"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, November 29, 2011

Award Leaves Pit Bull Owner in Happy Tears

Happy tears, astonished tears, proud tears...please read on...

This year, for the first time ever, The Positive Pit Bull participated in the Raleigh Christmas Parade.

Dozens of Pit bulls wooed the crowd with their festive holiday wear.

The dogs, all ambassadors of their breed, captivated the crowd with their adorable costumes and charmed them with their endearing personalities.

Much to the surprise and delight of The Positive Pit Bull founder, Paige Burris, the participating Pit bulls won perhaps the most coveted award of the parade - The People's Choice Award.

Yes, the throngs of people voted and their number one pick was The Positive Pit Bull group.

Their choice left Burris in tears. Happy tears, of course.

Winning the award is much more than just an honorable prize - the dancing, prancing, charming dogs showed everyone at the parade that they were not to be feared - not to be misunderstood.

What did The Positive Pit Bull really win with this award?

According to Burris,

"Awareness for Pit bulls. A chance to educate! Attention for the breed who deserves it most."

She has high hopes for the award - she hopes that it will help to change their negative perception of this highly misunderstood breed.

Burris hopes that people will take the time to question their current way of thinking - to open their mind to the possibility that Pit bulls are just dogs - with the same needs as any other breed.

She also hopes that people will come to understand this special breed's capacity to love, and to realize what an incredibly big heart they have.

Burris knows that Pit bulls aren't the right breed for everyone, but for those owners who take the time to own responsibly - providing socialization, training and loving care - Pit bulls can rank among the most perfect breeds available.

Congratulations to The Positive Pit Bull participants - may you continue to spread your special joy to the world!

Please take a moment to share this positive story - perceptions will begin to change when people open their mind - when they allow themselves to see the good.

Article by Penny Eims, Dog News Examiner
Photo credit, The Positive Pit Bull

Love at First Sight

On her one-year anniversary of adopting a shelter dog, an adopter reflects on her pit-bull terrier’s positive effect on her family and community.

Last year, July 5 to be exact, my boyfriend and I went to the Washington Humane Society on New York Ave. in Washington, D.C. to meet a sweet-looking dog we saw on Adopt-A-Pet.com. We were about to buy our first home and move several counties away, but I had spent months aching for a dog. He wasn't exactly sold on the idea, having, I believe, only had boring dogs in the past.

I started my search with Boston terriers, but soon turned my efforts to finding a pit-bull terrier. I always loved how happy-go-lucky they are, and I knew they needed all the help they can get, as I was learning more and more about their plight every day. I had been convincing him how wonderful it would be to have a dog around, how rewarding it is, and how glorious waking up to doggy kisses can be. I had apparently convinced him enough to "just go see her."

Nina was described in her profile as "a cuddle bug" and "a perfect couch companion." We walked through the kennel trying to find the face with that perfect pit-bull terrier smile we saw online. We found her and her telltale grin, and asked to meet Nina along with two other dogs. A volunteer led us into a small room with a couch, some treats, a window, and a few toys. They told us they would bring in the dogs one at a time, and left us there to go bring out the first dog. I kept telling myself that we don’t have to adopt a dog today — if these dogs aren’t exactly right for us, we shouldn’t take one home. There was no use getting into this if our hearts aren’t all there, I repeated.

The first dog we met was a little to "hot" for us — bouncing off the walls and understandably excited to get out of her run. The second dog was aloof and probably a little scared, a bit too "cold" for our home. Nina was last.

The door opened just enough for her to see us on the couch, and the moment she did her face exploded with that wonderful smile.

Within a split second, Nina had pushed open the door, jumped into the air, rotated 180 degrees and landed belly up across both of our laps. She immediately began licking us. We spent the next five minutes together being thoroughly cleaned all over our faces and ears, doling out treats, and giving each other knowing glances, whispering, “We have to get this dog.” Nina was just right.

We put in an application. The woman interviewing us mentioned that Nina had been there for several months, and that she had almost been adopted. A man, she said, had come in and fell in love her (how could you not?), but didn’t realize that the county he had just moved to- Prince George’s- had in effect breed discriminatory legislation (BDL). Discriminatory, expensive, ineffective, dangerous, unfair, and baseless laws prohibiting its citizens from having dogs who look like Nina.

