Lessons From Buddha

June 21, 2012  

Adopting a pit bull opens the author’s eyes to stereotyping and special responsibilities

By Lauren Woods

I am not unique in the fact that I have a dog and that I love my dog, and that I am convinced that he is the cutest, squishiest, cuddliest thing to ever grace my couch (and everyone who has spent time with him agrees). However, some may think that I am unique because I share my home with a pit bull and that I love this pit bull as part of my family. My pit bull does not guard a junkyard; he does not have locking jaws; and he is not vicious. He’s just my buddy, and we learn from each other every day.

I grew up fostering dogs with my family through a local animal rescue, so it’s fair to say that I’m comfortable with all types, sizes, ages and temperaments of dogs. My family and I viewed every dog as an individual with its own strengths and its own challenges. And since most of our foster dogs were of mixed parentage, it never even occurred to us to label any of them. Yes, some of our foster dogs had big blocky heads and short legs and tails that knocked things over. I just knew that they occasionally peed on the floor if I got them too excited.

My perception of the notion of “pit bull,” or rather lack of perception, changed when I adopted a puppy named Buddha. He was pulled from animal control as a single puppy, and my family stepped up to foster him. I didn’t know a lot about his background, but I knew that he was an under-socialized puppy who would require a lot of effort – both emotional and physical. I thought I could handle it, and I now think I went into adopting this puppy a little over-confidently. I was prepared for a lot of the “regular” puppy things: socializing with all types of people and dogs, middle of the night potty breaks, the foxtail that makes its way up your dog’s nose that requires you to skip work for an emergency vet visit. What I was not prepared to face was the negativity that people directed towards my dog based on how he looks.

I sometimes wonder where people get their negative impressions of pit bull type dogs. Is it the media? Did they have a negative, first-hand interaction? Did they hear a story through a friend of a friend of a friend? My guess is that most impressions are based in negative stereotypes being bandied about by the media or by hyperbole.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I had been around pit bulls, or that I didn’t have any first-hand experiences that would cause me to fear them, but I was so surprised the first time someone screamed and crossed the street on one of my first walks with Buddha. “I’m sorry, but I’m just so scared of those types of dogs,” the jogger called as she sprinted down the sidewalk. As Buddha got bigger – and he got bigger – some people reacted more negatively to him. Not necessarily to me, but to him. Just last week while Buddha and I were visiting a friend, the visiting electrician said, in passing, “Sure, he’s nice ’til he clamps down on your arm.” I was shocked, and later angry, that someone would pass judgment on my dog without even asking questions about his personality.

It’s always been important to me to be a responsible dog owner. Since adopting Buddha four years ago, it has become even more of a priority to invest the time and effort into helping him become a good canine citizen – all because of the way he looks. I want Buddha to change people’s minds about pit bulls and see that they’re great dogs that can be an integral part of a family. I work really, really hard with Buddha to help teach him the skills to be a good example, and when he recently passed his Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) BA level exam I just about passed out from sheer pride that we achieved this. I have to remember that progress can take a long, long time. I’m committed to my dog, and I’m committed to changing the public perception of pit bulls through my own actions. I know my dog’s strengths, his challenges, and I use that knowledge to guide him through situations that we encounter together. It’s not a “breed specific” thing, but rather a “responsibility” thing.

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35 Responses to “Lessons From Buddha”
  1. Buddha is gorgeous!!

  2. laurenwoods says:

    Oh thanks. I just told him about your comment and he’s blushing 🙂

  3. RandiWoods says:

    Buddha is a precious snuggle bug and Lauren is a dedicated human companion.  Great piece, Lauren.  Thank you for sharing your experience.

  4. DianaJones says:

    “I just about passed out from sheer pride that we achieved this” made me chuckle. You are what is good about dog parents, but especially pit bull parents. You eloquently stated what is wrong with pit bulls – the myth of bad media, not the dogs.  But sites like this and stories like yours will make it to the mainstream and start a shift, and I can hardly wait to yell ” I told you so!!”

  5. Wonderful story, Lauren. Buddha is so handsome! I can’t believe that jogger’s reaction that she had — really, is screaming necessary? Screaming isn’t a good thing to do around ANY animal. It blows my mind how some people react to animals in a visceral way, without even thinking about the animal or observing its behavior. I’ve seen people scream when a horse trips at the walk — they think they’re going to fall off or the horse kicked out. Just goes to show that while those people think we can never trust all animals, we really can’t trust all humans! Thank you for all that you do to be an advocate with Buddha.

