I Used to Think Pit Bulls Were Monsters -- Until I Got One
When I wrote the article "I Love My Dog More Than I Love My Husband," I didn't cover the fact that Axle, my super fantastic dog, is an American Pit Bull Terrier. How could I let that slip when I'm an advocate for Pit Bulls? Quite easily, actually, as I don't consider his breed to be his defining characteristic. For some reason, a select group of legislators and a portion of the general public believe that his breed is not only his defining characteristic, it also means he is a bad dog.
When I was little, I always wanted a dog. I had no idea what kind. I would scour the encyclopedias (this was long ago) and imagine what it would be like to own a Rhodesian Ridgeback or a Papillon. My parents finally caved and took me to the local shelter, where they said I could have any dog I wanted, so long as it could live outside and wasn't a Bulldog. At that point, I didn't even know what a Bulldog was, much less why I couldn't have one. I vaguely remember regurgitating this information at school, telling kids who had Bulldogs at home that they had "bad dogs."
Things changed when I saw Katie, a five-year-old Boxer. She was beautiful! She was also incredibly sweet and already trained. My dad was hesitant, because she fit his description of "Bulldog," but he let me have her anyway. She turned out to be the best dog of my childhood. In fact, he's the one dog my dad claims to miss out of the menagerie of dogs I had growing up.
When I would ask why he didn't want me to have a Bulldog, he would answer, "Those dogs are dangerous, Meghan. Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, whatever you call them, they'll turn on you. You can't trust dogs. Those strong ones like that, they're unpredictable. You think they're your best friend, and then they bite your arm off." Needless to say, I was terrified of these dogs.
Years later, when my boyfriend (now husband) told me he wanted a Pit Bull, I was adamantly against it. He said if it would make me feel better, we would raise it from a puppy. Of course that didn't satisfy me, because I just knew that cute puppy would grow up into a monster who would tear me limb from limb! I had read the news stories and heard the tales -- Pit Bulls were bad news.
I really don't know what made me brave enough to take a chance on Axle. Maybe it was the fact that we already had a Bulldog mix at the time. I do know that the day he came home, I was enthralled (what a cute puppy!) but extremely suspicious of him.
Anything that went wrong, I blamed on Axle. After all, it was his nature, right? His nature to be aggressive and domineering, his nature to be the "bad dog." If he had any idea what was going on in my head, surely he would have thought I was the biggest of idiots! He responded well to training and never harmed any of the other animals around. I started noticing all of the strange but intelligent things that Axle would do. I noticed how careful he was around my six-month-old nephew. I noticed how quickly he picked up on commands and how eager he was to learn.
Suddenly, I felt angry. I was angry at myself for thinking that these dogs, these innocent little dogs, somehow magically became monsters when they matured. I was angry that my dad, as wise and wonderful as he is, believed (and still believes) that myth. I was angry with society for thinking up breed-specific legislation, which most often targets Pit Bulls. I felt the need to get on a roof somewhere and preach the gospel of love and understanding. That's when I realized that Axle wasn't angry. In fact, he has no idea that I was ever afraid of him or other dogs like him. He doesn't know what breed-specific legislation is. All he knows is that he's a dog, he has a family, and he is loved.
Two years later, and I'm the girl submitting a story to Dogster about how much I love this dog, this Pit Bull. He lives in a house with another dog and three cats. They all get along great. Giving a Pit Bull a chance to prove me wrong has been one of the best decisions of my life. It not only gave me my best canine friend, it opened up a whole new world for me. I've networked with many people who have had similar experiences to mine, and we've all made it our mission to educate the public on treating dogs as individuals. I even started a blog to discuss dog advocacy and to tell the world what it's really like to share a house with a Pit Bull. (Hint: It's mostly boring.)
If you're still living by some outdated beliefs, like I was, I hope this encourages you to take a chance and step out of that box. The fear of the unknown will be quickly overcome by the wonder of the world you never knew.
Meghan Lodge is an animal advocate who dedicates her spare time to a local animal shelter. She also authors the blog, Oh My Pibbles, which focuses on animal advocacy. She lives in Cairo, GA, with her husband and their motley crew: Axle and Remi (dogs), and Fry, Leela, and Lord Nibbler (cats).
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