Saturday, October 22, 2011

Happy Pitbull Awareness Day

Today is National Pitbull Awareness Day and Maggie wants to celebrate! Her bag says "earth day, every day" but what she really means is "pitbull awareness day, every day"

We adopted Maggie for a local rescue group two years ago. Trevor fell in love with her profile picture. He especially loved her ears. He found her in a search for an Australian Shepherd. He wanted a dog he could run with. Maggie was listed as an Australian Shepherd - Greyhound Mix.

Maggie was 7 months old, she had been born to a stray dog who lived in someone's back yard. The people gave away all the other puppies, but kept Maggie in their back yard. They never named her and they would just throw food out to her - "the cheapest food" was what they put on the Humane Society intake form. Maggie was so scared of everything that she couldn't be kept in the shelter. She was placed in foster care.

Maggie spent a week in Foster care before we met her. When she arrived at her foster home, she wouldn't walk on a leash and she was scared of everything. Her foster family showed her love and patience. They had a big black Rottweiler who took Maggie under her wing and showed her how to be a dog.

At the time, I was working at The Oregonian and Trevor was working one of our stores. He started emailing me pictures of Maggie. We already had two dog and I wasn't really sure why he thought we needed a third. On a Saturday night we were sitting on the couch and Trevor texted me a picture of Maggie. I said "you are acting like I said we can't get her. If you want her, send in an application". So he did and the next day we went to meet Maggie. I knew we'd bring her home with us, we aren't the kind of people who look at a dog and don't fall in love.

When we got to the foster's home, they said "All day long, we've been telling Maggie that her people are coming". That made me want to cry. I sat and visited with Maggie. She was nervous and quiet, didn't really want any attention paid to her. We took her for a walk and then we brought her home. I cried as we pulled away from her Foster Parent's house because I couldn't believe they could let her go. I was so grateful to them for saving her and teaching her the things she needed to know.

She sat on Trevor's lap on the way home, not sure what was going on.
Our other two dogs - Opal and Wookie took right away to Maggie. Well, Opal did. Wookie didn't really care either way. We took them all for a walk so that they'd know she was part of our family now.

Maggie was quite a challenge for us. We hadn't taken into account the fact that she was a puppy. Plus she was scared. When she needed to go outside to go to the bathroom, we had to go with her. She was scared - so we would go stand in the middle of the yard, usually in the pouring rain. We did that for probably a month until she wasn't afraid anymore.

She LOVED to snuggle on the couch with us. She still does - she'll curl up right next to you, bury her head under the blanket and go right to sleep. She went everywhere with us and was very happy to do so.
After about a week, we noticed Maggie had a little bald patch on her paw. We asked our vet about it and the vet said "that's very typical of the pitbull breed." Trevor and I were like "excuse me?" and he said "oh yeah, she's a pitbull". We loved her already so we didn't care, but honestly I did wonder a bit. Pitbulls have a pretty bad reputation. But Maggie didn't have any of the characteristics that you think of when you hear pitbull. She wasn't aggressive or stand off-ish. She was not a fighter, that is for sure.

We didn't think much else about it. Every once in a while, people would be nervous around her. I had a customer and her 4 year old son come into the store one day when Maggie was there with me. Maggie walked over and wanted to meet her son. She got between Maggie and her son and was acting very afraid. I didn't know who was more scared - her or Maggie. That was the first time I realized that people could be afraid of her.

Maggie was very destructive as a puppy. She got into everything and tore it apart, but never any aggression. She was great at the dog park, great with people. We only ever saw any glimpse of dog aggression when she had a toy. She did not want any other dog to take her toy or her treat. When Wookie started to get sick, he didn't want anything to do with Maggie and that made Maggie so sad. All she wanted was to be Wookie's friend. He would growl at her and she would crawl over to him on her belly, get right in his face and roll over on her back while pawing at him. That's not dog aggression. Not even close. She was also very submissive to Opal.

I see so many stories about Pitbulls and how aggressive they are. I see lots of cities making it illegal to own a pitbull. It makes me sad because I don't believe there can be a bad breed of dogs. It has a lot to do with the owner. That goes for any sort of dog. For example, we know that Maggie was get upset when it comes to toys and treats - so we have removed these stimuli from her. We don't give any of our dogs toys when they are all together. It doesn't matter what kind of dog you have, you must know its temperment and act accordingly. There are lots of dogs out there who don't like kids or cats or other dogs. Not just Pitbulls. As a responsible owner, its your job to keep your dog safe. Our dog Opal was very aggressive towards small animals, so we kept her seperated from our cats for her whole life. She was a cattle dog.

I hear people say that pitbulls were bred to fight and that they aren't happy unless they are fighting. This is simply not true. From every dog fighting story I have ever read, the dogs were scared and submissive when they were rescued. Some dogs end up being killed because they won't fight. Most of the dogs who are rescued from these situations carry emotional scarring with them that is far worse than the physical scars.

Having Maggie as a part of our family has allowed my eyes to be opened to all the horrendous things that animals - especially pitbulls - endure. When I hear about these things, I look at Maggie and I think of them happening to her. I often hug her and tell her how sorry I am that humans can be so cruel. Most of the time, Maggie is a super happy dog. I don't know exactly what happened to Maggie before she came to live with us - but she is still, after two years, very nervous about certain things. If I am upstairs and I yell down to Trevor, Maggie cowers. If I kick something, Maggie cowers. If I throw a towel onto the floor, Maggie cowers. She is getting better, but the people who had her for the first 7 months of her life certainly didn't show her any love. We are making up for lost time on that one.
Our family is better because of Maggie. My heart is bigger because of Maggie and my life is full of happiness because of Maggie. I love this dog with everything I have, every piece of my being and I would do anything to keep her safe.

She thinks we should celebrate today. So we will. Maggie....we love you, always have, always will.

Here is great video that shows the history of Pitbulls. I especially love the story of Hector - one of Michael Vick's dogs.


Jacqueline said...

Happy Pitbull Day, Maggie! It's YOUR day and I'm sure you have had a great one with your family! :)

Leana said...

Aw, Maggie is certainly lucky to have you guys!!