Open Letter to Our Foster Dog (who also happens to be a Pitbull)

We received a message from a rescue organization that they had a Pitbull they found abandoned in a park and that he was suffering from extreme anxiety especially after the prior night’s lightening storm, when he broke free.

A Pitbull abandoned and now alone in a shelter, confused, and showing acute anxiety symptoms. We needed to get you out of there– and after multiple emails back and forth to the extremely compassionate, but overworked, overstressed, (not to mention completely volunteer rescue group), we all came together to get you here. [Thank you C.A.R.E South Coast Rescue and Whitman Hanson Animal Control and their wonderful team members].

You sat on my husband’s lap the whole “freedom ride,” and the moment you stepped into our yard, you ran and jumped into the kiddy pool filled with water. Goofball, check!

Let’s step back for  a moment.

The media has trained us for many years to fear “your kind” based on faulty claims (unsupported by science), biased reporting based on isolated events that were most likely reactions to the horrific environments, which “your kind” are disproportionately exposed to by a landslide. Your breeds (American Pitbull Terrier and Staffordshire Terrier, two breeds classified under the “Pitbull” name) are not alone. German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and other large, often abused dogs are also targets of “fear” and sensational reporting. Whatever sells a story, right? Ugh, but so it goes.

I saw your overly sized block head, large jaws, and large (albeit very malnourished), muscly body—and I too for a split second, was nervous. That immediate reaction is thanks to years of ingrained media-fed fear and not anything to do with my experience. I know “your kind” as “Pitbull” breed(s). I love and support Pitbull breeds from both objective and subjective standpoints.

I have anxiety too–  But I’m a different species, and I am not feared by my outward appearance, unlike you. Just the opposite, I have been so blessed with support and love on a daily basis. But I am an underdog too. When I saw your story, just like many before you and many that will come after you, I instantly felt connected to you. That’s where I understand you subjectively.

However, by training, I’m also a researcher, so I’ve done a lot of objective research on “your kind” because my heart and mind needed to comprehensively understand how some of the most loving, goofy, friendly dogs I’ve ever known get the reputation they/you do. How much of it is media, how much is true, and am I just naïve or too trusting?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. Dog bites as an important public health concern is not in question. However, implementing public policies, that ride the fear and emotion waves and ban whole dog breed(s) e.g. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) instead of seeking to understand why individual dogs (not whole breeds) bite and why; then implementing policies to address these factors are concerning.

Objective research shows us that a variety of factors could affect a specific dog’s tendency toward aggression, including: heredity, early experience, socialization and training, sex and reproductive status (Lockwood, 1999), chaining and tethering (Gershman et al., 1993), selective breeding, raising of dogs aggression e.g. protection, dog fighting competitions, social status or financial gain (Bradley, 2006), abuse and neglect (Delise, 2007); and inadequate obedience training and supervision (Shuler et al., 2008) (ASPCA). These factors can affect any dog and any dog breed, predisposing them to the increased risk of biting. Environment matters so much.

How many of these factors are fault of the specific dog? Zero.

People are often the cause of dog bites via their actions or inactions, yet we consistently as a society, blame the dog, a dependent being—thus, these anxiety-ridden, trainable dogs end up in shelters, abandoned, abused or dead. [Your kind are often over-bred, back-yard bred, abused, neglected, trained for selfish purposes etc., thus, “your kind” may be disproportionately statistically more likely to bite. (Data unknown for  varying reasons)].

Evidence suggests that BSL is costly and ineffective—and primarily hurts responsible dog owners, and may actually have unintended consequences, such as people then exploiting unregulated breeds for aggression (Winnipeg reported bite statistics, 1984-2003), inundating our police forces to enforce these policies and filling local shelters to capacity, and worse, euthanizing healthy, friendly, family dogs unnecessarily. This is not going well and will not end well, unless we actually address the problem—and educate, educate, EDUCATE. Read more here: http://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/dog-fighting/breed-specific-legislation

I’m not naïve and I’m definitely not too trusting, well not when it comes to dogs or Pitbulls at least. I not only choose to educate myself, but I choose to do something about it, if even by just accepting and loving a dog, you, temporarily into our home.

We are raising our daughter to love and respect dogs, and that means, teaching her dog behavior and what is acceptable and what is not when in regards to her interaction with dogs (for her safety and yours). I fully acknowledge that any potential mishap that could happen would be my fault (human error). Unfortunately, many do not understand this, and blame the dog, and the cycle of fear continues.

You are leaving us next week. You have a wonderful adoptive family who came to meet you last week, along with their family dog and three beautiful kids. I met them, I adored them—and I couldn’t be more excited for you. You deserve this. They deserve you, and I have full-faith this is the last leg of your journey “home.”

But it will be bittersweet. I cried when they came and could see in their eyes that they too loved you.  It took all of 2 seconds to feel your love and appreciation for me, and not even a full 24 hours for you to show me your soul, goodness, and friendly nature. For you have temporarily adopted me as your human, you follow me around, rush to my side if even I sneeze, and snuggle next to me whether on the floor playing with Charley, on the couch when I’m finally relaxing, or in bed at night (not to mention your abundance of doggy kisses). You’ve accepted and loved me just as much as I’ve accepted and loved you.

You are saved and you know it. Or at least I like to believe you know it.

For the past three weeks you’ve followed me around like a lost puppy as the old adage goes, but you’re not a lost puppy anymore, you’re just an around the clock-happy-go-lucky friendly beyond words, tail-constantly-wagging 2-year old dog—who follows me hoping to get an ounce of affection: a pet on the head, a “good boy,” a throw of your toy. To feel loved.

I understand you more than you know—and probably why I felt connected to you so quickly, as I have for each and every foster or rescue dog we’ve brought into our home.

You’re looking to get your basic needs met: food, water, shelter, warmth, and love—but your prior “family” failed you—and left you abandoned in a park. You were lost, yet you have fully allowed us to love you, fellow humans, just like the ones that left you, a dependent family dog alone to fend for himself. You barely eat, I have to put coconut oil in your food and sit with you as you eat. You have separation anxiety and pee out of fear you may be left again. And I don’t blame you. I can only help you get through it.

I think you have an extreme amount of resilience, courage, and faith. You know you deserve better, you know you want better, and you have faith that you truly are now free.

No, I don’t know your past, but I know you—and you are a big-headed dog filled with the need to give and receive love (and kisses).

That’s all I’ll ever need to know. ❤

Love, your foster Mama & “temporary human”

One thought on “Open Letter to Our Foster Dog (who also happens to be a Pitbull)

  1. Raina M Connelly says:

    I love this – and you and your family so much. Education is the key in making sure these dogs are understood for who they truly are and to push media sensationalism back at them since we don’t believe in killing dogs for the sake of ratings. Those who fear should get to know a pit bull type dog and make their own opinion. I have yet to know anyone who has been disappointed.

    Thank you for fostering, donating, supporting, and most of all loving these dogs and making them a part of your family. You are saving lives and should be very proud of the impact you are making on the world ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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