I turned my car around and started following the dog--a beautiful blackish gray pit bull--in an attempt to lure him into the car. I then noticed another driver who was doing the same, as well as a group of employees from the nearby Anchor Steam Brewery. A woman at the bus stop called Animal Care and Control for help.
A quick conversation with the Anchor Steam guys and I learned that someone had thrown the dog out of a car and he had since been running up and down the streets while people tried to help. For the next 20 minutes I joined in as we all spread out--some in cars and some on foot--trying to keep up with the dog and keep him in sight. He was fast; running up the huge hill I live on, disappearing through yards and parking lots, then reappearing in the middle of the street.
Two Animal Care and Control (ACC) employees arrived with the lights on their vans flashing; on a mission to save this dog. Until then, I never considered what these men and women do when I see the ACC vans around town. What I saw was very impressive: professional and dedicated employees who were going to get the dog out of harms way. Finally, the two vans had the dog cornered and eventually he was caught and taken to the city shelter.
I drove away with tears in my eyes. How could someone be so inherently evil as to throw a dog out of a car? I cannot fathom it. I then thought about all the people who joined together to help the dog and how much goodness there sometimes is in the world.
I stopped by the ACC shelter yesterday to check in on the dog and to find out what they would do with him, but he wasn't receiving guests as his behavior was being monitored, as is standard procedure. Basically, if his guardians do not claim him he will be put up for adoption. Hopefully, one of the non-euthanizing nonprofits in town will rescue him--more on that below.
The experience got me thinking about pit bulls; how often mistreated they are and what we can do to help. I began with some Internet research about pit bulls and then spoke with a volunteer at the ACC. I also reached out to an old friend, Suzi L.; a pit bull rescuer and advocate. I learned a lot and I wanted to share it here with you.
Some Truths About Pit Bulls
I don't believe any animal is inherently bad; people train and treat animals in ways which cause them to act aggressively--particularly when pit bulls are bred and raised for dog fighting. Society then blames the animal--from shunning a certain breed to euthanizing innocent, social animals at an alarming rate.
1. "Pit bull" is not a specific breed.
According to the nonprofit Pit Bull Rescue Central, "[Pit bull] is a generic term often used to describe all dogs with similar traits and characteristics known to the public as "pit bulls." [T]he term “pit bull” ... should be understood to encompass American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and mixes of those breeds." I had no idea--though I often wondered why the look of pit bulls varies so greatly.
2. Pit bulls make great pets
One thing is clear from my research, pit bulls can make great pets and need to be thought of differently in our society. I know, you can show me story after story about a pit bull attacking, even killing a person. It is truly tragic what can happen when a pit bull, or any animal, becomes deadly. But the point here is that pit bulls are not inherently evil, aggressive, bad or dangerous; some have been trained to be that by evil, aggressive, bad and dangerous people.
As Pit Bull Rescue Central explains, and Suzi confirmed through her personal experience with her dogs, "Pit bulls are wonderful, loving animals that deserve the chance to have a good life. Pit bulls have physical and mental characteristics that make them excellent partners for responsible, active and caring owners. ... [P]it bulls are intelligent, very responsive to training, and, above all, eager to please. ... Many pit bulls are easygoing couch potatoes, but like all terriers, they can also be somewhat rambunctious until they mature. Maturity can come relatively late with this breed (two to three years old in some cases). Pit bulls remain playful throughout their lives and have a great sense of humor. True clowns at heart, these dogs will make you laugh like no other."
|Suzi's pit bull Hazel...this rescue dog doesn't really fit the negative stereotypes we are so used to hearing, does she?|
3. Pit bulls make great therapy dogs
Suzi mentioned to me the potential Hazel has for serving as a therapy dog. The use of therapy dogs is increasing in our country and has a wide range of applications (from helping returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to visiting senior facilities). I've discovered that it is becoming increasingly more common for pit bulls to serve as therapy dogs; they are generally very disciplined, obedient dogs who like to please. When humans take these traits and train them positively, the result is a wonderful therapy dog.
Still not believing it? Still holding on to your negative stereotypes about pit bulls? Then take a minute and watch this video: one of Michael Vick's formerly abused pit bulls is now a therapy dog bringing smiles to chemotherapy patients. One's past does not dictate one's future and that is certainly true for pit bulls--as long as we give them a chance.
Rescuing and Fostering
Pit bulls are euthanized at an alarming rate and are the most euthanized dog in America. Fostering these dogs until they can find a "forever" home is crucial. Adopting them into a forever homes is even better.
In San Francisco, the nonprofit Grateful Dog Rescue works to save the lives of dogs at ACC who are at-risk of being euthanized. If you're interested in fostering or adopting, please contact them or Rocket Dog Rescue, also in San Francisco. Rocket Dog is an all-volunteer organization that serves homeless and abandoned dogs to keep them from being euthanized. Both groups specifically work with pit bulls.
Nationally, go to Petfinder for a shelter and available dogs near you.
Changing The Dialogue About Pit Bulls
We learned as children and it continues to be true--stereotypes are harmful. The stereotypes that exist about pit bulls harm hundreds of thousands of innocent dogs each year. Change the conversation--share the video about Michael Vick's former dog--let people know the truth and the full story about these beautiful animals.
As always, thank you for reading and be well!
PS to Sophie, a true dog lover if there ever was one, happy 9th birthday!