Dogs with big heads, short fur, and wide chests are automatically deemed “vicious” and “dangerous,” and are euthanized and outlawed for nothing more than their appearance and peoples’ willingness to ignorantly and blindly follow urban myth rather than common sense and scientific fact (but I'm sure you know all this, I just get riled up ha ha).

She told us that he started crying right there in his interview, saying he never would have moved there if he had known, and he left the shelter in tears that day. I can’t imagine how awful he must have felt leaving her there — a needy pit-bull terrier in an inner-city shelter. Her chances were so slim, much like every other dog that shares her physical characteristics and their attached social burdens. He must have gone home, hating his pathetic county government and hating the ignorant people who condemn innocent dogs based on fear-mongering sensationalism and moronic legend. I imagine he wept because he thought for sure she wouldn’t make it out of there.

But she did. We adopted her, and everyday I think there isn’t any way we could ever possibly love her more than we already do, and every day she proves us wrong.

She’s completed several advanced training courses at Pat Miller's training school, which we are lucky enough to live very close to, and she’ll be taking her test for Canine Good Citizen certification this year. From there, we hope to get her certified as a therapy dog so she can use her natural love for people to administer love and Nina —kisses to people in hospitals and nursing homes.

She has a veritable fan-club in our town — people I don’t even recognize hang out of their cars and yell “Hi Nina! How’s it going! I missed you!” Strangers sang “happy birthday” to her on May 7 (the date the shelter gave us), one man who doesn't even have a dog bought her Milkbones to keep on hand when we see him, and a few ask for some special Nina-luvin’ if they’ve had a hard day. These are people who don’t even know my name.

She loves visiting the bookstore, cafes, stores, high school, and firehouse downtown where she's guaranteed to get some pets. I make it a point to never say no to someone who might want to pet her — the more wonderful pit-bull terriers people meet, the better— and Nina has absolutely no concept of a stranger, only new friends.

There is a group home nearby where she is particularly popular, often walking off from an extended petting session to a chorus of "We love you Nina!" It's a little embarrassing for me, but I can tell she loves it. Bands of neighborhood kids will swamp her on our walks several times a week, having her do tricks, and giving her all the attention she can handle. She's especially popular in the winter when we bundle her up in children's hoodies from Goodwill.

What makes me the happiest is the people who come up and say they've seen us around town so often, that they've noticed how well-behaved she is, and ask about clicker training or pit-bull terrier stereotypes. She isn’t spoiled, she just has a natural ability (as many pitties do) to radiate love and happiness, and they say you get what you give. Nina has no idea that every day, she is smashing the stereotypes and ignorance that kept that person from adopting her while teaching people about positive training and pit-bull terrier advocacy — she just loves everyone she sees.

There are pets like Nina available for adoption from the Washington Humane Society. Check them out.

Read about the Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls Washington, D.C. Pit Crew.

By Laura Cooke
Photos courtesy of Laura Cooke

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter 2011 Issue of The American Dog Magazine

The winter 2011 issue features eleven incredible Pit Bull role models and breed ambassadors! Check it out!

The American Dog Magazine website.
The American Dog Magazine Facebook Page.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Licked to Death by a Pit Bull

And other tales of a faithful family dog.

In the beginning, there was Angel.

I met her in the mountains of upstate South Carolina back in the winter of 2008—she belonged to some friends of mine—and the minute she trotted out to greet me, I felt certain that things would not go well. Her head looked like an anvil, for starters; it was framed by a wide jaw and lupine, almond-shaped eyes. Her silky black fur stretched over at least fifty pounds of muscle—she had the kind of physique you’d expect to see on a panther, not a pet. All the better to chase me down and devour me with, of course, because Angel was some kind of demon dog. You could tell just by looking at her. Angel was pure pit bull.

As it turned out, Angel wasn’t much of a fighter; she was more of a leaner. Astonishingly obedient. A bit on the needy side, if you want to know the truth. When the time came for her to chase the horses back into their corral, she did her job like an old pro, with precision and care, but most of the time she seemed more interested in soaking up human affection, however she could get it.

So when the time came last year for my husband, Sean, and me to give our imperious, grumpy little pug some company, I started doing research on pit bulls, a breed I had always been taught to fear and revile. (Was I insane? Aren’t they bred for blood? Don’t they turn on their owners, and maul children without the slightest provocation? Don’t they have locking jaws?!)

