I got interested in Pit Bulls around the late 1990’s, and given their bad reputation I found them a cause to champion. I didn’t know exactly what cause I was championing as I was a teenager – but I knew there was no way it was fair for dogs to be judged like they were. Everyone was telling me that Pit Bulls were inherently vicious and while I hadn’t met many, I knew this just couldn’t be true.
Years later, when it became time to have a dog of my own, I knew what to get. I headed right to my nearest animal shelter and chose a beautiful fawn-colored dog (probably AmStaff mix in retrospect) and named her Maisy. We happily brought her home and within hours I realized that something was very wrong. Maisy would have uncontrollable whining and fear when we left her alone for more than 30 seconds. When we left her in the crate for ten minutes to go to the nearby convenience store she had severe diarrhea all over. She was so afraid she did not care that she was in her own feces. My instincts told me that something was very wrong with this dog, but I kept pushing it aside.
By the second day I realized there was no way I would be able to leave this dog alone long enough to go for four hours at my part-time job. I made the choice to return her to the shelter and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. People may criticize me for not trying longer, but I felt (and still feel) that I was in way over my head and the shelter gave me absolutely no indication that this dog had a problem. I could not quit my job, after all. And of course, I realize dogs arrive from a shelter environment incredibly stressed out and need time to show their “true colors”, but my gut feeling was that the level of panic this dog had was completely abnormal.
Shortly after that, my mother found out through a friend about a litter of pups born of an accidental mating and were being offered for free. I seized the opportunity and talked on the phone to the “breeder” (backyard breeder, I’m ashamed to say). He was a nice guy and told me a little bit about his dogs. He said all of them were taken except for one female, that they were black and white, and that they were Pit Bulls. I had wanted a male dog but knowing she was the only one left I knew she was what I wanted. I immediately told him I would take her.
After a month of anticipation and endless waiting, I got my puppy on December 26, 2007. We named her Bindi.
From the start she was a wonderful dog – smart as a whip, quick to potty train, eager to work. She was also stubborn, insolent, and a naturally dominant dog. FWIW – most people do not have a naturally dominant dog. Dogs display varying degrees of dominance, and the trait shows up at two weeks old. A naturally dominant dog is not necessarily the largest dog, but it is the smartest. The one capable of making snap judgments and watches out over everything. They are bold, confident, inquisitive, brave, and stubborn as all hell. They hold their tail high and march into every situation headfirst. This describes my Bindi perfectly. She marks her territory like a male and makes sure everyone knows she’s top dog.
Unfortunately, Bindi developed health problems pretty much from the start. I spayed her early on the advice from family and friends, only to find out she had an inverted vulva which will likely require surgery someday. Additionally, she has torn both of her cruciate ligaments and had a myriad of other ailments including yeast problems, flesh-eating bacteria on her paws, and a back injury to name a few highlights. So far she has run me about $16,000 in vet bills, and unfortunately her most recent surgery to fix the cruciate tear was not optimal and the results have been sub-par.
My Bindi loves nothing more than to run free in a field, and it has been devastating to watch her develop all of these problems. To not be able to run was a cruel joke played on her, as she has so much spirit, confidence, and determination. I hate to see her limping and slowed down. While I feel she has a great quality of life still, I know arthritis will plague her later in life.
Most cruciate dogs are “weekend warriors”, overweight dogs who do too much in a day. But Bindi was always active and very lean, getting exercised regularly over difficult terrain. For her to have such an injury was devastating and perplexing. We were due to start Schutzhund sport right before she tore the first one, but I knew sports were out once it happened. The causes of canine cruciate ligament tears are unknown but there are theories that it is genetic or possibly caused by early spaying. It is a degenerative disease 90% of the time, with 40% of dogs tearing the second ACL within a year of the first. Such was the case for Bindi.
When looking up the causes for this disease and finding out that genetics could very well be the case, I wanted to think about how I could prevent a dog from suffering like this. Why would someone breed a dog when something like this could happen? All of these things made me have one burning desire: to make sound, healthy dogs someday since it seemed nobody else cared about anything other than how a dog looks. But I just couldn’t justify breeding such a popular dog breed. After all, there are so many in shelters. And by the way, Bindi’s breeder? Never heard from him again, he never returned any of my calls or e-mails after I took her home.
While I wouldn’t trade her for the world, when it came time to think about another dog, I knew I wanted a purebred APBT bred to the breed standard, and I knew I wanted to get one from a responsible breeder. I began my search to see if anyone out there was breeding the APBT to standard, and I found out something completely and totally shocking: there wasn’t anyone. Now, obviously that isn’t completely true – there are people. But very, VERY few. Those people keep to themselves these days, they tend to run in very close-knit circles. And I don’t blame them. They are dealing with a clobbering from all directions that no other breed has ever been dealt.
Popularity has all but rendered the true American Pit Bull Terrier extinct, and it’s shocking. So many irresponsible breeders who mix them with other breeds and call them Pit Bulls, and the media reporting any time one badly bred, temperamentally unsound dog bites a human. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the very few people who guard the true breed aren’t exceptionally eager to give their dogs to just anybody. I began calling, emailing, harassing on Facebook, anything to see if anyone had info on good breeders who could tell me more about their dogs. And I got nothing for months - a couple of dead end leads and absolutely no returned phone calls. Finally, I came upon someone who actually called me back and talked to me – and our first conversation lasted an hour and a half.
While I wasn’t ready to get a pup just yet, I took down information and went to the forum she told me to visit where I’d be led in the right direction to find a pup. Because at this stage, I wasn’t even trying to get a puppy – I was just asking where I could find information on them and the people who bred them.
After visiting the forums, becoming active, and a few more months of research, I decided I was ready for a pup and this was what I wanted. Going back to the lady I talked to in the beginning, I decided on her bloodline for several reasons. One, I knew her dogs were going to a lot of different kind of homes: working, sporting, show, pet, etc. Two, I knew that she had an exceptional reputation in the APBT world. Three, she had been in the dogs longer than I had been alive. So after much deliberation I asked her if she would consider little old me for a pup and figured there’d be no way she would say yes.
But she did! I was over the moon.
And again, after just as much anticipation as with my Bindi, Yoshi arrived after Thanksgiving of 2012. He’s been full of surprises, twists, and turns. I have had a torrent of different emotions over him and have learned a lot. He’s healthy, perky, and happy. He’s not without problems and caveats – he is more fearful than Bindi, he can be extremely difficult to keep contained, and he has a touch of separation anxiety at times. However, he has been a fabulous match for us, and so far he and Bindi are getting along nicely with careful management and supervision. In fact, they enjoy and rely on each other more than I ever thought.
There are a few advantages that I didn’t know about when I chose a responsible breeder. One, if the unthinkable should happen and I could not keep Yoshi for any reason, my breeder will take him back, no questions asked. This is for his entire life. Two, I have made a wonderful friend and mentor who shares my incredibly deep passion for all things dog. Three, I have lifetime guidance and advice from someone who has been in this breed since before I was born. Four, she and the rest of the Pit Bull community have welcomed me with absolutely wide open arms. They’ve given me a tremendous amount of learning and mentoring.
I’m humbled and grateful for the time spent by many of them to help me with any questions or fears I had – or even provide a kick in the ass when needed. They are a very small group of people weathering an overwhelmingly large storm – but if they have their way, the APBT will come out on top as they always have in their past and as they were bred to do.
Written by Amity.