Acquired: Rescue / shelter organization
Posted October 6, 2014
When I lived in Washington, DC my neighbors had a pit bull named Parker. Parker was the greatest, sweetest, most patient and obedient dog I ever knew. He would calmly walk down the sidewalk without a leash, and he practically raised their three children. So based on my experience with Parker, I knew all the negative stereotypes of pit bulls were wrong, and I wanted one of my own.
When I moved to California, I went to a local shelter and met a dozen dogs before falling in love with Emily, a boxer/pit bull mix. She was two years old, beautiful, smart and seemed to be obedient. She came home with me a few days later. We had a good first day together, and despite growling at a friend who stopped by, she was great – playful, sweet, smart. I thought the growl was simply first day jitters.
The next day, Emily and I ventured to the dog park. I had several dogs before, and they didn’t particularly love the park so that was my expectation – we’d walk around and come home. Much to my surprise and delight, Emily started chasing balls, other dogs, playing and having a fantastic time. I didn’t actually bring any toys, so I started throwing sticks and she started retrieving them. We were there twice as long as I’d planned to be, but I didn’t care because Emily was so happy. As we began making our way to the other side of the park towards home, a puppy bounced in front of Emily begging to be chased. Emily abided. The two scurried around the park, and after a while the puppy came back over to me, hiding behind my leg playfully bouncing. Emily reached between my legs, grabbing the puppy with her jaw, and attacked. The puppy cried, and I screamed, attempting to grab Emily and rip her off of the poor little thing. The scene was terrifying, and luckily the puppy was not hurt. I left the dog park, shocked, shamed, and terrified.
Upon contacting the shelter I learned that Emily had been returned by her previous owner and had a history of this type of behavior. They never disclosed this to me. The shelter contacted a trainer who came to work with me for one session, but long, sad story short, I ended up returning the dog. She continued to growl at neighbors, showed her teeth to children on one walk (also terrifying), and when I took her to the vet for a check-up (at whom she also growled), he was nice enough to sit me down and ask, “So are you going to do this for the next 12 years?” It was the wake-up call I needed.
While I blame the shelter for the lack of disclosure and blatant negligence, the experience made me think twice about the breed and the stereotypes associated with it. But then again, as mentioned, I found the opposite to be true with Parker, the babysitting pit bull in DC. The positives: Emily was the sweetest and most affectionate dog I’ve ever known. All she wanted to do was snuggle with me. She was ecstatic to see me when I returned home – not happy – overjoyed. I’ve never felt such love from an animal, which was another reason I attempted to work with her through the issues. While I don’t know what happened to frighten Emily enough to strike out as she did, this is a breed with a reputation, and these animals often do not know their own strength or physical talents. Emily for example (who was 40 lbs) could jump almost as high as my seven foot fence. She was solid muscle, as was her jaw, and one of the traits of the pit bull is that when they clench down on something, they do not let go.
If interested in this breed, my recommendation is to go to a pit bull specialist or to raise the dog from puppyhood so you know the animal and her experiences. Otherwise, the risk of what may happen is too great.