The truth about pit bulls

I didn’t go looking for a pit bull puppy. In fact, when I saw that in the description of dogs available for adoption I moved on, thinking “I don’t need to invite that kind of trouble.” Me – the person whose first dog as a couple with my husband had been a rottweiler/German shepherd mix (and he was just a big protective baby too.) But pit bulls had gotten so much bad press, I just kept looking.

Then there was the day I went to Petsmart for cat food. It was a Saturday and the Denkai Animal Rescue was there with their dogs. I was doing real well until I got to the last cage. Then I fell in love. In that cage was the cutest puppy I’d ever seen. It was wearing a pink collar so I immediately assumed it was a female. By the time I’d figured out that, pink collar nonwithstanding, the puppy was male and a pit bull mix (heavy on the pit bull – we still don’t know what he’s mixed with), I didn’t care. Turns out that unless its ears are cut, a pit bull puppy doesn’t really look like a pit bull. And the ears make them damn cute too.

Next thing I knew, I was on the phone calling my husband saying “I know Siren (my kitty) is on his last legs and we’d talked about getting another dog when he goes, so could we please just get the second dog a little early?” Lucky for me, my husband recognizes that tone to mean “I’m coming home with another animal, I’m just giving you a chance to speak.”

I felt pretty good walking out of there, despite the fact that I’d just spent an extra $300 that we didn’t have paying for a puppy and supplies. It’d seemed like everyone wanted to adopt this little guy, but I was the one who’d taken him home. Score! To endear me a little more, he wasn’t all over the car like some dogs are. He curled up on the back seat and slept the whole way.

By the time I’d gotten home, I’d finally been able to peg the name that’d been just out of reach in the store – Ranger. It seemed to describe him perfectly.

He was a happy-go-lucky little guy and our five year old Carolina Dog didn’t know what to make of him. She’d always moped around because she didn’t have anyone to play with, but this rambunctious little snot with the sharp teeth wasn’t what she’d had in mind. My cat wasn’t too thrilled either, but since he mostly stayed off the floor it wasn’t so bad for him. At least he could get away.

One thing I figured out quickly was that Ranger wasn’t the little devil I’d half feared. He was just a puppy who loved spending time with his family. At the time I kept scratching my head trying to reconcile what I thought I knew about pit bulls with the one living in my house.

Then a chance encounter with someone who trains dogs helped it all make sense. She said that pit bulls are “nanny” dogs and I was so struck with the comparison that I laughed out loud. That explained his behavior perfectly. Why he followed us around from room to room and rarely wanted to be alone. The bad rep stems from their tendency to be over-protective. It takes a while to establish someone on the “okay” list and that still doesn’t prevent fierce barking on first arrival. And if he doesn’t know you, and the family don’t seem to be aware of your presence, then God help you.

I once had a migraine and was laying down when the doorbell rang. Of course, both dogs were on that, but Ranger kept it up and sounded really fierce. I figured whoever it was would go away. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. When Ranger didn’t let up, I decided I’d better see what was going on. He was at the deck door barking fit to kill when I walked over there and saw a man on my deck holding a long rod and sprayer. Once the adrenaline surge was over at seeing some strange guy on my deck, I went out on there, shutting Ranger inside. Turned out it was the pest control guy whose instructions were to do the job whether anyone was home or not. He told me working on the front porch really scared him because he thought Ranger was going to come through one of the glass side panels and attack him.

When I got back inside I looked down at my dog and decided that if he could’ve broken through the glass, he might’ve done just that. He doesn’t understand the concept of service personnel. All he knew was that I was home asleep and there was a strange man outside his house. God help anyone who really TRIES to break in.

The overprotectiveness is where people who want to abuse this instinct come in. If they’re looking for a dog both physically powerful and protective enough to guard against any intruder (or God forbid a dog to use for attack purposes), then the pit bull is the ideal breed. I also think the reason they cut their ears is to make it look like they have horns – you know, devil dog.

So while I acknowledge the potential for abuse of the breed, I also know firsthand what a wonderful pet they can be. Training is important, because they can be hard to control otherwise being so physically powerful, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bringing another one home.

I heard they were initially bred to guard small children playing outside from predatory animals. I can believe it.


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