"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

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Becoming a Dog Person

A loving Elderbull named Daddy converts a former cat person into a lifelong dog lover

By Renata Tweedy (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

It was plain and simple – I was a cat person. I had two cats and had fostered more 50 (but had never adopted, as I was strong in my conviction that each one adopted meant a space for one more!).

As an adult, having a dog had never crossed my mind. Dogs were nice, sure. I didn’t fear them, and I enjoyed being near them. But the thought of enduring smelly wet fur and their need for exercise even in bad weather didn’t interest me one bit. I didn’t want to even think about having to schedule my time around a dog’s bladder capacity!

But when I started working at our local animal shelter, I was bitten not by a dog, but by the love of dogs. My husband and I had caught the bug, and we began to foster as many as we could.

I took dogs home from work with me every night, learning as much about them as I could so that I’d be better equipped to help potential adopters meet their match. I didn’t think of actually adopting a dog, however, until I met “The Governor.” I still remember clearly how he looked that day as he lay in the kennel of the stray area after animal control had picked him up alongside the highway. The image is still vivid now, almost a year later.

Suffice to say, he didn’t stay there long. He wasn’t one of our usual guests; my husband and I would generally take home long-term, high-energy, young dogs that needed a break from the shelter before we could learn what they were really like. But “The Governor” was old and gray, unneutered and not even ours yet, as he came home with us before the time to reclaim him had passed. Surely his owners would come forward. A stately gentleman such as he deserved better accommodations than a concrete kennel while he awaited them.

His owners never came forward. And, except to visit, he never went back to the shelter.

Daddy the Gentle Heart

When people heard he was a pit bull and saw his bulky frame, many were terrified – until they saw him move. His graying muzzle wasn’t the only thing that identified him as an elderly and non-threatening soul: The fact that he didn’t have many teeth helped too.

He became “Daddy,” not after the famous pit of that name on TV, but due to his behavior the first time his new home was invaded with orphaned kittens. I will never forget watching him calmly resting on our bed with these tiny felines crawling on his back, sprawling on his nose and chewing on his ears, as another foster dog came into the room, eager to play with – or eat – the little creatures. Daddy never even lifted his face from the comforter, but his lips quivered, showing his teeth, and his low growl sent the other dog quickly out of the room.

Daddy’s fathering skills came in handy on several occasions. When my pregnant foster pit bull had eight beautiful pups, my husband and I brought home babies to bottle feed. We placed them on the floor of the living room, and Daddy would clean, keep warm, carry, and keep them safe from our pesky puppy Cavil!

Daddy of Adventure

The old man could barely walk some days, but he could sure swim! Our property is on the ocean, and while he struggled with his age getting there, once we hit the shore he forgot his creaky joints and sore hips almost completely. He would plow into the water like a pup – such a beautiful sight!

Daddy loved the car and often travelled with us. His age and slow pace, his low energy and his way of putting other dogs at ease made him a welcome guest in canine-friendly homes. He attended board meetings with me and went to work with my husband too from time to time. At outdoor events, he was always in tow; he especially loved a barbecue, for obvious reasons. He was also a great addition to presentations for the shelter and another animal rescue with which I worked, teaching adults about prejudice and children about dog safety.

Another image that will always be with me is from a summer day camp: Our presentation was about to end, and while I told the kids that crowding a dog is never a good idea and can be very unsafe, this one time Daddy would be happy to say goodbye to them all at once. About 20 little bodies gathered around, patting and scratching, while Daddy just stood in the middle of it all, tail wagging and tongue licking the closest faces.

My favorite times of all with Daddy, though, were when he would haul his old body up onto the couch or bed and collapse with a sigh, resting his huge head in my lap or on my shoulder. I won’t forget his eyes.

Bidding Farewell

The end came unexpectedly. A new medication had him practically prancing, and he had several delightful days of swimming and fun at the end of that summer. Then one day he woke up like his old self again, slow and wobbly. On our way home from the water after his last swim, he lay down and never got back up. He could no longer walk or stand.

