"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, October 4, 2012

‘It Was Meant to Be’

Petey the pit bull terrier finds the perfect home thanks to the
County of San Diego Department of Animal Services Pit Crew

A star pupil has found himself a forever home, all because he showed off his skills as the perfect gentleman, impressing potential adopters.

Arti was the first dog Joela and Bret Calhoun met when they went looking for a pit bull terrier at the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services shelter in Carlsbad, California. Arti is now named Petey.

Now named Petey, this Pit Crew graduate is now one happy dog with his new family.

And that’s not the only first. “This is my husband’s first experience with a dog — he’s never had one before — and every day I see him falling in love with Petey,” Joela says.

She had a pit bull terrier named Rocky who died from a brain tumor 12 years earlier, and she always wanted another one. But she and her husband were waiting until he graduated from college and landed a job before they adopted. That day came, so after learning that the Carlsbad shelter has a good selection of pit bull terriers and mixes, they headed there and found Petey. “I’ve been waiting for another Rocky all these years,” Joela says.

The couple recently took their new companion to a friend’s backyard barbecue, and he was the hit of the party. “There was food everywhere and he didn’t beg at all,” she says. “Our friends have an English bulldog, and the dogs played for hours until they couldn’t play anymore. They had so much fun.”

Joela and Petey jog before work on a trail next to their neighborhood. And when her husband gets home from work, he takes Petey for another walk. And when Joela gets home, they go on another walk.

“When we take him out, everybody comments on how cute and sweet he is,” she says.

It is no accident that Petey is a crowd pleaser with good manners. He went through Best Friends’ Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls’ training component and came out of it the gentleman dog he is today.

This is one loved pup!

At the shelter when the couple met him, “Petey put the side of his head against the kennel and his ear stuck out,” Joela says. “My husband pet his ear and Petey gave him his paw.”

That was all it took. “It was meant to be,” she says. “Petey is the dog for us.”

To prepare Petey for adoption, he spent serious time with dog trainers and a Pit Crew made up of volunteers who are part of the Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls program made possible in five cities, including Carlsbad, through a grant from PetSmart Charities.

Trainer Nan Arthur, who runs Whole Dog Training, says the work her training team does with the pit bull terriers in Carlsbad is geared toward giving them the skills they need in a sometimes stressful shelter environment as well as prepare them for homes.

“Studies that have been done in shelters have shown that stress can be reduced with training and human contact,” Nan says. With that, she continues, “We strive to help the dogs cope better during their stay at the shelter and to present better when people are interested in meeting them.”

Petey received plenty of training prior to being adopted.

Jamie Healy, who manages the Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls program for Best Friends, applauds the investment in Petey and other dogs who are getting similar one-on-one time. “The pre-adoption training work in our shelter partner locations has been instrumental in preparing adoptable dogs for success in their future homes,” she says. “The dogs are learning and being rewarded for good behavior, which can only translate to happier and healthier adoption matches.”

She adds, “It provides the dogs with enrichment and an outlet while they're waiting for homes, as we all know that pit bull terriers characteristically experience a longer length of stay in shelters. Volunteers and trainers work side by side, instilling positive behavior and interactions to help better the dogs’ chances of adoption.”

“And that, ultimately,” Jamie says, “is what it's all about — working together to save more lives.”

Mike Harmon, who heads Best Friends’ Community Training Partners program, which enlists the trainers, could not agree more.

“With the Carlsbad project, up until recently our focus has been providing the shelter with pre-adoption support by developing a structured program that trains volunteers how to work with dogs in the shelter environment to help make them more adoptable and better prepared for home life. We just recently started providing post-adoption support.”

Petey has the distinction of being the first dog in the program to get that post-training support in his new home. And Joela is taking advantage of it. “I want to know how he was trained so I can continue it,” she says.

Petey is a an excellent example, says Cordelia Mendoza, Best Friends’ coordinator in San Diego for the program, of how training is helping shelter dogs land forever homes: “Working with and placing at-risk dogs like Petey in homes, one at a time, is helping toward our goal of No More Homeless Pets.”

Everyone in the Calhoun family is all smiles.

In large part because of that work, Cordelia says, “Petey is so sociable. At the shelter, he was regularly selected for training playgroups and interactions, and he gets along beautifully with dogs and people. Everyone is thrilled he found such a wonderful family and that they found one terrific companion.”

Joela cannot say enough about the work the trainers, Pit Crew and shelter staff did with Petey.

“Thank you, everybody, and all the people at the shelter for taking such good care of him,” she says. “Your patience and love is evident. Bret and I promise all of you that Petey is and will be forever loved. He is a gift, and I am glad he found us at the shelter.”

Read more about the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services Pit Crew on Facebook.

Best Friends Animal Society is working throughout the country to help pit bull terriers, who are battling everything from a media-driven bad reputation to legislation designed to bring about their extinction. Best Friends hopes to end discrimination against all dogs. Dogs are individuals and should be treated as individuals. Read more about Best Friends’ pit bull terrier initiatives.

By Cathy Scott, Best Friends staff writer
Photos by Amy Mansfield Photography

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