This month’s Comet’s Corner article is a reprint of an article written by teen animal advocate and life-long pit bull lover, Caitlin Andrews.
Hooray! October has been designated “Pit Bull Awareness Month” by the MSPCA. It is the moment many of us have been waiting for: an opportunity to share some fabulous stories about our favorite breed, while helping to dispel some of the more common pit bull myths. As many of you are already aware, pit bulls often get a bad rap by people and a media willing to exploit and sensationalize this breed for attention and entertainment value. But as the public becomes more educated about these dogs, they are waking up and standing up for pit bulls
As a lifelong pit bull-lover and guardian, I cannot imagine my life without one. Before adopting Comet from the MSPCA in November of 2000, my family had another former shelter dog, a pit bull named Astro, who lived to the ripe old age of sixteen and a half. I cannot remember Astro very well, as she was already an older dog when I was born, but I do know that she was the one who first established my passion for the breed. Although my two dogs have been most extraordinary companions, their dispositions are in fact not unique to the breed. I’ve spent many hours at the shelter, passing time with the countless pit bulls waiting to find homes. They are sweet, funny, loyal, and loving animals. In honor of “Pit Bull Awareness Month”, I’d like to share with you some of my experiences as a pit bull guardian and give you the facts as I know them.
MYTH: Pit bulls look scary.
FACT: Sometimes, when people meet Comet on the street, they may hesitate before petting her. Her look may intimidate people who are unaware with her sweet disposition. After all, she doesn’t exactly look like your common dog. She’s not a shaggy pup, so all of her features are clearly visible, with no place to hide. She has shorter hair that does not warrant a cute pink bow, and she can’t fit into the arms of her guardians like some smaller dogs can. When she looks up into the sunlight, her forehead wrinkles, her eyes squint, and her ears perk up. Some people think Comet looks scary with her face all scrunched up like that, but once they take a good look, they realize that she is a natural beauty. Standing at slightly under two feet tall—small for a pit bull—she has a sturdy, boxy chest complete with a white bib (common in her breed), broad forehead, and a pink beauty mark on her upper lip. She is also a very fashionable dog with a complete wardrobe of colorful collars and sweaters. It is hard to be afraid of a 42-pound dog with a pink daisy collar. I’ve never met someone who is still afraid of Comet once they look past her appearance and get to know her.
MYTH: Pit bulls don’t feel pain like other dogs do.
FACT: Pit bulls surely do feel pain like any other dog, but they are less likely to show it. Long ago, they were bred to fight other dogs for entertainment, and they’ve developed a high tolerance for pain. Just the other day, Comet and I were out walking on a trail when I noticed she was limping slightly. When I looked at her paw, there was an acorn lodged between the pads of her feet. Her paw was already becoming inflamed, and yet I had not heard a peep from my pup. Comet needs to be in a lot of pain before she whimpers or alerts me, so it is very important for me to be in tune with her behavior so I can tell when something isn’t right.
MYTH: Pit bulls are naturally mean and aggressive dogs.
FACT: Most people only hear about pit bulls from the horror stories that are conveyed by the media. However, if you get to meet one of the other pit bulls—the ones not featured in attention-grabbing news stories—you’ll realize that they are some of the sweetest dogs you’ve ever met. Aggression can be found in any dog breed; how an animal is raised and socialized is more of a factor than genetics. Comet, for one, does not have a mean bone in her body. Not only has she never bitten anyone or shown any signs of aggression toward people, but she has only barked twice in the ten years she has been a part of my family. If one of her nails accidentally scratches me or she bumps into me too hard while we are playing, she immediately stops and makes sure I am fine. But beware if you go anywhere near Comet’s face. She loves nothing more than giving out kisses! Unfortunately, this affectionate side of the breed—which we, pit bull-lovers, cherish so much—rarely gets exposed on TV, and many people live their lives thinking that all pit bulls are aggressive, dangerous animals.
MYTH: Pit bulls’ skulls are too small to accommodate their brains, and the pressure in their heads aggravates them until they attack. When they bite, their jaws lock so they can’t let go.
FACT: These myths are completely and utterly unfounded. Pit bulls do not have locking jaws, nor do they have skulls that are too small. As a matter of fact, they have perfect skulls that are custom-built for their brain sizes. But, it is true that Comet has a powerful brain—I’d even say she is a genius! To satisfy her intellectual needs, Comet has several puzzles made for dogs, which require her to slide blocks with her nose and paws and to tip them over to reach her reward—a delicious treat! She also loves playing “search-and-rescue,” her version of hide-and-seek. She is also very astute when it comes to assessing how I am feeling. If I’m feeling sad, Comet can definitely sense that, and she will try to comfort me. She is a very good listener and dependable best friend.
MYTH: It’s foolish to adopt a pit bull from an animal shelter, because you don’t know the trouble you’re getting into.
FACT: Ridiculous! The MSPCA cares and finds great homes for hundreds and hundreds of these dogs each year. Understanding what is involved with adopting any pet is essential. Dogs like pit bulls can be strong, and they need lots of exercise, socialization, and love. They make excellent companions and have lots of wonderful qualities to offer. Last year, our own beloved Comet, along with another wonderful pit bull, Tasha, and Tucker, a small terrier mix, were recognized as the MSPCA’s 2009 “Animal Heroes of the Year” for their work in humane education. All of these dogs were former shelter dogs. They were given second chances at forever homes and have transformed the lives of the many children and adults they have encountered.
This October, join the MSPCA’s efforts and consider what you can do to help dispel the myths of pit bulls. To learn more about Pit Bull Awareness month, click here.