We Love: Love!

When Maggie came to me as a foster, Rich was out of town for the summer.  That means we had weeks of bonding under our belt before he was even in the picture.  To say that she disliked the sudden appearance of a man in the house would be the understatement of the century.  She was terrified of him.

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I’m pretty sure Rich loved Maggie even before he met her.  Every time we talked over the summer I was telling him all about her and how much she was blossoming.  You would think coming home to a dog quite opposite of the one I had been describing would be a turn off.  Instead, I think it made him love her even more.  Every time she growled at him he would turn around and ignore her per my instructions but he would also say, “It’s okay Maggie, I just want to love you.”  And his favorite line to recite to Maggie, “Love doesn’t divide, it multiples!”

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Eventually the growling subsided and she slowly began to let him sit near her.  Then touch her.  And eventually full on cuddle.  It took almost a year, but finally she got excited and would initiate play with him when he got home from work.  A sight I honestly didn’t know if I would ever see and still makes my heart swell.  Now, Maggie can typically be found cuddled up with her dad; her favorite human in the house.  If not for Rich’s persistent love and devotion to little Maggie, she might never have turned the corner with men.  She still occasionally give a little growl at men she doesn’t know but I am quite pleased with her progress.  She may never run up to a strange man just to give him kisses, but I can live with that.  The most important thing is that Maggie has learned to love love.

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Happy Valentine’s Day from our pack to yours!

Lucky Enough.

I’ve been meaning to write a post for Pit Bull Awareness Month and today while cleaning out my inbox I found a picture that I’ve been searching for for months and I dare say, is quite fitting for the topic at hand.  Check it out:

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Recognize that face?  This is Maggie, about a week (and a week’s worth of meals) after she was found.  That thing hanging from around her neck is what she chewed through to free herself.  Look at her ribs.  Her sunken forehead.  Her posture.  The dark, sick rings around her eyes.  This picture makes me think of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

Pit BullAnd look at her now.  Meat on her bones, a twinkle in her eye, and a big ole goofy grin on her face.  Quite the transformation, right?  Well, I want to let you all in on a little secret:  this is normal.  That’s not to say it’s “normal” to find severely abused dogs, but what is normal, is to see these kinds of transformations in dogs once they find themselves in loving homes–and that’s particularly true for Pit Bull type dogs.  It’s been said time and again that Pit Bulls are a particularly forgiving and resilient type of dog, heck, I said it yesterday when I talked about Gracie, but I thought sharing a little visual could only help to further my point.

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Even more important than the physical transformation though, is the emotional.  After being found, Maggie was initially in boarding, then a different foster home, then she finally landed in my care.  The first foster was wonderful, and absolutely loved Maggie, but she was so terrified by the man of the house that she would lose complete control of her bowels and refused to come inside if he was home; she would hide out in their yard until he left for work.  Realizing that this was not the best environment for her, I was asked to take over her foster care.  Of course I agreed, and the rest is history.

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Now, Maggie leaps into Rich’s arms when he gets home, plays like a lady at the park and daycare, welcomes new dogs in to our home, is all around confident, silly, and very happy.  She can still be unsure of strangers, but she is getting better with every day!  Just last weekend Rich took her to Home Depot where she proudly walked around her with beloved dad and even stopped to let strangers give her a pat on the head.  If you met Maggie a year ago, you would never believe she was capable of this.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t even sure she would ever get to this point!  But true to Pit Bull form, Maggie has proved me wrong and blossomed into (dare I say it out loud?) our most well-behaved, well-adjusted dog family member.

Pit Bull I see that this has turned into a “Isn’t-Maggie-Awesome” post and that wasn’t my intention!  I honestly can’t even pick one specific thing to discuss for Pit Bull Awareness month though.  There is the obvious point of this post: Pit Bulls are amazingly resilient and have stunning transformations should them come for a bad start.  But then there are also all the myths that should debunked.  Our friend did that here though.  Or the fact that they make fantastic family dogs.  Or how smart they are.  Or how cuddly and loving they are.  The list goes on and on.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines:

“If you’re lucky enough to be owned by a Pit Bull, you’re lucky enough.”

Stranger Danger!

Good, bad, or just silly?  I’ve got the full spectrum covered in my house.  Yesterday my brothers came over for dinner (if you can’t tell, I hang out with them all the time) and while we were out in the yard I looked at Maggie and thought she most certainly was thinking, “Stranger danger!  Stranger danger!  There are strangers, there is danger!”  (Yes, this random thought is what sparked the idea for this post.)

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Now, my brothers at this point most certainly should not be considered strangers to Moo, but she keeps her distance and even lets out a throaty little half growl/half bark every now and then when they first come over.  After oh, say, two hours, she will settle down and let them pet her, but even then you can see that she is in flight mode in case they try anything funny.  Part of me finds this just plain silly because the other dogs, whom she looks entirely up to, adore my brothers, I clearly adore them, and if it’s true that dogs can sense if a person is good or bad (which I 1,000% believe it is) then she should know they are about as good as it gets.  The other, bigger part of me, is completely heartbroken.  Here is a dog that was so damaged in her first year and a half on Earth that even after living with me for over a year still is scared of strangers.  She has improved vastly, a year ago she literally would have lost control of her bowels if a strange man had come over, but she still has so far to go.  Will she ever rid herself of this intense stranger danger?

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Then we have the middle child, Tag.  Middle in age, and always middle of the road in personality, she is the perfect cross between the two extremes that I call Buddy and Maggie.  Tag is never one to be scared necessarily of a new person, but she usually hangs back to see what Buddy and I think of them.  Tag (short for Tag-a-Long) is the epitome of a follower.  If we like them, she likes them.  If we trust them, she trusts them.  When people are over she generally prefers to sit by me (not to toot my own horn, but this dog will never, ever love anyone the way she loves me) but if someone wants to engage her in a game of catch, or better yet a belly rub, she is all for it.  Happy-go-lucky Tag will always just go with the flow.  Stranger indifference?

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And of course, there is Buddy.  Buddy has literally never met a stranger.  In fact, back in the day when Buddy and I were a couple of single kids, livin’ the good life, my house got broken into while I was gone one night.  I’m still pretty sure Buddy reached up and opened the door for them to come in.  Another time I was playing catch with Buddy in the front yard when he saw a woman pushing a stroller on the other side of the very busy street and took off at a dead sprint.  Why?  He obviously needed to introduce himself and make friends with her.  Talk about a near heart attack.  We joke that Buddy loves everyone else more than he loves us because as soon as someone comes over to the house, he smashes himself up against them and moans and groans with delight from the attention he gets.  Buddy would probably be happiest living in a frat house so that he could constantly be surrounded by hoards of people to dish out the attention that he so loves from strangers.  Stranger danger?  You gotta be kidding.

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So which is the best?  Is there a right or wrong?  For the most part, I think Tag probably wins in this department.  I don’t have to worry about her bolting down the street to say “hi” to someone, but I also never have to worry about having people over and if it will upset her.     Do your dogs have stranger danger?  Are they at either extreme of the spectrum?