On the Subject of Pitbulls…or…my Father’s Legacy

My first sad memory of one of these dogs was when I was two years old. Most of us don’t remember things from that early on in life, but the memory is clear. My Father and a neighbor man carrying our dead dog into the garage from the street. She had been hit by a city bus when the neighbor accidentally left the garden gate open. I was very young but I will never forget that sight, it was the day I lost my first best friend. A year later my family would emigrate to Canada and it would be years before anyone would have another Staffordshire Terrier.

Judy was a loyal and gentle dog, well trained and socialized. My Father knew the breed well and kept her in line with a firm but gentle hand. She was never aggressive, but always protective and everywhere I went she followed, never leaving my side while I played in the yard or slept in my carriage on the front steps.

It was memories of that very first dog that had me petting every dog I saw, and occasionally getting bit for my troubles, by dogs not trained as well as my Father’s were. It was those dogs not trained as well as my Father’s were that made it clear to me that training and keeping a dog of this breed was not an easy task. It was  at about age 16 that I decided that if I was going to keep dogs I had to learn to raise them with a firm but gentle hand as my Father had before me. He taught me everything he knew, and I was glad of the lessons.

“These dogs” my Father said,”they can be the most loyal companions on the face of the planet, or they can be a force of nature, how they turn out is all up to you! Treat them with loving kindness and be their leader and they will never give you a moments trouble!” He then proceeded to teach me how to be their leader, but more importantly he taught me to respect their power, and always be in control. Those were some of the most important lessons I would ever learn, for I did not know it at the time but years later that knowledge would be instrumental in saving the lives of many abandoned, abused and misunderstood animals.

My Father taught me much more than just how to raise a dog, he taught me to respect their power, and he taught me to understand that I was responsible for the actions of my pets. Whatever they did, it was my job to see that they did not hurt anyone and that their behavior was socially acceptable. He taught me to be a responsible dog owner.

I have carried the memory of those lessons with me ever since. Every time I take in a difficult rescue I ask myself “How would Dad have dealt with this?” Somehow the answer always comes to me, somehow I always know what to do.

Dad is gone now, cancer took him from us three years ago, but the lessons he taught and the responsibility he instilled in me lives on. If Dad were here today he would be standing and fighting for these dogs with all of us, for he truly believed that a dog is what you make it, and it is your responsibility to make it a good dog! He would have agreed with all of us that a dogs breed does not make it mean or aggressive, but what that dog lives with can. He would have agreed with us that all owners should be held responsible for the actions of their pets, and that when dealing with problem dogs one merely has to look to the human end of the leash.

Every time I attend a rally or pick up another difficult rescue, I remember my Father and the lessons he taught about responsible pet ownership. My Father taught me that it is never the breed, and always the treatment. I will stand and fight with you all for the lives of our dogs because that is what my Father would want me to do. He always taught me to choose my battles wisely and fight for something I truly believed in until I had no more fight left in me . He always taught me to think for myself, which is why I never fell victim to the pitbull propoganda spread by the media. Some days when I think about what we all have gone through to save our breed, I wish that everyone could see for themselves what my Father taught me about these dogs. They are not monsters, unless turned into such by men. Society has given them a bad rap and now it is up to those of us that understand them to make others see their true nature!

I guess what I am saying here today is this, it is high time that the Ontario government held the dog owner responsible for the actions of his or her dog, instead of condemning the dog for the owners irresponsible behavior. We are well aware that a child learns what it lives, the same can be said of an animal. Why should we continue to allow the government of Ontario to blame good dogs for the actions of bad people. Why should our pitbulls continue to carry the burden of responsibility for the actions of bad owners?

That’s just it, they shouldn’t!

Have you hugged your pibble today?