"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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Age Doesn't Matter

A family finds that a senior dog from the famed Ohio 200 case is the perfect addition to their pack.

By Lark McIntosh (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

A few years ago I was a stay-at-home mom to busy teenagers. I was feeling lonely, so I decided it was time to look for a best friend.

I had dogs as a child, but not as an adult, and I had spent a lot of time daydreaming about getting an English bulldog.

As my husband and I discussed the opportunity, we concluded we’d also be open to getting other breeds.

One day my husband John came home from work and said, “What do you think about adopting a pit bull?”

“You’ve lost your mind,” I said.

I, like so many people, let the media “educate” me about pit bulls. John told me to research it and think about it. The research stunned me. I learned they were active, people-loving dogs, with short hair. Since I have allergies, short hair was a must.

After we felt like we had really educated ourselves, we started looking for a dog.

Soon I eyeballed Lola on the Humane Society of Silicon Valley’s website, and I had to meet her.

Well fell in love and quickly adopted her.

Training Lola

Lola came home and was enthusiastic about everything. She is a total family dog and easily became my best friend. There was just one small hiccup: I thought dogs would magically come to you, or sit, or even stay, without training. I thought she’d just do it because I told her to do so. But I was wrong.

She was go, go, go all the time. The term “smiling bulldozer” describes her perfectly.

Whereas I thought she’d magically heel, Lola had other ideas about us taking walks. She’d tug and pull and act like we were heading to a party.

I knew people were already afraid of her because of how she looks, and because she was acting spastic, we weren’t doing a very good job of making friends!

It was important for me that she would become a breed ambassador, so I went on a mission to learn everything I could about training. I found a few trainers but felt discouraged. In fact, I almost gave up my quest before we ended up at Our Pack training classes.

Slowly Our Pack helped Lola and I become a team. They showed us how to work together. Her behavior changed. Instead of tugging around like a smiling bulldozer
and intimidating people, passersby would comment, “Wow, you have such a good dog.”

A New Man on Campus

As we continued in our training, a new dog named Bernie joined Our Pack. He was picked up from the Animal Farm Foundation, and he was driven back to California. Bernie was one of 200 dogs rescued from a high profile, abuse/hoarding and suspected dog-fighting case in Ohio.

I was excited to see how it would all turn out for the new Our Pack dog. He was an older dog who had already faced many challenges in life. When he came to Our Pack, he showed signs of neglect. He was skin and bones and had little hair. There was a bald spot where a chain had been yoked around his neck.

Even though he had been abused, rumor had it that he was the sweetest dog around, and I was excited to finally meet him.

A few months later I was at a socialization group with Lola, and I looked over into the next section to see a little black dog playing with his water bowl. As he splashed water everywhere, his face lit up with joy. I was blown away by his happiness.

It was Bernie; he stole my heart.

My husband and I had started taking Our Pack foster dogs on hikes, and one day Bernie came along with us. I was excited for John to meet Bernie. It was impossible not to fall in love with the dog, and I could tell that Bernie and John had a connection.

The Perfect Pair

We were interested in adopting him, so we wanted to see how Bernie and Lola behaved together.

Our Pack, along with Bernie’s foster mom, Christina, set up an introduction. The two became fast friends. I borrowed Bernie here and there so he could spend time with us.

Needless to say, I was totally in love with the little black dog.

Christina had an out-of-town trip, so I jumped at the chance to take him for the week and, well, he’s been with us ever since.

Lola and Bernie are the perfect pair. There is a whole lot of “I love you, so I’m going to bug you” going on with them – it’s so fun to watch. Lola still has her excitable moments, but Bernie has a calming effect on her. I can tell he loves having his own family, just as much as we love having him. He has mastered the art of couch lounging, and we are making up for all his lost time by giving belly rubs and cuddles.

I remember that he was abused because when I give him a bath, I can see the scars on his body. But because he loves so well, he’s taught me that anyone – or any dog – is able to overcome his past and learn to love again.

Although he’s about 9 years old, it doesn’t matter. We love him regardless of his age, scars or background because he fits perfectly into our family. As Mark Twain put it, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

We realize Bernie was always meant to be a part of our family, at home teasing Lola and being her pal – it just took him awhile to get here.

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