My name is Piper and I would like to share with you an interview with Katie, who currently has several Pit Bull-type dogs. Katie and I are going to share the wonderful story of her dog Larry, who is a Pit Bull puppy currently learning how to be a therapy dog.
Piper: How many animals did you have before you got Larry and what kind are they?
Katie: Before we added Larry to our home, we had five dogs - four Pit Bull-type dogs and one Rat Terrier. We have since lost one of our Pit mixes because of medical issues.
Piper: Did you own a Pit Bull before and if not what made you decide to get one? Did you prefer other breeds of dogs or other animals?
Katie: I personally grew up with dogs and cats (mostly mutts and strays) and after graduating college and living on my own, I actually had several English Bulldogs for nearly a decade. It wasn't until I started the rescue, All About the Paw, that my husband and I made the decision to adopt our first two Pit Bulls (Lola and Brutus) who were both in the rescue. We fostered them before officially adopting them. I have always loved dogs and I think we all have personal preferences on the types of breeds we prefer. It never really crossed my mind to think about adding a Pit to our family until I started the rescue and became more educated on the breed. Clearly, I'm slightly obsessed because we now have four Pit Bull-type dogs (including Larry).
Piper: Were there any issues with Larry when you brought him home that you had to work with him on? (fear, behavior issues, etc.)
Katie: Larry was two months old when I brought him home. As with any puppy that age, there are always the typical issues of potty training, trying to get them to walk well on a leash, learn basic commands and keep them from chewing everything in sight! I initially thought it would be great for our other dog, Joey, to have a buddy closer to his age to play with and the two of them could get out all of their crazy puppy energy together. Our other dogs are several years older than Larry and tend to get annoyed with his crazy antics. My plan definitely has worked and the two of them are best friends and do everything together! Larry is now six months old and we are still working on some potty training, but mostly the chewing on things other than his toys.
Piper: Do you feel you get treated differently when you walk in public or take Larry places because he is a Pit Bull?
Katie: Because Larry is a puppy, I get more attention because he's little and cute, not necessarily because of his breed. I also get people who come up to us because they've never seen a blue colored dog (Larry is a Blue Pit), BUT there are times where I've had people stare and move away from us; people who literally say “Oh that's a Pit, is it mean?” And people who will ask me if he's a Pit and I happily reply “Yes, he's wonderful.”
Piper: What drew you to Larry?
Katie: I used to work for the Humane Society several years ago and there was a Pit Bull who came in (who I named Ruger) after being abandoned by his owner. Ruger was very cage aggressive and most of the staff were afraid of him - not because of his breed, but because of his behavior. I'm the type of person who is drawn to the dogs (and any other animal really) who people tend to give up on easily for whatever reason. To me, Ruger was this big blocky-headed baby who just needed someone to work with him on his manners. It took a few weeks, but I became the main person who cared for him, while he was at the shelter, and I eventually adopted him because we all knew no one else would be patient enough to work with him and/or would want him for the wrong reasons (dog fighting). We had Ruger for close to two years and he was one where, if I took him out, I knew people were staring and judging us. I'll admit, Ruger was a very intimidating looking boy (which I secretly loved about him). Ruger passed away in the beginning of 2016 which was devastating and I always said, “If there was another Blue Pit in a shelter, I wanted it”. Now keep in mind blue Pits are VERY rare to find in shelters and if they are there, they'll be adopted quickly or a rescue group will snag them. Thankfully for me, the HS called me as soon as Larry and his litter-mates came into the shelter and I knew I had to have him. He reminds me of Ruger and that's why we have him.
Piper: Why did you decide to have Larry become a therapy dog?
Katie: I truly believe animals (and dogs in particular) have a way of helping people heal, whether emotionally, mentally, or physically. There's just a connection between human beings and dogs that's undeniable. They can sense when we are happy or sad and you hear people say all the time that their dogs are their best friends! Becoming a therapy dog is quite a process. It takes a while to master commands, take the actual therapy dog class and then pass the exam to become certified. With Larry being a puppy, it makes my job a little bit easier because I can train him right away. We don't have any major behavioral issues to work through (such as anxiety, fear of people or objects, or certain environments). Therapy dogs have a tremendous job to do and typically you see other breeds such as labs or retrievers doing the work and there's no reason a Pit Bull can't join the club. Because Pit Bulls have such a negative reputation, I wanted to show people that these dogs aren't the vicious monsters the media portray them to be. I want to change people's perception to realize that it's NOT the breed of dog, it's how a person raises them AND to show that there are responsible Pit Bull owners out there.