Well, no. And no, and no, and no, and no (no dog has locking jaws, by the way, and a pit bull’s bite is weaker than, say, a German shepherd’s). There is no real DNA profile for the “pit-bull-type dog”; it’s at best a catchall term for what is pretty much a mutt all around, but I was shocked to learn that the American bulldog–
terrier mix was actually once cherished as a national icon, the canine embodiment of loyalty and courage and rock-solid temperament. The kind of dog you could always count on, and the kind you could trust with any job, from cutting cattle to search and rescue to, yes, babysitting. Petey, the Little Rascals’ sidekick from Our Gang? He was a pit bull. The RCA Victrola dog? A pit bull. The Buster Brown mascot? Pit bull. Sergeant Stubby, the most highly decorated dog in World War I? Pit bull. Portraits of pits draped in the American flag graced some of the most famous wartime recruitment posters. Even Theodore Roosevelt and Helen Keller adored the breed.

When I told friends what I learned, they hemmed and hawed as though I were considering the acquisition of a Bengal tiger. One politely told me that she “assumed certain things about people who owned pit bulls.” My mother, well versed in the child-mauling-
locking-jaw spiel, claimed I had a death wish. But the scales had fallen from my eyes. If a pit bull had been good enough for Helen Keller, then—what the hell?—I figured one was damn well good enough for us. So we decided to take our chances with the most notorious dog breed in America. And we had no trouble at all finding one, because all our shelters in North Carolina seemed to be overflowing with them.

“Pits have a hard time here,” one of the shelter volunteers told us, “because people are so scared of them. They’re surrendered all the time in the worst possible shape—sick, starved, beaten, tortured, you name it. And we have to put a lot of them down, which is such a shame, because they make excellent family dogs.”

We selected a young tan-and-white female with a red nose and honey-colored eyes who bounded over to us like a gazelle the first time we met her. Sean and I had recently returned from New Orleans and the Saints had just won the Super Bowl; our new addition, an underdog if there ever was one, looked elegant yet tough, refined yet scrappy. What could we do but name her Nola?

In the first few months after bringing Nola home, she consistently surprised us in every way. Our “junkyard dog,” she of dubious lineage and dangerous reputation, was more elaborate with her affection than any canine either of us had ever owned—more than all those retrievers, spaniels, hounds, terriers, and shepherds put together. If we were in any danger at all, it was the danger of having our faces licked off, the danger of drowning in slobber.

Wherever one of us went, Nola trundled alongside, and wherever we reclined together, Nola wedged between us like a balloon at a seventh-grade dance, curling into a bizarre contortion that we now call the “pit ball.” She dutifully checked the perimeter of whatever room we happened to be in. She groomed us and nuzzled us and rolled onto her side to spoon when we watched movies. Since we could never seem to peel her off of us, I joked that we might as well put a bonnet on her and start pushing her around in a stroller. (When I was at home alone at night, however, I didn’t exactly mind having a pit bull at my side. Potential intruders didn’t need to know that she was a love sponge.)

Every time I looked at Nola, she dished her ears forward, cocked her head appraisingly, and furrowed her brow in a way that let me know gears were turning back there, trying desperately to figure out what I wanted her to do. If I took her out for a hilly three-mile trail run, she pushed herself to the limit, racing ahead like some kind of spotted bullet. If I felt under the weather, she was content resting her head in the crook of my arm while I read a book. She picked up new commands and solved puzzle toys in minutes (thanks for nothing, Kong!), so our main challenge, if you can call it that, was keeping her from being bored. To paraphrase the late animal behaviorist and pit bull advocate Vicki Hearne, it was as though we weren’t so much training Nola as we were reminding her of something.

But when it came time to take her out in public, people reliably cringed and scooted away from Nola. I tried to offer up to wary strangers all the counterintuitive factoids I had come across from veterinarians and behaviorists—like the fact that pits are some of the most social dogs around, that they rank right up there with Labs and golden retrievers in terms of how much they seek out human attention. Or that the American Temperament Test Society, which has tested nearly a thousand pit bulls, gives them a passing score of 86 percent, higher than that of beagles and border collies.

Even armed with the data, we quickly realized that Nola’s affectionate nature was no match for decades of media hype. That didn’t make me sad for her (she didn’t know the difference) as much as it saddened me for the thousands of stable, adoptable pit-bull-type dogs in shelters across America that are euthanized every year because of this hysteria (in 2009, 58 percent of all euthanized dogs were pits), and for the folks I met who were missing out on the companionship of such a capable, versatile breed.

