"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, January 24, 2012

Our Dogs, Our Family

A pack of bully breeds + three children = a family full of love

By Anna Peterson (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

We have four dogs and three children. The dogs came first; we had three when our first son was born. They were tolerant, but I didn’t know what it was like to have a dog that really loved kids until we adopted Tozi. At the time, we had two elderly, ailing dogs and were not planning to add another. Somehow I wound up at the humane society with my 3-year-old son, Rafael. As we were leaving, a stocky brindle dog headed out for a walk with a volunteer. Rafael sat down next to her and pulled a toy from her mouth. She wagged her tail and kissed him. I came home and told my husband that I had found our next dog.

When I sent a friend a picture of Rafael and Tozi, she said, “You’re brave to get a pit bull.”

No bravery required: As long as you’re not a squirrel, you are safe with Tozi.

She is a true nanny dog who adores babies and children. She has passed the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) tests and visits schools and libraries to read with kids and teach them about dog etiquette.

Our other dog, Libby, is a living lesson in resilience. When she passed the ATTS test, the evaluator remarked on how well she had done and added, “It’s all how they were raised.” If that were true, Libby would be a wreck. She grew up on the end of a tether, while her skin grew over her harness. She has physical scars but no emotional ones. She is also a reading dog and makes every person she meets feel specially loved.

Libby is an extreme case, but none of our dogs had a good upbringing. Tozi was turned in to the shelter with four puppies, a big scar on her muzzle and several missing teeth. Thunder – an affectionate, goofy American Bulldog mix that is another member of our family – was surrendered twice before he was 2 years old.

Our dog Boomer was a skinny stray that had probably never lived in a house. I met him while volunteering at the county shelter. A few days later, the adoption coordinator called to say that he was on the euthanasia list for the next day, so if I wanted him I had to pull him right away. (How did she know I wanted that dog?) Boomer was supposed to be a temporary foster, and three dogs was supposed to be our limit, but four turned out to be a good number.

Even in a town full of pit bulls, Boomer stands out, with his steel-gray coat, amber eyes and – as a friend affectionately put it – jaws that look like they could crush gravel. At his first obedience class, a woman next to me said, “I love dogs, but yours is scary.”

I looked around the room. Every other dog there was barking non-stop, while Boomer sat quietly by my side.

Our dogs have to be twice as well behaved as others, and even then they often don’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s bad enough with strangers, but the worst was when one of my children’s friends said her mother is afraid Boomer was going to attack her. This family has dogs that are so out of control that they cannot be walked on a leash and are shut in another room when visitors come over. Our dogs have been unfailingly polite and gentle with their kids, who love to play with them, but the mother cannot get past her fears to see the real dog.

Those experiences are discouraging, but there are moments that make up for it. At the park one day, a toddler ran over to say hello. While he was petting Boomer, he told me that he had a dog just like him.

“Really?” I asked. “You have a dog who looks like Boomer?”

“Oh yes,” the boy insisted, “exactly like him.”

His mother, who was laughing, finally said, “We have a Golden Retriever.”


  1. lol the last thing was funny:) And people need to not judge a book by its cover. Thiers no such thing as bad dogs, just bad owners. This world needs to just realize !