It’s been a strangely eventful Pit Bull Awareness Month thus far, with two serious setbacks — a careless gaffe on morning TV and an outright tragedy in Pennsylvania — casting a pall on the positive vibes this monthlong event was supposed to create. Now, here’s some new news: A rescue group that specializes in Pit Bulls says “no thanks” to the majority of people who’ve stepped forward to adopt one of their rescues. What’s up with that?
You heard right. The New York City-based rescue Stray from the Heart — which is having a Pups on the Runway Halloween Costume Ball fundraiser on Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. — has rescued and rehomed hundreds of sweet Pit Bulls. Like all selective rescue groups, Stray from the Heart has more than its share of sweet Pitties available for adoption. But there’s one sweetie who seems to touch hundreds of people. And some of those people — like the folks who infamously had eyes only for dogs orphaned by 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, yet overlooked thousands upon thousands of other worthy shelter dogs — insist that Lucy is the only dog for them. They want her.
She is a head-turner, to be sure. Lucy was found in Colombia by a Good Samaritan, who reached out to fellow dog lovers online about the emaciated dog he took into his home. That’s how Lucy came to the attention of a concerned Stray from the Heart volunteer. The dog had been bred numerous times; her body was covered in wounds. On top of that, evidence that she was savagely kicked is written all over poor Lucy’s disfigured face: Her upper and lower jaws point in opposite directions. This gives her a distinctive look, to say the least.
Lucy flew to New York on Continental Airlines, which deserves an enthusiastic plug for transporting this Pittie. She was seen by several vet specialists, who confirmed that, because Lucy is not in any pain and can eat and perform all other vital functions just fine the way she is, there’s no need to put her through the ordeal of rebreaking her jaw just to reset it. This fetching funny-face has been thriving in her foster home, under the care of another SFTH volunteer who’s a professional dog trainer.
When the dog’s photos were posted online, on The Featured Creature blog and elsewhere, hundreds of eager calls flooded Stray from the Heart, with some people fully expecting Lucy — even after all she’d already been through — to be loaded back onto a plane and shipped clear across the country. When Silberg explained why she won’t do this, some of the do-gooders were shocked that their show of pity for this Pittie were refused.
“We spoke to some lovely people who were touched by Lucy,” Silberg says. “But too many would not be able to meet Lucy a couple times, giving Lucy a chance to get to know them. They were too far away for a house visit and slow transition, which is what we felt Lucy needed. We explained that Lucy loved having an enclosed backyard where she could explore and feel safe. They were disappointed, but most understood; some were even open to looking into other adoptable Pit and Pit mixes more locally. But there were some who, even knowing everything we were doing to make sure Lucy would not be traumatized by the move, were pissed off they couldn’t take her. I think those were the ones who wanted her for all the wrong reasons. For attention to themselves.”
So here, for the record, is Stray from the Heart’s official position on Lucy: She’s already been rescued. She’s safe now. No one will hurt her ever again. What Lucy needs is an adopter with no other dogs or perhaps one small dog (due to all that forced breeding, Lucy is not comfortable with dogs her own size or larger, but she is learning to get along with short members of her species).
The person who gets to adopt Lucy ideally lives in or within two hours of Madison, Connecticut, so that he or she can conveniently pay Lucy a few visits, to get to know her before bringing her home. Stray from the Heart also requires a home visit prior to adoption, and is happy to wait as long as it takes — even years, even forever — until it finds just the right home for Lucy. There’s no rush. She’s very happy where she is.
In the meantime, here’s what Silberg recommends to the kind souls who want to help: Please don’t set your sights solely on Lucy because of how she looks. View her instead as a symbol of all unwanted Pit Bulls, everywhere, who are misunderstood and perceived as “ugly” — and feel some compassion for them. Then put that compassion into action by going to your local animal shelter to adopt one of the lovely Pit Bulls there on death row, regardless of how imperfect, perfect, or (more likely) perfectly imperfect they look.
“Not all Pit Bulls wear their wounds on the outside like Lucy does,” Silberg reminds us. “Many of them are scarred on the inside, but they want to love and be loved again. If you adopt one Pit Bull, you’re helping the cause of all Pit Bulls, Lucy included. That’s what Lucy teaches us all.”