Having a pit mix and a shepard mix for many years, I had grown accustomed to people crossing the street to avoid us and pulling their dogs (safely) out of our path. Since losing both my four-legged girls, we adopted a Doberman/Lab mix. With hazel eyes and a goofy puppy face, he is far from intimidating looking. On our first walk together, I realized just how intimidating people thought my sweet girls were walking down the street. Walking with our new puppy Calvin, people approached us. People went out of their way to greet us. While the puppies frolicked and sniffed, we would find ourselves chatting about our pups. This was a new world to me. Suddenly, I was the cool kid on the playground of life. While I found it annoying at times, Calvin loved the attention.
Recently we adopted another new pup. She is full of a zest for life. She loves people, kids and animals. I was eager to get Hazel out on our walks so she could meet all our new puppy friends. I forgot one thing; Hazel is a pit mix and people are ignorant. At the park with the kids shortly after adopting her, a lady frantically called for her (off leash) dog as we approached. I swear I could see her tremble as our sweet Hazel frolicked over (on leash) to say hello to her dog. All I could think when I saw this trembling grown woman was the fact that we have been diligent about teaching our children never to judge and make assumptions about anyone. She quickly mumbled something about her dog being unpredictable and I could not help but wonder why her ‘unpredictable dog’ would be off a leash at a park of all places.
The trembling lady’s ‘pack’ of friends, along with their dogs, went to a field by the park but not before one of them asked if my dog (puppy) was staying on leash. I made clear my dog was staying on a leash only because there was no fence between the field and a very busy road and of course because there is something called a leash law.
While the kids played at the park, I looked over at the group of people and their dogs. Almost every time, they were already looking over at us. I made sure the kids got lots of face kisses from Hazel and I made a point to hold her like a baby and pet her belly.
As a pit bull lover and a bit of a ‘dog advocate,’ as my husband likes to call me, I was very annoyed by the situation. As a self-proclaimed over-thinker and writer, I decided writing about the situation would reach many more people than talking to a group of ignorant people.
I understand the fear and misinformation many people have regarding pit bulls. Many people have unjustified fears of many things because of preconceived notions; who am I to judge? The media has done a fabulous job of causing quite a stir when it comes to pit bull ownership. Pit Bull Terriers have a passing rate of 82.6% with the American Temperament Test Society; the average for the other 121 dog breeds is only 77%. Statistics aside, pit bulls are great family dogs. They adore children and they are loyal and loving members of the family. I am sure you have heard it before, but I strongly stand by the fact that temperament is extremely affected by how the animal is socialized and raised; that goes for any breed of dog.
Sadly, many people pass by pit bulls when they are looking to adopt a new family dog. Several will note on their application, ‘No Pit Bulls,’ and some will just stroll past the cages of dogs that even resemble pit bulls.
The other day, I was walking Hazel and saw a man with an adorable dog walking along, holding his own leash while he joyfully walked down the sidewalk. When the man saw me and my big square-headed sweetie, the usual took place. He nonchalantly called his pup over to his side and swiftly secured his leash onto his collar. As they approached, we made eye contact and smiled. I said, ‘my dog is very sweet and would love to meet your dog!’ He said ‘of course’ and while the dogs sniffed and interacted, we talked about our dogs. I learned of his dogs severe allergies and he learned of our recent canine losses and our two new four-legged rescue pups.
As Hazel and I walked home, I realized I would have to be the voice for Hazel to ensure she is properly socialized and not judged. I also realized Hazel and I are a good team to break the ridiculous stereotypes of pit bulls, one person at a time.
I am not asking you to throw caution to the wind while approaching a new dog but I am asking you to base your opinions on facts. I am asking you to give the new dog you approach the benefit of the doubt whether it has a big square head, a little flat nose or a big bushy cuddly face. Give the ‘Hazels’ a chance to prove to you that the media has unnecessarily given an amazing breed of dogs a very bad rap. And please check out www.projectrescuechicago.org if you're considering adopting a dog.