In the summer of 2015, I decided that I wanted a dog.
Well, that’s not actually true because ever since I moved out my childhood home I’ve wanted one, but landlords and apartment rules made it very difficult. When my living situation changed and I was able to finally get a pet, I went down to my local animal shelter. I was lucky: that weekend was National Clear the Shelter Day in California. This meant that every shelter in the state waved all adoption fees for new pet-parents.
I had studied the roster of available pups the night before and narrowed down my list to five pooches. My first choice was a beautiful toffee colored pit by name of Sandy. Her description read that she was friendly, docile and ready to be taken home. She was good with kids (although I don’t have any) and she loved everyone. The next two were much of the same and the second to last was a puppy.
The very last pup was one they called Peepers (she had a brown patch over one eye). She was an adult female, about one years old, adored people but, as the website suggested, probably needed additional training. She had a best friend named, Oreo (another pit) within the shelter and the two of them were part of what the shelter volunteers called the Rough & Rowdy Group. Peepers ran it and apparently Oreo was her Second-in-command. They’d play fetch without sharing and sometimes bullied the other dogs. No biting, the website had said, just bullying. It was their own hairy version of the Pink Ladies.
To my great surprise and utter disappointment, by the time I had made it to the shelter, all the dogs on my list had been taken — except Peepers. Sandy had been nabbed early in the morning and of course the puppy was scooped up, but Peepers remained. When I asked the volunteer to see her she was pleasantly surprised and quickly ran to retrieve her.
We all met in an enclosed patio.
The first thing Peepers did when she made it to the pen was to flat out ignore me. She sniffed around the patio for a bit and came around where I sat and smelt me, then she went and sat down by the volunteer. She was bored…ha!
The volunteer was nervous about her lack of graciousness towards me and assured me that Peeps was a good dog. I sat there listening but not really listening to the volunteers’ sales pitch about the dog that I was now smiling at. I knew she was trying to get her adopted by telling me all her best qualities but I didn’t really care. I could tell by the “brush off” I was awarded that Peepers didn’t give two hoots at my presence. (We are very similar, her and I.)
After asking my questions and getting answered a firm “no” about aggressiveness and/or any physical or medical challenges that I should be aware of, I decided to take her home. The volunteer did a double-take when I told her my plans and couldn’t stop smiling at me. I guess so many people come to the shelter wanting the dog to kiss and lick them that the adult naturally falls in love and wants to take them home.
I’m definitely not like that and apparently, neither was Peepers.
Enough Dog Whisperer shows had instructed me on how to handle our first day together, so when we got home, I made a point to walk her to start a connection and establish who was in control. Plus, I wanted to see how she faired walking on a leash.
I also changed her name to Rockie. (There was no way that I was calling my dog Peepers!)
. . .
This blog was inspired by what I’ve come to realize as The Responsibility of Owning a Pit bull.
There are experiences that Rockie and I have shared together and apart that I would like to write about. Between walking down the street and people crossing to the other side; fear-based prejudices; daycares that won’t accept her because of her breed, and “pet lovers” who claim that they love all dogs but are still afraid of this one — all of these topics I want to talk about.
I don’t believe in being ashamed of my dog — no matter what the breed. Pit bulls have been given a bad rap but it is up to their owners to change that.
Rockie is far from perfect but she is no longer part of the Rough & Rowdy crew. She honestly wouldn’t recognize it if she went back. I’ve worked hard to get her to the level that she’s at now and just like all animals, it takes time and patience.
I hope this blog serves as a space where other pittie parents (and all true dog lovers) will come to for guidance, tools, support…and a good laugh.
Mandy has lived with pitbulls her whole life, and she has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge about these magnificent animals. Having had the pleasure of owning and caring for numerous pitbulls over the years, she has come to understand their unique characteristics, behaviors, and needs. Read more