We have all read those headlines, hundreds of them, about horrifying, often fatal, pit bull attacks, and after Michael Vick’s famous arrest, we are all more familiar than we probably want to be with the evils of the dogfighting industry. Fear sells much better than reason, but fear also can’t bloom without ignorance.

Chain up any kind of dog, subject it to the jeers and taunts of passing strangers, and deny it food, shelter, and meaningful human company, and you may very well end up with a dangerous, unstable animal. With pit bulls, the media-stoked firestorm about their “viciousness” has created a tragic feedback loop: They have a terrible reputation, so the animal abusers are even more drawn to them; these dogs are then treated miserably and sometimes end up reinforcing the stereotype. Behind every broken dog is a severely broken person. You can’t have one without the other.

Here’s another way of thinking about it, though: What does it tell you about the pit bull that, in the brutal world of dogfights, the animal is so focused on pleasing its owner that it will readily accept injury, or even death? And what does it tell you about the breed’s resilience that, even after being systematically trained to fight, many of these animals can be rehabilitated, and some now work as therapy dogs?

In a hundred years, the pit bull has gone from national hero to unpredictable monster, and the dogs are still the same. We’re the ones who have changed. Despite the variances in their size and shape and traditional uses, all breeds of the domesticated dog trace their genes back to one species: Canis lupus familiaris. The strongest element in their DNA is that they want to be with us, that they want to do what we ask of them. That is both the blessing and the burden of their loyalty.

As I write this, my arm is buckling under the significant weight of a big, blocky head. A pink nose is twitching near my keyboard, and every so often, a heaving sigh escapes it. I am being stared at with an intensity that tells me to please hurry up, it’s way past dinnertime, waiting has now become unacceptable.

So I will end with this:
I now make certain assumptions about people who own pit bulls, too. I assume they are independent thinkers, they have transcended a long-standing prejudice, and, more important, they know a damn good dog when they see one.

By Bronwen Dickey
Illustration by John Cuneo

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gremlin Goes to School: Pit Bull is Teacher's Aide

Eyewitness News12 visits an Ohio classroom to bring you this encouraging report of students and dogs growing together, and if you question the wisdom of bringing so-called “vicious” breeds into the classroom, this should serve as an eye-opener.
A former bait dog is acting as an ambassador for her breed while helping autistic students to learn. Gremlin got off to a very tough start in life. Owner Chris Hughes says: “Both of Gremlin’s back legs were broken. Gremlin can’t make any noise. They ruptured her vocal chords. As a bait dog, they don’t want them making much noise, so they rupture their vocal chords.”

Despite her troubled past, Gremlin is as calm and kind as any dog you’ll meet. As a certified therapy dog, she visits students to sit by their side quietly while they practice reading. The companionship (without judgment) builds confidence and improves comprehension. In other words, it’s a terrific fit.

Middlefield teacher Janet Sapp sums up her take on the results of using therapy dogs with students in one sentence: “…we wish we could have a dog in a classroom all the time.”



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inseparable: The Story of Wally and Boo

Wally and Boo — a Chihuahua and a pit bull — were dropped off at an animal shelter in southern California (not the no-kill kind) by their owner, who was moving and could no longer care for them.

It didn’t take long for the Rancho Cucamonga shelter, in San Bernadino County, to see the strong connection between the two.

During their stay at the shelter, Boo, the 4-year-old pit bull, and Wally, the 6-year-old Chihuahua, protected and comforted each other in the same kennel.

When separated, both would become depressed.

The shelter did its best — including making the video above — to try and adopt them out as a pair, but found no takers.

At one adoption fair, the pair was spotted by members of the The Fuzzy Pet Foundation, a Los Angeles area rescue group.

“We were so touched by their bond, but we also knew it would not be easy to place into a forever home a pit bull and a Chihuahua together,” said Sheila Choi, Fuzzy Pet’s CEO and founder.

“We asked the animal shelter to give us a little time to network, and begged them not to put to sleep Boo and Wally,” Choi said.

Joe Pulcinella, Rancho Cucamonga director of animal care and services, said Wally and Boo were never scheduled to be euthanized — and that the shelter spent five months trying to adopt them out together “because they were so bonded.”

Rancho Cucamonga has increased its adoption rate to about 90 percent, but still, as Choi saw it, the pair getting put down was a possibility.

“For many days and weeks, we made more than a thousand phone calls, sent out a slew of e-mails to our network of friends, family members, donors, and general supporters, hoping to find Boo and Wally a loving, permanent home. It was not an easy feat. No one had come forward to adopt this pair of lovers,” Choi told ohmidog!

