Hey everyone! I know it’s been awhile but it’s been hard to write anything lately. Soon, baby Camden will be here and I’m sure I will have plenty to write about. But today, we have a guest blogger. Her name is Aileen Cronin and I think the title of this blog says it all. I hope you all take some time to read this. Thank you, Aileen, for being so open about this situation. I know these things aren’t always easy to talk about, let alone, tell the whole world. Keep up the great work!!
If you’re reading this because you’ve been hurt by a pit bull and you are not a pit bull advocate, I’m sorry that someone was irresponsible and you got hurt. The person responsible may not have known enough about their dog or they may not have known how to take care of their dog. Maybe they knew their dog was dangerous but didn’t know what to do. I hope you find a way to heal. This is my experience.
I was a long time pit bull lover and advocate when I started fostering Titan 4 years ago. It was clear early on that Titan had issues and needed professional help. About three years ago, I started working with a behaviorist and with practice and time I was able to become confident walking Titan around my neighborhood and doing most activities I enjoyed with him. The behaviorist suggested that I enjoy what we had created and not make any big changes and made it clear that fostering was not going to benefit my pack at the time. I was excited about what I felt and I, with the best of intentions, wanted to share that with people. I had just started thinking about leaving my job to pursue a career working with dogs. So, being overly confident, inexperienced, and excited – I decided to bring a dog into my home for a weekend that had been in boarding for many months – I felt there was no harm in two nights in a home, right? Wrong.
I think it’s important to examine the circumstances of the dog at the time and why honesty can make the difference between a safe weekend and a dangerous one. She was in boarding because her previous owner could no longer keep her – I had been told that she was returned because the owner lost his home, what I came to find out was that she was returned for biting a person during an altercation with a dog at a park. Prior to that incident, she did not have a history of being aggressive towards people, however, she did have a history of escalating aggression towards other animals. The dog was sensitive and long term boarding in veterinary facilities can be taxing and stressful on any animal. The dog was not being fulfilled mentally or physically, the humans did “try” to do what they could for her, but her behavior had begun to escalate and they were no longer comfortable handling her outside of the clinic. Time and time again, the humans proved they were unable to help her in the way she needed.
At the time, I didn’t see that her behavior far outweighed my abilities. So, I picked her up, took her for a walk, and immediately began trying to “help” her. I even let her sleep in my bed the second night because it was going so “well.” What I didn’t realize was that I had only learned about my type of dog, with his issues, I hadn’t learned about all dogs. So, on the final day, right before she was to be returned to the vet I gave her a bath, put her in her crate and took my dogs out of their crates to give them a bath. When I was done bathing my dogs, I was bringing them back to their crates and my phone rang. I answered the phone and was “trying” to put my dogs away when she lunged at the crate, busted down the door and my dogs were on the other side. I dropped the phone and inserted my arms right into the middle of a dogfight. I remember her grabbing Little Guys face and as she shook her head, I was certain she had killed him. When she let go, he ran to his crate and I closed the door as she headed for my other dog, Titan, and as I reached for her, her teeth sank into my left arm and she shook my arm for what felt like an eternity. I screamed for Titan to get out and he ran, and I kicked the door shut. We struggled and she finally let go, only to sink her teeth into my right arm and drag me across my bedroom floor. I remember thinking, “They were right, pit bulls can turn on you. She’s going to kill me.” Finally, everything stopped. I don’t know why, I can’t tell you if I kicked her, hit her, stopped screaming, or we finally made eye contact but when she let go, it was just over, she was done. I was able to put her in a more secure crate. I can only remember blood everywhere and trying to call 911. As I waited for the fire department, police, and ambulance to arrive I sat in a chair in my kitchen in complete shock. My biggest concern was that they knew all the dogs were contained and I just wanted to tell them not to shoot any of them. When all was said and done at the hospital, I’d left with a cast on my right arm with 6 large bite wounds under it, 4 large bite wounds on my left arm and I was absolutely traumatized. I do not have any pictures from the day of the incident, but below is the physical damage. These pictures were taken after my cast on my right arm was removed several weeks after the attack.
Little Guy also had to have surgery on his face to remove damaged tissue and stitch a wound below his eye. Titan had bite marks on his back legs that were treated by the shelter. Animal Control seized the dog that bit me and also took Titan, even though I had told them Titan had not bit me, the Supervisor was adamant that I “did not know what happened to me.” I ultimately contacted an attorney who had Titan out by the following morning.
