Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tale of Amos the 'pit bull' comes to happy end
Gabe Paal plays with Amos, who in April became the first adult 'pit bull' transferred from the Lucas County Dog Warden's office to the humane society. Previously, all 'pit bulls' were euthanized.

COLUMBUS - For a young, gentle, and playful dog named Amos, life has been a roller-coaster ride on the extremes of good luck and bad.
The bad luck started early. Born an American Staffordshire terrier, Amos belongs to one of three core dog breeds that fall under the generic descriptive term "pit bull."
And not only was he from Ohio, the only state that by law deems "pit bulls" inherently vicious, but he was in Lucas County, where for decades the dog warden believed in killing all unclaimed "pit bulls" and "pit bull" mixes regardless of behavior or age - from the youngest puppies to the most docile adults.
So the odds weren't in his favor April 12, when he was picked up running loose and taken to the county pound.
But Amos was due for his first stroke of good luck. The county had recently hired new Dog Warden Julie Lyle, who believed that well-behaved "pit bulls" like Amos deserve the same chance at life as any other dog.

Amos, left, is chased by his running mates, Daphne and Maverick in Etna Township, which is near Columbus. Their owner, Gabe Paal, has an enclosed, 2.5-acre yard in which the dogs can play.

After much controversy, he became the first adult "pit bull" at the pound to be freed from death row and transferred to the Toledo Area Humane Society. The day before the transfer, the humane society announced its own new decision to begin adopting out its best-behaved "pit bulls" to the public.

By the final week of April, Amos was on his way to the Columbus-based rescue group Pet Promise. From there he was sent to a day care and boarding facility in the city, the Canine Social Club, where he learned to socialize with other dogs.

On July 3, he arrived at his "forever home."
He now lives in rural Licking County outside of Columbus with Gabe Paal, 62, and two other dogs: a 5-year-old male "pit bull" and Jack Russell terrier mix, and a 5-month-old female Olde English Mastiff.
Mr. Paal has a multilevel house with 2.5 acres of enclosed yard for the dogs, whom he jokingly refers to as surrogates for his three now-grown children. Their Etna Township property is bounded by another 40 acres of open field that the neighbors allow the pooches to play in.
According to the Paal family, Amos has lived up to his reputation for good behavior. He loves people and being petted. He never bites. He gets along well with his "brother" and "sister" dogs. He obeys basic commands. And he'll gladly stay in his mattress-lined crate when Mr. Paal goes in to work as a medical technologist.
Asked to recall Amos' worst transgression, Mr. Paal said that during his first week he twice had an accident in the house in front of the doggy door before learning how to use it.
Still, there is something about Amos, who has a light brindle coat, that those who first meet him should know. If given his way, he'll crawl up into a visitor's lap and smoother his company with sloppy wet kisses.
"The only thing that Amos is aggressive about is sharing his love," daughter Jennifer Paal, 25, said Sunday as he lay at her feet in the backyard after playing fetch. "I do know there are some bad 'pit bulls,' but if you have a pit bull and you raise him the right way, he will be like this."
Mr. Paal learned of Amos through his younger daughter, Kelsey Paal. An employee at Canine Social Club, Miss Paal met the dog the day he arrived from Toledo. Amos quickly became a favorite at Pet Promise and the social club for his outgoing demeanor and the story of how he narrowly escaped lethal injection in Lucas County.
"It is really hard to think that he was a day away from death," Miss Paal said.
Kelly McCafferty, dog program coordinator at Pet Promise, said her group read in The Blade that Amos could be euthanized within a day, and immediately contacted the office of Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop.
Several hours later, after multiple rounds of phone calls, Ms. McCafferty heard that Amos would instead be spared.
"There were lots of tears shed," she recalled.
Since Amos left the county pound, 15 other adult "pit bulls" have been transferred out to the humane society, according to the dog warden's office. There have also been 44 "pit-bull" puppies transferred out in 2010.
Like Amos, these "pit bulls" scored the highest marks on the department's temperament test. Dozens of other impounded "pit bull" type dogs who didn't score as well have been euthanized this year.
John Dinon, executive director of the humane society, said that of the "pit bulls" his organization has received from the dog warden, three were adopted, three were transferred to rescue groups, one went to a foster home, and one was euthanized due to "severe dog-to-dog aggression."
The humane society reclassified the other "pit bulls" it got from the dog warden as not really being "pit bulls," and put them up for general adoption, Mr. Dinon said. "Boxer mix" was the typical reclassification.
"It's the big boxy heads that are sort of in that gray area - boxer or pit bull," Mr. Dinon said. "There is really no exact science as to what's a pit bull … it's really a matter of opinion in some cases."
Mr. Paal conceded that he was initially hesitant to take in Maverick, the "pit bull" mix that is now Amos' sibling, because of the stereotype that all "pit bulls" are vicious. But his eldest daughter, Jennifer, who got him as a puppy while a student at Bowling Green State University, convinced him that Maverick was a good dog.
"Dad was pretty nervous when I told him he was a 'pit bull' mix, but obviously now they're in love," Miss Paal said.
Though won over to pit bulls' charms by Maverick, Mr. Paal was still nervous about the prospect of bringing home Amos. Would it be safe to have two "pit bull" type dogs under the same roof?
"I admit I had a lot of reservations," Mr. Paal said. "But Maverick and Amos are best friends. They run and wrestle together. They play with the same sticks. They sleep almost nose to nose."
Kelsey Paal, who works with dogs every day, said the friendship of the two pit bulls "is definitely one of the strongest dog bonds I have ever witnessed."


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful/heartwarming story about "pit bulls" for a change.
What a wonderful family to take the time to rescue and adopt.
God Bless the Family and the "pit bulls" too. :-)

Monica Hoover said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing!