I Love My Pit Bull

National Pit Bull Day celebrates this misunderstood breed
By Julia Kamysz Lane, October 2011

I don't think of myself as particularly political or controversial. Yet the “I love my Pit Bull” magnet on my minivan makes some people see red. I've heard everything from, "Do you really have one?" to "Those dogs are horrible and should be banned." I wish I could say these words were spat out by complete strangers, but in fact, they were friendly acquaintances, which meant I had to keep listening to them instead of shrugging it off as the senseless mutterings of a crazy person. Truly, it was one of those do-you-not-know-me-at-all moments.

Hi, my name is Julia Lane and I love a Pit Bull. Her name is Shelby. She is the most beautiful reddish-orange color, which is why her nicknames are “Fawn” or “Honey Bear.” We also call her “Pup-A-Lup,” “Luppy, “ “Lupness” and any other Lup variations I can sneak into her favorite song, “Shelby Is My Pup-A-Lup.” This song is reserved for belly rub time after I’ve amused myself by shouting, “Get the pit! Now the other pit!” as I vigorously scratch under her arm pits. 

October 22 is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. It’s an opportunity to get to know this much maligned and misunderstood dog that was once a popular family pet. Did you know that Pit Bulls are not a breed, but rather a type of dog? Those infamous “locking jaws” are a myth; Shelby is a tough chewer, but it was my late Catahoula, Desoto, who managed to destroy the black Kong in three bites. According to the American Temperament Test Society,  pits are not more aggressive than other dogs. In your face, sensational headlines!

Hundreds of organizations including Best Friends, Bad Rap, Stubby Dog, Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue and The Sula Foundation are hosting special events  to educate the public. If you don’t know a Pit Bull, go to your local shelter and you’re guaranteed to meet one. Approximately one million Pit Bulls are euthanized in shelters every year. And that doesn’t even count the dogs who are abused and discarded by fighting rings. Whoever said ignorance is bliss is dead wrong.

When I think of pits and second chances, there is always an extraordinary individual who made it possible, who saw past the stereotypes and in an appropriate turn, fought for their dog. Andrew Yori has written extensively about his two amazing pit bulls, Wallace, a national disc dog champion, and Hector,  a former Vick dog who is certified as a Therapy Dog. Wallace was brought to the local shelter as a puppy, and slated for euthanasia. In his new documentary, “Wallace: The Rise of An Underdog,” Yori shares the incredible story of how a seemingly uncontrollable Pit Bull defied the odds to “change minds one disc at a time.”   

Chris Hughes saw potential in Gremlin, a Pit Bull who, as a bait dog, was literally left for dead. By the time Odessa Second Chance Rescue and Rehabilitation pulled her from the shelter, she faced enormous challenges, all because of humans. Both of her back legs had been broken on purpose, and a bat had been rammed down her throat, causing ruptured vocal cords. After two years of rehabilitation, including hydrotherapy, Gremlin was able to walk normally. She went on to earn her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification and become a Therapy Dog. Together with Hughes, she makes weekly visits to Aristacrat Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for people who are mentally unstable. She also attends Avon East Elementary School, bringing joy to kids in the special education class. As Hughes puts it, “To have a dog that came from a fighting situation that is now a children’s therapy dog says a lot.”

Shelby is not a champion or certified in anything except Bellyrubology. But she is my Lup and I love her. Countless other Pit Bulls do the same for their people. They love. 

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.