    • laurenwoods says:

       @annedreshfield Thanks for the kind words! I hope that we can change some minds through being conscientious and responsible.

  6. cindyinfl says:

    Awwwww…Buddha looks like a sweetie to me!  I think I would have a hard time stopping myself from running TO him and just snuggling him up!  He’s just gorgeous!  Thank you for writing such a well-thought and important article. 

    • laurenwoods says:

       @cindyinfl He is such a snugglebug! I’m lucky he decided to waltz into my life 🙂

  7. PeteYoung says:

    I couldn’t have said it better if I tried. I think a lot of the general public have formed opinions on these dogs without actually ever knowing a thing about them, or sadly in most cases, never actually meeting one face to face. Its going to be a long hard road to getting the general public to change their opinions of these dogs, but it is slowly happening. Once your heart has been touched by a pittie, you will understand just what amazing dogs they really are.

    • laurenwoods says:

       @PeteYoung The best thing that we can do is raise and train our dogs (not just pitties – any dog!) with love and respect. Sharing our homes with well-mannered, well-socialized, and well-trained dogs are the first step in changing public perceptions!

  8. camilleta says:

    Aww, he has the friendliest face! I don’t know how anyone could hate on him, unless they are afraid of dogs in general. I really hate the pit bull stigma… But luckily, I haven’t had to personally deal with it much. Most people want to pet my pit bull, they’re actually pretty popular around here.

  9. Remi80 says:

    Silly article. Do you realize a US citizen is killed by a pit bull every 21 days and pits are responsible for 60% of all fatal attacks. These are facts. We’re supposed to forget all that because this women likes to cuddle with this thing on the couqch

  10. Remi80 says:

    Silly article. Do you realize a pit bull kills someone in this country every 21 days and they are responsible for 60% of all fatal attacks. One breed, 60%! think about that. These are facts. We are supposed to have a different opinion because this woman likes to cuddle with one on the couch. In Philly we had one attack a horse a couple years back. A HORSE!

    • puppymomma says:

       @Remi80 “pit bull” being what kind of dog? Statistically that 60% doesn’t work, because when considering “fatal dog attacks” there are such a small portion of them that trying to isolate any one breed (which, pit bull is not a breed) leads to a skewed assumption. I’d like to see sources on all these “facts.”

    • TaraJohnson says:

       where did you find your facts?

    •  @Remi80 We understand this is an open forum and you’re definitely entitled to your opinion however, if you’re here in an attempt to cause hate & discontent this isn’t the place to be.  These dogs like many things in the world aren’t for everyone.  Here this bully breed is celebrated,loved & will be defended.  Everyone here has or had  a pit bull/ pit bull mix or have interacted with one or more  of this bully breed so we know what we’re talking about and are part of a larger positive statistic folks like you refuse to believe.  It’s people with your attitude/disposition  that  forums such as Stubbydog exist.  Stubbydog and other organizations are here as a resource, please check out the resources we’re sure you’ll take something positive away from them.  Enjoy your weekend!

    • laurenwoods says:

      The CDC’s report on dog bites is a good resource for those who are curious about statistics.  Among other facts, they report that “There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.” The CDC concludes their report with the statement “that many factors contribute to whether a dog bites or not and recommends breed-neutral laws that focus on owner responsibility and individual dog behavior rather than breed-discriminatory legislation.” This point really strikes home for me, since I believe that being responsible about your dog – no matter its breed – is of utmost importance in today’s social climate.
      I would be happy to direct anyone with questions to reliable sources about dog bites.
      If you are quoting facts, please cite your sources as we cite ours.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @Remi80 Perhaps this is not the site for you. But if you want to visit our site, don’t spit out what the media has told you, read the real facts: http://stubbydog.org/2012/05/pit-bulls-by-the-numbers/
      You can find more on this site if you are interested in opening your mind to the fact that pit bulls are just dogs, no different that other dogs, not a specific breed and not a killer. Or you can have a portion of the media make your decisions for you.

