I always say I’m proud to be a “crazy dog lady.” But on my first day volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, I had to face a hard truth: I was not as open-minded about dogs as I had thought.
It happened when I went to Dogtown Headquarters at the end of my shifts and requested a dog to take back to my hotel. The “overnight” program seemed like a fun way to help socialize a dog for adoption. I asked a staff member which dog I should borrow for the night.
“Chunk,” she declared without hesitation. “He’s so sweet. I almost adopted him myself, but it turns out he’s allergic to cats, and I have several.”
“Sounds great,” I said as she radioed the news to Chunk’s caregivers. “What kind of dog is he?”
“Pit Bull,” she answered.
I really hate to admit this, but I had a flash of something resembling fear. Was I prejudiced despite all I know about Pit Bulls getting an undeserved bad rap? In my mind, I knew it wasn’t until gangs were using them for protection and in dog fighting rings in the 1980s that the media started widespread reporting of Pit Bull attacks. My dog is pals with a neighbor’s little Pittie, and I even know two teens who started a group called Pit Bulls for People to spread the word that “The only things dangerous about Pit Bulls are their tongues, their tails, and their slobber!”
So what was this trepidation I felt in my heart? I told myself to snap out of it and drove to Chunk’s kennel to pick him up for the night.
My first impression did nothing to calm my nerves. Two caregivers were holding onto the brown-and-white Pittie’s leash, but he was still pulling them along. Chunk looked strong, to say the least. He jumped into my car, and I was suddenly in charge of a Pit Bull I’d never met.
After chewing up some tissue paper I didn’t realize was in the back of my car, Chunk planted his front paws on my car’s center console and leaned toward the windshield. His giant head was right next to my face.
I took a deep breath.
He gave me a sloppy wet kiss up the side of my face.
I grinned. I’m a sucker for pooch smooches.
They say “A tired dog is an obedient dog,” so I took Chunk for a long walk as soon as we got to the hotel. I didn’t even unload my car. At one point, he got a thistle stuck in his paw, lifted it plaintively, and waited for me to remove the offending object and check his other feet. Once again, I was rewarded with a slobbery kiss.
Back in the hotel room, I offered Chunk a treat, and he sat ever so gratefully, tail wagging nonstop. He leapt onto the bed and curled up like a little wolf cub. It tugged at my heartstrings.
By bedtime, Chunk was sprawled out on the bed, and I crept under the covers, keeping to the very edge. He immediately nestled into me and sighed contentedly. I pet him, cooing sweet nothings, and fell asleep. Until about 4 a.m., Chunk’s back was stretched along the length of my body — I was spooning with a Pit Bull — and he stretched his head onto my arm as I slept on my side. Our faces were inches apart. As he dreamed, the muscles of his powerful jaw started twitching on my arm.
For about 20 minutes, I lay awake, hoping he wasn’t dreaming of a former abuser or life in a dog fighting ring or something. What if he woke up confused and ate my face?
Of course, no such thing happened. The twitching stopped and I fell back asleep. In the morning, we were still snuggling. I turned on the light and said, “Good morning, Chunk.” He gave me an intensely loving gaze, then rolled onto his back for a belly rub.
I got a little teary. Why was he so much quicker to trust and love than I’d been?
I’m so grateful for my night with Chunk. That darling Pit Bull helped me overcome a deep-rooted prejudice I didn’t even realize I had. Now I know in my heart as well as my mind that we really should “judge the deed, not the breed” … and that Pit Bulls can be world-class snuggle buddies!
Editor’s note: Chunk is still available for adoption through Best Friends Animal Society. Learn more about Chunk.