Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pitbulls ARE Good Dogs. Period. AKA Pitbulls and Babies/Kids

 "Hi, my name is Mirka!!!"
Mirka pronounced Meer Ka, meaning peace and glory in polish is a sweetheart.  Mirka is a pitbull.  She is an amazing family dog, as most pitbulls are.  The truth is in these photos and our observations of her since our son was born on 10.10.11  I am a licensed veterinary technician so I know canine behavior and I know a good dog, regardless of breed.  Mirka has a heart of gold and has never once shown ANY signs of aggression towards a human, child or cat-she simply doesn't have it in her.  Mirka loves Henrik (our 12 week old son) beyond words (and no we would never leave her or any dog alone and unsupervised with him, ever). In fact Traveler, our recently deceased and beloved rescued Alaskan Malamute, was not a big fan of children, tolerating them for a while, but eventually gave them a warning snap when they irritated him too much, especially toddlers; he scared me around them more than she, the "evil" pitbull does...Mirka shows no signs of that.  She seems to like other dogs too although she and Traveler did not get along because he decided he didn't like her.
My wife and I have hearts bursting with happiness since our son Henrik was born.  It has changed our life in ways that we could never imagined.  All for the better.  10 days after he was born we euthanized our Malamute Traveler for spinal related issues that were causing him to be unable to walk, to which there was no treatment that would help.  During this time our life was turned on its end and then some as we rode an emotional roller coaster with the birth of our son, the death of our dog all while Sarah fought back from nearly losing her life to post op C-section complications (severe anemia resulting from acute blood loss).  We were stressed, tired, happy, sad and sick (Sarah) all at the same time.  Our bodies and minds were at a breaking point because it was simply too much for 2 people to bear.  Without the help of family and friends I don't know how we would have done that.

The other rock through all of this was Mirka.  As we struggled to get our heads above water and find which end was up I won't lie and tell you that Mirka didn't go on the back burner.  She spent more time in her crate than we would have liked as we made sense of our new life and made repeated trips back and forth to the hospital for Sarah, and oh yea tended to a newborn baby.  Crates are a place of safety for dogs and they love them but it's not fair for them to spend too much time in them.  At more than one point we thought about finding a new home for her as it would have been easier in light of everything that we had going on; and more fair to her.  I am so glad we did not.  Mirka showed us over and over that she was a patient dog, yes a pitbull in addition to being loving can be patient too, that would wait as long as we needed.  She was amazing to say the least.
We took our time introducing Mirka to Henrik because after all he was this new screaming/squeeking "thing" that entered our house without warning and we weren't sure how she would be with him because he was after all new and something that she never, ever experienced before.  Some dogs no matter the breed simply don't like babies or kids.   
Mirka loved Henrik from the moment he came home but what worried us the most was her exuberence for life.  While she has a heart of gold she sometimes forgets her manners and will kiss you to no end, all while not realizing just how strong or big she is, nor how solid like concrete her head is.  We worried more that she would inadvertently hit his head with hers not that she was going to bite him.  Over the past 3 months it has been very interesting, and heart warming for that matter, to see Mirka's acceptance of Henrik into the family and how she really seems to truly cherish his company; wanting to be around him but not showing too much interest in him.  Simply being next to him or in the same room seems to make her day complete, seeing that like a cat, she basically finds a warm spot and curls up in a tight ball staying there for hours.  They are both very similar in this respect, Mirka and Henrik that is.

At the beginning she certainly showed a great deal of interest in him wanting to kiss him, disregarding how little he was and that he was sound asleep.  Over time it changed to her showing less and less overt interest in him but rather a quick hello kiss, no longer so excited and interested that her size might injure.  Once she checks in on him she is then off to do her dog things that dogs do, especially sleeping.  She also realized how she could appropriately use her body around him so that she wouldn't inadvertenly injure him.  We are always in the same room with the two of them but If Henrik cries she will check on him and will give us a look as if to say "Are you going to do anything about that?" almost supervising us.  If he is napping on one of us she can often be found sleeping right next to us with her head on our lap, often touching Henrik while they both snooze.  Sometimes he has his hands on top of her head.  When pitbulls first came into existence they were bred to protect children and I can see why.  She loves his company.  It's almost as if, as we say; she is Henrik's "doggie."  So sweet.  Just wait until he is eating solid foods and rewards her for being so close by accidentally dropping food on the floor.  It's called positive reinforcement; the idea that if she waits like a good girl patiently good things will come.
I know that some of you reading this are probably cringing at the thought of us allowing our son to be so close to a "killer" dog and I assure you that if we felt our son was in any danger we wouldn't even consider it.  The same holds true for thousands and thousands of family pitbulls around the country in that they too are excellent family dogs- I know of several owner by co-workers.  To this some of you will say that plenty of pitbulls that were considered family dogs injure children, people and other dogs all the time.  While this may be true just because a dog lives with a family does not mean it will not do harm.  The dog either was in a situation that when pushed, it acted out on its animal instincts (the very reason not to leave ANY BREED of dog unsupervised with a child), wasn't always truly good around people to begin with and dogs do bite.  Any dog.

