Today’s honoree for National Pit Bull Awareness Month is Pat Bettendorf, who everyone affectionately knows as “Ruby’s Dad.” Ruby and Pat have advocated for pit bulls for many years, and Ruby has changed the minds of people across the globe about pit bulls.
I am thrilled to be able to share with you the story of Pat and Ruby and how their wonderful adventure began:
Although we weren’t actively anti-Pit Bull, there was a time when my wife Lynn and I were victims of the media hype about the breed. We had fostered Rottweilers for various rescue groups, but Pitties were something from which we wanted to steer clear. But one day the myths and the media frenzy started to wash away. We met the dog that would change our mind about Pit Bulls at an adoption day event at a big box pet supply store….”Mr. T” was about five years old and sharing a pen with a young black lab. Tiger was wrestling with his cell mate, tail wagging, mouth agape in a big wide happy smile. Wearing a beautiful light tan brindle coat, he was low to the ground and broad across the beam. His ears were nonexistent, cropped tight to his skull, and he had a strange unsteady gate–a kind of side to side waffling motion. But his eyes were soft and warm with traces of sadness. I liked him! After I had petted and played with him for a while, the volunteers told me he need a foster home. I hunted Lynn down in another part of the store. Guiding her back to Tiger, I said “Ta Da! Isn’t he pretty?”
Lynn clearly wasn’t as impressed. “Well, sort of. Scary looking too!” Uh-oh, I hadn’t planned on her noticing that part. “He’s really sweet! Can we foster him?” Like most guys in a situation like this, I behaved like an excited young boy. Reality quickly followed. “Patrick, are you out of your mind?! A Pit Bull?!
I pleaded, “It’s only to foster.” Unmoved, Lynn uttered “Unh-unh….No Way!” I slunked away, defeated, to pout for a while.
Starting that night, I researched and read everything I could about the breed. Much of it certainly wasn’t flattering. A lot of digging was required to disseminated fact from fiction from urban legends.
A couple of weeks later, we were at yet another adoption day event. There was Tiger for all to see! “Hey look Lynn, there’s my buddy!” This time, she lingered, hers eyes washing over Tiger again and again, surveying every movement. Finally, “Well, he does seem like a good boy. Gets along with other dogs.
Not wanting to bring up that foster word again, I casually asked, “What do you think?” She replied, “Well okay, we can give it a try”
A foster failure, Tiger never left our home. But, because of our experience with him, we took in another Put Bull that had been thrown away. Her name was Ruby and she was going to stay for “Just one weekend” HA!
It was a decision taken almost ten years ago that would have a major life changing impact on our lives and take us on a wild, wonderful odyssey that continues to this day.
I have always said Ruby is certainly no better then other Pit Bulls…that she is not the exception. The difference is that she is one lucky dog! Her involvement in the community and diversity of accomplishments has been stunning. She also has a book that’s been read in fifteen countries, sixteen including the U.S. Her new book, “Ruby’s Road is due out next year.
After reading her book, Bill Hageman from the Chicago Tribune had this to say:
“The journey of Ruby, who was found emaciated and abandoned as a pup, is worthy of Hollywood. It’s a story of rebirth and love that we can all learn from….Nothing short of spectacular…I loved this book!” -William Hageman, The Chicago Tribune – August 21, 2011
It’s probably easiest to simply share some of her highlights in a bullet format, but certainly some of Ruby’s proudest achievements has been working with kids in schools…she visits their classrooms after they’ve read “Ruby’s Tale”…a one, two punch that changes minds. Her involvement in the “Read to a dog” program at the library is another win, win proposition.
Performing on stage in a professional production of “Of Mice and Men” for inner-city teenagers that get to see a very different side of Pit Bulls then the vision they have grown up with has been another satisfying part of her life.
In other countries, such as Poland, Ruby has been used as an example to show the true side of Pitties as they battle the tarnished image of America’s dog.
Here is a further sampling of Ruby’s work and accomplishments:
-Inducted into the Minnesota Veterinarian Medical Association Animal Hall of Fame.
-Flown to Hollywood for an appearance on The Bonnie Hunt Show…. Always flies inside the cabin with me.
-Certified as a TDI Therapy dog, and as my needs changed, went back to school and became my certified Service Dog
-The subject of countless newspaper stories. (One article went international)
-The subject of many television news stories. (DVD provided upon request )
-Performed in several plays including a professional “Equity Union” production “Of Mice and Men” (Talk about changing minds!)
-Visits nursing homes, senior residences and hospice patients.
-Works with children in a reading program at the Local library and visits schools as well.
-Appeared on Milk-Bone boxes
-Flown to Miami as a celebrity dog to visit a Hospital and rehab centers
-Flown to Philadelphia as a celebrity dog for a symposium on breed specific legislation.
-Appears as a celeb dog at various fundraiser events
-“Wrote” a monthly column for “The Stubby Dog Project”
-Always appears with me at the many Barnes & Noble book signing events. Again, a huge mind changer or at the very least making people question the bad press they’ve heard
The book also chronicles Ruby’s adventures while working at a radio station, dealing with some very stout prejudice, her work with senior citizens, and family vacations in a motor home with five other dogs. (Pit Bulls & Rottweilers!)….
And what of old tiger? At sixteen years of age, the dear old gentleman still waddles around pretty darn well. He still enjoys life and became grandpa to our adopted daughter (Human) Sadie. He has had a wonderful, safe and contented life.
There is absolutely no doubt that Ruby and Pat have made a huge impact on the manner in which pit bulls are perceived. Pit bull advocacy is obviously a way of life in the Bettendorf household, and these two take their role in changing the stereotypes about pit bulls very seriously.
On behalf of Bless the Bullys and the National Pit Bull Awareness Campaign, thank you, Pat, for sharing Ruby with all of us! Together you have made huge strides for the breed, and you are both loved the world over. I know we all look forward to hearing about Ruby’s upcoming adventures!