I hate pit bulls. I mean, c’mon, we all know they’re labeled as “dangerous dogs” for valid reasons: they’re innately aggressive animals that we’ve selectively bred to be the most capable fighting machines on four-legs. And that’s not just my opinion. More than 25 states and 20 foreign countries have legislation that places heavy restrictions or outright bans on the ownership of these monsters.
Yet, there are still those pathetic pit bull owners who want to tell me all about how I shouldn’t “bully the breed” because they just so happen to own the sweetest, little pumpkin-muffin pitty in the whole wide world, a true “nanny-dog” as it were. I usually respond to those sad-sacks by issuing an open invitation to call me just as soon as that adorable pibble eats their kid’s face off in a bout of unprovoked canine bloodlust.
Idiots, I tell you. Every single one of those pit bull people. Total and complete idiots.
Given my feelings about pits, you might be surprised to learn that one of these hellhounds now lives in my house. It’s all part of a running game between me and the Universe. Whenever I say something along the lines of “I do not want _____” or “I will never do ________” the ears of the Infinite perk right up because I have just indicated the thing or situation that will offer me the most challenge and, therefore, growth.
The Universe does love itself some growth so, like the cosmic pizza delivery service, in 30 minutes-or-less the object of my greatest resistance shows up piping hot right at my door.
My most recent loss in The Great Game Against the Infinite came when I began pontificating that it would be really nice to have a fur-buddy to compliment the extremely awesome Joules-the-boxer-dog. My thought-exercise soon morphed into small bouts of exploratory action: mentioning to the vet that I’d started to consider another dog, checking out the websites of local boxer and pug rescue groups and, late one night, messing around on Petfinder which, as you may know, is basically the Tinder of pet adoption.
I told myself it was all casual fun and it was, right until this grainy mess of a picture popped onto my screen and my heart cracked open.
The hubbie and I made an appointment to meet her on Mother’s Day. Be still my metaphor-loving heart.
She was a beautiful girl with almond-shaped eyes and a plush brindle coat; I knew the second I saw her that she was my baby. We paid her adoption fee and named her Jorja.
In the car, she laid at my feet. She was completely content being scrubbed in the shower, and didn’t bat an eye when I cleaned her ears or put on her collar for the first time. She played with her puppy toys and (mostly) pottied outside.
While totally at ease with us, we soon realized Jorja was petrified of other people, literally cowering under the covers of our bed when a friend would come to visit. As is entirely true for many of us, we surmise that she must have been handled too roughly, touched without care by someone she should have been able to trust. We promised to do what was necessary to prove that kindness was infinitely more common than cruelty.
Jorja accepted our assurance and our life together was just beginning to find its rhythm when Hottie Robbie came to clean the dryer vent. He gave Jorja one long look before saying, “I never took y’all for pit bull people, but she’s a pretty pup.” At that moment, you could probably hear the sound of my head exploding.
I immediately began rummaging through her paperwork, a mish-mash of documents from four rescue groups and an equal number of animal clinics. In those pages, she was listed as a plott hound mix, a shepherd-Labrador mix, a pit bull mix and, as we’d been told when we went to meet her, a boxer-Labrador mix. I frantically scanned the internet for pictures, my panic rising with my frustration. She matched some pictures of each of these mixes and totally didn’t match others.
Related: I Fell In Love With A Pit Bull
But it didn’t matter; if there was any chance she had pit in her, it was over. “We can’t keep a pit bull,” I choked out between tears. “We have to take her back. We have to!” My husband also cried, but he agreed. Hottie Robbie was right: we weren’t pit bull people. After all, they’re dangerous. They’re aggressive. They’re fighting dogs. They eat kid’s faces. For the love of all that’s holy, we cannot have a dog that might de-face a child! She had to go.
But the truth was, I didn’t want to give her up; I recognized her furry, little snout the moment I’d seen it on my computer screen and heard the words I knew she would say if she could: “You will be my human and I will be your friend-beast. Together, we will have amazing adventures.”
So, in a last ditch effort, we dropped by the vet’s office around the corner, the one we had gone to for years, and I carried her in with mournful tears running down my cheeks. Three different pit bull specialists looked at her. They all agreed Jorja was probably American Pit Bull terrier, but that she was too leggy and floppy-eared not to be mixed with some sort of hound or boxer or Lab. Only a genetic screening would offer more concrete information.
Jorja addressed the situation as if it was test she knew she had to pass, but for which she was meticulously prepared. My hysterics, a gaggle of strangers poking and prodding her at a vet’s office she’d never visited, other dogs and puppies rampaged wildly around her; Jorja took it all in stride and as I watched her, I knew it wasn’t just that I didn’t want to let her go. I couldn’t let her go.
She was everything I had hoped for: calm, clever, ludicrously cuddly and keenly aware that we were her people.
We brought her back home where I began to do what I do best, I researched. Since I’m committed to being honest, I’ll tell you that spending hours and hours culling through all the available information really ticked me off. I had been smugly satisfied simply asserting pit bulls were monsters and anyone who believed otherwise was an uninformed idiot. After all, we live in a complex world and it was comforting to have one issue on which I could draw a truly hard line.
But, lest we forget, comfort rarely lends itself to growth and this little fuzz-face of a pup was quickly turning herself into my own personal Yoda. So I persevered through stacks of studies, struggling to separate fact from fiction (which, I’m sorry to say, is much harder than one would hope), all while staring down a lifetime of my own fears and prejudices.
By the end, I knew more about the multiple breeds lumped together under the umbrella term “pit bull” than I ever (and I mean ever) hoped to and, admittedly, the news was nowhere near as grim as I’d imagined; in fact, it turns out bully breeds are actually these wondrous lunks of blockheaded awesomeness.
But figuring out how great these dogs are was never the point. Instead, this whole thing was designed to remind me that, as a fact of birth or circumstance, we all labeled and those labels are rarely neutral in value: to those who are uninformed, Jorja is a “dangerous dog.” Because of damage to my brain, I am “impaired.”
Regardless of the labels each of us carries, our job is the same: to refuse to be limited by them, opting instead to embrace the way more complicated, messy and spectacularly glorious truth of who we are in our entirety.
Doing so has enabled Jorja to grow into exactly who and what she truly is: the sweetest, little pumpkin-muffin pitty (mix) in the whole wide world. And I, well, I am the (incredibly well-informed) idiot who loves her like crazy.
PupJournal is proudly hosting National #PitBullWeek, or #NPBW, to celebrate blocky-headed wigglebutts, otherwise known as “pit bulls.” It’s time these pups are able to live their lives free from discrimination and harm. You can find articles, videos, and adoptable dogs on our National Pit Bull Week page and on Facebook. Join us by tagging National #PitBullWeek, or #NPBW!
Header image via Rebecca Jacobson