One year ago today, on a warm and glorious morning, Husband loaded Jackdog into his truck, and in the direction of the local park they went. On his weekdays off this was the ritual. Nice long walks in the park with our son.
Not long after park walks became a consistent spot in the household schedule, I dubbed it “Boy Time.” It came to mind after seeing Jack’s growing enthusiasm every time his little blue leash would come out and his Daddy would head to the front door. His little body would wiggle and he would jump up with delight.
His relationship with me is different. I am great when it comes to serving his food in a timely manner. I am also the go to person for plenty of soft rubs and love. Not that Daddy isn’t good for these things, but you know what I mean. It’s just different. Daddies mean fun. Mommies have a way of meaning business.
Our family would be changed on this day one year ago. And I still don’t know what we did to deserve such a blessing. But it happened. There is nothing better than a wonderful something to come into your life, totally unexpected.
There she was. Tied to a tree and left there alone. The prettiest blue nosed girl you will ever lay your eyes on. A soft white tummy. Grey eyes, just like the sea during a storm. Big paws. He saw her and went to her right away, trying to make heads or tails of it. She smelled, and she was hungry, cold and shaking. Passersby in the park were not sure how long she had been there. A lady was kind enough to go home and bring her back some food and water.
Husband looked closely. He knew right away she was a pit bull pup. Another passerby came up to him and said she had been there the night before. This poor girl, alone all night in what must have been a scary place for a sweet little baby like her. Then someone else said they had called animal control. They were on their way. Husband knew what that meant. The shelter, and a pit bull puppy. It would most likely be a death sentence, even for a beautiful girl like her. Within minutes she was sitting in the front seat of the truck, and then minutes after that in our bathtub, enjoying a warm and much needed scrub. Before long her tummy was full of healthy food and she crashed right on the couch.
Her mind was made up. She was home. And our hearts were hers. They would be forever.
We were responsible. We did take her to the vet that day to check and see if she had a chip. We also told our neighbors, and looked for signs that a dog matching her description was missing. Husband was adamant that she was abandoned, and was prepared to fight anyone who would try to come along to claim her and take her away from us. But no one came forward, and we certainly didn’t try very hard to find her a new home.
Our Grace. We arrived at her name for an obvious reason. That, and it was a name I always liked. Why not bestow it on our new canine daughter?
I will be honest. It was my first hands on experience with a pit bull and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was never nervous or scared about it. If anything, I was more concerned with how Jack would take to no longer being an only child, regardless of what breed his new sibling was. And he adjusted just fine. Now, one year later, they are best pals. Real partners in crime. We just needed to learn everything there was to know about her.
When it comes to dogs I believe there are no bad ones, only bad people who mold them to do bad things. Humans sure do have a way of taking something wonderful and royalty screwing it up. It seems it has been that way since the beginning of time. There is certainly more darkness in this world than light. That’s not to say people aren’t inherently good. It just seems to be a constant struggle.
We as a family were one thousand percent sure about our new dynamic. We felt nothing but happiness and gratitude. But what we didn’t expect was how others would inject their opinions into our business, by voicing them directly or by their disapproving actions. And sadly, it has always come from a place of ignorance.
The week after Grace joined our family, I was getting through a routine day of work when one of my coworkers approached me. Word had gotten around I had a new dog, which is typically a fun and exciting thing to talk about. But this person had to remind me of how “dangerous” dogs like Grace can be, and that I may not be able to find homeowners insurance. This comment was significant because at the time I was working as an insurance agent. Her line of commentary and questioning blatantly implied I was grossly irresponsible.
A lot of companies discriminate against certain breeds believed to be aggressive. It just so happens there are plenty of companies out there, good companies, who accept pit bull canine exposures (don’t let any insurance issues prevent you from adding a loving pit bull or other breed to your family).
She wouldn’t let up. Her comments were not only unwarranted, they were completely unwelcome.
“So, the insurance agent has a pit bull now, huh?” With a smirk that can only be described as disapproving.
I looked straight at her and said, “Yep. You understand correctly.” My tone made it clear the conversation would not continue. I turned back to the work piling up on my desk.
Two months later there was another situation, this one involving a complete stranger. It was time for our Gracie to be spayed. On the day of her surgery, after she came out of recovery, I was sitting in the waiting area with her at my feet. My girl was sleepy, laying on the cool tile floor on that hot summer day, still very much under the influence of pain medication and anesthesia. She didn’t even lift her head. She quietly whimpered after going through so much and probably not understanding what happened. I wanted to cradle her and kiss her and tell her all would be alright, that she would be happy and healthy and as her mommy I would do anything to take away her pain. I gently kissed her and patted her head, eager to get her home.
But then this woman walked into the hospital, her young daughter with her and a very loud and hostile little dog under her arm. She took one look at Grace. Her eyes grew wide, and I could see the horror welling within her. She grabbed her little girl and pulled her to her chest as if to protect her child from imminent danger. And then the ignorant comment came out of her mouth.
“Oh no! A pit bull!”
Normally I would bite back in a situation like this. Particularly since her dog was not so nice and threatening to chomp on everyone in the room. But on this day I wasn’t in the mood for such theatrics. I calmly ignored her and focused on getting my sweet baby home to recover comfortably.
This second episode wasn’t the end of it. Two weeks ago I was shopping in Petsmart, stocking up on my babies’ favorite Blue Buffalo food and treats. An elderly lady, a sales rep for a different dog food brand, approached me and began asking me questions on what kind of food I buy and how many dogs I have. I told her I had two. That of course led her to ask me another question.
“What kind of dogs do you have?”
“I have a rat terrier and a pit bull.”
Her expression morphed, as if I was the devil incarnate standing before her. “How does it make you feel knowing your pit bull is going to have your rat terrier for lunch? How could you?!?!”
I looked right at her and said, “In the words of Bob Dylan, don’t criticize what you can’t understand. Have a nice day.” All I could do was walk away. I no longer wished to talk to her, this ignorant person who worked for, of all things, a pet care company. It is one thing to think a certain way. It is entirely another to speak without the consideration of others in mind. This woman continued to follow me, asking if I would buy her product, inviting me to go on Facebook to get a coupon, etc. I politely told her I wasn’t interested.
I guess I’m supposed to have compassion for the ignorant. But I don’t want to. I think about the way I go out in the world and how I consider the feelings of others and try to understand their choices. It seems my family and I are rarely afforded the same courtesy. But when I meet fellow pit bull parents and dog lovers who understand, they are so happy to hear Grace’s story and how she has blessed us. The camaraderie and understanding more than make up for all the hostility and attitude thrown our way.
There have been many supportive people in our world. People who know there are no bad dogs, only bad people. That you have to consider each dog as an individual, just as we should consider our fellow human beings. As a family we realize we can’t be bothered by others’ fearful looks and disapproving actions. We know we love Gracie, and she knows she is loved.
She is the most accepting dog I have ever known, freely giving affection every chance she gets. Everything she does she does with enthusiasm. You can sense her joy in every gesture, every wet kiss, every playful jump and every time she flips her toy in the air. Every time she lays down next to us at night, taking her rightful place in our pack.
Her life is a celebration of love.
And we are over the moon having her as a daughter.