It’s been three days since we adopted Rocket. Pessimists in the crowd may be shocked to learn that we’ve had practically no issues getting him assimilated into our pack/family. He has just been the best dog. He’s ridiculously loving, but is respectful about it. The first night at our house, I was sitting on the couch and he walked up to me. He put one paw on the cushion next to me and looked up at me with a question in his eyes. When I just smiled at him, he put his other front paw up on the cushion and looked at me again. I started laughing and patted the couch to encourage him to hop up and sit with me. He curled up, put his head on my lap, and fell asleep. He wants to be with us very, very much, but knows not to cross anyone’s boundaries.
I’ve got a history of not letting the dogs get on the furniture, so this is somewhat unprecedented. That first night at bedtime, I took him into our bedroom. I’d put a dog bed on the floor near our bed, but somewhat guiltily invited him up on the bed next to me. Mr. Vox came in about 10 minutes later after the lights were out. I was still awake, and could see Mr. Vox in silhouette looking for Rocket on the dog bed and then looking around the room. I guess a white dog doesn’t stand out on a light-colored quilt much, but it was enough to pique Mr. Vox’s suspicions. He turned the bathroom light on to see better and started laughing when he saw Rocket on the bed. I opened both eyes and said, “Well…he looked cold…” Rocket has been sleeping on the bed ever since.
Rocket is doing well with the other dogs–he plays with the springer and cautiously approaches the golden and lets her know she’s his alpha. And he’s been putting as much loving onto Mr. Vox and Junior Vox as he does with me. If he can sit on your lap and kiss your face, it’s all he wants from life.
It’s hard for me to convey what a mushy, sweet boy he is. It’s even harder for me to know that there are people out there who wouldn’t trust any pit bull and who believe they should all be destroyed. The Wikipedia entry on the American Pit Bull Terrier notes a United Kennel Club description of the breed:
The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. … The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. (Emphasis mine)
Studies of pit bull attacks have noted that there are some frequently occurring characteristics in pit bull owners, including aggressive social behaviors and past criminal convictions. It is not just possible, but likely that those dogs involved in human attacks have been poorly trained, poorly socialized, and are owned by people who are proven to not fit well in average social settings. Not all pit bulls attack, and not all pit bull owners fit this profile. The dogs’ own reputation has become their worst enemy; they’ve been portrayed as a weapon and a status symbol for a certain type of thug.
The reality of pit bulls is a lot more like Rocket: devoted to the point of being the canine equivalent of cupcake frosting and overcooked noodles. They are just so fucking happy to be with people and make those people feel good. I think it is the responsibility of owners like us to take those dogs out in public and let people see that truth. I know I have an inclination to hide Rocket at home so that people don’t judge him or my family, or feel scared of whose face might get torn off by that vicious animal. I’m starting to see that’s the wrong thing. People need to see Rocket asleep on Junior Vox’s lap, see him licking my husband’s face while Mr. Vox is in his law enforcement uniform (he’s not afraid of cops, that’s for sure), see him gently take a treat from my hand. That’s how the pit bull reputation can be corrected. Stereotypes need to be challenged and disproved, and I plan on giving Rocket a lot of chances to do that.