Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In honor of Pit Bull Awareness Month, Pit Bull Rescue Central's volunteers are sharing the stories of how their pit bulls became part of their families. PBRC envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.

Sunshine of My Life – by Liz Henderson

By the time we bought our first house including our first yard, our first dog, KC, was 6 years old. KC was a “BBD,” a big black dog. Though he reached 112 lbs at his heaviest, his little rose ears and petite terrier feet led us to believe he was a pit bull mix. We never faced any discrimination or issues having KC because everyone else just saw a black Lab. Once I had my house and fenced yard, I was ready to become the crazy dog lady I had always hoped to become. I started looking at the online dog listings. KC went to daycare, so he was great with other dogs and all I really knew was that I wanted a large female dog with a “smooshy face.” KC really liked girls with smooshy faces. So we found a good candidate with a local rescue, and on a Saturday in February we set out for an adoption event to meet our future dogchild.>/p>

Upon arrival, KC knew what was up. Despite having a blast at daycare, he immediately decided that having another dog in his new house – sharing his new yard – was not going to be cool. I assume he was envisioning our already full sofa when we sat at both ends and he spread out across the middle. We introduced him to the first girl we came to meet. Nope! Our friendly BBD was having none of her. OK, well that was strange, he is usually so friendly with other dogs. Let’s meet this other girl, she looks nice! Oh, you don’t like her either, huh? Ok, well who do you like? After meeting 6 adult female dogs, all of whom were perfectly nice, I started to fear that my dreams of becoming a crazy dog lady might be ending before they began. KC was making it clear that he did not want to take home any of these girls and was not going to make this easy for us.

So feeling down, we were preparing to leave the adoption event. On the way out, we passed some crates with a few puppies. KC stopped at one crate and sniffed the little puppy inside like crazy. Then he pounced! He went in to play bow and wagged his tail like a windshield wiper. The puppy pawed at him through the crate and he whined in response. We had only considered adult dogs because there are so many that need homes, but if KC wanted a baby dog, then so be it! I opened the crate and pulled out the little red, golden-eyed, nearly hairless creature. She was a girl! A bit of mange and a URI, but that was nothing we couldn’t deal with.

The rescue group explained to us “You know this is a purebred rednose pit bull, right?” Well, no, we didn’t, but that’s ok. I mean, she is a puppy. With us as parents, it is not like she is going to become “one of those pit bulls!” We listened to all their concerns about placing a pit bull, making sure that we understood the risks and responsibilities. We signed an addendum to the adoption application that had special rules for pit bulls, such as never leaving them outside alone, even in a fenced yard. I honestly thought this was a bit overboard, but I kept those thoughts to myself. We got to meet her littermates and even her dad. We were told that they were confiscated from a drug and dogfight bust and that the mother was already dead when police arrived. That was my first introduction to the horrors and realities of dogfighting. The dad was friendly with people and playful with his pups, so that made me feel positive about her prospects to be a good dog.

We got her the following afternoon after she was spayed. I told family and friends that she was an American Staffordshire Terrier and rarely used the words “pit bull.” We named her Sunshine so that she and KC might someday form a band. She went by Sunny and each day she embodied the spirit of her name. I fell deeply in love with this amazing creature. Her goofiness, loving nature, and joie de vivre were like nothing I had ever seen in another dog. Life was grand for us and our undercover pit bull—travel, adventures, and training…

…until one day, I read an online article about a pit bull ban in another county in my state. “Are you kidding me?! Is that even legal? How can do they do that?!” I researched more and discovered that this was not just some reactionary Southern thing—pit bull bans were all over the country, in major cities and rural areas. And if you had a pit bull and they passed a ban, someone might come take your dog from you! Well, friends, that was not going to happen.

That day changed everything. It was then that I decided I had to get involved to make sure that Sunny was never in danger of being taken and that dogs like Sunny would be protected. I started following websites that tracked breed-specific legislation and started volunteering with a local pit bull rescue. I learned that not only were pit bulls under threat from BSL and dogfighting, but from overbreeding and overpopulation. Somehow I had no idea that millions of “Sunnys” were suffering and being abused. It was frustrating. I kept meeting other people with pit bulls who also did not know about BSL, the prevalence of dogfighting and the high euthanasia rate for pit bulls. I also learned about how often pit bulls are stolen and how they are always blamed when dogs get in to a skirmish at a dog park. Now I understood why the rescue was so concerned about who they adopted pit bulls to and why they felt they needed special rules for them. I wanted to find a way to reach more pit bull owners and organize them so that they had access to this information.

So I started Atlanta Pit Bull Parents, to serve as an educational and social resource for pit bull parents. I proudly proclaimed myself to be a pit bull owner to everyone I knew, as well as on my car, and most days on my clothing. I continued in pit bull rescue locally and became a volunteer for PBRC. Now Sunny is 11. She has gone through several surgeries and is a cancer survivor. The issues facing pit bulls and their owners are just as serious now as they were all those years ago. But I like to think that because of this one little pit bull, we have made life better for many more.


Visit PBRC for more information about the work we do.

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