That’s when Choi remembered a conversation she had with a classmate at Harvard’s Kennedy School, where she’s enrolled in a two-year master’s program.

“This classmate, Jack Jaskaran, also a New York City police captain, and I always talked about our love for pit bulls. Jack had owned pit bulls all his life, and had talked to me about adopting another one or two dogs after he graduated from the program last year.”

Fuzzy Pet shared Boo and Wally’s story with Jaskaran’s family, as well as a video the Rancho Cucamonga shelter had made and posted on YouTube. They agreed to adopt the pair.

“We bailed out both Boo and Wally on August 3, 2011. We have sheltered them at a cage-free boarding facility ever since, and today, they will be flying in cabin (NOT cargo) via a pet aircraft for NYC,” Choi said yesterday.

The Jaskarans were eagerly awaiting their arrival. “My little girl looks at the dogs’ video clip daily … She keeps telling me about Wally’s smile. We are very excited about them,” said Jaskaran.

“The Fuzzy Pet Foundation believes in giving every pet a second chance,” said Choi. “Pit Bulls, especially, have a bad reputation and we want to share with everyone that they are a loyal and loving dog breed. Boo and Wally were considered by the animal shelter difficult to re-home as a pair, but we truly performed a miracle.”


Pit Bull Saves Owner From Fire


Friday, November 18, 2011

Video du Jour

Little Red the Vicktory dog surprised everyone recently by passing the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test on her very first try! "She's a great dog," says Dogtown caregiver Betsy Kidder, who worked closely with Red to help her get ready for the test. This is especially exciting news for Little Red, who, by court mandate, as with other Vicktory dogs, had to achieve CGC certification before being considered for adoption. And her timing couldn't have been better. As luck (or fate!) would have it, a regular volunteer from the midwest, who'd loved Little Red for years, had barely told the adoption folks at Best Friends a couple months beforehand that she'd love to adopt Little Red. Everything cleared during the adoption application process, and lucky Little Red is now living in a foster-to-adopt situation, another court mandate. Way to go, Red!

Follow Little Red on Facebook!

Pit Bulls Are Just Dogs

Enough already. Anybody reading the Argus-Courier over the last few weeks would think our town’s biggest problem is pit bulls. Forget our declining city revenues and unmaintained parks. It’s pit bulls that sell papers. That’s why we’ve been besieged with front page, above-the-fold stories week after week. It was a terrible tragedy that occurred, but you only heard about it because it involved a pit bull-type dog. It could just as easily have been a German shepherd, Labrador retriever, pointer, rottweiler or poodle — but if that had been the case, you wouldn’t know about it. When I was the Marin Humane Society’s public information director and somebody was bitten or attacked by a dog, reporters would call practically drooling, saying, “Was it a pit bull?” “No, it was a Lab.” Click. They only cared to report on incidents involving pit bulls, thereby stigmatizing these unfairly maligned dogs even further.

I’m going to let you in on a big secret. Pit bulls are just dogs. Just plain old dogs. And they make wonderful family pets. The American pit bull terrier, one of the first American dog breeds, was known as the “nanny dog” in the early 1900s because of their love of children. There are quite a few pit bull-type dogs in Petaluma and the vast majority are living with middle-class families minding their own business. People who have them cherish them because they really are special. Pit bulls are happy, loving, sweet, smart, comical, cuddly dogs who love being with people. If you don’t know that to be true, then you don’t know anything about this breed.

Like us, dogs are individuals and, yes, there are troubled dogs — of every breed. Worse, there are too many irresponsible owners — of every breed. When incidents happen, it is seldom the dog who is at fault. Dogs are dogs. They are territorial and predatory by nature. That’s why they need to be managed and people need to be held accountable. Too many dogs lose their lives because of their owners’ mistakes.

This newspaper needs to take responsibility, too. Every time the media sensationalizes pit bulls as dangerous, it makes neighbors uneasy, makes it harder for shelters to find homes for these perfectly good family dogs — and makes them more attractive to the less responsible elements of society.

Pit bulls are our victims. Because of our ignorance, our fear and our prejudice, these innocent dogs end up in the wrong hands, often neglected and mistreated. Stop this cycle of abuse and misinformation. Spend some time at www.badrap.org and go to the animal shelter and ask to meet a pit bull — the real dog, not the one of your imagination. Open your mind and stop believing everything you read in the newspaper.

