Recently, I read a story and watched a video that was focused on trying to help end the stigmatisms and discriminations that pit bulls face today. After watching it, like so many others who own pit bulls, I was compelled to add my voice and submit a picture of myself and my four legged family member. (www.themajorityproject.com)
But I'm going to take it a step further. I'm going to tell you a story, and I hope that by the end of it, some of those stigmatisms and discriminations may be lessened, if even only a little bit.
My wife, Nyki, had wanted to get a dog for years. One day back in early September, 2010, one of our neighbor's friends stopped by his house with a litter of puppies, and put a sign out in front of the yard that read 'pit bulls for sale.'
Very few people who drove by stopped to take a look at the pups. I imagine most of those who may have been interested were turned away by the words 'pit bull.' But Nyki wanted to see them, so we went over.
The pups were adorable, as they always are. Most of them had black and/or white coats, and were busy playing with each other when we stopped on the other side of the chicken wire fence that had been erected to keep them in the yard. One however, saw us and immediately came over.
Unlike the other pups, this adorable little girl had a beautiful brindle coat. My wife reached down and picked her up. It was love at first sight. As she held that puppy, I saw the look in her eyes. I didn't have to ask, I just went to the bank to get the money the owners were asking for the pup.
They had named her Angel originally, due to her being born with two small patches of white on her shoulders that resembled wings. By the time she became our newest family member, those patches had disappeared and become the same brindle color as the rest of her coat, so we decided instead of keeping the name to call her Jaena.
The first night she was with us, there was a terrible thunderstorm. Knowing she was in a new place and likely scared, I suggested to my wife that we should let Jaena sleep on the bed with us. It was only one night, after all...
By day 2, Jaena decided the bed would suit her quite nicely:
She became good friends with our youngest son, Cameron (Cami) instantly:
About a month after that picture was taken, Cami passed away in a tragic car accident. It was one of the worst things my family has ever had to go through in our lives. I mention this because Jaena was what kept us going. She'd been named Angel at first, and she lived up to that original name.
I grieved for Cami in my own way, through writing the Exiled trilogy, while Jaena clung to my wife. She was her rock, her strength... Jaena was her Angel - and mine as well.
Cami used to run to the door when I came home from work and give me a hug and a kiss. After he passed away, when I came home from work, Jae would be standing right where he used to stand, jump up to put her front paws on my shoulders, and give me kisses. She continues to do that.
Cami had always been a big cuddler, especially with Nyki. Jaena took over that duty for him as well. I think maybe a part of him is still with us through Jaena:
Jaena has a home and a family who loves her, and she returns that love unconditionally. She loves to play with her squeaky toys and tennis balls, and sprawl out on the couch or on the bed. She's not a fan of water, and refuses to go outside to do her business if it's raining - she'd rather hold it until the rain stops. Getting her into the tub to take a bath takes months. She loves cheese, going for walks, and watching SpongeBob on TV. When we check her for ticks after a walk, she stands still while we look her over carefully. The few times we've had to pull one off of her, she's never made a sound, growled, or snapped. And afterwards when we've said "all done!" she's always given us 'thank you' kisses. When we all go out, she sits by the door and looks away, refusing to give us kisses because she's being left alone for a bit (trying to guilt trip one of us into staying home with her, I think!) but when we come home, she's right there waiting with wagging tail and kisses. Never once have I seen her bare her teeth like I often see those little 'devil dogs' as I call them do.
During the school year, she'll run to the door when she hears the school bus stop to drop off our three kids and bark excitedly. Nyki and I will tell her "Jaena, the kids are home!" or "Jaena, who is that?" and get the most adorable howl in reply from her. (Her mouth goes into a little 'O', it's so cute!)
She does the same when Nyki comes home from work, or even if I just make a quick run down the street to go to the local grocery store to grab something. 5 minutes or a few hours, she's always waiting to greet us home.
She could tone down the barking a bit. Squirrels, rabbits, the occasional person walking by on the sidewalk she'll bark at, but all we need to tell her is "Jaena Marie! You know better than that!" and she'll give us this look like 'I was only saying hello!' but stop barking.
Any dog can be vicious. Pit bulls are merely the latest ones to be discriminated against. It boils down to how they're raised. What they're taught. How they're treated. And most importantly, how they're loved. Rottweilers and German Shepards are just a few others that have already gone through this kind of discrimination.
Recently, my youngest daughter came home and brought a friend with her. She'd never been to our house before. When Jaena heard them walking down the drive, she barked at them, of course - but her tail was wagging a mile a minute. When they came in, she greeted the new person in typical Jaena fashion: she jumped up and put her front paws on the girl's shoulders and gave her kisses.
Jaena isn't a pet to us. She's a family member. A bit spoiled, I'll admit, but she's as much a part of our family as the rest of us are.
So I ask, if people are so insistent on claiming these breeds are so vicious, going so far as to have a checklist that states if they meet certain criteria that they're 'dangerous', then why hasn't one for humans been written up yet? If you're a certain height, have certain facial features... if your arm muscles are a certain girth, the criteria would state that person is 'dangerous' correct?
The simple fact is such claims are ignorant and unfounded, and these stigmatisms and discriminations need to stop. Yes, there have been pit bulls that have attacked people. There have also been Chihuahuas that have done so. And labs. The list goes on and on and on.
Among every breed of dog, there have been such incidents. But there have also been heroes among those breeds who have protected their families, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice for them.
I've added my voice to many others who, like me, want to end the bashing against these beautiful animals. Of course, it wasn't exactly an easy thing to do. You see, Jaena tends to be a bit camera shy, unless we catch her snoozing or we snap a sneaky pic. Though I think maybe she does it because she has a sense of humor as well:
Finally, after about 8 tries, we decided to play the 'treat' card:
I am a Fantasy Writer. I have a 'pit bull' as a family member. I am proud to add my voice in saying I am the MAJORITY.
(Jaena was given her treat afterwards as promised)