"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Monday, March 28, 2011

Veterinary Technician Has Three Pit Bulls; Learns to Love and Respect the Breed

Veterinary technician at the Mid-Michigan Animal Clinic on Luce Road in Alma, Kelley MacConnel knows dogs.

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.

Bad Alice is prim and proper, although she does find disgusting things to eat out in the yard. (MacConnel has an invisible fence.) Joey likes to be with her the best and Rueben is well, Rueben. He finds thunderstorms frightening and he’ll make a bee-line to her bed during a storm at night.

He’s also the first to let her know what’s outside her door.

No question, MacConnel said, all three would defend her.

To her, they are a never-ending delight.

“Oh Reuben will take something he knows he shouldn’t have and run with it,” she said of the brindled show-off who makes her laugh.

By Linda Gittleman


  1. She has very pretty dogs :) Of all the dogs I came into contact with at the humane society where I worked, Pit bull type dogs were always the friendliest.

  2. My best friend's mother has two of these beauties. They are semi-trained but surprisingly gentle around their four year old daughter. They give me love and lots of kisses when I walk in the door!

  3. I am also A Veterinary Technician who is "owned" by two wonderful Pit bulls. I also take them to work with me. I have always enjoyed working with this breed . I have been in the field for over 20 years, as a Technician and now a practice manager in Florida. They are truley the best. I agree with everything she has stated. Every chance I get I try to change someones mind by introducing them to my kids !