A teaspoon a day helps keep bias at bay

I started this blog a few years ago because I wanted to share my life with pit bulls with advocates, as well as with those who have negative opinions about the breed. However, because breed specific legislation is such an important issue to me, it didn’t take long for that subject to dominate the majority of my posts. The need to fight the ignorance that exists regarding “pit bull type” dogs is persistent, but at the same time, I am mindful that the other side of the pit bull story still must be told. The side of the loyal and loving companion that gets little to no media attention. But media is changing, and the sources from which people are getting their information is changing as a result. In that sense, blogging can play a huge part in changing minds about pit bulls.

I came across this quote the other day, and it got me thinking about how pit bull advocates as a whole can change the perceptions about the breed.

“I honestly believe that the future is going to be millions of little things saving us. I imagine a big seesaw. One end of the seesaw is on the ground with a basket half-full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air. It’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us got teaspoons, and we’re trying to fill up sand. A lot of people are laughing at us, and they say, “Ah, people like you have been trying to do that for thousands of years, and it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.” But we’re saying, “We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time.” And we think, “One of these years, you’ll see that whole seesaw go zooop in the other direction.” And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons…” ~ Pete Seeger

The reality is, attitudes toward pit bulls aren’t going to change by themselves, but we all have a little teaspoon. At our fingertips, we all have access to a tool that can reach thousands of people. The internet gives us a platform by which to illustrate in words and pictures the positive side of pit bulls, the loyal, loving and beloved family member. Do you have to blog about something profound? No, not at all. You can post a couple of paragraphs, or better yet, pictures of your family companion doing what he or she does best…being a meaningful, loving, important member of your family. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I came across Tiffin’s PBRC listing that I printed off in 1998 before I adopted him. He was being boarded at kennel in State College, Pennsylvania. At that time, shelters in that area euthanized all pit bulls, so while his owner dumped him, he did see to it that Tiffin would be given at least a chance at a new life. The image of a defeated little dog stared back at me and pulled at my every emotion. I was going to save this dog. Little did I know, it was he who would change my life forever and, in effect, he saved me.

I remember so clearly the day I fell in love with Tiffin. I drove out to the kennel – 5 or so hours from my home in Wilmington, Delaware – and I was placed in a big, empty room. The kennel owner brought Tiffin in, and gave us some time to get to know each other. For about twenty minutes, I sat on the floor in one corner, and Tif sat on the floor in the other. He kept his head down, not looking at me, as I tried my hardest to get him to come to me. When the owner finally came back and asked what I thought, I opened my mouth to tell him I didn’t think Tiffin liked me. Before I could answer, almost as if he realized this was his last opportunity for a new life, Tiffin walked over to me and sat in my lap. As I put my arms around him, I could feel his tense muscles relax, and I told the owner I would take him home. The best $25 dollars I ever spent!

Being a new pit bull owner and having no knowledge about the breed, I never realized the challenges I would face. Those challenges weren’t from Tiffin. Oh no. The challenges came in the form of fear, bias, and in some cases, absolute hatred, from people – everyone from family and friends to strangers. I never realized that humans could have such horribly awful feelings toward a dog, after all, they are “man’s best friend.” Of course, Tiffin himself was a walking endorsement for the breed, and he was the key to changing the minds of family and friends. Typical of the breed, he was so affectionate and so silly, he quickly showed them what a pit bull really was. Unfortunately, changing the minds of strangers isn’t quite so easy. They don’t get to spend extensive time with a dog, but they are inundated with negative information about them. But while they may not get actual one-on-one time with them, they can experience life with pit bulls through my website and though blogging. In that respect, I think blogging is a key tool in changing perceptions.

It may sound corny, but through Tiffin, I found my purpose in life. I initially thought that purpose was to help others know the absolute love and incredible bond with a pit bull through rescue and adoption. I realize now that my true calling is to do everything I can to ensure that discrimination and biased laws don’t interfere with those bonds. And even though Tif has passed on, he left in me a dedication and a desire to make positive change for all dogs like him. Dogs that are judged by their appearance, feared because of media hype, and hated based on falsehoods and manipulated information. For the dog that affected me so powerfully, I owe it to him to him and to his memory to never give up the fight for change. In that sense, I owe it to him to encourage others to be catalysts for change, as well.