  11. lesterini6 says:

    Remi80 – could you be any more ignorant and uninformed?  You can’t just pull BS out of the sky and expect anyone with half a brain to believe it.  It’s people like you who give these amazing family dogs the bad name they so do NOT deserve.  I currently own 3 pit bulls none of which fatally attacked anything nor would they ever…..And I really need your source for the pit bull that attacked the horse.  Before you go posting any statistics you should really be able to prove that what you are saying is indeed fact as opposed to sensationalism to bring these dogs more prejudice than they are already dealing with – again – because of ignorant fools like you,

    • Remi80 says:

      @lesterini6 http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=7490295

      There you go. Next time use google genius

      • skreidle says:

         @Remi80  @lesterini6 Sooo Remi, one dog that the media reported as a pit bull attacked a large strange animal, is evidence of… a dog that the media reported as a pit bull attacked a large strange animal. That’s it. That doesn’t logically extrapolate to anything about any other dogs.

      • honeyremedy says:

         @Remi80  @lesterini6 Well Remi80, I have two stories for you. First things first, was the dog initially attacking? Or was it goofing around?I used to be very into riding horses and would spend countless hours in the field with my friend and her Arabians(beautiful, but feisty horses) We would always take her dogs out with us, a German Shepherd mix and a Pointer, and we would have picnics and such. One day, and we are not sure what exactly happened, but one of the dogs yelped and both dogs went at this horse. These dogs had never had a problem with any of the horses for YEARS, but something happened that pissed one of the animals off. We got the dogs and horse separated, and then they continued on like nothing had happened. No, it was not a vicious attack, it was accidental.The second story is about my silly dog. Bubba is a Boxer or American Bulldog, terrier/pug/wippet mix. Okay, he is a pit bull. He looks like one, acts like one, must be one right? Well, one of his best buddies is my grandfathers neighbors horse. Let me explain to you how they met; I remember the fear I felt as I saw my dog sneak under the fence and run after this horse. My initial thought was “OMG, he is going to scare the horse and get kicked and die!” Well, the horse saw him, then continued grazing. Bubba waltzed right up and started play-nipping and licking this big horses face! He had never seen a horse, and I was more than shocked. Then Bubba, being the genius he is, tried playing TUGAWAR with this horses tail. >.< I nearly passed out. I was screaming at him “YOU WILL BE KICKED AND YOU WILL DIE GET AWAY!” The horse, never having met Bubba, didn’t react. Nothing. Finally Bubba stopped yanking on the poor things tail and bounced over to me with his smile and cocking his head, probably thinking “What? Why are you yelling at me woman?!” I am so thankful for that horse and his patience and tolerance.The moral of these stories is that things happen. Unless every human is hyper observant and can read minds of all living creatures, we really should not use judgment UNLESS we know for a fact why any animal does what it does. And, I hate to say this, but some dogs do possess dog-dog or dog-animal aggression. But this does not mean that that dog will turn around and attack a human. Dogs, ALL DOGS, were breed to be tools for mankind. They were breed to love and protect humans. Some dogs have been dealt an unfortunate deck and respond negatively to humans, but that is where we step in. As a human race we owe it to the one animal that has evolved with us, slept in our beds, ate what we ate, protected us, and communicates with us the opportunity to be a wonderful lifelong companion. With Pit Bulls, we owe them that even more. As a race, we humans have completely destroyed the perception of blocky headed, thick bodied, stubby legged dogs. We owe them the chance to reverse the pain we cause to the breed and better their standing in society. Also, on this website we do not tolerate discrimination to ANYBODY or ANYTHING. And what you are doing is a cruel human act of hate, fear and misunderstanding. Please, take your negativity to dogsbite.org or to the other pit bull hate sites. What we do is out of love for the breed, nobody asked you to encourage your fear and hate. We love these dogs, and we will protect them as they would for us.

        • StubbyDog says:

           @honeyremedy  @Remi80  @lesterini6 Thank you for sharing your experiences and saying what all we pit bull advocates feel.

  12. lesterini6 says:

    Lauren!!  I was so outraged in my post below I forgot to address you!!  Your Buddha is absolutely gorgeous and so lucky to have you!  May you have many many wonderful years together 🙂  Thank you for being a pit bull advocate!

