How I stupidly discriminated and you probably do too

I volunteer at a county animal shelter where my official title is “dog walker”. Initially, I focused solely on walking the little dogs because, the big dog section — filled mostly with Pit Bulls — intimidated me. The idea of getting in a kennel with any Pit with their substantial mass, “locking jaws” and general vicious reputation terrified me.

Then, one day the shelter’s kennel manager asked if I would join a new, small committee who’s charter is to drive up adoption rates. In less pretty terms, for the sake of the affected animals and the sanity of shelter staff, we needed to brainstorm ideas on driving down the euthanasia rate — an unfortunate reality in a county shelter when funds are limited and capacity is full.

Without hesitation, I agreed to join the committee and hoped to add value. During the first meeting, the objective became more specific. Our charter was to drive up the adoption rate for Pit Bulls. We discussed the cause of the over abundance of Pits in shelters and I disclosed I wasn’t a fan of “the breed”. I still wonder why they didn’t excuse me that day based on my stance at the time.

One of my first committee tasks was to write bios for the Pit Bulls’ kennels so they’d stand a better chance of attracting a potential adopter. I worked with the kennel staff who know them well to collect personality information. Regardless of the sweet individual facts I’d learn about each Pit, I’d still pass them up during my dog walking sessions, but it didn’t take long before I called BS on myself & thought “How can I write those nice things about the dogs if I didn’t believe them?” So, I forced myself to walk at least one Pit during each of my dog walking visits.

I started with a Pit named Jersey. She was in the room during one of our committee meetings & she didn’t eat me, so I figured we had a small foundation of trust that we could build on. Before long, I worked my way up to walking mostly Pits — after all, they often have lived in the shelter the longest & probably need/deserve a walk the most.

In addition to my hands-on learning, I began researching Pits. Here are a few facts I discovered:

While the above knowledge helped me put a swift end to my prejudicial opinion on Pit Bulls, it was two pits from the shelter who lovingly taught me a new chapter in the age old lesson that “You can’t judge a book by its cover”:

Suzie: While taking her for a walk at the shelter, my husband tripped & fell. Suzie immediately laid down next to him and placed her head on his chest. I saw it with my own two eyes. This was the first time they had met, but she treated him like he was her life long companion who needed her comfort. It was one of the kindest swift reactions that I’d ever seen in a situation where a human needed help. She got adopted that day — not by us (we have a house full of rescues), but where ever she is I hope she’s with a family who deserves her love.

Jersey
: The first Pit at the shelter who showed me that despite human ignorance and her less than happy history with owners who let her down, she still loves people unconditionally and can see and bring out the kindness in them.

This post is dedicated to Jersey — who after spending the majority of her life in the shelter, found her forever home this weekend. I wish her a lifetime of the happiness she deserves. Thanks for opening my eyes, sweet girl!

Grant a shelter dog’s wish.

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  1. #1 by Sara Olson on October 21, 2012 - 10:55 pm

    Linda–what a straight from the heart writing, and knowing you as I do, you mean every word of it. Thank you for caring! Love you!

    Sara

    • #2 by lskrocki on October 22, 2012 - 7:26 am

      Thank you Sara. I know we’re kindred spirits on this topic. Love you too!

  2. #3 by Jennifer S Roberts (@rideboulderco) on October 22, 2012 - 8:05 am

    Thanks for sharing this Linda. Sadly, I must admit I do have a stupid bias, based more on the media’s representation than my own experience. Thanks for forcing me to confront my unfounded bias.

    • #4 by lskrocki on October 22, 2012 - 8:24 am

      You’re welcome Jennifer. All the best on your discovery journey. Mine has been incredibly rewarding & eye-opening.

  3. #5 by theimaginationmuscle on October 22, 2012 - 12:31 pm

    Thank you! I am proud of you getting past the stereotypes placed on pitbulls! I have 5 rescue pits and 3 rescue hounds. I am glad you have a new enlightened vision of the loyal and sweet pitbull dog. Take care, Anna

    • #6 by lskrocki on October 22, 2012 - 8:10 pm

      Thanks Anna — especially for your rescue awesomeness! I have 4 adopted cats & 3 rescue dogs, two who are now in their golden years & one that I took on as a foster a few months ago when he was one pound & abandoned by the roadside. I’ve had to resign from my fostering gig because I have a full house & letting my fosters go is impossibly hard, but as it turns out my dog walking & Pit Advocacy Committee work is every bit as fulfilling. :-)

      • #7 by theimaginationmuscle on October 22, 2012 - 8:43 pm

        Again shout out to helping animals in eed. I know the joys and sad part of fostering. But as long as a dog or cat finds their furever home, I am okay. Keep up the great work and help pther understand the real pitbull dog that we know and love. Take care, Anna

  4. #8 by DiTucci on October 22, 2012 - 8:02 pm

    Great info & warms my heart to hear about these sweet doggies going to new homes.

  5. #10 by evoljennifer on October 22, 2012 - 9:17 pm

    Right after 911, we accidentally adopted a pit, my first dog, not knowing what he was. I didn’t actually ‘get it’ until people would walk away from me and my husband when we were out walking him. Our second dog is also a mix, they are both rescues. This summer we attempted to adopt a third pit mix but the integration didn’t go well. That was a bit heart breaking but she appears to have found a very good place. That experience does not discourage me. They have so much love. But then again, I love all the doggies. :-)

    • #11 by lskrocki on October 23, 2012 - 9:34 am

      It’s an unfortunate stigma with heart-breaking consequences, but it’s great to see and hear about happy endings like yours! Well done, Jen! :-)

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