Thursday, February 2, 2012

My best friend might be a pitbull mix

Badger's first day at our apartment
One summer evening, Llamaentity and I were out walking our newly-adopted puppy Badger when we heard the five words that would change my life. "Is that a pitbull puppy?" "No," said Llamaentity, "We think he's a Lab mix," and we kept walking. "Why did he think Badger was a pitbull?" I wondered. We came to the conclusion that the questioner was merely joking - that he found it humorous to compare a small, cute, well-behaved puppy with a large, powerful dog known for being a killer. But the seed had been planted, and as Badger grew, our suspicions did as well.

Badger's Petfinder profile picture
We chose Badger based on a Petfinder picture and a breed description - Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix. My family owned an old Border Collie who was friendly, intelligent, and trainable, and I wanted a dog that shared those qualities. Additionally, our apartment complex had a weight restriction on dogs - 35 lbs or less, and we guessed that a Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix would not grow to exceed the limit. The shelter that had him was a no-kill shelter in the South that transported its dogs to the Northeast after adoption. We met Badger for the first time in a New Hampshire parking lot on a rainy Saturday afternoon (with a crowd of other people also meeting their newly-adopted dogs), and we took him home.

"Your dog's really ugly," my mom commented after seeing Badger's Petfinder picture. "You should name him Big Head." Not only did Badger have a big head, he had a big mouth. He was actually capable of smiling, and when he was excited, all we'd see was a lolling tongue and an open mouthful of teeth. We nicknamed him "The Maw". It became apparent that Badger might have something in him other than Cocker Spaniel and Border Collie. His coat was considerably shorter than that of a Cocker Spaniel or Border Collie. His feathered tail curled upward, resembling that of a sled dog. And he was growing just a little faster than we'd anticipated. We began telling people that he was part Lab as well.

Badger at ~8 months
After the pitbull question, I started Google searching images of pitbulls. There were a few images of hulking, snarling monsters, but the majority of the pictures showed normal-looking dogs and puppies. And rather stumpy ones at that. A website revealed that pitbulls ranged in weight from 22 to 78 lbs, a large range that Badger was already in at roughly 5 months of age. The common traits of this diverse dog breed seemed to be short fur, a blocky head, a large mouth, and a muscular, wide-set chest. I looked at Badger. He smiled at me and put his entire large-sized Kong in his mouth.

I shared my suspicions with a couple of dog-owning friends. "He could be part pitbull," one friend mused, "Just look at his little chest." Another friend reassured me that pitbulls were wonderful dogs who didn't deserve their reputation. By then, my initial fear had subsided and been replaced by speculation. What kind of cross would produce a dog that looked like Badger? What if he wasn't part pitbull, but instead he was part some other breed with a similar build, like a Boston Terrier or a Boxer? I searched terms like "Cocker Spaniel pitbull mix" and "Boston Terrier Lab mix", but the results were inconclusive.

We'd heard that a friend of a friend had had to provide DNA results for their dog to prove it wasn't a pitbull prior to renting. While our apartment complex bans several breeds, pitbulls being one of them, they had happily accepted the shelter's identification of Badger as a Cocker Spaniel/Border Collie mix. But I thought it might be a good idea to test him pre-emptively, just in case we wanted to move. A coworker recommended the Wisdom Panel DNA test, and while I was searching for reviews, I stumbled across the Two Pitties in the City blog.

Badger at ~10 months
I quickly became enamored with the community of pitbull advocates. I guffawed and cooed at the pictures of pitbulls doing silly things and wearing clothing. I wept and ranted at the horrific abuse that some dogs suffered, and I cheered when these same dogs were rescued and turned into loving pets. I clenched my fists in anger at stories about breed-specific-legislation and bigoted remarks from passersby. I smiled and nodded when pitbull-haters were turned into pitbull-lovers with a few calm remarks and a friendly dog. The pitbull advocates had beautiful, well-behaved dogs, and they seemed so much nicer than the angry, pitbull-blaming mob on the other side of the chain-link fence.

Through the pitbull advocacy community, I learned invaluable advice on dog training, dog socialization, dog food, home decoration, breed bans, and even how to speak civilly to someone I disagree with. I learned that we will never take Badger to Denver because he could be killed for simply resembling a pitbull. I learned that the next city over has a law requiring pitbulls to be muzzled in public. We decided that when we move, we will look specifically for a place that is pitbull-friendly. We switched Badger to Natural Balance limited ingredient kibble topped with a scoop of canned pumpkin (he is notorious for bowel irregularity). We bought Badger a couple of new collars on Etsy. We're also attempting to train him for the Canine Good Citizen test, though I'm still working on getting Llamaentity to agree to signing up for a training class.

So excited to meet this potential new member of the family!

I would love nothing more than to adopt a rescued pitbull, but I know better than to (blatantly) try to circumvent the apartment's breed ban. We applied to adopt a little brown dog listed on Petfinder as a Lab/terrier mix - we'll actually be meeting her for the first time tonight. She is just over 30 lbs (unlike Badger, who weighed in at 42 lbs a month ago and is still growing), and the apartment office has already approved her. We haven't gotten around to DNA testing Badger yet, but when we do, I hope he is part pitbull, if only so I can wear the "My best friend is a pitbull" shirt (but only when the apartment manager can't see me).

Badger now

1 comment:

  1. So glad you pointed out this post. I love the slow steps ofdawning recognition. :-)