Pit Bull owners take on a huge burden when we have these dogs as part of our families. People look at us differently, they judge us, and they judge our dogs, our lifestyles, and our entire life without even knowing US or OUR DOGS. It's my responsibility as a dog owner and a Pit Bull owner to show the general public that my dogs are my family, I love them, I take care of them and there's nothing scary about them. My hope with Larry is that people will see Pit Bulls can be calm, friendly, smart, loving, funny and above all else, a dog who is deserving enough to be treated like any other dog.
Piper: Larry’s mom was at the Humane Society. Was she brought in there pregnant or was she captured with all the puppies? What is Larry and his family’s story? Where did he come from and how do you feel you saved him? Or did he save you?
Katie: Larry and his entire family (mom, dad, and litter-mates) were all taken by Humane Agents after the Mansfield PD raided a suspected drug house. At the time, there was a ban on Pits in the city of Mansfield (which has since been temporarily lifted) and, because of that ban, the owner was not allowed to keep any of the dogs. The circumstances of Larry's story and where he came from are unfortunate, however, thankfully his entire family ended up in good hands. My biggest fear for Larry and his litter-mates was that they would have been used for breeding and/or dog fighting and his mom and dad would have been bred continuously and the puppies sold for money. I think any time a dog is adopted from a shelter or Humane Society they are, in a way, 'saved' because they have another chance at a (hopefully) better life than where they came from. As I said previously about my reason for wanting to have Larry, he reminds me so much of Ruger and I feel like I still have a little piece of him in Larry.
Piper: Does he get along with your other animals and kids?
Katie: Yes Larry gets along with my dogs and my son.
Piper: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about Larry, his story and being a Pit Bull?
Katie: The biggest misconception would be that Larry and his breed are dangerous dogs. We only seem to hear about Pit Bulls when there's a negative aspect to the story, whether it be an attack or a death of another animal or person. Obviously, the end results are tragic and I'm not minimizing that, but the Pit Bull-type breed is always under a microscope and people are so quick to blame the breed and not look at individual dogs and individual circumstances. Any dog is capable of biting or attacking and I can say I've been bit more by smaller breed dogs than any larger breed. People think Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous, that it's in their DNA, which couldn't be further from the truth! Unfortunately, Larry's story does fit a stereotypical situation in that he came from the inner city, a drug house, and was most likely going to be used for breeding and/or dog fighting.
Piper: What does Larry do that makes you laugh or smile?
Katie: Larry is a typical puppy full of energy and we joke all the time that he's a wild man. He reminds me of Ruger which obviously makes me smile and despite his energy level he's a very good snuggle buddy!
Piper: Does Larry have a trick that he is famous for in your house?
Katie: Larry is our counter surfer. He is known to jump on tables to get food and he's so quick!
Piper: What obstacle(s) has he overcome or is he overcoming? (fear of water, storms, people, riding in cars, leash walking, being alone etc.)
Katie: Well the counter surfing would be one, lol. He's still young so it's to be expected. We are still working on basic commands, manners and potty training.
Piper: What else do you want us and ISF readers to know about Larry and other Pit Bulls?
Katie: In my mind, it's pretty simple. Larry and other Pit Bulls are dogs. They're dogs like any other breed. They're our friends, our family, our kids, our support. They don't deserve to be banned, or taken away from responsible owners or discriminated against because of small-minded, ignorant, misguided views. It's my responsibility as someone who works in animal rescue and who just so happens to be a Pit Bull mama, to remind people of why I love this breed so much, to show people there are responsible owners who aren't using this breed for the wrong reasons, who treat them like family and who will stand up for them for as long as it takes!
Written by Youth Volunteer Piper
Edited by Bob Stone