  13. lesterini6 says:

    Remi80 – Hardly an “attack” as you described it and the article is vague at best.  A horse at an event was bitten on the leg by what the REPORTER dubbed  a shelter “pit bull.”  Does anyone know what happened prior to the dog   biting the horse because the article doesn’t say.  Does anyone know if the dog was leashed because the article doesn’t say.  Sounds to me more like human error than a vicious pit bull attack which by the way just because someone calls it a pit bull doesn’t make it so.  Again, ignorant fools like you take a vague story about a horse being bitten on the leg by a dog  and proclaim it to be a PIT BULL ATTACKING A HORSE…Shame on you..you are what’s wrong with this world…..

    • Remi80 says:

       @lesterini6 Really. The tite of the article is “Horse Pulling Carriage Attacked by Pit Bull”. I didn’t make this up. You asked for the article and now that you see it you challenge everything in it based on you own prejudices. The facts are the animal freaked out and attacked another animal which is what Pit Bulls are prone to do.There are hundreds of dogs walking in this neighborhood everyday and the only one ever to attack a horse is a pit. Go figure. The weakness of you argument is evident by your personal attacks on someone who’s done nothing but disagree with you. Shame on you.

  14. lesterini6 says:

    @Remi 80 – Oh so if the article says so it must be true, is that your position??  And I am not attacking you, I am defending the entire “bully” breed  that is far too often attacked by ignorance and prejudice.  Any dog that is hard to identify and is reported to have done something wrong will automatically be called a pit bull and as a responsible owner of 3 wonderful rescued pit bulls I take offense to that and anyone who automatically believes everything they read or hear without truly knowing the facts. Dogs get spooked.  Dogs bite…not just pit bulls but all dogs. A bite is a bite.  An attack is quite different. And still, the vague article does not indicate what happened prior to the dog biting the horse.  If you believe all that you hear about pit bulls then this dog should have locked on to that horse right?  No way would a pit bull retreat from an attack  because that’s what they are prone to do right?  Well this dog, according to the article did not lock down….and did retreat so I guess it wasn’t a pit bull after all.  I mean the media has you believing they are killing machines right?  I get it.  You hate anything remotely close to a pit bull.  That’s your choice.  My choice is to defend them when they are so unjustly villified by the likes of you.  Please no more responses.  I am putting the spiked collars on my vicious pit bulls and am preparing to take them for a walk so I can terrorize my neighbors.   Have a wonderful day.

  15. laurenwoods says:

    Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing opinions. In keeping with StubbyDog’s tone, let’s keep our comments fact-based. I know that emotions run high when people are passionate about a cause. Let’s lead by example and not judge one another – just as we wouldn’t want someone to judge our beloved furry family members.

  16. ahenderson19 says:

    @ Remi80- Clearly the logical part of your brain, as well as your common sense and intelligence are nothing more than a stain on the inside of your mothers granny panties. What planet are you from anyway? As an owner of 4 dogs, 2 being pitbulls (having 4 lifetime), having several friends as well as family members that are proud to have pitties as part of their families, and seeing SEVERAL around my neighborhood (and we actually live in the country), I have never ever encountered a vicious pit bull. Why you ask? Because we did not raise our dogs to be that way. Any respectable dog owner or anyone that know remotely anything about animals knows that ANY animal will be vicious IF trained to do so. We run a farm with 25 horses and if it wasn’t for the PITBULL that lived there, we would have had three tragic mishaps, one being fatal. Luckily that ferocious animals cried for help when my 3 year old colt was hung up on a gate in his stall and prevented him from breaking his leg by bringing attention to that end of the barn. There was even blood involved and he didnt even try to kill, eat, or attack the horse (as he would in your mind). Were you even aware that pit bulls were bred to be nanny dogs and actually served in both worls wars? http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/upshot/pit-bulls-surprising-past-nanny-dogs-195612543.html “NEXT TIME TRY USING GOOGLE GENIUS”.
    You sincerely are not educated on the breed and probably should have not commented on this post. To save yourself from looking like the ignornant troll you are, next time, bring an arguement to the table with facts that YOU are educated on.

  17. ahenderson19 says:

    LOL I suppose you are a huge football fan and are pulling for Vick as MVP. LOL

  18. Matt.S says:

    Good story, Lauren. Buddah is a beautiful boy. Thanks for sharing this.

  19. Matt.S says:

    Good story, Lauren. Buddha is a beautiful boy. Thanks for sharing this.

  20. honeyremedy says:

    I loved your story and adore your pitty!But, I have to disagree. MY dog is the “cutest, squishiest, cuddliest thing to ever grace my couch”! >:DThanks for being any awesome puppy-parent!