So this one time at the dog park we were walking down a trail and enjoying a nice sunny day- when I was asked a question.
We had been practicing whistle recalls and the girls were doing great- Sam was there with us, along with her pup Gwen. All three of the dogs would run out ahead of us, get about 40-70 feet away, then come running back to us when I blew the whistle- they’d get a handful of treats then be released to do it again in a few minutes. About 45 minutes in to our park adventure a woman joined us on the trail; she had just been frantically calling her dog to her (about a dozen times) and after getting in a good romp around the park he finally made his way to her. We were chatting with her about how handsome he was, how cute he must have been as a puppy; she was telling us about how mischievous he is, how she’s never had a dog before him. We continued to play our recall games as she walked along with us, and after telling us about her boy she started asking about our girls.
Now, everyone knows there is nothing a dog lover likes talking about more than their own dogs. When someone strikes up a canine related conversation it can go on and on for hours! And when it comes to Karma and Gypsy, they are the mighty Sun and I’m the Earth- my existence revolves around theirs. Usually the conversation is about where they came from, what they went through and how they (Karma in particular) inspired the business. But this time I was asked one question, one I had never really thought about before, and I was quiet for a few moments…
“What’s it like to own a Pit Bull?”
It’s not really a hard question to answer, I guess it just caught me by surprise. Mostly I just think of Karma and Gypsy as dogs. We play fetch, I buy them way too many squeaky toys, they eat the best food I can afford, they sleep in bed with me at night and they both drool. A lot.
My dogs are dogs. But they’re also “Pit Bulls”… and sometimes the Carla inside of me that wanted to major in Philosophy wonders “What does that even mean?” So their genetics gave them fat heads, short fur and wiggly butts; they give too many kisses, and they like working and training. I could also describe Sam’s dog, Gwen, the same way. Scruffy little Gweny gives too many kisses, likes working and training, has a wiggly butt, sleeps in bed, has too many toys and loves to play fetch. But what is it like to own a Pit Bull?
Well in reality, in this world where discrimination is everywhere and people cross the street to avoid your dog, it’s hard. And not because the dogs make it hard, but because other people make it hard, society makes it hard. Because I’ve seen the face people make, anyone who has had a Pit Bull knows the face- twisted and contorted, brows furrowed, lips tight, eyes wincing, body postured away- just waiting for something to happen. I’ve learned to ignore the face; I figure I’m probably making a face back at them without even realizing it- so the concerned citizen and I are even.
It’s like having any other breed or mixed breed of dog, only more. More responsibility, more preconceived notions but also, more support. An intricate web of friends, rescue folks, dog trainers- all who love Pit Bulls and are actively advocating for them. And while I could go on to talk about the negative comments or how sad it makes me to see my own dogs judged so harshly- I won’t. Instead I’ll tell you about the warmth I feel when someone asks to pet my girls, the smile on my face when they show off their cute parlor tricks at events and the pride I feel when someone exclaims “Your dogs are so well behaved!”
The girls are both “pit bulls” but they are far from identical. Sure, they may be the same in the most fundamental of ways but they’re different in many others; one is sensitive yet confident, one is silly yet withdrawn. So I can’t really answer the question completely, because even though they’re both “Pit Bulls” having Karma is different than having Gypsy. Of course every dog is different, even within a certain breed type- which is part of the reason why this question is proving to be a hard one to answer. Every dog takes time, energy and commitment to care for but the commitment you make when bringing home a Pit Bull is different- whether you realize it at that moment or not. I am responsible for more than just a dog, I’m responsible for helping to change a perception. Because everything I do, everything my girls do, is under a microscope.