On one of our daily walks through downtown Charleston a couple of weeks ago, we were welcomed by the shaking tail of a full blooded pit bull sitting next to his owner on a sidewalk bench. This brief but wonderful encounter with Maggie made me somehow think back of the days that the sight of a pit bull in public raised urgency awareness levels to full protection mode usually followed by a frantic search for something that could be used as a defensive weapon. And as with so many things in life you realize that people’s actions are a product of their “promoted” perceptions. Rarely to never are these perceptions the result of actual personal experiences, but almost always have a questionable origin of the multi-layered story-telling of someone who knew someone who’s third cousin’s uncle’s niece had been attacked by a vicious dog…and the government should do something about it!
In a crazy throwback in time it reminded me of the first days I spent on this country’s soil in the summer of 1980, when I came to photograph mega cities for a coffee table book called “METROPOLIS” New York finest “caught” me, loaded with equipment, taking a nap in Central Park or entering nightmare neighborhoods in Spanish Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant, Hells Kitchen or Fort Apache. “You won’t come out alive”, they said. “You’re crazy, you’re playing with your life.”
Seeing Maggie on a touristy street in Charleston, wiggling her tail and smiling at us, reminded me of the friendly welcomes I received in those supposed hell holes. It also reminded me of a story I read a while ago and copied to my desktop for later revisits, whenever I need reconfirmation that the human race still contains positive elements beyond the zombie acceptance of sensationalized crap. I’d like to share that story, credited to either Ashley Gulla or Olivia Maximo here:
WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME BEFORE I RESCUED MY PIT BULL
They said, “he’s strong, about 67 lbs, and he’s a puller but with some training he’ll be great.” Okay, I thought. Easy enough. But what they should have told me was something entirely different. What they should have told me was this: This is an adventure. Welcome to the best years of your life.
Where misconceptions, stereotypes and judgments are now personal attacks against not only someone you love dearly but you, yourself. And how you will feel like it is your personal mission to show the world how his “kind” is completely misunderstood.
Then you will read up on all the facts and statistics about Pit Bulls and realize half of what people believe is completely false or terribly misconstrued. Like pits having lock-jaw? False. Pits are born aggressive. False. Pits have stronger jaws than Rottweilers. False. Pits don’t make good family pets. FALSE.
Also, in the midst of being accepted into his pack, you will learn what loyalty really means. You will also know what it feels like to be scared half to death every single time your doorbell rings before explaining to your mailman, “he’s nice, I swear! Sorry…thanks for the– sorry again.” Then you both will laugh, well, you will and he will look at you proudly, expecting a treat.
You will also walk with a little extra bounce in your step because this powerful, gentle giant stands beside you. You will feel a kind of pride you’ve yet to experience because you know you’re not only doing your baby justice, but you’re part of the millions who are pleading for the rest of the world to give these amazing creatures a chance.
But sadly, your heart will break every time you hear about a Pit Bull who has landed in the hands of a wrong person or found himself in an awful situation. Whether it was dog fighting or an abusive owner or left tied to a park bench with nothing but a blanket. Your heart will break because you will come to understand the heart of a Pit Bull. Your heart will break because you will experience the love they, without question, give and with every tear you cry from hearing these awful stories, you will wish you could end it all.
Then you will feel incredibly grateful. Because this guy is yours and you are his and that’s something that can’t ever be taken away. Even if you don’t believe in a God above, this bond will feel like it was magically planned many moons ago, where the stars aligned perfectly and placed you two exactly where you needed to be to find one another. And you will be so blessed.
You will learn the frustration you feel when he is destroying your kid’s toys or eating food he’s not supposed to or barking when you wish he wouldn’t, fades quickly. That snuggling has now taken on a whole new meaning called: all over you, all the time, no matter what. And now you make it a point to never appear to do ANYTHING that could look like you’d be hitting him because seeing him duck his head out of fear hurts. You will also learn when he’s sticking his big head out your car window to expect 1 of 2 responses – a dirty look or a smile and nod. You learn you’ll smile in both cases.
Nobody tells you your heart will change. But it does. You judge less. You care more. You learn how to accept life a heck of a lot better than before. You learn how to forgive and how to let go and how to live in the moment.
They should have told me I was going to learn how to love better. That loving this Pit Bull was going to change my whole life. And that he would make us so so happy!
But chances are I wouldn’t have believed them anyhow. I guess it was something I had to learn on my own.