Editor’s Note: PupJournal reached out to Theodore the pit bull, a special pup rescued in 2013 from the second-largest dog fighting ring in U.S. history, to ask him a few questions about life in his forever home. His human mom, Trish McMillan Loehr, translated his answers.
How did you meet your family (or as you like to say, hire your staff)?
I interviewed Trish, who is an animal trainer, when I was at the ASPCA’s temporary shelter with about 300 other pit bulls. We were being held as evidence in a big dogfighting case, and Trish was part of the behavior team who helped keep us safe and happy. We got enrichment toys to chew, time outside, behavior modification, and my favorite, playtime. I was one of the “helper dogs” who helped teach other dogs how to play, so I was a popular guy!
As the case was winding down, my old owner was sentenced, and a lot of the dogs were searching for permanent staff, we started holding interviews. I asked Trish what life would be like at her house, and she told me about The Sailor, Barry, who had been looking for a pit bull ever since his first pit bull died, four years previously.
She said the food was good, there would be other animals for company, and that I would be allowed to sleep on the furniture. I didn’t know what furniture was at the time, but it sounded good, so I said “yes.”
Trish and Barry have been my adoring, loyal staff since early 2014. They are also currently staff to two other dogs, two cats, and a horse. We live near dog-friendly Asheville NC, in the mountains, so we are often able to accompany staff on hikes and outings. I also continue my work helping mom with her dog training business.
How long did it take you to teach them the basics and orient them to their new roles and responsibilities?
As with all staff, training is ongoing. At first there was a bit of a learning curve. They didn’t think that all of their possessions were my art supplies, so there were some negotiations at first. They tricked me into spending time in something called a “crate” when they were away, and did a lot of “pibble proofing,” which apparently means hiding all of the good art supplies.
We have come to a bit of a compromise at this point. They assumed the service bell hanging on the door was only to be used when I wanted to go outside, but now they see it’s for anything that I might need.
They also feed me when I arwoof, let me help lick plates and pots, and take me to see the veterinarian often, although not yet always when I ask. I love my vet and give him lots of kisses. Dr. Hammonds helps me with my many many allergies and occasional pibbling injuries.
What is this special skill you have called “pibbling”?
Pibbling is our name for all of the silly things I do. Pibbling includes racing around, playing with dogs and people, giving hugs and kisses, ringing the staff bells, hopping up and down, rolling around on my back, making art out of found objects, and just plain having fun. Pibbling is not exclusive to pit bull type dogs, but we do excel at it. There is now a pibbling hashtag on Instagram and Twitter! And it’s not just me any more!
How did you get to be so muscly?
Well, I have good genetics, clearly. I was bred by a dogfighter, and they like their dogs to be athletic, and to keep ourselves exercised even if we’re on a chain. But even without a 30 lb chain to drag around any more, I maintain my love of working out.
These days I play with other dogs, do zoomies around the house and barn, and try to chase the cats. Staff suspects I lift weights at night while they’re sleeping. I can neither confirm nor deny this rumor.
I’ve been on exercise restriction for a couple of months due to some overly exuberant pibbling, so I have been making my staff crazy lately by making art, hopping around, trying to play with my dog siblings, eating horse candy, annoying the cats, and generally refusing to follow doctors’ orders.
Mom once accidentally put cat food in my toy.
What’s your favorite trick that you’ve taught staff to perform?
Hands down, the best thing I’ve taught Trish and Barry is to attend to my needs when I ring the staff service bell. There are bells on the back of the door that they wrongly supposed are to be dinged only when I need to go outside. I taught them that the bells can also be used to demand hugs, to tattle on my thieving sister, and to otherwise try to figure out what my needs might be.
The time Lili stole my chewy…
The most fun time to ring the staff service bells like crazy is around 3 AM. Staff has to get up to check on me in case I need to be outside, but once I have them awake, I can try to get a super early breakfast, or more hugs, or the heat blowing machine turned up. Sometimes I arwoof at the heat blowing machine until they turn it on. I don’t have much hair, and get cold easily!
What interview questions should other pups use when deciding whether to hire staff?
It’s very important to choose your staff carefully. We live out in the country, and I see the results of poor hiring decisions all the time: Dogs running loose on the road, dogs who are chained up like I used to be, dogs who don’t get to lick the plates after dinner, or go for off leash hikes in the beautiful NC woods…
Hiking in the woods is the best!
So you need to ask about all these things: Where will I sleep? Is being on the furniture allowed? What will I eat? Is people food allowed? (People food is the best!) Do you mind if I beg? Will I have dog or cat friends? Will I have a service bell? What kind of exercise will you give me? Also, check if they give good hugs and back rubs – don’t pick staff who do that stupid “pat, pat, pat” on your head, or who ruffle your hair the wrong way. So rude.
Which dog, alive or from history, would you have dinner (and pibble) with?
Oh, this is such a hard one! I would love to meet Wallace the late, great, famous disc pit bull. He also came from a shelter, so I’m especially impressed with all he accomplished. Maybe Wallace could teach me how to catch things, at long last!
It would also be super cool to pibble with any of Michael Vick’s rescued pit bulls. They were the first fight bust dogs to be adopted out instead of euthanized, so they really paved the way for others like me. I am so glad so many of us get assessed as individuals and have a chance at a wonderful life as pets now!
You can find more of Theodore’s antics on his Facebook page, Pibbling with Theodore.
Trish McMillan Loehr is a certified professional dog trainer and certified dog behavior counselor who holds a Master’s degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Exeter in England. She works with dogs, cats, and horses, and owns Loehr Animal Behavior.
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