Article by Sheri Cardo, Petaluma

Monday, November 14, 2011

Titans Free Safety Michael Griffin Joins Effort to Embrace Pit Bulls

Michael Griffin of the Titans says he enjoys traveling to shows with his American Bullies, spending time with people who really know the breed and want to educate those who don't.
Tennessee Titans free safety Michael Griffin is known for his drive to win in football stadiums.

But he is also competitive in the dog show arena.

Out of the four dogs Griffin owns, three happen to be pit bulls. If the image of dog fighting comes to mind, this is the farthest thing from it.

“In my offseason, I travel around to different shows with my American Bullies,” he said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing — spending time with people like myself who really know this breed and want to educate people.”

The Brentwood resident is also throwing his support behind Nashville PITTIE, which stands for Pit Bull Initiative to Transform Image and Educate. The advocacy group is sponsoring a pit bull awareness day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 107 S. 11th St. in Nashville, the lot beside Bongo Java. There will be music, a parade, contests, training tips and opportunities to adopt pit bulls. If he gets out of practice in time, Griffin plans to be there with one of his dogs.

Pit bulls have a reputation as an aggressive breed. It didn’t help matters when NFL quarterback Michael Vick served time in jail for his role in a dog fighting ring.

“I don’t really know a lot about that case, so I really can’t say anything about it, except to say that everybody makes mistakes. And people have to pay for their mistakes,” Griffin said.

Part of the problem with the public image of the pit bull is that many people focus on only what they hear about the breed. Some neighborhood homeowner associations and municipalities have banned pit bull ownership.

As a kid, Griffin always wanted a Rottweiler, but he never was able to convince his parents to take one in. When he was in college, he pulled a fast one on his folks when he returned home with a dog he said was a blue Lab. It wasn’t until after his parents fell in love with the dog that they realized their son had a pit bull. Now, his parents own two pit bulls, Shack and Honey.

“All dogs have teeth. It’s all in how you raise them,” Griffin said.

Written by Bonnie Burch

Video du Jour

Caution: Grab a box of tissues!

His name was Stallone. Rescued during a dogfighting raid, this pitbull terrier won the love of everyone around him. The heartbreaking story of this victim sheds light on the extreme cruelty he, and other dogs like him, endured - fight after fight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pit Bull Festival Celebrates a Misunderstood Breed

His smile was gigantic as he flopped lazily upside down in his trainer’s arms, fresh off a spectacular performance of athletic prowess that both delighted and titillated his cross-species audience.

Justice had made a long and difficult journey from the pit bull fighting circuit on the East Coast to his joyous and inspiring performance at the third annual Texas-sized Pittie Bride Festival in downtown Austin on Sunday.

This fantastic creature was the answer, plain and simple, to anyone who has ever been snowed by the erroneous idea that pit bulls are, by their very nature, killing machines.

On the contrary, Justice was pure joy embodied.

His lean, red-gold body turned flips some six feet in the air as he caught Frisbee after Frisbee between those much-maligned and highly misunderstood jaws. Nearly 200 pit bulls yelped and barked and hooted their pleasure, a playful and excited audience.

“When they love you,” said their owner, LeRoy Golden, by way of explaining the ease of training pit bulls, “they’ll do anything for you. And that’s part of their problem.”

Meaning that when Justice and other pit bulls are taught by their owners to fight other dogs, or to become vicious guard dogs, they will comply out of love and loyalty.

Their very nature, as it turns out, works against them in the wrong hands and feeds into a misperception that ends every day with thousands of pit bulls being abused by ignorant owners or put to death in shelters because fear and ignorance stands between them and loving homes.

Loving and trusting humans that seek to do them harm or turn them into killers, in fact, may be the only downfall of a breed that is regularly and unfairly brutalized by society - particularly by a lazy media beast that needs a demon to sell to an ignorant and reactionary audience.

(And believe me, as a member of the media, I know of which I speak on that point.)

Sunday’s event, organized by the advocacy group Love-A-Bull, Inc., was a celebration of pit bulls in recognition of the group’s Pit Bull Awareness Day in Austin.

Starting with a parade down Congress Avenue and ending with several hundred dogs and owners at Republic Square Park downtown, the festival featured training demonstrations, live music, and a presentation by Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds, who rehabilitated the so-called “Vick dogs”—survivors of the horrendous dog-fighting ring for which football player Michael Vick spent time in prison.

