A Pickerington girl's Good Samaritan act recently earned her a new four-legged friend she hopes will change perceptions about a commonly feared breed of dog.
Last month, Tina Yarish was driving her 12-year-old daughter, Abigail, to Toll Gate Middle School one morning when the sixth-grader spotted a pit bull terrier alone and dodging traffic near their home off state Route 204. A pet lover, Abigail pleaded for her mother to stop so they could bring the dog to safety, but Tina had concerns about their own well-being and the logic of approaching a strange animal known for having powerful jaws and lethal capacity.
"I was scared," Tina Yarish said. "Pit bulls have bad reputations."
After begrudgingly stopping, the Yarishes were unable to corral the animal. Over the next two days, however, Abigail watched from her home as the same dog paced a nearby field.
Overcome by concern that the dog had been abandoned and would either be struck by a vehicle or starve, Abigail once again convinced her mother to allow a rescue attempt.
This time, the girl took dog treats with her and approached slowly, a tactic she learned while watching "Pit Bulls and Parolees," an Animal Planet television show in which rescued pit bulls are paired with ex-convicts to give both second chances from lives of abuse, organized fights and crime.
"I had to go after her because I didn't want her to get hit by a car," Abigail Yarish said. "I found her under a thorn bush and she was very scared.
"I took the treats and went up to her slowly and all she did was come to me, sit by my knee and lick my face."
Tina and her husband, Richard Yarish, still had their concerns when Abigail brought the pit bull back to their home, but they decided to let the new arrival stay until they could post signs about her throughout a three-mile radius of where she was found. They also took her to a veterinarian to see if she had a monitoring chip or any other clues that would help reunite her with her owner.
At the vet's office, the family learned that Annabelle -- the name given to the dog by Abigail -- didn't have a monitoring device or other identification, but she had another surprise.
"We found out she was about to have puppies," Tina said. "(Abigail) was as excited as could be, but I was just like, 'Oh, no.'"
Annabelle, who is believed to be a full-blooded pit bull, later gave birth to four puppies at the Yarish house; the pups will soon be given to various friends of the family.
The Yarishes still weren't sure what to do with Annabelle, especially since they already have a Labrador retriever and Pomeranian, as well as a pet bird and a rabbit. However, the bond between the dog and her adoptive mother has, thus far, kept the family from breaking them up.
"I hope that we can keep her," Abigail said. "She already loves her house, and I want to make her into a therapy dog that you could take to a nursing home or to somebody who's lost someone close to them."
As someone who always has appreciated pit bulls' physical appearances and believed the dogs to be misunderstood, Abigail now fully loves the breed. This despite its reputation, plus the fact many animal shelters won't accept pit bulls, that they're banned from some communities and that there is an Ohio law which requires pit-bull owners to carry a minimum of $100,000 liability insurance.
She said she admires the dog's loyalty and intelligence, and even her parents marvel at how Annabelle and their daughter cuddle and are seemingly inseparable.
"If someone good would come along and want (Annabelle), we would think about letting her go, but we're not going to break Abigail's heart," Tina said. "I think I'm outnumbered, anyway, because the three kids --Abigail, Alex (the Yarishes' 15-year-old son) and my husband -- they all want to keep her.
"I know pit bulls have a bad reputation, but I think it's all about the way they're raised," she said.
Tina further said she's become prouder of her daughter through the Annabelle adventure because of the girl's devotion to saving and protecting the dog, as well as the sense of responsibility she's displayed. She credits her daughter with saving the lives of Annabelle and the puppies.
"I really believe that if Abigail wouldn't have rescued her, she would have had the puppies under some tree and they would have died from malnourishment or the cold," Tina said.
Since rescuing Annabelle, Tina said, Abigail steadfastly has cared for the dog and her pups. She also is saving money to pay for Annabelle to be spayed, something the family never required but that Abigail wants to do as she takes ownership of the dog.
The event also has transformed Abigail from a full-time pet enthusiast to a full-fledged animal activist.
Since rescuing Annabelle, Abigail now proudly wears an "I Love Pit Bulls" T-shirt and hopes to operate her own pit-bull rescue facility when she grows up.
"I want my own rescue center for pit bulls and other animals," she said. "I won't go to veterinary school because I don't want to put animals to sleep.
"I just don't get how people could not like this breed of dog," Abigail said. "I love how they look. They look so mean, but they're so nice."
By Nate Ellis
Picture by Lorrie Cecil