Pitbulls are often the preferred breed of choice for gun toting thugs and gang members because of the terror they induce and they look tough.  This certainly doesn't help their cause.  Sadly pitbulls are currently the poster child for the child eating, blood thirsty bad dog. It was Rottweiler's before them, Doberman's before that, German Shepherd's before that, and the list goes on and on.  Will your favorite breed be next? To bestow such negative stereotypes on a breed is not only breedist (think racist but for dogs) but downright wrong.  This current stereotype stems from the fact that the breed is used in dog fights and also when the rare attack on a human does occur they inflict a lot of damage because of the power they have in their jaws.   Truthfully though this accounts for less than 1% of the pitbulls out there and it's too bad that they aren't known for all the good they do: family dogs, agility dogs, service dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs, etc.  Anything that your favorite breed does, so do they, and probably better because they have so much love to give that they often burst forth and smile.  They have a zest for life that is almost unparalelled in the canine world.
Also as a result of this negative stereotype there are thousands, if not more, of beautiful, loving pitbulls that are homeless and euthanized every year because of the false and bad publicity that they receive.  Many communities have banned the breed (which includes other "bully" breeds as well) and banned people from owning them going so far as making people give them up, in essence giving up a family member to be put down.  Look at your dog right now...what if someone told you that you had to give it up to be killed simply because of the breed that it was born as even though it may have nothing but love to give people?  Many pitbulls are indeed involved in attacks of other dogs, people and children every year but so are many other breeds, including mixed breeds but they don't make the news like pitbulls do.  Those attacks always make the news but you never hear about a family's cocker spaniel when it bites a child in the face requiring stitches do you?  These pitbulls involved in these attacks are dogs that are not in good situations and are often results of poor breeding programs, poor training, poor living conditions and abuse.  Pitbulls are used to fight other dogs but they must also be best friends with humans; they have to be because a human is a fighting dog's handler.  Many of the fighting dogs want nothing to do with fighting and choose not to.  Those "failures" are usually put down.  That is unless they are given an opportunity to start over as did 96% of the dogs that were rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting organization.

Most of these dogs from Vick's "club" ended up with families or are in rescue.  They were lucky to have human intervention and be rescued by some incredibly canine smart, and loving, human beings who knew that these dogs were not vicious monsters but rather good dogs that were in a bad situation who deserved another chance. Those placed with families are obviously great with people and children.  The rescue groups involved simply have too much to lose to put a dog in that type of situation without being 100% certain that the dog is not going to harm anyone.  For those that ended up in permanent homes in rescue it was because the dogs, while good with people, were too shy or had too many permanent behavior issues as a result of the bad breeding, poor conditions and poor care...not to mention being forced to fight or strapped down while raped to produce more pups.  For all these dogs to come through on the other side after having been through so much and having seen the face of evil speaks volumes about the breed.  Bottom line is that they are good dogs.  A good dog should be thought of as a good dog regardless of breed.  Any breed has the potential to be bad or cause harm just as any race of humans can do the same.  As a white male I would never expect to be lumped in with someone like the KKK, just as not all Muslims are terrorists...what I am getting at is that there is trash of every color and evil people of every color but we choose not to (hopefully) define a group by the small percentage of that race or group that chooses to do bad.  To that end we shouldn't lump all the thousands of good pitbulls in with the small percentage of the bad ones.  Would you say that Golden Retrievers are bad dogs?  Well, why not; they attack children too.  What about Cocker Spaniels?  I didn't think so.
Sadly due to the ignorance of the general public, misinformed media and the demonization of a breed that loves people and family as much as any breed out there, there are many good pit bulls out there in need of homes.  There are not enough homes for them and thousands of good dogs are being euthanized every year.  We as humans are failing them.  
The day late in 2010 when Mirka was brought into our hospital as a stray that needed a home has turned out to be one of the best days of my life.  I never thought that I could ever love another dog as much as we loved Traveler.  Mirka is well on her way to making that happen.  Our life is all the better with her in it.  What's not to love about a dog with a heart of gold.  You bet she's a pitbull.  To anthropomorphosize the situation: she doesn't hold it against us (not that she knows or can possibly choose to) that humans are responsible for killing many of her kind due to misinformation and breed prejudice.  In fact we as humans as responsible for more atrocities to her kind than they to our kind.
Before condemning an entire breed, let a pitbull lick your face and get to know it.  You'll never feel the same way again.  If you can't do that I would ask that you not speak out against them.  If you do you are perpetuating a negative stereotype and helping to send more dogs to their death.  Just like this one that I have fallen madly in love with and by the way she is a blood donor at my hospital saving the lives of other dogs.  Everyone at the veterinary hospital where I work loves her.  She is a great ambassador for the breed.  When she visits she makes her round smiling that big pit bull smile, tail not stop wagging.  Yes, thousands and thousands of them are killed and homeless due to ignorance.  Just like this one:

an excellent resource that is working to change the public's perception of pit bulls:


Sharea Brown said...

Can't get past those ears :)

eric kancar said...

hi in you like them or don't? our girl does not have cropped ears. i don't like the way they look with them cropped but many of the former fighting dogs don't have a choice...they cropped them so they wouldn't get bitten off.

The Advice Lady said...

Thank you for sharing and helping to educate peole about the most abused and misunderstood breed on the planet. My husband and I live in NYC and we adopted 2 pitties before we had kids. We went on to have 2 little boys and we were determined to make it work. We were not going to give our loving dogs away b/c we now had kids. From day one we taught the boys to be gentle and how to pet the dogs etc. The dogs behavior was never an issue; they seemed to instinctively know how to behave around babies. Now our family is Ruby, 9, (from Animal Haven), Coco, 7, ( ASPCA), Jack, 5, and Hunter, 3. I hope more people will give these sweethearts a chance! We will never have any other type of dog and will continue to rescue or adopt. We hope our boys will grow up and do the same.

S. Chai said...

Love this post! (Found it through SPBR) we have a 4 year old Staffie and he's absolutely in love with children, especially the little wiggly ones! Can't wait for him to be a big brother! Congrats on the newest addition(s) to your family.