Monday, March 28, 2011
Veterinary Technician Has Three Pit Bulls; Learns to Love and Respect the Breed
In the past, she has rescued greyhounds, but now her favorite type of dog is a pit bull.
She has three of them.
“I was won over by their wonderful personality and because they are dying in huge numbers,” she said.
They are being killed because they are being bred and trained to fight.
Of Bad Alice, Reuben and Joey, one dog always accompanies her each day to work, usually Joey. They even go out to lunch with her.
“All the drive-through restaurants know me,” the dog trainer at the Mt. Pleasant Kennel Club said. “Joey gets the chicken off a Wendy’s or McDonald’s salad.”
Pit bulls are, MacConnel said, devoted, courageous, great with children, and they aim to please.
But they have a sometimes frightening reputation.
Irresponsible owners and unscrupulous breeders who breed the worst characteristics are responsible for the bad reputation the animal has received, MacConnel said.
“I’ve read a lot about this, how they have gone from “Petey” in Little Rascals to demons,” she said.
MacConnel said she’ll hear people say that the temper of a pit bull depends on how he is raised or trained. But she points out that breeding is a big factor.
“Genetics are important, too,” she said.
Proper, responsible breeding, training and socializing are all important when owning a pit bull.
That is needed because pit bulls do tend to be a little more dog-aggressive than some other breeds and types, she said.
Of her three dogs, Reuben was obtained through the Gratiot County Animal Control office when he was 6 months old. MacConnel said she knew something of his parentage and was somewhat warned.
As a puppy, he was normal, but as he grew older, he was more dog-aggressive than the other two.
“He showed signs of being territorial,” she said. “He’d get a very serious demeanor.”
So she worked with him, trained him and now, “He’s great.”
Reuben needs a little more activity than the other two and when she takes him out, she throws a ball, “at least 40 times. I do it until he drops.”
The tale about pit bulls having strong and locking jaws is a myth, she said.
“They have no more strength than any other large dog and their jaws do not lock,” she said.
They may, however, be more tenacious, more determined than most, but really, they aren’t much different than any other type of dog.
Pit bulls aren’t truly a breed, she said, “more of a type,” that may include American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers.
Once upon a time, pit bulls were known as “Butcher’s dogs,” a kind of working dog, she said.
“They were used to control cattle,” she said. “They would grab on and hold.”
But in the 1800s they began being bred to fight.
And therein lies the trouble.
Bred by people more interested in dog fights than having a nice pet, pit bulls often – not always – attract the worst kind of people; the kind of people who, knowing of the pit bulls’ reputation, want a mean, aggressive and territorial dog, MacConnel said.
“I wish they’d be attracted to something else,” she said, of the circle that keeps repeating itself.
Often, but not always, good families aren’t the least bit interested in pit bulls. They’re frightened of them.
MacConnel said she often makes her way through Deerfield Park, west of Mt. Pleasant, with all three dogs on leashes.
“People give me a wide birth,” she said, even though the dogs “are more in control than some of the others (also on leashes). They are trained to wait until the others pass by.”
On the other hand, people who get to know her dogs are surprised they are pit bulls.
“These are happy, tail wagging dogs,” she said.
MacConnel feeds her dogs premium dry dog food twice a day and all have been spayed or neutered.
By Linda Gittleman