December 13, 2006

Shelter Stories

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I don't like feeling sad during this festive holiday season but I am every time I visit a shelter anywhere in this country. They are filled with Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes, wonderful loving dogs who have been written off as "bad dogs" or "dangerous dogs." People just pass them by as if they're not there. They don't even make eye contact. Then the poor dogs, usually abandoned and often abused, are euthanized, without ever having known the touch of a kind hand. Thank heaven for volunteers like the men and women at RSVP and good people at shelters who try the best they can.

Anyone who gets to know the breed knows what I'm talking about. I blame the owner for what's happened, not the breed, and for the problems people perceive about the breed. Any dog can be trained to be bad. That's true, you know. I speak from first hand experience. I adopted my first Pit four years ago. Daisy is smart and loving and pure black. Her real name was DuQuesa. Because she wasn't brought up with other dogs, she's wary of them. I give her her own space. It's worked.

I also have what was once a mean Golden Retriever, who had been beaten and abused. She put me in the hospital for five days because she thought I was going to hurt her. Today, she's a sweetheart. Love brought her back and reprogrammed her.

Back to Pits. It helps to see celebrities like John Stewart, Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore advocate for them. They know something has to be done for the breed. It's a canine tragedy in this country to kill such potentially wonderful pets. A disgrace.

Now, let me tell you about Sport. Sport is a two-year-old spayed, female — tan and white — Pit mix with a great smile. She has a small frame and weighs about 40 pounds. When practicing her commands, she will go down and do a funny belly crawl towards you, looking up all the while with a big grin on her face and her tongue hanging out.

She never learned to play. How sad is that? Now she loves it. Sport is good with kids and dogs. We're unsure about cats. She reminds me of Lady, Bugsy and Kisses — great Pit mixes I've written about — who began their lives with cruel owners who brutalized them. Their innate goodness won out. Speak to an RSVP volunteer about these extraordinary dogs. Please call (617) 728-3524. Visit them. Find out why they're the dog of choice for so many celebrity animal activists.

Yes, they have an image problem in this country. The media hasn't helped. I wish more people would give these smart, loving animals a chance and decide for themselves.

Next week I'll bring you up to date on our other dogs. I felt it was more important this week to bring this sad situation to your attention again. We're the only ones who can turn things around. Get involved. Care. Don't let this unfortunate and misunderstood breed lead short, brutal lives and never know love.

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