Some people (including my mother) have expressed concern over the fact that we’ve adopted a pit bull. There have been questions like, is your landlord okay with it? Are you sure it’s a good choice for a first dog? Aren’t you worried about having kids later? What if she bites another dog? What if she bites a person? How do you know she’s safe? This is my attempt to address this.
When I was very young, our neighbors raised Rottweilers. For several years there were three or four of them running around their property and they would often come over into our yard and hang out with me. Whatever concerns my parents might have had were quickly assuaged when they realized that the dogs looked out for me. They would literally follow me around the property and keep me from doing stupid stuff like falling into the creek. My parents could actually leave me alone outside with them like they were canine babysitters. I did get bitten by a dog once when I was a kid, but it was an Irish Setter mix that belonged to the guy who used to mow our lawn. The rottweilers never even bared their teeth.
All this is to say that I have never been one to put much stock in the “vicious dog breed” trope. In fact, I think those rottweilers are the reason that I love dogs, especially big ones.
When we started looking at rescue dogs in our area, it immediately became apparent that an overwhelming number of the available shelter dogs were pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Though I wouldn’t have named them as my ideal dog breed when we started looking, I was never opposed to them either. The biggest concern from my point of view was whether or not it would be a problem with our landlords. At first it appeared that it would be – almost all landlords in the area have breed restrictions for pits and rotties. Then I noticed that one of our upstairs neighbors have a pit bull, and it quickly became apparent that our eastern european landlords have no idea what a pit bull actually look like. For the record – they’ve now met Zora, adore her, and it’s not going to be a problem.
With that in mind, we were open to considering it. My main concern then became whether we could find one with the right temperament – namely, one that didn’t need a fenced yard. Most pit bulls are high-energy, and we don’t have the space for a dog that needs room to run around. I also felt that if we adopted a pit, it would need to be one that had been in foster, or had been in the shelter long enough to have had its behavior observed at length. Zora was a foster, and the more we learned about her, the more we liked her. So far, it has been a wise decision.
Most of the time, you get a dog, and that’s it. With a pit bull, there are certain responsibilities. Zora has lived in a home with other dogs, and she was never used as a fighting dog, but still – she is never, ever, ever going to be outside without a leash. We’re not going to take her to a dog park. Even if she never demonstrates aggression, it’s not a risk I’m comfortable taking. I think everyone who owns a pit has a responsibility to the breed. I don’t want my carelessness with a dog to contribute to the bad press that damns so many wonderful, adoptable dogs to years in shelters and eventual euthanasia.
I will say this – Zora really is the sweetest, most people-loving dog I’ve ever met. Everyone at the shelter adored her, and when we came in to do the adoption paperwork many came out to say goodbye to her. All it takes to wag her tail is a glance in her direction – if you pet her, she’s in heaven. I’d heard that pit bulls are incredibly loving, but having seen it for myself now, I’m awed by it. When I think of the treatment she had in the past, and the abuse and neglect that thousands of other dogs like her have had to undergo because of idiot owners and misinformed potential adopters, not to mention the legislation in many cities across the country that prohibit people from even taking a chance on them, it breaks my heart.
I firmly believe that any dog can be a good dog, and that the ultimate responsibility for any dog lies with the owner. Too many people adopt or buy dogs without researching whether the breed and temperament will be a good fit for their lifestyle.
I hope that I, as a new pit bull owner, can help my dog be an ambassador for her much-maligned breed. I say help her, because I really think that all you might need to change your mind about pit bulls is five minutes on our couch with her. I’m just there to facilitate.