The emotional damage was overwhelming. I was afraid of my own dogs, I was afraid of other dogs, I couldn’t even see two dogs together and feel safe. Whenever I left the house, I was worried my dogs were breaking down crates and killing each other. I would become so overwhelmed by daily tasks that I would sit and cry unable to explain what was wrong. In reflection, I can see that I was mourning, I was forever changed, and I was in an even worse position than where I had started many months before, I would never be the same.
Most importantly, the dog had the greatest consequence. She lived out her last 10 days in a shelter, they had given the dogs legal guardian the option to have her euthanized there, or wait the 10 days and have it done privately. There was no question that after this had happened, it was a good decision to let her go. I respect her handlers’ decision to wait the 10 days and be there for her as she passed. I had put a dog in a situation that I was unprepared to handle and she was now dead. I had accepted responsibility to create a safe environment and I’d failed her instead.
I knew I never wanted this to happen again and I had been humbled by the experience. I had experienced a dog in its most primal state and somehow lived to tell the tale. I began planning leaving my corporate job and pursuing a career in dog behavior. I knew there was only one person who could teach me and he had done it before on my journey with Titan but was he willing to help me again after I had made such a mess of things. I began calling Linn Boyke regularly and asking him to teach me… I called and called and called and called and called. A few months later he finally agreed.
I studied with Linn for ten weeks and it changed my life. I learned just how much there was to learn about dogs, life, and how to become the person I needed to be if I really wanted this. It was the best and worst 10 weeks of my life. Growth is painful and exciting at the same time. I hit roadblocks, I had distractions but I would remember why I was there, to understand what would make a dog, any dog, get to that point, how to accept responsibility for my part, and what I could do to moving forward to truly advocate for all dogs. On the last day, I was driving home and began to cry – was it really over? Well, no, three years later, I’m still learning, not just about dogs but also about myself.
I’m now a behaviorist but more importantly, I’m still a pit bull advocate. I still trust pit bulls because I took the time to learn about all dogs. It’s fair to say that I’ve thoroughly examined my part in the incident and clearly see that her breed had nothing to do with the attack. I’d made poor choices that led a dog to harm me, it happened to be a pit bull because that’s what I foster. We all know that pit bull bites are more exciting and sensational to news outlets and that bites from other breeds go widely unreported. We know discrimination against pit bulls (as well as a laundry list of other breeds) is rampant across our nation. It tears apart families, amazing dogs are killed every day because of it, and not everyone has the resources to fight for their dogs’ life. We’ve had victories and a few losses but what else can we do?
Our fight to lower the overwhelming number of dogs that are euthanized each day (the majority of which are labeled “pit bulls”) has only just begun. I challenge you this, the next time you want to make a social media post complaining about someone’s dogs, or the look someone gave you walking down the street, or the fact that someone discriminated against your pit bull dog – go DO SOMETHING enjoyable with your amazing, wonderful pit bull and balance out the world by creating a positive with someone else. I see how people walk their dogs and it’s quite possible your dog was a dick; maybe you deserved to be looked at like that, maybe you didn’t and they just had a shitty day.
Our dogs must be held to a higher standard, not because the haters say so, but because they are ours and we love them enough to provide more. The moments that make great change in the fight against Breed Specific Legislation happen in our every day lives. It’s someone stopping at your table asking to pet your dog and when they say, “What is it?” and you say, “He’s a pit bull,” they smile and say, “I’ve never met one, he’s so sweet!” It’s teaching your dog to walk politely down the street even if something else is causing it to react, respecting that some people are just afraid of dogs, and knowing when to seek help. A great way to show support is to find or plan a walk in your area for National Pit Bull Awareness Day coming up in October. If your dog isn’t a good match for an event like that, bring your sisters really well behaved yorkie and show that pit bulls can be good around little dogs!
My point is, look for the smiles from people driving by as you strut down the street with your gorgeous pit bull! If your dogis social, embrace it. If your dog is not social, find someone to teach you how to enjoy new activities, or help you succeed in changing your dogs’ behavior. My point is, you can feed into anti-pit bull hate or you can focus on having the best pit bull on the block. The choice is yours!
For Behavior Consultations in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and surrounding Arizona cities contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.k9-lifestyle.com
For information on education opportunities with Linn Boyke contact email@example.com or www.schoolofdogpsychology.com
For adoption inquiries visit www.standingproudpitbulls.org