Being a Pit Bull owner means you are constantly having to defend your dog. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked Cody and have had people cross over on the other side of the street to avoid him. I used to say to them "Yes, you have to watch out for this one. Last month he got away from me and robbed a family, took their car and credit cards and went on a bender for weeks." They would just look at me puzzled.
I also cannot tell you how many times people have stopped to pet him or let their dogs say hi and they comment on what a great and gentle dog he is. I can always tell what question they are going to ask next: "What kind of dog is he?" When I respond they are almost always surprised, some have grabbed their dogs acting as if they just tangled with death. But 9 out of 10 times the people who didn't know what kind of dog he was want to talk about the breed and learn about them. We chat about how mellow my dog is and how he has never bit anyone or another dog. How we rescued a Lab and she tortures him daily and he has never once reacted. I've had people thank me for talking to them because they had never met a pit bull before and they left with a much better viewpoint on the breed.
I know every dog is different, this is just my story, about my dog and these are just my experiences and opinions. I of course know the "reported" statistics, I know the "Top 10 Most Dangerous Breeds" and I know where Cody's breed is on that list. I used to tell people the story I knew first hand about the world's most loved dog-the Golden Retriever and how I knew someone who's face needed over 75 stitches from being bit by one. Just trying to get my point across that other breeds have done serious harm too. You just never hear about them. I've had friend's let their little ones climb all over Cody, including my nephew and I never ever worry. I also know it's very important to teach your kids not to pull on ears, tails and poke at their eyes. Even good dogs have their breaking point. On some walks when we pass dogs, most of them little, they go nuts-barking and growling and lunging at us. My "killer" walks right on by without even looking at them. But heaven forbid it's my dog lunging and barking, oh the looks I would get.
But wait, I also own one of those barking dogs, she's not little, she's pretty big. We rescued Maggie four years ago, she's our Lab mix. People only see the "pretty Lab" and they want to approach her and some days she's feeling it and others she is not. So I have been on the other side of the leash with a growling barking dog. People really don't pay too much attention to it, but on the rare occasion that Cody makes a noise or pulls on a leash it's almost always met with disgust.
When Kyle and I first started dating and I met Cody, I hate to admit it but I was scared of him. I knew nothing about the breed. I did however spend the better part of my twenties working in animal hospitals so I knew a lot about dogs and behaviors, just not this breed specifically. I will admit that it took me some time to feel 100% comfortable with him, to feel that he would not react at a dog park or that he would be gentle with kids. I would feel this way about any dog I just met—big or small—and any breed.
I felt a responsibility as an owner of an American Staffordshire Terrier (this is their actual breed name) and I wanted to learn everything I could and educate people properly on the breed. Caesar Milan did it the best, through his show explaining behaviors and traits of this breed, and he continues to do so. Cody is now 11 years old and I can barley get him to walk around the block some days. When people stop him, which is quite often, he peps right up and runs up to them and gives them the biggest kisses. He is by far one of the best dogs I have ever owned and I can vouch for him and tell you he won't bite your face off, or your dog's. Hell, he had seven teeth pulled last year so he couldn't do much damage anyway.
A good friend of mine told me something today that made me laugh, she too was an American Staffordshire Terrier owner and her dog Cooper helped to train a crazy chocolate Lab named Charlee I used to have. We would bring him over to the house and leave him alone with her just so he could teach her to calm down. I was never worried that he would do anything to her. He truly was the sweetest most well-behaved dog. When I told her how people cross the street when they see Cody, she too had that experience with Cooper. She laughed and said: "We can't all be friends with everyone, so if someone crosses the street they're probably not someone we care to know anyway."
So please, when you see someone walking down the street with a Doberman, Rottweiler, Akita, Husky, Mastiff, American Staffordshire Terrier or any breed considered to be a bully breed please don't judge the dog or the owner. And if you do cross the street, it's OK if it's because your dog has behavioral issues and needs space, but if it's because you see my dog, well you just missed out on meeting one of the world's best Pit Bulls. ~Mrs. G
One final thought:
When I first wrote this I must have said "It's all in how they are raised" two or three times. It's a saying most owners of bully breeds know all too well. A friend of mine pointed me to an article that basically says that by saying this we are actually doing dogs a disservice. Dogs that have been "raised right" as we all know can have behavioral issues, but what struck me is that by saying this we are saying that dogs that have been "raised wrong" don't stand a chance. The dogs that have been abused, used in fighting rings and neglected. We have seen these dogs make remarkable recoveries and become loving family members. The woman who wrote the article suggest that we replace this saying with "Its all how they're managed. Dogs are only as successful as we set them up to be." It was an eye opening read for me, especially when our dog, Maggie was "raised right" and has some behavioral issues. You can read her articlehere.
*Special thanks to Liz and Robyn, you two have always given me the best advise on dogs...and life.
**This is dedicated to Pandora, may you Rest In Doggie Paradise.