Archive for the ‘American Pit Bull Terrier’ Category

People often ask me if I put up a Christmas tree. I used to put up a beautiful live tree each year, but haven’t in a while. Time being one of the reasons, but over the years, pets became another reason. Have pets influenced your decisions about a tree?

A friend and neighbor, in the face of my treeless status, offered me a small one she had and no longer used. Of course, I have a bazillion ways to trim it collected over the years, but I also had easy access to a few things. There it is, on my oak bench where I can enjoy it when I journal, read, or soon … write rather late Christmas cards.

A very dear friend of mine has a saying which I have now incorporated into my vernacular – “Something is better than nothing.” And indeed, I find it true. It’s small, but it’s something. I find myself fairly mesmerized by this little stranger which reminds me of many Christmases gone by. I like just sitting near it. Funny how deeply ingrained our memories can be.

The good thing is that Jazzy, unlike previous pets, has not decided to pull it over or de-trim it. The first of my beloved pets to have me reconsider the wisdom of having a tree was Mewsette. As is true with many felines, she did her best work at night, and every morning I would come down to find at least the bottom tier of ornaments missing, some broken. OK, let’s just put unbreakable ones on the lower branches. It minimized breakage but didn’t affect one iota my having an ornament scavenger hunt each morning. The final result? Nothing detachable at the bottom of the tree. Not very pretty.

Then we had Chloe, one of my pair of sweet pittie girls. Chloe was determined to see if she could possibly squeeze in the corner behind it. I would come into the room with her shmushed behind the tree, tail wagging off ornaments. Nothing I could do would discourage her efforts. Yet another strike against the concept of having a tree, especially on the occasion when she knocked it over.

Shut the animals out of the room, you say? Who wants to be in the living room, tree all aglow, without your fuzzy ones to keep you company? Or chase them in and out? Eventually, I just gave up. There have always been little spots of Christmas all over the house which, on the whole, none of them ever paid any mind. But this little tree? Perhaps it is my toe into the waters of real trees.

Or maybe this is just perfect for me.

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DutchGrowing up in a house with a very anxious mother wasn’t easy. It affected everything and everybody. While I understand as an adult why things were the way they were, it was difficult as a child living with someone who needed to control just about everything. I didn’t consciously know it then, but I longed for someone in the house I could just `be’ with … without intrusion, always accepting, always comforting, and who’d never give up a secret. And my dog became that someone.

When I was 5, my brother 9, our parents decided we were old enough to have a dog, so at Christmas they gave us a beautiful Boxer puppy. I don’t think either of us quite `got’ the concept of having a dog at Christmas when there were still so many other exciting presents to open and play with. But Tinkerbell, as she was named, was not to stay with us very long. Within a few months she developed epilepsy. I don’t remember seeing the seizures my mother described Tink having on the kitchen floor, with blood and foam spewed all over the room, or perhaps I willed myself to forget. But as there were no cures for epilepsy back then, Tinkerbell’s only option was to be returned to spirit. I was so young, and hadn’t become very attached to her yet, I don’t think I really understood what had happened.

Dutch and Me -1Then our parents got another dog. She was sold to them as a Boxer, 6 months old, and I recall my mother being so happy she didn’t drool because her face wasn’t pushed in like other Boxers. There was a reason for that … she wasn’t really a Boxer. At best, she was a Boxer, pit bull terrier mix; my obedience trainer, when he looked at my childhood photos of her, told me that she was pure, and that was how they bred American Pit Bull Terriers back then. It didn’t matter … she quickly became the best friend and confidante I longed for. Her name was Dutchess. Dutchess Von Wiggles was how my mom had `officially’ named her because she had a butt that was constantly in happy motion.

DutchandMe -2Dutch couldn’t sleep with me as she wasn’t allowed on the second floor, so I slept with her downstairs. We watched TV together, me resting my head gently on her side; and we curled up in sleep on the living room floor. She learned all the tricks a dog learns, and loved to go for walks or play outside in the yard. I can honestly say, in a way that only a dog or animal lover would understand, she was everything to me … she was my best friend. I had a human best friend, of course – happily, I always had friends — and I had my big brother to play with and taunt, but Dutchess was different. She was just what I needed – another soul in the house that simply loved me straight out no matter what. And I adored her for that.

DutchandMe-3When I was little, my parents would cover her eyes and ears and I would hide. Then they’d let her go … “Find Jeanne!!” And Dutchess would search every nook and cranny downstairs to see where I was hiding, just bursting into wiggling, wagging joy when she found me. What child doesn’t live for those moments? She made me feel safe in a childhood where feeling emotionally safe wasn’t easy. Dutch was the heart, soul and embodiment of unconditional love. She was both my rock and my wings, my compass and stars; she was my comfort and confidante. She was one little girl’s very best friend.

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Not long ago I received a gift. No, it wasn’t John Beresford Tipton with a check for a million dollars and my future security. It was a gift for my heart … two gifts, actually.
DeuceThe first was an e-mail from someone who adopted a rescue dog from me many years ago. Larry wrote that he and his wife Jeannie had searched me out on the web to tell me that Deuce had passed away and to thank me for “the best dog they ever had”. In quiet tears, I responded … to thank them for letting me know, and indeed, what a wonderful dog Deuce had been. I was so grateful that Larry and his family had adopted him.
It wasn’t but three weeks later that the second gift arrived … another e-mail. Jon and Diane also searched me out on the web to let me know that Spike had just passed away at 13, also to thank me for “the best dog they ever had”. Again, I responded in kind.
For ten years I ran a rescue for, I believe, the most difficult dog to place – the American Pit Bull Terrier. I placed Deuce and Spike well over 12 years ago when they were just youngsters, and before e-mail. Although we kept in touch, it wasn’t easy when one’s lives were consumed with multiple jobs and, in my case, a demanding rescue on top of it. But the best thing about placing Deuce, Spike, and all the other `pits’ I placed, was I never had to look back. I knew, through my extensive screening, breed education and adoption requirements, that these pups were now set for life. (Ask any of my adopters – they were grilled!)
SpikeRescuing `pits’ presented tremendous challenges – they are truly misunderstood dogs. Their history, their true temperament, their genuine love of people – what the public needed to know was not what they heard. Instead, they were slammed with horrific, isolated incidents where unstable and undoubtedly abused pit bull terriers attacked humans. As if there were no other news going on in the world.
Pit bull terriers were … and are … horribly abused, tortured, made insane and killed — for not being good enough fighters. Imagine the worst … they suffered much more. Some, still alive, were simply wrapped up in plastic bags and dropped in the garbage. Just not good enough.
My heart was broken more times than I can tell in saving these dogs’ lives. So many were, and are, stable, loving and kind dogs, euthanized nonetheless for simply being born the wrong breed and being bred to excess.
Yet, as a rescue, I received so many gifts. I was truly blessed with people who came forward to help me save this wonderful dog no one wanted. Vets, trainers, foster homes, experienced rescue people to guide me in effectively screening … all appeared. The pit bull terriers I had the fortune to know and help were themselves gifts I will never forget. But perhaps the greatest gifts, for both the dogs and me, were the truly caring and devoted people who took them in.
These rescue dogs lived long, healthy lives, and then I received one more gift.
An e-mail to let me know.

Note: This article was published in the July 2007 issue of The Animal Companion. Although I have not actively operated my APBT rescue for over 7 years, these wonderful people contacting me inspired me to write about one of my many experiences in rescue and with the breed.


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