I’d watched “Marley and Me” many months before, alone with Daddy. And when the lead character asked the old dog in the movie an important question, I asked Daddy for the same favor through my sobs – to let me know when it was time. That day, I asked him again. And he told me it was.

It was the holiday weekend, and our vet was away for the weekend. I was so thankful that Daddy didn’t seem to be in any pain. He was still eating, drinking and going to the bathroom, so we spent our last days with him spoiling him rotten and carrying him onto the lawn to enjoy the beautiful weather. Another image that I am so blessed to have caught on camera: Our puppy, who was not so much a puppy any more, had been a pest to Daddy every day since he was born, but when Daddy took his downturn, Cavil’s behavior changed. He became attentive and kind. He brought things to Daddy’s blanket on the floor and lay down with him. On Daddy’s last full day on the earth, Cavil joined him on the lawn in the sunshine. (photo below)

The final image that I will remember always is of Daddy when I said goodbye. The vet and the staff were so caring and respectful. They knew him, and they knew me. If it hadn’t been so horrendously heartbreaking, I would have called it beautiful. The way he was just there, and then he was gone. Not even a sigh. The way the vet laid her forehead against his soft fur for a long moment. The way he was still warm when I kissed him –before I stood and left his shell behind. Yeah, I guess I’m a dog person now.


  1. OMG...beautiful story...and yes, in tears!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I had to take a break because i could not read through the tears.

  3. How very beautiful . . . Thank you for sharing

  4. That just breaks my heart on one hand but so happy that he got to enjoy some like while he could. That is great that you did give him a home. I never thought I was a dog person to always had cats (still have 2) but now we have 3 dogs 2 are pit bulls and then we have a shepherd mix. I think I would be lost withot them. Thanks for giving Daddy a home when he needed one.

  5. Oh my god. I am at work right now and I am crying, really trying hard not to start sobbing uncontrollably. But this is such a beautiful story. I love pit bulls and I always have. When I was younger, our dog Flora was part pit, and she was the sweetest dog in the world.

  6. That was such an awesome story, thank you to you and your husband for doing all you do. I am sure Daddy appreciated his last days with you all and will be awaiting your reunion with him full of vigor and vitallity in Heaven. God bless you both, I needed a good cry today, :)

  7. That was such a great story it really hits close to home for me because I have an 11yr old pitt and a 1yr old pitt. Everything you said in your story reminded me of my Kosmo he loves to swim it is getting harder for him to stand and walk but as of now he can still play with my pup Roscoe. Roscoe does get on Kosmo's nerves but he puts up with it just like your Daddy did. I do know when the time comes for Kosmo Roscoe will take care of him. Yes I am crying right now.

  8. beauitful people like you are what all theses wounderful animals need a kind caring heart thank you and your husbund for being there for daddy and all the animals god bless you i have 6 dogs myself i rescused all of them spay and nurdered all shots nails cut their all fat and happy i love them all very much please keep your good work up may od bless you always. janie.

  9. I really enjoyed your story about Daddy,I have a fourteen year old cat.I've had her a long time,she has shared her adventures with me,now as she gets older I try to make it as easy as I can for her.She has a spot on my computer,she likes to sleep there.I also have a small dog that looks out for her.May god help you.

  10. Such a bitter sweet story. I love my Pit. As I read this story, I cried and my Pit as usual w(I am a movie cryer)came up to me and put her head on my chest in a hug. What a wonderful memory to share.

  11. What a bitter sweet story, thank you for sharing your story.

  12. I don't believe I have cried like this over a story like this. How beautifully touching.. U were blessed with an amazing gift.. and many wonderful memories.. thank you for sharing ur loving wonderful story..

  13. theres no cooler dog than the elder bull! i have a 16 year old one and she is nothing short of amazing. your story is beautiful. i can only hope kaya's last couple of days can be as wonderful as those you gave to daddy.