Some of Leah’s Favorite Pit Bulls
By Leah Morse
Over the years as vet assistant and professional dog trainer I have had some of my favorite dogs that also just happened to be pit bulls. I feel compelled to write this blog as pit bulls have a bad wrap. Yes, there are those dogs, through no fault of their own, that have been conditioned to be ferocious and participate in the gruesome sport of pit fighting. I thought it would be fitting to share some of my experiences as they have been quite entertaining for me.
#1) Red: Red, a red nose pit bull, was quite the big boy. He was the biggest pit bull that I have ever worked with up close. I was working as a vet assistant at the time and Red had just moved to Colorado from the south. Red was coughing uncontrollably and was in pretty bad shape. I admit he was still a little bit intimidating by his sheer size. After checking him in and being the handler for the veterinarian I soon realized that this was no demon but an angel in a red furry coat. The most damage that Red did, as I held him for palpation and exam, blood work and even nail trimming, was the loss of my makeup to his rather busy tongue. Red had the sweetest melt your heart eyes. I hardly had to hold him for his nail trim as he was just glad we were touching him. To my disappointment the diagnosis was severely infected with heartworm. Red’s heart was dangerously full of the foot long worms that were causing his heart to not function properly and ultimately making him cough. Prognosis was guarded. Red was now going to have to endure the dangerous treatment of delicately killing off the worms gradually. If you don’t kill enough worms it is bad but too many killed off would be deadly. For weeks Red would come in for treatment. Always the same goofy big boy who would patiently wait as he was injected with the agent that would kill the worms but also would make him feel sick. Never once did he fight us or try to bite. I just knew to bring more makeup with me to work. Eventually Red was finally cleared of heartworm and given a clean bill of health. I am thankful for my time with him, he taught me a lot about what pit bulls can be….. Big Lick Machines. Red will always be my #1 pit in my heart.
2) Jasmine: Also while I was a vet assistant, I had the pleasure of working with Princess, a fawn pit bull. Princess had been scheduled for a routine spay at about 10 months old. I will never forget my first impression of her. Her owner’s girlfriend brought her in with a giant black leather collar, 4 sizes too big, spiked collar hanging crooked off her neck as she slapped both sides of her wiggly body with her wildly wagging tail and swinging hips. Elvis had nothing on her. Tongue hanging out, big grin on her face and the prettiest brown eyes ever. She looked ridiculous with that huge collar, with 3 rows of spikes, hanging on her slender neck. I half jokingly scolded her owner saying “Spiked Collar? Princess needs a rhinestone collar!” Talk about slapstick humor. Owner sheepishly told me “Yes I agree but my boyfriend insisted on this spike collar for his ‘Tough’ dog”. I told her “Give me a break!” Princess willingly went with me to the back for her procedure. Another Licking Machine! We relieved her of that burdensome collar as soon as we could. She was such a happy puppy; she was a joy to handle for her injection. After her procedure she recovered right back into the happy, if not a bit slower, puppy as before. Again we commented on her demeanor and how inappropriate her collar was after we went over her after care instructions. 2 weeks went by and Princess came back in for vaccination boosters. Much to our delight, Princess was sporting a brand new purple, triple row rhinestone collar. Oh, much better to see this happy beautiful girl with rhinestones and not spikes! What a happy end to this story for her. A rhinestone collar is so much more disarming as opposed to an alarming 3 row, black leather spike collar. She is a jewel in my pit bull memory collection.
3) Country: Last is certainly not least! For the last several months I have had the pleasure of working with Miss Country. She was a somewhat fearful pit bull with a few behavior problems but yet again has those beautiful eyes. Trust was definitely an issue for sweet Country. All new stimuli were a scary experience. We started at home and then at the vet clinic where her owner works, then we eventually worked from my training school. I have learned volumes from working with Country, particularly patience and perseverance. Country did not work at a fast pace. Progress was made but definitely on Country’s terms. She did want to learn, you could almost see the wheels turning in her pretty little head. Learning a simple sit was an exercise in patience. This is a dog that would freeze if you even thought about going too fast. Marker training has been a huge blessing with her as corrections would end any possibility of learning what so ever. Desensitization was also a primary tool. Everything in my shop was potentially scary. The radio, a dark area of the shop, a large white trash can, just to name a few obstacles. I have a door stop in the shape of a buffalo, also terrifying, until a cheese trail led up to the jackpot of cheese that resided near it. We used the Hansel and Gretel trail of cheese to help her with these scary items with a jack pot near the source. It seemed to be working. Then finally, by accident, we discovered incorporating a play session in training helped. Talk about turning on a light bulb. Country’s learning blossomed! Went from struggling to get her to “sit!”, “down!” and “stand!” all with her tail between her legs, to full on tail wagging and prancing. What a complete turn around. Now, training wasn’t scary but a fun place to come and play. Again those, melt your heart eyes were now sparkling with happiness. She began to really excel! After months, we moved quickly form sit, down and stand to off leash heeling, swing and finish, figure 8 heeling, formal come to sit in front and her stays are coming along beautifully in just a few weeks. Country has completed Level I obedience and is soon to complete Level II. I love working with Country as she has taught me more than I have taught her! Country takes up a big open space in my heart!
It is my hope that the next time you see that next pit bull walking down the street, remember my experiences before you judge. Though all strange dogs should be considered with caution, each dog is still an individual and may not be what their reputation states.
What are your thoughts on Pit Bulls? We would like to know. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Leah Morse is the owner of Rocky Mountain Classic Canine and a certified canine trainer. Leah writes a weekly article for our blog at Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at http://www.denverdogworks.com