(Racer and Reynolds say some of the Vick dogs will never be able to live normal lives, but that many are doing well and that they did much to advance understanding and compassion for the breed.)

The festival sought to encourage responsible pet ownership as well as set an unofficial world record for the most pit bulls in one spot.

Since Guinness doesn’t do breed-specific records—who knew?—there is no actual record to either set or break.

But not even halfway through the day, 9-year-old Eviaiha Smith registered her tiny, mewling pit bull puppies—Danger, Fat Lady and Big Man—at numbers 190, 191 and 192. And she didn’t need Guinness or anyone else giving her a reason to be there. She was bursting with pride in her family’s ten pit bulls—only three of whom joined them on Sunday.

“They’re just so fun," she said, stroking Danger’s gray fur.

Ever since the Centers for Disease Control released a study in 2000 suggesting that pit bulls were more dangerous than other breeds (a study that the CDC itself has since debunked, and admitted was flawed, for a dozen reasons) the American Pit Bull Terrier and, perhaps more tellingly, dogs that simply look like them, have been persecuted in a manner that recalls villagers, torches and Frankenstein.

“I didn’t notice anything different about her until people started looking at her weird,” said 35-year-old Brigid Creger of her first pit bull, Abby.

A blond, well-coiffed mom, wife and supply chain analyst in Cedar Park, Creger hardly looks like the stereotypical thuggish pit bull owner. She’s a well-spoken, mainstream suburbanite and looks, well, like most of the people who were hanging out with their pit bulls on Sunday.

At Mud Puppies doggie day care and grooming in Austin, owner Edward Flores says his shop has never had to turn away a pit bull for behavioral problems. One of their clients is a wonderful, well-behaved 95-pound pittie named Blue who had been turned away from every groomer and doggie day care in town, by owners who took one look at the massive broad chest and huge grinning maw and made a snap decision.

Blue, Flores said, is a joy to have in his facility and has never had any issues getting along with humans or dogs.

But that kind of info doesn’t stop people from condemning them as an entire breed—and using them to criticize and judge their owners.

Creger said she gets grief all the time from her neighbors, coworkers and others about owning two pit bulls in the same home as her 3-year-old daughter, Madelyn.

It seems to be the one way in which people in this mind-your-own-business society are still comfortable attacking someone’s parenting skills, in fact.

Several parents on Sunday said people seem to have no qualms at all—from close family friends to random strangers—in bringing up their objections to them owning a pit bull with a child in the house.

Michael and Whitney Cavazos said they were lectured by “everybody” when they chose to bring Tank, a powerful blue pit with a spiked collar, into their home with their infant, Dominik.

Is it understandable that someone would not want an animal around that’s capable of hurting their children—even on accident?

Sure. In that case, where are all the advocates for bans on horses, cats, and—in the case of one infant death reported by the Los Angeles Times some years ago—Pomeranians?

People describe them as “scum” on websites, and they divorce Facebook friends who try to defend them. Lawyers publish web pages touting their perceived dangers and inviting people to file money-grubbing class-action lawsuits against pit owners. Cities like Miami and Denver pass pit bull bans only to see their dog-attack statistics unchanged from the likes of cities such as New York and Chicago, which don’t have bans and have seen up to 90 percent decreases in dog bites in the last 30 years.

Their critics trot out myths to back their vastly unresearched opinions, the most popular of which is the completely false one about pit bulls’ jaws locking on its targets and that unproven theory that pit bulls are ticking time bombs.

These people vigorously defend a mysterious willingness to decide that one highly publicized pit bull attack means all pit bulls are alike, much like the indefensible position that one undocumented immigrant from Mexico means that all Latinos swam the river to get here.

Among the most embarrassing and irresponsible factors in all this is the treatment of pit bulls by the news media.

We in the media like stories about bad guys, and we like stories that draw high ratings/hits/circulation numbers. Pit bull stories, unfortunately, make it easy to do both because they let us play on fear and ignorance while skimping on time and facts and increasing our audience.

But some stories simply don't have two sides.

In covering Sunday's festival, I’m not going to drag out the cursory anti-pittie quote from a victim because, frankly, while the experience was horrific, being bitten by a dog does not make them experts on an entire breed.

I’m not going to talk to your typical man-on-the-street because, frankly, while they may have consumed lots of stories about dog bites, simply watching TV does not make them experts, either.

