“They should get rid of every pit bull,” an old tennis friend was telling me at the Rec, La Jolla’s public courts on Draper Avenue.
Then he caught himself and smiled.
“Except for Petey,” he said.
In the aftermath of a grisly mauling in Paradise Hills, indictments against the notorious breed can get pretty rabid.
The big horror stories grab and don’t let go. Unreported go the little love stories that nuzzle the affections.
In the interest of balance, don’t forget Petey and the responsible owner who gave this hard-luck puppy a long, happy life.
It was January 1997. Her right side was dragging on the ground as she followed her master along Draper, a rope around her neck.
She’d been hit by a car, the homeless man said. I don’t want her. You want her? Take her. She’s yours.
Dennis McConnell, a retired business executive who lives in a townhouse across the street from the Rec, had no clue what breed the emaciated pup was — he assumed she was a mix — but he knew fate had determined that it was up to him to give her a home.
When the vet told Dennis the dog was a pit bull, he was blown back.
“I thought what everyone thinks: a vicious animal that’s going to turn on me.” The first night the pit bull slept at his home, “I wasn’t sure if I should close the bedroom door.”
But Dennis, who had grown up with a wide assortment of dogs in Pennsylvania, quickly realized that this 9-month-old puppy — his ex-wife dubbed her Petey after the Little Rascals canine character — was special. Intelligent, loving and, when healthy, remarkably athletic.
He nursed the tan dog back to a normal weight and then paid $2,500 for hip surgery, carrying her up and down the stairs until she recovered.
As they do, the years rolled on by. Most every morning, the two went to the beach, and Petey would take a swim and then nap. Several times a day, they’d walk across the street to the Rec, where Petey was a familiar member of the loose-knit family of tennis players.
Today, Petey is an old lady, a centenarian in dog years. She’s white around the muzzle, slowed by arthritis, hard of hearing.
Dennis and I sat last week in the red Adirondack chairs in front of his house and watched Petey as she limped around the front yard.
“I didn’t know a pit bull from a collie,” he recalled of that first vet visit.
Since then, he’s read widely about pit bulls. He knows the history, good, bad and horrific.
With rare exceptions, “pit bulls are not born aggressive,” he said. Tragically in many cases, “they’re taught to be aggressive.”
I asked Dennis what he’ll do when it’s time to put Petey down.
He’ll take a break, he said. Maybe do some traveling abroad.
“No question,” he said. “I’ll get another pit bull. And it will be from the pound.”
By Logan Jenkins