It started innocently enough. It was a crisp fall day as my kids and I walked around a fall festival looking to waste time while waiting for the hayride. I spotted the Humane Society’s mobile adoption R.V. with a row of dogs ready for adoption and I immediately tried to get the attention of my children in order to head in the opposite direction. I knew I was too late though as my youngest daughter, who was about 5 at the time, squealed “Doggies!” and started running in the direction of the huge white RV. The two other kids were immediately in pursuit behind her as I yelled for them to slow down and wait for me. There were about 15 dogs of all shapes and sizes. My kids approached cautiously and asked if they could pet them with the volunteers saying, “Of course. ” The dogs were all sweet and gentle responding to my kids warm greetings and enjoying the little scratches on their backs. Then we saw her.
A volunteer came out of the RV holding a puppy. She was white, adorable and had a black ring around one eye. My kids immediately wanted to hold the little ball of cuteness and the volunteer obliged. They each got a chance to hold her and they all laughed with delight as the dog licked their faces. “Okay guys, we better run if we want to catch the hay ride I said.” They handed the puppy back with groans of disappointment but I stood firm. Then it happened. The woman with a twinkle in her eye asked me, “Don’t you want to hold her?” She handed me the dog before I could say no and it looked up at me with the cuteness that can not be described with words and it was done. I was the owner of an American Staffordshire Terrier.
Now, had I known that the American Staffordshire Terrier is under the umbrella of a group of dogs commonly known as Pit Bulls, I probably would have said no. I probably would have grabbed my children in horror and quickly walked away. I did not know though and I gladly filled out the paperwork, paid my money and in two days, after they did a home check, the puppy was ours. My kids immediately loved the little dog and we tried a number of names before the name of Petey stuck. She was energetic and playful. She was funny and lovable. She fit right in at the Gangolf house.
The first time I realized that she was a pit bull was about 3 months after we got her. She had gotten out of our fence and was running around the front yard. Petey found this game of catch extremely enjoyable as the kids tried to corner her but to no avail. We were at this for about 10 minutes when a police car pulled up to our house. I was surprised to say the least. He informed me that a neighbor had called about our loose pit bull.
“We don’t have a pit bull,” I stated to the officer. “We have an American Staffordshire Terrier.”
“Same thing in my book,” he answered.
We got the dog in the house, the police man left and I stood there dumb founded processing what the police officer said. I went to the computer and looked up American Staffordshire Terrier and as I read the information on my computer screen, I realized that my sweet, gentle Petey was indeed considered a pit bull and that I was the mistaken owner of a pit bull.
The only thing I knew about pit bulls was what I heard on the news and on t.v.; they were dangerous, they fought other dogs, they had jaws that locked (which is a myth BTW). How could this sweet dog who never showed an once of aggression to anyone be part of a breed that is in the headlines for their viciousness? All I could think is that my children might be at risk. Did I need to get rid of Petey? All that night I researched pit bulls. I learned that pit bulls are a type of dog, not a breed itself. The common term of pit bull umbrellas American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier sometimes call an AmStaff or “Staffie”. The Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog are also many times combined in this group because these breeds share a similarly large head and body type. They were breed in England from combining the Old English Terriers and English Bulldogs.
They wanted to make a dog that was fast and a great hunter (the Terrier) and was also, big, muscular, and gentle (Bulldogs). They were breed to be used used as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt farm vermin, drive livestock, and as family companions. They were also breed to be the perfect dog for fighting. Pit bulls were not the only dogs that were breed for this evil, repulsive, and heartless sport, but they were the best because of their loyal and faithful disposition to their owners. Pit Bulls will stay faithful and obedient to their masters even when they are abused and mistreated. I learned that pit bulls have been given a bad rap by media and hate groups and a pit bull might become vicious from training, abuse or mistreatment, but by no means is the breed dangerous. As I read about the unthinkable, savage, repugnant things that are done to these dogs in the name of sport at the hands of humans, my heart broke for them all. I became a pit bull defender and my dog’s biggest advocate that day.
Petey was a great family dog. She just loved to be with us. Whatever we wanted to do, Petey was right there. She loved to play in the backyard and would chase anything you threw for her or she would lay on the couch and watch t.v. with you. She slept in our beds and it seemed that she had some sort of system sleeping with one of us a night, giving everyone a chance to snuggle with her. If you were sick or had a bad day, she was there to give a hug or just to hang out with. She would nestle into the crock of your knee and give you comfort and warm up your feet.
She was a protector never far from us. She watched the kids like a hawk anywhere they went. She was always watching and listening for anything that would justify a warning. One after noon she was barking at the back door like I never heard her bark before. She ran out that door like a bullet and by the time I got back there, she was chasing someone down the block. It seems that someone had entered our backyard probably to steal a bike or maybe something more sinister, but they were foiled by my dog Petey, always on guard for anything that would endanger her family. We never found out who the person was, but I tell you what, they never came back. We always felt safe with her perched at the window.
Having a pit bull had it’s good days and bad in the public eye. I learned quickly that having a pit bull means that people will judge you and prejudge your dog. I had a neighbor who would call the police if Petey got out of the yard. I have had people move to the other side of the street as we are walking toward them. I have had people call the police on us because we had her at a park. I have had family members and friends call into question the safety of my children and my ability to make good decisions. We got used to the bigotry and just accepted that people are uneducated and uninformed but I never passed up an opportunity to inform anyone that would listen. All the while, Petey never showed aggression toward other people or dogs disproving all the myths and false press about this breed.
One the other hand, we meet wonderful people who loved Pit Bulls and were drawn to her big head and black rimmed eye. She looked like Petey from the Little Rascals and people would comment and would want to pet her. Petey would oblige the masses and allow them to pet her and would give them her paw in solidarity for the pit bulls lovers. She loved other dogs and would romp and roll with all of them regardless of shape or size. She was a pit bull and she never apologized for it and neither did her family. I was proud of her and her quirky personality eating an ice cream cone in one minute flat. I was proud of her and her never ending love and protection. I was proud of her because she was ours and she was a pit bull.
I never had a dog like Petey. There were many times it was just Petey and I in the house and she grew into my constant companion and confidant. She was always at my heels with a tail wag and what I can only describe as a smile. I would talk to her and she would tilt her head to one side with a look of understanding. She began to know my moods and anticipate my actions. It was convinced she could read my mind, like we could communicate with only a look. She had boundless energy and I began taking her for long walks, sometimes just Petey and I. We would go deep into the woods where I would never consider exploring alone. It was Petey and me against the world and I knew she would follow me wherever I went. Our mistaken beginnings and unlikely connection had grown into an unconditional love and for that I am forever grateful to her.
I learned a lot about life from this funny and lovable dog. I learned to always be there for the ones you love with a warm snuggle and a shoulder to cry on. I learned that just listening with the tilt of your head and your undivided attention is enough to make someone feel better. I learned that although people might judge you, to always be yourself and love them in despite of their ignorance. I learned that a nice walk in the woods with a friend by your side can take away the problems of the world and give you peace. I learned that life is not what you do but how you love. I learned to love unconditionally.
Petey passed away at the age of 11 laying in the corner of the couch that she called her own. I have peace that she never knew hunger, thirst or cruelty. I am thankful that we called her ours. I am grateful for our chance meeting that brisk fall day. I am forever changed because of the love from a Pit Bull. When I cross the bridge, I know she will be there, waiting for me, with a big sloppy kiss and the tail in full wiggle. And I will be happy to see her.