Walking down a neighborhood street, rocking my polka-dot rain boots and neon green sunglasses, I'm everything but intimidating; yet the mother walking towards me grabs her son by the arm and drags him across the street faster than a toupee lost in a wind storm. I can't figure it out; maybe it’s her purple argyle leash, or her hot pink Vera Bradley collar. No, no I got it now, it's the kidney bean dance she does when she sees someone who might want to say 'hello.' I'd be pretty intimidated by those dance moves, too, especially since I look like a scarecrow with birds up my overalls when I dance. However, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I promise.
Her name is Massey. She's a seven-year-old Boxer/Catahoula Leopard mix, a Pit Bull, and you're more likely to be eaten by a shark than bitten or attacked by her.
You might be wondering why I said she's a Boxer/Catahoula Mix, but then referred to her as a Pit Bull. Let's clarify something, the term "Pit Bull" does not identify a breed of dog. Rather, it's a classification of a group of dogs that share similar body characteristics, i.e. a muscular body and a boxy head. Boxers, Bulldogs, American Stafford Terriers, etc. are all members of this not so honorary team. It is for this very reason the term "Pit Bull" in not recognized by the AKC.
I think one of the most misused phrases in the rescue community regarding Pit Bulls is, "it's all in how you raise them." WRONG! This is a huge misconception and couldn't be farther from the truth. We haven't the slightest clue how Massey was raised. She could have grown up being tethered to a stake and taught to fight. That certainly is not the dog that has resided in my house for the past four years with absolutely no aggression issues towards people, dogs or cats. In fact, she's been a foster sister to over 75 different dogs and a surrogate mother to a four-week-old kitten.
The proof is out there, just look at some of Michael Vick's dogs. They were starved, taught to fight and yet, after they were rescued, became therapy dogs or amazing family pets. Pit Bulls are athletic, highly adaptive, sometimes overly affectionate, eager-to-please, all-around family dogs. In fact, they were once recognized as a national symbol of courage and pride, but have obviously become largely misunderstood over time and at the hands of humans. A well-bred Pit Bull has a great temperament and, contrary to popular belief, is not inherently aggressive towards humans. As with any companion dog, socialization and consistent training is a must from a very early age all the way through adulthood in order to maintain a happy, healthy dog.
With all that being said, I feel irresponsible breeders are to blame for much of the current epidemic that faces Pit Bulls. Backyard breeders, an amateur animal breeder whose breeding is considered substandard, care immensely about money and nothing about good genetics, or healthy blood lines. If blood lines are crossed, a dog may appear healthy and normal outwardly, but inside, some wires may be crossed resulting in a potentially dangerous dog. Backyard breeders will go to whatever extent they deem necessary to produce a product that sells. Their negligence and greed have led to a pandemic of not only medically unsound dogs, but also to an abundance of dogs without homes. It serves as a reminder that as long as demand is present and people keep buying, backyard breeders will always exist. It also speaks to the importance of doing research on a breeder if that is how you choose to purchase a dog. Just because someone calls themselves a breeder doesn't mean they know a thing about breeding.
I'd also like to point out that some dogs are just wired wrong, just like some people. The mother who loved her child unconditionally, provided nurturing and support in a positive environment is no more at fault for that child growing up to be a serial killer than the person who raises a puppy with love and positive reinforcement only for it to turn around and bite the mailman. I've been around dogs who were raised in lovely, well-groomed homes who were just mean, nasty dogs but on the other side of the coin, I've worked with dogs who have come from absolutely deplorable conditions, who were treated horrendously, yet they are loving and gentle in nature.
The bigger picture here is the reality that judgment and perspective are no longer based on personal experiences. Personal experiences have always been the catalyst behind our judgments and conclusions, or at least that statement used to hold true. For example, an adult tells a child not to touch a hot stove. Naturally, the child’s first instinct is to reach out and stick a finger or two on the hot burner. A child doesn't just take the word of the adult and leave it at that, their curiosity and need to experience the hot stove for themselves drives them to reach a conclusion based on their own experience. I fear the need for conclusion based judgments are becoming less and less a primary drive in our society, and that's an absolutely terrifying realization. Until you've experienced an event, person, place or thing for yourself, your judgment should be placed on reserve. It appears the new normal is to simply believe what others say and leave it at that. I would bet at least 75 percent of all people who have ill views of Pit Bulls have never had a personal experience with one, or if they have, it was in a very limited field: "my neighbor had one, it was always barking and jumping at the fence." *Sigh*
So, to the women who literally dragged her child across the street to get away from me and my vicious dog, I implore you to learn from your own experiences and say ‘hello’ to Massey. You might decide that Pit Bulls aren’t as bad as you thought. You might even LIKE her. *GASP*