visited my gym to say hello to the owner (he LOVES her and makes sure everyone knows she’s a pit and that she’s wonderful) and greeted members, kissed a toddler hello and enthusicastically said hello to some kids – and when the girl asked what breed she was her dad kept smiling and didn’t pull them away.

    The best thing we can do as pit bull owners is to provide people with a positive pit bull experience. You can preach about the breed to people all day and night, but the dogs themselves are the best teachers!

    • StubbyDog says:

       @sgreen400 That’s so true, the dogs are the ones that change perceptions every day and it sounds like Nala is just the perfect ambassador for pit bulls. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work, changing minds one encounter with Nala at a time.

  8. RamasMama says:

    I just had to say, Voodoo is gorgeous.  🙂

  9. JoeyL says:

    LOL My standard answer is to say Shhhhh! and cover my dogs ears. I tell them that we haven’t told her and that I don’t let her read the papers or watch the news so she doesn’t know  yet. That usually gets them laughing and starts the conversation off on a friendlier note 🙂

  10. SuzanneYarterAguirre says:

    I have two male German Shepherds – and while not nearly as bad, I often get the negative comments as well.  If you have a ball, you are my dogs’ best friends.  Whenever I hear negative comments about the bully breeds, I always ask if the offender remembers The Little Rascals.  Gee … that was a staff terrier (aka Pit), wasn’t it.  Thanks for an article that made me smile. 

  11. wishbonevettk says:

    The American Pit Bull Terrier IS a breed and has been registered with the ADBA and UKC  for many years. Your DNA test was likely a cheek swab. These are inexpensive and generally do not even include the APBT as a choice! Some shelters are now using the cheap DNA tests as a way to get Pit Bulls adopted out. These inexpensive tests simply give results as breeds closest related to the APBT. If you used the new blood test used by veterinarians, your choices would have been over 130 breeds.The American Staffordshire Terrier and APBT are virtually identical genetically. FYI- The Boston Terrier was derived from small APBT’s in the Boston area. Your dog certainly looks like a purebred APBT. Be proud!
    Lisa K. Kitchens
    Shelter Director and Veterinary Technologist
    Wish Bone Canine Rescue

    • LisaHopewell says:

       While yes, the American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed that is recgonized by some (not all).  A “Pit Bull” as used by the media, many legislators, many shelters, many animal contro / police officers, and the majority of the public is not.  They use it to discribe all dogs that look a little bit alike. When we adopted him he was listed by the shelter as Pit Bull.  We asked if that ment American Pit Bull Terrier or Americant Staffordshire Terrier.  We were told that’s  just how they lable any dog that looks like Voodoo but they had no idea wat breed he was.   As for the way he looks and what vs what he is would it surpise you to learn that his test results from our vet’s office came back multiple kinds of Terrier and Boxer.  Thank you for being an advocate for him and others like him we are proud of our beautiful boy. He is just not as clear cut as he sometimes looks.

  12. TaniaGrahamMcIntosh says:

    I get a lot of attention and questions since I not only have a pit bull type dog but he is also handicapped (missing one front paw). Of course the questions verge on the ridiculous when I walk him with my husky, they ask if the husky ate the pit bulls leg. How ridiculous! But more often than not, my Romeo will make friends with the people he meets. He’s a true ambassador for the breed. Loves people, other animals, ADORES CHILDREN and is always willing to shake hands with the people he meets. I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t fallen in love after hearing his story and meeting him.There is hope out there yet! But yes, blending in is NOT one of our strong points anymore. Then again I knew what I was getting into when I adopted him. He was in the media after all!

  13. ruiner86 says:

    People need to learn to mind their own business! We should go up to them and interrogate them about their breed and how they’re breed has attacked before.

  14. KellyK says:

    Love your story!  To answer the question…I purposely attract attention to Zoey every day!  I live outside of Denver, and take every opportunity that I can to educate people in a positive and fun way.    I raise funds for rescues and canine cancer research and treatment, and Zoey accompanies me, where allowed,  when I make sales calls to businesses and at all pet related events.  She’s always dressed wearing hats and tutus, and no one can resist her 🙂 She has become my best sales associate in my Love Adds Up for a Cure campaign, while being a very special role model and ambassador.  She came into my life when I really needed her…but that’s a whole different story!  Love her so much❤

    • StubbyDog says:

       @KellyK We would love to post your story about Zoey, if you are interested. And everyone knows we can’t resist a pit bull in a tutu! If you’re interested, please email and send us your story and photos. Thanks Kelly!

    • Erin K says:

       @KellyK KellyK! I love that you live outside Denver and are a proud pittie mommy!! I can’t wait til the day Denver’s municipality loses control of the BSL fight. Keep up the good work. 

