Celebrating an All-American Dog on July 4th

Today isIndependence Day,and a fine opportunity to appreciatean all-American dog who has suffered a terrible reversal of fortune sincehis heyday a century ago:the American Pit...

Julia Szabo  |  Jul 4th 2011


Today isIndependence Day,and a fine opportunity to appreciatean all-American dog who has suffered a terrible reversal of fortune sincehis heyday a century ago:the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Afamous World War One-era propaganda poster, right,depicts a K9 flag-waver, a whitedog draped in the stars and stripes of Old Glory, above the motto: “Watchful – Waiting.” That dog is a symbol of pure patriotic pride. He’s drop-dead gorgeous. And he’sa pit bull.

Many years have passed since Americans were proud to identify with pit bulls. Once a noble national mascot, Everybodys All-American, and a popular family pet, thepit is now largely feared and reviled: The single most irrationally loathed and legislated-against dog in the world – and also the most routinely abused. The pit bull has an inherent loyalty and willingness to please that thecriminal element loves to exploit.

Compounding the breeds undeserved “vicious” reputation is the medias unfortunate tendency to characterize pit bulls as public enemy number one: unpredictable, bloodthirsty beasts with a taste for childrens blood, more demon than dog. As a result, animal shelters across this country are filled to capacity with sweet pit bulls that no one wants to adopt because of the horror stories theyve heard on the news.

Although millions know a very different side to the pit bull the dependable friend of children, as embodied by Our Gangs mascot Pete the “vicious” stereotype stubbornly persists. Breed bans in Denver and Ontario have made it illegal for residents to own one. Everywhere else, animal shelters are overcrowded with gentle, affectionate pits categorically overlooked by potential adopters.

Robyn Smith Astaire, widow of the actor Fred Astaire, has a favorite photograph of her late husband. In the picture, which has pride of place on Robyn’s mantel, 7-year-old Fred wears shorts and a peter-pan-collared shirt. The adorable smiling boy has his arm around his beloved pet: a black Pit Bull named Bill, named after the man who gave him the dog, William “Bojangles” Robinson (Fred and Bojangles appeared together on the vaudeville circuit).

But things are starting to look up for this poor reviled dog. Just last month, Cleveland showed the rest ofAmerica that reversing breed-specific legislation is the right, all-American thing to do.

Hey, if Pit Bulls are really so bad, would such nice people keep them as pets?

Dogsters, please share your thoughts in the comments. Meanwhile, as the poster above states, “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue!”