I think I have said it here before, I am a cat person. I grew up with cats, specifically a Burmese named Toby. Toby was my parents first daughter and my older sister. She died at 20-something when I was nearly twenty myself. She was the reason I wanted a Siamese, same personality mostly just different looks. She was the most amazing cat and I wanted that again. Now, growing up we had several cats, Toby was the resident but there were always newcomers and indoor/outdoor cats as well…
We had lots of animals when I was young, even a few dogs who themselves were great – just nothing really – idk. I loved my ugly mutt named Joy, her death by heartworms nearly killed me. Leaving the family dog behind during Katrina left me with so much guilt, though honestly I only took the cats to entertain my little girl. I thought we would all be home in a few days and everything would just go back to normal.
Ugh, didn’t mean to go there… Okay, so what I am trying to say is that as a grown up myself and an animal momma I have learned a lot. Basically, animals need to be taken care of. Not just feed and clean, but actually loved in THEIR way. We choose them, we are the “higher thinkers” in the relationship. The dog or cat or whatever is never going to learn how to speak, but we can learn how they speak! Sure, you could just feed your cats and let live, that is what we did growing up and a few of them were awesome animals. However, if you put forth the effort of figuring out what your animals need to be happy then 99% of them can be awesome animals. It’s not as hit or miss as we think.
So, my wife and I set out to be the best we could for any animal we adopted. Our rats lived long lives, they were friendly and fun. Our mice were awesome pets. When we moved into our house and took a cat from my mother we had a neighborhood cat move in as well as adopting our first Siamese. Things were tense for a while. Then, I started researching and we began to feed them in a specific order that said, “Look, big guy was here first and you were second and little guy is last…” We let them work out their order with swats and hisses and only interfered if it seemed like someone would get hurt. Within weeks they were a bonded pride and things were harmonious. Will it always be that way, no. We had a much larger growing curve when the Siamese sisters came and we also had a gray ghost move in after he connected with me in the park and then found his way to my home. The sisters eventually fit in, the gray ghost had to be re-homed to my mother after almost nine months of trying with things only getting worse. In that case we found him a home where he is the only cat and it really is better for him and our cats as well.
Years ago I fell in love with a Pit Bull named Giselle. She was a rescue on a local site and my heart leaped from my chest. I loved her. I had small children and cats, there was no Pit or Bully-mix in my future. I am not stupid I have seen the news. Only, that brindle girl called to my spirit – I had to know more. I began to research the Pit Bull propaganda and the breeds which are often filed under “Pit Bull” as well as dog behavior and language. As I learned I started talking to my wife, “Did you know this? How about that?” She conceded that when our children were older we may have a “Pit” type dog. Maybe. I was still squarely a cat person.
Then I made some life changes. I was on a mission of health and on that road I discovered that one of my greatest passions is running. I love to run. I love to get lost in a run, just check out and go. I started to want a dog to take with me. Cats are not leash animals (well, mine aren’t but my sister is having great success with my cat-nephew, Spot the Cat) and they certainly are not runners. I wanted a dog. I approached my wife and explained what was going on and got a unsure, yet positive response. We decided to foster a pup, named JoJo, for three weeks – just to test this dog theory out. From the first day my wife was like, “He is staying.” JoJo – now my Wiley – scared me. He was eerily silent and still. I was cautious, “Will he growl before he bites?” I kept asking, to which my wife replied, “I think so.”
Wiley did wind up staying with us, he was my boy at first, but I think he was just playing it smart because he is TOTALLY my wife’s dog! Sleeps with her, follows her and cries for her if she is not home. I loved Wiley, but he couldn’t run with me. Heartworms had left him unable to really shred it out in the heat. He can walk and hang out, but you have to be careful not to push him.
We looked into adopting again, and pits were the focus. Strange, I know. Only, knowing were were actually looking and picking a dog, not just a mishap that worked out, I wanted to look into a rescue “pit” that could run with me. We were on the brink of adopting a large male when a pit puppy came into our lives from the street. She was a doll and I was in love, but we set out to find her mom (which we did.) Then several life things happened and adopting didn’t quiet make since. Months later, as things settled it came up again and I thought, “Why not rescue, housebreak, train to run and then adopt out?” It seemed like the best idea – a dog that came to live here would be exposed to kids and cats and another dog all while getting kennel/house broken and learning to be cool on a leash… I started combing through the shelter dogs to find the perfect fit.
