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