And as a member of the media, I'm not going to be dragged into a CYA-inspired back-and-forth that gives ink to unsubstantiated rumors simply for the sake of appearing to be fair. This is a common trick of the media that occasionally fools even the most discerning viewer/reader/listener into thinking we're actually being balanced.

(Allowing someone to parrot untruths unchecked is, actually, unfair and intellectually dishonest, and it's time the media quit doing it. But that's a WHOLE 'nother essay...)

On Sunday, the story simply was that hundreds of beloved pit bulls and their proud owners turned out to show society that these dogs, like Justice, can be pure bundles of joy. And, with or without the audience, to just celebrate their dogs in a nonjudgmental environment.

To own a pittie, Creger said, is to “take on the role of educator and advocate.”

And it’s a role she’s taken on enthusiastically and, thankfully, with some success.

“I’ve changed a lot of minds,” she said.

Article by Karen Brooks
Photos by Charlie L Harper III

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Air Force Family

A veteran and her husband go to great lengths to keep their pit bulls
 despite the dogs being banned from base housing.

                                   By Krista Hernandez (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

Our three dogs are our family. They sleep with us, take walks with us, make us laugh and, most importantly, love us! As a military family, one of our greatest challenges has not been the long or unpredictable hours or living away from family: It has been having pit bulls.

I am a veteran and my husband is a staff sergeant in the Air Force. Our second duty station at Edwards AFB in California is where our dogs came into our lives.

Nacho was our first dog. At the time we agreed to take him, I wasn’t even sure what breed he was; I was just helping a dog in need stay out of the pound. That evening we welcomed into our home the dog that would change our lives forever. Nacho was a young, blue nose pit bull who our daughter named after our favorite family movie, “Nacho Libre.”

I was blissfully unaware of the stigma towards pit bulls, but after a few visits to the park all that changed, and over the course of the first year I heard more accusations from strangers, family and friends than I care to remember, not to mention the questioning of our parenting ability. If they all could just see what we see – how gentle he is and how his favorite thing in the whole world is to curl up on the couch with you – they would love him like we do.

After we had Nacho for about 10 months, we decided to get another dog, which our daughter named Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly. She quickly took the role of the annoying little sister, and Nacho never enjoyed peace and quiet again. Mariposa is now almost 2 and is the class clown. Whether she is crashing into the doggie pool or making someone’s lap her chair, there is never a dull moment with her around.

Roxy finally became a permanent member of the family a full year after we met her. Roxy was rescued along with her parents and two other puppies from a situation of neglect – they had been tied up to the fence of an outdoor kennel with no shelter from the winter rains. After my attempts to help the family care for the dogs, they eventually surrendered all five to me. Roxy was initially adopted, but six months later she turned up in the pound with her microchip still registered to the rescue that had worked with me and provided the chipping. So Roxy came back into our lives, and after one more failed adoption attempt, we decided she wasn’t going anywhere else.

Roxy loves to play outside with Mariposa and chase balls – and, of course, tease Nacho. Nacho prefers to relax in a sunny spot but doesn’t get much of a break with the two girls running around. As a family we enjoy taking them on walks in the evening, or my husband will take one of them on a run. They are a part of the family, and we include them in car rides and make time for the dog park.

We lived in base housing for most of our four years at Edwards, where pit bulls where allowed, but this past summer we received orders to Lackland AFB in Texas. We were planning on living on base and were devastated to find out we couldn’t move in with our dogs, as they are on the banned list.

We searched for a possible rental and received the usual, “We don’t allow those kinds of dogs.” I was even scolded by a man with a response of, “This is a family neighborhood, with children!” My husband and I made the decision before we left that the only way to keep everyone together was to buy a home. This was a very big decision for us, but there was no question that our dogs were coming with us.

We spent a whole month in a hotel while our paperwork was being completed, and we finally moved into our house this July. We gave up a lot of the perks of living on base: our daughter having to go to a local elementary school instead of the school on base, a commute to work, the insurance premiums, etc.

These are decisions we wish we didn’t have to make but didn’t think twice about. Friends and family called us crazy for going to such measures, but our dogs are our family, our best friends and our protectors, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many military members don’t think twice about taking their dog to a shelter when they are transferred, but we know we are the lucky ones. By buying our house, we bought ourselves peace of mind for the next four years, but what challenges will we face at the next duty station?

Editor’s note: In the summer of 2011, the Air Force banned pit bulls from all bases, joining bans already in place on Marine and Army bases.