I am hopeful that like me, you have a dog in your life that inspires you to make change, and I want to encourage you to blog about your experience. Pick up your little teaspoon and start filling up that basket. Sure, its going to take some time for the seesaw to come down, but if we all work together, we will see the end of breed discrimination in the future…of that, I am sure.

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3 responses to “A teaspoon a day helps keep bias at bay

  1. I think the biggest shock for me in owning a pit bull was the response from other people. We’re a college educated couple – my husband has a PhD, for crying out loud! – did they honestly think we would get a dog without doing the research?! Everyone was an expert on this breed thanks to headlines and that horrible website run by that crazy woman. It has taken time and patience, but Lily has never once failed us or failed to be an excellent representative of her breed. Past all the psycho, barking little dogs with her attention on us, she has managed to win most people in the neighborhood over. The ones that she hasn’t aren’t worth it anyway. We only have one relative that no longer visits. My mom has actually a huge advocate of the breed, carrying Lily’s picture in her wallet and taking time to try to educate people herself. She’s an amazing woman who has a way of getting people to listen. She might not change their mind during a fifteen minute conversation at the pharmacy, but she manages to plant seeds. I truly believe Lily gave us a higher purpose – she just loves visiting the boys at a local court ordered rehab center and she gets them to open up in ways that they don’t before she gets there. She gets two walks a day in this neighborhood where she sits at every corner, sits to let people walk past her, and does tricks to delight the kids and the older couples. That’s our teaspoon! What can one dog do? Our neighborhood can tell you. And so can yours! Each of us adds to this. :) GREAT post!!!

  2. Thank you so much for this blog! Having been a new pitbull owner last summer, I too have never realized how people could demonize such a wonderful animal and breed! I’m so fearful of ignorant people an am going to start volunteering for a local pitbull rescue at the end of this month. As you stated, every teaspoon counts!

  3. Hi Jodi. I wonder just how many similar life stories to yours are out there. Mine is very similar. In 2003 after a long stretch, far too long, of not having a dog at all we found a wonderful pup half pit bull and half rottweiler. Our Zeus led to a second wonderful pit rottie mix Odin and we felt we had the best of both worlds having had rotties before and being fans of pit bulls for years. Then the buzz started around that there was a state wide pit bull ban being discussed. I knew that my half pit dogs would be subject to a ban and went to work writing letters to our legislators. Thankfully there was no interest at all among our state legislators for a breed ban and Oregon was spared. But I’d already started advocating for pit bulls and widened my interest to other places where there were existing bans or bans were proposed. The wonderful synchronous Universe offered me some wonderful opportunities to do more for pit bulls and so here I am a full on pit bull advocate doing whatever I can whenever I can to help dispel the myths and counter the misinformation the media perpetuates.

    My Zeus and Odin are gone now, both taken by cancer, but we carry on with our pit bulls Maximus and Scooby working tirelessly, like all pit bull advocates, to promote the breed in a positive manner in an effort to educate the public so that they will cease to support breed bans and restrictions against pit bulls based on what they’ve learned about them from the media and the misinformed. Like you I found my passion in life, I found my purpose, and I have never been more fulfilled or content. I know one day we will fill that other end of the seesaw and at long last the paradigm will shift. I personally feel that this year, 2012, is the year of the pit bull; the year that we finally begin to tip the scales in the direction they need to be tipped.

    So many wonderful people working so hard to make the change that will save lives and put pit bulls back into their place as America’s dog. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get all of us with our ‘teaspoons’ together in one voice at one time to speak for our wonderful pitties? I think it’s time to gather together, to organize and to speak publicly as one loud, clear and rational voice for pit bulls everywhere.

    Thank you Jodi for everything you’ve done.

    All that said however every one of us can be a pit bull advocate simply by making sure that we do whatever it takes to make our dog a pit bull ambassador and then get out there where the public can meet them, get to know them and will see that our dogs are simply dogs and that we are simply people like them who love our dogs. People believe that they hear until what they see with their own eyes and experience with their own hearts proves what they’ve heard wrong.

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