The negative stereotypes about pit bulls can be so pervasive that some people buy into the stories and media reports before ever getting to know a member of this misunderstood breed. Meeting an ambassador for pit-bull kind has the power to change hearts. We asked the staff of the Richmond SPCA, "Did you ever believe the hype?" and these are some of their great replies.
Before I started working at the Richmond SPCA, I hadn’t thought about pit bulls at all. I had never really encountered them out in the ‘burbs, but I also didn’t think they were particularly more vicious than any other breed. In fact, the only dog I had ever been afraid of was a lab that had been loose in my neighborhood. When I started working here, I didn’t have any preconceived notions one way or the other, but pitties easily became my favorite pups. I think it probably started with Piper and Jimmy, continued with many other little pittie mamas, and persists with Rocky, Ariel, and Lenora. It’s amazing to see their pittie smiles and excitement, and they are usually the best nap buddies. I am now a staunch defender whenever I hear someone assert that pit bulls are aggressive, and I’m even getting my dad to grudgingly accept that pit bulls are often the sweetest dogs in this shelter. Pitties are also the best patients at the other private-practice clinic I work at now — so wiggly and always happy to meet new people.
Sarah Hornberger, veterinary treatment staff
As a current pit bull gaurdian I can honestly say I never bought into the hype. I found my pit bull Baylee wondering the streets, terrified and emaciated, and I was willing to get her into my car and head to the vet. I’m aware that ignorant owners are to blame for the tarnished reputation of pit bulls. Even my father, a firm believer of the myths, has fallen in love with Baylee because she is a true example of their loving nature. Many of the pit bulls you meet will break the stereotype; you just have to be willing to make the effort and to meet them with an open mind. Any dog can bite (even though you mostly see reports about pit bulls – convenient, huh?) the same way any dog can love unconditionally. I choose pit bulls as my companion because in my opinion they’re the best breed around.
Lisa Clarke, community relations coordinator
The first dog I ever knew was Patsy [click to open full-size image]. Patsy was there waiting for me when they brought me home, as a baby, from the hospital. She had been the family dog for many years. She had seen my Mom and Aunt through their high school years. I don’t think that pit bulls were “stereotyped” in those days except that they were viewed by many as the quintessential family dog for the first part of the 1900’s. They were known to be smart, loyal, great with kids and wonderful as the family pet; just as Petey was in the Our Gang movies. Being the oldest child, she was my big sister!
Gail Bird Necklace, education and training administrator
I, for one, have never believed that any animal is inherently bad, regardless of the breed. Bad behavior – whether it be as simple as poor manners or as harmful as dangerous aggression – is caused by people. Bad people. It’s as simple as that.
Liz Bryant, manager of major gifts
P.S. I have a friend who has a pit bull mix who is the sweetest dog you’d ever want to meet, Gatsby (pictured). Yeah, boy, I’d be afraid of this guy. :)
I’m not sure if I honestly ever did believe the hype about Pit Bulls. Maybe it doesn’t count, but I’ve been the gaurdian of a pit bull mix for almost 10 years. She was given to me as a gift my junior year in high school. To this day, no gift has ever measured up.
Trinity, my gorgeous & incredibly unique mix of whippet and pit pull, is truly the perfect dog. She’s extremely affectionate and almost too smart most of the time. I think a lot of people think of pit bulls as being too rough, strong, aggressive, or just plain mean. I really wish these people could be a fly on the wall of my home. Two years ago my fiancée and I decided to adopt a rodent tumbleweed creature – well, she’s not really a rodent, but she’s practically the size of one. Tigre, is a 7 pound scruffy little terrier mix. You would think that since Trinity does tend to have some “sight-hound traits,” like trying to yank my arm out of its socket to chase every squirrel that crosses her path, that she’d be inclined to do the same to this new family addition. On the contrary, Trinity is extremely gentle and patient with her “little sister.” Tigre can literally bite on to Trinity’s face, and hang from her skin. Trinity will be lazily napping while Tigre jumps repeatedly on top of her. Don’t get me wrong, Trinity can definitely dole it out too. She “pounces” over and over again in Tigre’s direction, enticing her into play-mode. Still, even with her 40-pound size difference over Tigre, she never harms her.
Trinity was just the first dog to mold my opinion of pit bulls. Every day while working at the Richmond SPCA I see pit bulls who are gentle giants, playful pups, and sweet souls. Some start out this way, while others receive the patient attention of the incredibly compassionate trainers and foster parents that grow to love each and every one of them.
I believe pit bulls have just gotten a bad reputation because of the cruel nature of some human beings. They’re a breed that has been taken advantage of because of their strong stature, powerful physique, and “intimidating” appearance. They’ve been used as weapons & fighting machines. It’s incredibly sad.
Pit bulls are just like any other dog; in the right home, they can be the man’s best friend.
Abby Waller, retail store coordinator
Like everyone else, I heard all the negative press and public overreaction. And sad to say, I fell victim to it for awhile. Although I had never actually come into contact with pit bulls, I assumed that they were an inherently violent breed, disposed to attacking and biting. This attitude endured for a few years, until I befriended Sarah Hornberger, who worked at the Richmond SPCA. I came into contact with pit bulls, saw their faces, their smiles, their heads cocked to the side, and I changed my tune. Once I began interning at the Richmond SPCA, one of my first duties was to help take a dog to NBC 12 to shoot a short video. We took Rosemary, a light brown pit-bull, with soft, amber eyes and the sweetest personality. Needless to say, in the short trip to the studio and back, I was in love. All those years of distrust had been completely wiped away in the span of 60 minutes, all thanks to a chubby little pit-bull.
Eric Steigleder, public relations intern
Now it's time for you, our readers to weigh in. Did you believe the hype? Was there a particular dog who helped you see pit bulls as individuals? Let us know here in the comments or on our Facebook page. We'll spotlight the best replies in an upcoming post.
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