Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Be a Lover, Not a Fighter

Spend five minutes a room with my pit bull and you'll love them forever. His name is Gunnar. A 63-pound, brindle, neutered male, american pit bull terrier. He came to me at a time when I need him most, and he needed me most.


In March of 2009, I went into work at the Adams County SPCA for a normal day. My boss at the time, Terri, came up to me and told me to follow her to what we called "dog intake", which is where all the dogs that were still on stray hold or being treated medically were held until they were available for adoption. We walked back to "dog intake" which was through a door, then through another door, into a room with a row of 4 kennels. Yes, only four. The very last kennel on the left was always dark, because it was right next to the wall. Even with the slide (doggy door) open, not much light managed to shine in. So Terri walked me back to this last, very dark kennel and told me to look inside.

I couldn't see anything.

The slide was closed and it was morning, so it was extra dark. Then she told me to go in. This dog wasn't there yesterday, so I knew it'd just come in either that night or in the morning. Any shelter worker can relate when I said to Terri, "there's no way in hell I'm going in there". She assured me that her, and her daughter, only about 14 years old, were in there last night because she was working late.

So I opened the latch of the kennel door, walked in and sat down. I looked up at Terri as if to say, "is this thing going to eat my face?" Just as I take a breath to say that exact thing to her, I feel the weight of something on my quad. I look down, and staring back at me are two deep brown, very sad eyes.



A man was driving down the road and saw this creature hobbling along the shoulder. He stopped and saw it was an injured pit bull. To reasons I will never quite understand, he picked up this stray dog, in pain, and brought him to the shelter. Our humane officer, Brandi, was called and she took him to the emergency hospital, where they took x-rays and determined he had fractures in both his hips, and suspected that, based on his injuries, he had been hit by a car. He was scheduled for emergency surgery the next morning.

Fortunately, because pit bulls are so stoic, he was putting weight on his hind-quarters, and the doctor felt no need to be so invasive, and suggested pain killers and bed-rest for 6 weeks, along with medicine for Giardia and whipworms.

So that morning, he was brought back to the shelter, where he laid there in my lap.

Bed rest for six weeks.

How was the shelter going to manage that with only 4 intake kennels, 2 of which were occupied with litters of puppies not yet old enough for adoption? I had just moved back in with my parents in preparation for my husband's deployment to Iraq. I already had 2 cats and 2 chinchillas, and they had 3 cats. How was I going to convince them to let me foster this dog (knowing they weren't dog people by any means) and nontheless, a pit bull.

Without going into detail about my conversation with my parents, they reluctantly agreed, and I brought him home just a few days later. My mom was so......uncomfortable. My dad, well, pit bulls were at the bottom of his list of dogs....even below poodles. And living right on the outskirts of a city where pit bull fighting was prevalent, my neighbors were a tad standoffish.


It was like he had been living there his whole life. He fit right in, almost as if to he knew this was where he was supposed to be. And when my husband left for Iraq, this dog was my rock. Everyone who came in contact with him just fell in love instantly. He was so gentle with our cats, he learned his knew name faster that I learned my own, and he listened. He obviously turned on the charm so that I wouldn't just foster him for 6 weeks, but adopt him in 6 weeks.

And I did.

Gunnar is amazing. He protects me, but in a way that isn't threatening. He's so very sweet to all kinds of people- kids, men, women, people of color....no one is off limits for a good old-fashioned butt-wag. He knows when I'm having a bad day because my husband is away. He feels my anxiety and fear and knows just what to say......nothing. He's just there for me. He steals my side of the bed when I get up to go to bathroom in the middle of the night, he's a giant snore-box, he goes in his crate when I simply point to it, he knows the difference between his "piggy", "moo-cow" and "monkey" squeaky toys and knows a "kitty cat" isn't one of them. He walks funny because of how his hips healed, so he has a bit of a bunny hop when he runs. (He runs like the dog from the cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas") The only thing that's really vicious about him is his gas.

All my family, friends and neighbors have completely accepted him, and have even taken it upon themselves to educate sceptical people on the breed. He represents everything good in a pit bull and I will never not have one.

I decided to write this blog not with the intentions to convert disbelievers into believers, but to just share my experiences with my own pit bull. There is so much hate towards these dogs, but yet so much to learn. Cities around me are attempting to ban pit bulls. Ban them. When I hear these attempts, I look at my own pit bull and think, I could never lose you.

If you read this blog, thank you. If you don't, thank you. Because those of you who read this blog truely have open-minds and open hearts, and I have instant respect for you. If you don't, you might be too busy, too close-minded, or maybe you just can't read. It's not my place to wonder "why". My posts will be anything from stories of my own dog, to articles, simply a poem or joke, information on the breed or maybe just pictures of these "vicious" animals.

There will never be another Gunnar. Not even close.

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