The perfect image of the perfect dog is an illusion. Over our threshold passes every breed of dog, from the most elegant purebred greyhound to the tiniest Chihuahua, from collies to cocker spaniels, and Dalmatians to dachshunds. And, of course, we also get every possible mixture in between.
In animal rescue, we set aside the image and we focus on the perfect home. Often, requirements vary depending on the breed.
One of the most popular contemporary breeds – sometimes for all the wrong reasons – is the pit bull. It is also among the hardest dogs for rescuers to place, in part because of the many misconceptions attached to their reputation and appearance.
For starters, the name. “Pit bull” is a blanket term that encompasses several categories, such as the American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier and the American bully. This misuse of the term leads people to generalize a pit bull as any dog with a block head, wide jaw and stout body. This lack of knowledge is often a factor that skews the statistics involving the breed. As a result, the pit bull unjustly takes the rap for the misbehaviors of other breeds.
We as rescuers work hard to find the perfect home for the pit bulls that come our way.
Is there a formula for the perfect pit owner? They range in age, gender, profession and socioeconomic background. Most importantly, the responsible owner is one willing to take on the challenge of ownership. They must have the right stuff and courage to ward off the public stigma that is commonly associated with the breed. They should see their dog as an ambassador and have the confidence to be in a public forum with their pet.
Furthermore, the ideal owner should be dedicated to training and socializing their dog and teaching their animal to show respect to people and other animals. The owner must know how to set boundaries when boundaries are needed. Time and commitment are required in any owner situation, but due to negative associations, pit bull owners need to be even more committed to helping shape a well-behaved dog.
Finally, an owner of a pit bull must be resigned to being judged by others simply for owning this powerful breed. Ownership can determine many factors including where you can or cannot live. Acceptance of these judgments and proving otherwise are steps toward creating change. Making the ownership commitment is not for everyone and needs to be a well-thought-out decision.
Placing image aside and making perfection a hope, those of us who believe in the good of all living creatures continue to work at making a small change in this world. We do our best to find owners who will recognize the American pit bull’s intelligence, loyalty and productivity and provide loving homes for these canines.
As a new year begins, we will continue on this path and invite you to join our efforts to help take care of abandoned dogs in our community and persevere in finding them good homes. ￼
Patricia Irwin-Boles is the founder of Helping Animals Live Tomorrow Rescue. The views expressed in this column are her own.