  15. dorisjensen says:

    I know what you mean, everytime I take my Bella down to the doggy botique here in Madison, I hear people that are walking towards us saying, isnt that a pit bull? Then peoples kids are running along the side walk and their parents will say, stay away from that dog, and I say she is very friendly and loves attention.

  16. jpradun says:

    I’ll preface this by saying that my dog looks pretty similar to Petey from the Little Rascals and when he wags his tail, his whole rear end disjointedly wags like as fast as a hummingbird’s wings.  The conversation usually starts with “oh my gosh, it’s Petey! May I pet him?”  After they fall in love and ask what type of dog he is, I will then tell them that he is a pit bull mix.  It’s usually a 50-50 split on “he’s so nice!” comments and people jumping back and asking if he’s dangerous.  The only true response is, “the only thing dangerous is his wagging tail.”
    If, early in the conversation, they ask, “what type of dog is he?” I usually respond by saying, “the cuddly kind with a wiggly butt.”

    • StubbyDog says:

       @jpradun Those are great responses, and comparing him to Petey is genius, since people have such great childhood memories of Petey. Keep up the good work changing minds with his wiggly butt.

  17. Erin K says:

    When I first moved to where I am now, I took my little man to the dog park. Trace is incredibly submissive, is a momma’s boy and doesn’t go very far from me, even off leash. We walked in the dog park, and 3 fat border collies came barreling over to meet Trace, soon there was growling and teeth baring, and my little pittie was on his back in the middle of a pack of herding dogs. A very ignorant woman, who owned all 3 dogs came racing over, seeing my dog trying desperately to maintain the peace by laying still on his back, trying really hard to just wag only his tail, said to me “That looks like a pit bull!” I said, “He is… half pittie half English Pointer” and I smiled. She berated me about bringing a vicious dog to the dog park, and how dare I put HER dogs in jeopardy by bringing a monster inside the gates and *gasp* turning him Loose!! She didn’t let me get 2 words in while she was telling me how terrible my dogs were, while hers were still guarding my dog on the ground. She stomped off and said “humph… It must be time for us to leave if you aren’t going to take him out of here” I said, “its a shame, but it might be. He just wants to play. If you’re willing, he might just change your mind about Pit Bulls, its obvious you’ve never really met one.” She yelled something about vicious dog (Trace) and negligent owner (me). I just smiled and waved. That same scene was repeated almost verbatem for the first 6 months or so we went to the dog park. Bully breed owners tend to ban together here, because other dog owners won’t talk to us at the dog park, or they take their dogs and rush out of the dog park. I have had some really great conversations with people, and they have met Trace and several have told me that they like Trace, but still don’t trust Pit Bulls. I can only hope that by being present, and being armed with facts (Like ATTS scores -that I tend to memorize, or even carry with me- and knowing the breed’s history and their purpose, and pointing out America’s history where these dogs are concerned, and using hype about Dobermans, Rottweilers and German Shepherds from generations past (that people have come to understand is irresponsible ownership not breed aggression)  as examples of social stereotyping that has proven to be wrong) has all helped convert some previous anti-pittie people. Most of all… my mom. She was horrified when I got Trace, and she breathed a sigh of relief when she heard he was a mixed breed Pittie, and my Target is Border collie and Pittie, she has watched them grow up, and now has come to understand Target’s need to run the fence line and herd my other animals is herding dog instinct, not aggression, and apparently not the pit bull in him. And Trace occasionally points birds, but his clown-like antics… that is all pit bull. Now, my mom walks right up to Bully breeds on the street without fear, and is right behind me at the city council giving them 5 million reasons to squash any proposed BSL, and she tells everyone she knows how great Pit Bulls are. She has met a ton of them through me, and not a single one lives up to their “reputation”.

  18. CaptainScrappy says:

    It’s unfortunate that they get perceived so badly in public. I have a similar issue with my German shepherd, Cede. That problem lies mostly with my boyfriends step-dad though. He won’t come pet her or anything, but all she wants to do is nuzzle. I LOVE pit bulls, and most of my family does too. My uncle used to be biased because of what he heard in the media, he believed them to be evil. But, his brother got a couple and that changed his opinion. He now has a sleepy  little love bug named Lily who sleeps in the bed with his 6 year old boy, and gets so excited when his bus pulls up after school.

  19. VKelly says:

    Here’s a link to a video of Welcome Home Dogs greeting the vets. Pretty sure the pit bull is Coal (he appears 3 times). Really heartwarming piece.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @VKelly Thank you so much for sharing this with us. That was definitely Coal in the video! Such an important program with wonderful therapy dogs.