The Powerful Pit by Maggie Digiovanni, Guest Poster

January 14, 2015

I stopped the car, fully intent on going to my neighbor’s aid as the strange dog followed him into the garage.  Joe was unaware of his visitor as he opened the door to his house and went inside.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I pulled into my own driveway.

My daughter took her time getting her bible and backpack before getting out of the car.  As I headed around the front I turned to look back and was horrified to see the dog headed in our direction.

“Get in the house now!” I urged Jaimie.  One trait of Down’s syndrome, which she has, is the ability to move slower than any turtle on earth.  The more I pushed her to go faster, the slower she got.  The dog moved closer.  Vainly I held my purse between us and it, knowing it was useless as a defense.  I backed away; he followed.  I sighed with relief when we were both safely inside the house.

I called Joe to let him know about the dog and to ask if anyone he knew owned it.  He came out to find and report the animal to the police, but in those few short minutes it had disappeared from the subdivision.  This was my first introduction to fear of a pit bull, a dog I staunchly defended to all who talked against the breed.

The pit is a beautiful animal that I always associated with ‘Daddy’, an animal that used to travel with Cesar Milan during his animal training television series.  It was a beautiful old dog that stayed calm, cool and collected among even the wildest dogs Cesar approached.

The pit is also one of the primary dogs put into the fighting ring or used as guard dogs among stellar members of the population such as drug dealers.  These dogs, when saved by animal groups, are often considered beyond saving and are destroyed because they are unpredictable around people.  With this information in hand, a majority of the human population have deemed them unacceptable for society.  What is the real story?

The pit bull was initially bred to hold bulls, bears and other large animals until its owner killed the beast.  When this practice was outlawed, they were put up against other dogs in the savage fighting arena where they often fought to the death.  Since people had to handle the animals, the dogs were socialized to this end and seldom did a pit bull that killed other dogs turn on humans.

Eventually these untrained people got into the act of breeding indiscriminately and today’s pits of all shapes and sizes were the result.  Along with changes in appearance came changes in personalities and the more people-aggressive pit is often today’s result.  However, that isn’t the end of the story.

Within the breeder communities are the professionals who keep close records, who pay attention to every tiny facet of a dog’s physical and mental attributes.  From these breeders come the real pit bull, an animal that can have immense patience with animal or human, as shown in Daddy on Cesar’s show.  Although he was an animal more than capable of ripping anything or anyone apart, he was often the calming effect on more hyper animals.

Like any other dog, given socialization as a puppy, put in a setting of good housing, good food and a kind, loving hand, the pit bull is no more vicious than any other breed.  However, when maltreated, beaten on a regular basis, ignored when starving and at the whim of the elements, they can turn, as could any human under the same circumstances.

Broad of chest, with a massive head that encompasses extraordinarily strong jaws, the pit was perfect for its initial purpose.  Those same traits have made them pariahs in many cities.  Insurance companies refuse to write policies when a pit is a member of the family or the policies premiums are so high, most can’t afford them.  Fortunately, several states have banned laws against specific breeds of dogs.  That may be the start of re-education for the public about this noble animal.

Generally healthy, some pits are prone to hip dysplasia, cataracts, grass allergies and heart disease.  For the most part they are robustly healthy.  They have a deep willingness to please their owners.  The aggression so many fear is held for other animals, which must be taken into account when bringing an older pit into the fold with other dogs.  Go slow with introductions to form lasting bonds.

Today I look back on my first meeting with pit bull fear and am ashamed.  That animal did not pose a threat.  He looked as though someone tossed him out by the road and all he wanted was human contact and food.  However, with my daughter’s health at risk, I must admit my actions would be the same if the same thing occurred again.  Because no matter how innocent human or animal strangers may appear, taking chances with my daughter’s wellbeing is never an option.


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