I was 12 years old when I first saw the image. Sports Illustrated was the magazine of choice in a house with three boys, and one issue arrived with its cover featuring the picture of a vicious looking pit bull. It was the image that sat with me, like millions of Americans, and fed the myth of the pit bull. Above the picture of the snarling animal was the phrase, “Beware of this Dog.” The magazine clearly had one goal in mind, to shock their readers. They accomplished their goal.
Fast forward 21 years to the summer of 2007, and the image was there again. This time as a professional athlete was caught running one of the most high-profile dog fighting operations in recent memory. The image of the pit bull – the official breed name is American Pit Bull Terrier – was being negatively portrayed once again.
A couple of weeks ago a local paper, The Hartford Courant, ran a similar image accompanying a story about Michael Vick. It was only a quick mention of Vick and the possibility of him being moved to a halfway house to serve the remainder of his sentence. But for me, this time, the image took on a different meaning. You see, I’m the owner of a former fighting pit bull.
My wife, two little girls, ages four and two, and I were looking for a family pet. Our home was not complete and we all knew what was missing. We started to look for a dog to adopt and our journey took us to a strange place. At least that is how I felt because of the image I held in my mind. I had read all the negative stories and still saw the image of the SI cover when I was young.
Enter Trinity the pit bull. My wife Kyle first saw her on the Petfinder website, and she learned more with aid of a two rescue operations. Paws New England and Hearts of Gold Pit Rescue in Tennessee had put together a video featuring Trinity, and my wife fell in love. Trinity’s story was heartbreaking and unimaginable. What she had been through was hard to comprehend, and my reaction to the stigma surrounding pit bulls was uneducated and predictable.
I’ll admit, I knew nothing about the breed and immediately passed judgment. I was cautious and unsure of what to think, only that I remembered the image that I had seen over two decades ago. Trinity had scars. She was a fighter. She was found running away from whoever had done those awful things to her and because she finally had had enough. Was adopting this dog this a good idea? In my mind I wasn’t sure.
So I did what I had not done when I was 12. I researched. I asked questions, I did my homework, and I learned about pit bulls. I learned about their history, their temperament, their loyalty and their love. I learned that they are great family dogs, fantastic therapy dogs and, as my kids would say, wonderful “helper” dogs. I also learned about the responsibility that comes with ownership.
The responsibility is great, nothing to be taken lightly. The breed has a bad image because of the irresponsible owners and the effects those owners have on their dogs. Raised properly and given both the love of a family and proper guidance, these dogs are truly amazing. When cruelty becomes the cornerstone of their development, well, we know what happens.
We adopted Trinity on March 1, 2008. We traveled in the snow to meet her after a long drive from Tennessee to New England. She saw snow for the first time that day. Later, as we drove home, she seemed to have calmness about her. It was as if Trinity realized she was finally going home.
What she has done for our family has been nothing short of spectacular. Our two little girls are learning to love without prejudice, because they know only of the love their dog displays for them every single day. They are also becoming aware of tolerance, not only for our dog, but for those who are uneducated and pass judgment without knowing a single thing about us. They continually grow, discovering new ways to love with a kindness and gentle nature that comes from being a family with a pit bull.
When we first brought Trinity to Connecticut we looked for a way to help those who had rescued her keep in touch. We started a web site. Yes, a website for our dog. It was the easiest way for those who had helped her stay updated on her new life.
Little did we know the site would take on a life of its own. It has become an educational and informative resource for those who want to learn about the breed. The site, http://www.TrinitythePitBull.com, has become a way for us to help out, to spread the word about Trinity and to try and educate about the breed. It is the true story about how Trinity became a part of our family.
The site contains pictures of when she was found, some of which are graphic. You can see the scars and the results of surgery on her chest, and then you can see her now. She still has the scars but you tend to look past them.
The story of Trinity is similar to that of the 47 dogs that were rescued from Bad Newz Kennels and have made national headlines. The sad news is that this type of fighting happens all over the country, you would be surprised. The good news is there are people out there who understand that these dogs deserve a chance.
I no longer have the image in my mind from when I was 12. I never wanted to own a pit bull, but now, 10 months later, I can’t imagine life any other way. Check us out and learn about our girl. It’s not the image we see in the paper or in magazines with the mention of that certain professional athlete. It’s the image of a family who owns a pit bull. It is the image of someone who took the time to learn and realize that things aren’t always what they seem.
And what an image it is.