“You need a dog, John.”
That’s what my psychologist kept telling me over and over again. You see, after 6 concussions, seeing a psychologist is pretty much mandatory after hitting your head several times. Prior to my 6th concussion I was all over the place. I worked 40 hours a week, did PR work for a non-profit, managed a band, worked out regularly and still managed to have quite the social life. I definitely didn’t have time for a dog and that’s exactly what I told her. However, my doc loved to remind me that all that was in the past and that I needed to “stop and smell the roses”, and I told her that was ridiculous because I already knew what roses smelled like! I was obviously failing to see the message she was trying to convey to me.
It’s funny how things work out because later that day, my best friend knocks on my door and shows me a picture of a 6 month old blue nose pit and asks me if I know anyone that wants this dog. Of course my answer is “no” and as she walks away she mutters, “that’s too bad, if she doesn’t find an owner soon, she’s going to the pound and you know what happens to pits in the pound”. At that moment, I could hear my doctor’s voice in my head and instantly I said, “Fine, I’ll take her!” When someone is your best friend for 20 plus years they already know what you’re gonna say before you do. This was no exception because she had already arranged pickup for later that day. Thanks a lot, Roseana!
After she left, I was writing down names. I wanted to pick out the most non pit bull name I could think of. I had Bailey and Abbey written down and then out of the blue, “Penny Lane” by The Beatles came on and at that instant, I found her new name!
I remember sitting with Penny in the car on the way home. She was the cutest thing and she looked like a genuinely happy dog which made me happy. Probably was the first time I felt happy since I hit my head. Then the thought hit me, “I own a pit bull.” “Holy crap, I own a pit bull!” “Nobody likes pit bulls!” At that moment, I realized that Penny would have to be the most behaved dog ever because even then I knew it wouldn’t be good enough for most people.
The next day I called a dog trainer my old roomie had worked with. This guy was amazing but he also held the owner accountable for doing all the work. The first few days I walked Penny I noticed a few things. She was scared of most men, terrified of children, loved women and overall sucked at walking on a leash. My trainer basically told me I had 2 options, I could ignore her problems and have to keep her away from the general public or I could be a true pack leader and face her fears with her to build her confidence up and make her an ambassador of her breed. Well I chose the latter, and I thank God every day that I did. Fast forward a year and half later and these days Penny LOVES kids, walks excellent on and off leash, you can leave her on a sit/stay for minutes at a time and up to 50+ yards away and has become the dog that everyone wishes their dog was like. I actually get asked if I’m a professional dog trainer now because of her.
Penny was not the victim of abuse or a dog fighting ring. Her owners were very sweet people (they still check on “Chyna” from time to time). Penny Lane was the victim of a stereotype and an unfair image placed upon her. They could not keep Penny where there were at and they could not find anywhere that would take her. Anyone that owns a pittie or “pit bull” type dog knows that it’s probably easier to own a tiger than it is to own a bully.
Before Penny showed up into my life, I was dealing with a 6th concussion and she needed a home. I was spiraling into depression and she was scared of just about everything. She showed me how to “stop and smell the roses” and I showed her that there was nothing to be scared of. Few people understood my injury just as few people understood her breed. We both are a shell of what we were a year and a half ago and these days I’m actually thankful I hit my head.
“You need a dog, John” – those 5 words changed my life forever.