I found Maisey, also called Macey, eventually renamed Paisely. Now, affectionately nicknamed Pai-Pai (Pay-Pay) and now my dog. There is a lot of story behind Pai becoming my dog, but the quick version goes like this: Pai is a sweet, mild mannered loving dog who was scared of almost everything. She bonded quickly with my family, but doesn’t like outsiders. Deep voices (even my own if I speak in a deep voice) make her so nervous she barks and growls and hides. Pai likes the kids, the cats and LOVES Wiley. While she was adopted out as being heartworm negative she was actually positive and can’t run. She has a limp we are working on, but I think came from being hit by a car before she was found on the streets. In the end, it became clear that to move her again would be horrible for her and that, no matter my original plans, I am her person.
She, more than any animal ever, has changed me. I love all my animals, I care about them all and I know they “love” me. I am part of the cat’s pride, and I am part of my dog’s pack, but with Pai it is more. She would give her life to save mine, there is no question. She is fearful of a lot, if the choice is run or fight Pai will always run. If the choice is run or defend mom, defend mom will always be her choice. She loves me in a way I can’t describe, staying close and laying near me always. Every “pit” I have had the pleasure of meeting and returning to there moms and dads or meeting out and about has had this spirit of happy kindness, once you are kind to them and they realize that you are not going to angrily assault them for simply being lost and a “Pit Bull” they melt into your kindness and are innocently grateful. Paisley has that spirit as well, but then there is something more between us.
If she is napping and I move about she no longer wakes up and watches my movements, which she used to do. She was scared of me, of people, too scared to sleep around us. She no longer lays just out of reach, in fact she will often “over-cuddle” when I am trying to do other things. She is no longer timid and skittish around us and the cats, she still respects our space and theirs but she isn’t scared when we walks past. Her eyes no longer say, “I think I might like you.” They say, “Hey, I love you more each day.” Pai is a very typical dog, and she uses her dog language to express herself (this was something that I wanted.) People think that she is mean because she growls and barks, but this isn’t mean behavior it is her voice. She is saying, “This scares me.” or “Please don’t touch me.” or “Hey, play with me not Wiley!” Her body language is also very clear, if you take the time to learn about dogs then you can have a conversation with her.
In our family we don’t discuss “pit bull” safety, we discuss DOG safety. My kids are taught about respecting ALL dogs, and how to behave with any dog. The truth is any dog can be dangerous and that teaching children anything other than that sets them up to be hurt. They have learned that they have a responsibility to Pai and Wiley, to be the best they can be for the dog’s well being. They have learned what is and is not appropriate and they have learned that by sticking to these things we as humans can be the best owners possible and ensure our animal’s safety. They have also been taught not to approach other dogs, on a leash or not, without speaking to the owner or having an adult. It’s not just my kids I care about and it’s not just my dogs, it’s other people’s dogs as well.
The other day someone inquired as to what my favorite animal was, and it is (and has always been) the horse. It always will be, I think. Then the thought that while that is true in a general way, I think that if asked today what my favorite individual animal is I would say, “Paisley.” Hands down, she has taken even Toby’s place. She has also ensured that I will not only always have a Pit breed in my life, but as I get older and have less things pressing on my time I will be more involved with the rescue of these amazing dogs, more involved with the education of people (both owners and the general public) and more involved with fighting BSL.
My wife was brutally attacked by a large breed dog, a pet of a friend, when she was young. She has scars all over her arm, and she was blessed it was not worse. From her story there was not much she could have done to avoid this, though the dog owners could have probably helped their dog with more exercise and by taking more precautions. My wife as a result was not a dog person, though she is now very much an our dogs person… I think that my wife is one of the best examples of educated people make a difference. From living with me and all my research she has, whether she wanted to or not, gotten to know a lot about dogs. There have been two situations over the last month where this was very clear. First, recently Paisley was on kennel rest and my non-dog person wife was practically in her kennel with her giving her love and comforting her during this time. She laughed, “I never thought I would be in the kennel with a Pit Bull.” There she was loving on Pai in very close quarters with not a worry at all.
The second story really touched my heart. My wife was out at a job site and there was a neighboring house with a large “mean” boxer mix tied to a tree. He was barking and carrying on and the men at the site explained to her that he was aggressive and had been so the whole job. My wife was worried he didn’t have water as no one had seen owners and it was hot out. She decided to approach him. She said to me, “I thought of everything you had said about how to approach a dog, and I went up to him slowly and speaking kindly.” She also approached from a direction where there was a fence between the two of them, by the time she was close he was at ease and asking for love by rubbing himself against the fence. She gave him love, made sure he had water (he did) and went back to work. She knew that a barking didn’t indicate mean, it was his voice. The work crews were obviously scary for him, specifically since he was tied up and unable to either check it out or escape. She knew how to put him at ease and reassure him of his safety and in the end she was able to make sure he had what he needed to be comfortable and healthy.
She made me cry when she told me that story. She also made me infinitively more passionate about getting people educated!!!!