With the negative media about pit bulls recently, we thought it was important to highlight some good news about the breed in the following excerpt from a column we published in October 2008.
Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull terrier, is the most
decorated dog in military history.
Stories of pit bull heroism abound, you just never hear them. While the media loves to sensationalize and stereotype pit bulls, they don’t care to tell the good stories about what is and historically always has been a very heroic breed. The same traits that make pit bulls a favorite breed for bad guys – intelligence, loyalty, strength, trainability – also make them the ideal dog to have around should you have the misfortune of running into bad guys yourself.
Here are a few of the good pit bull stories you never hear:
Pit bull heroes
• A pit bull named Stubby was America’s first canine war hero – he earned several medals during World War I and was honored at the White House.
• The Ken-L-Ration dog hero of 1993 was a pit bull named Weela, who saved 30 people, 29 dogs, 13 horses, and a cat during a flood in Southern California. Weela crossed the river to reach animals stranded on an island pulling 30-pound bags of food in a backpack loaded by her owners. During one of these trips, Weela encountered 30 people trying to cross the floodwaters. By barking and running back and forth, she refused to let them cross at the point where the waters ran fast and deep. She led them to a shallow upstream where she helped them cross to safety.
• Sixteen-month-old Dixie was inducted into the Georgia Animal Hall of Fame after she saved several children from a cottonmouth snake. While standing between the snake and the kids, Dixie was bitten twice. Her owner raced her to the vet where, after several days on intravenous antibiotics, Dixie made a full recovery.
• A pit bull named Norton was the only one to hear owner Ann Matthews collapse after a severe reaction to a spider bite. He managed to awaken Matthews’s husband, Barrie, and lead him to the nearly unconscious woman. Barrie Matthews called 911 and, after several days in the hospital, Ann made a full recovery.
• In Spring Valley, N.Y., a pit bull rescued her owner from a sexual assault after an intruder crawled through her window while she slept. The woman managed to get away and open her bedroom door where her pit bull, waiting on the other side, rushed into the room and scared off the attacker.
• In Queens, N.Y., Heather Fretes responded to her pit bull Bleu’s incessant barking at the fence. She heard a little girl screaming for help on the other side and ran out to find a man trying to rape the child. Fretes scared the man off and took the girl to safety.
• In Santa Rosa, an intruder slipped through the open window of a little girl’s bedroom and tried to abduct her. What he didn’t know was that the little girl’s pit bull was sleeping on the other side of the bed. The dog cornered the would-be kidnapper and barked until the girl’s parents came to the room and called 911.
• In San Jose, a man attacked a woman in her doorway and began strangling her. The woman called her pit bull, Maya, who was in the other room. Maya ripped at his arm until he let go of her owner’s throat. Though he managed to flee, police swabbed a smudge of blood from Maya’s right eye, which turned out to be human DNA. They matched the sample to 37-year-old Anthony Easley, previously convicted of two sexual felonies in Solano County and a robbery in Contra Costa. As a third striker, Easley faces life in prison if convicted.
• Several weeks ago, in the early morning of May 20, a fire at the Berkeley Humane Society tragically killed 12 cats and destroyed a large part of the facility; all of the dogs survived. In an adjacent apartment, a pit bull mix named Baby saved her owner with moments to spare by nudging her awake and leading her out of the burning building.
Personality is the pits
In the early 1900s, pit bulls earned the moniker “nanny dogs” because parents used them to baby-sit their children.
• Petey, the faithful piebald pooch from The Little Rascals, was a pit bull. He spent countless hours with his child co-stars and was one of the most intelligent and beloved Hollywood dogs of all time.
• Helen Keller and Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are among the many famous and historical people who have had pit bulls.
• After the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia, a pit bull search and rescue named Dakota helped find the remains of the astronauts who lost their lives.
• Popsicle, who got his name after police found him in a freezer during a drug raid, is now a renowned drug-sniffer for the DEA.
• The dogs saved from Michael Vick’s house of horrors, despite everything they had been through, passed the court-ordered assessment and are living happy, normal lives with rescue groups and with forever families; a number of them now live with cats, children and other dogs.
• The National Canine Temperament Testing Association tested 122 breeds, and pit bulls placed near the top with a 95 percent passing rate.
Judge the deed, not the breed
In Karen Delise’s book, Fatal Dog Attacks, the Stories Behind the Statistics, the author chronicles every documented fatal dog attack since 1965. From the Dachshund that crawled into a crib and killed an infant to the chocolate lab that killed a 7-year-old boy at a picnic, in all of the cases a human was ultimately to blame.
But to bring levity to the situation, there have been just over 400 fatal dog attacks in 37 years – cows have killed more people than dogs, mountain lions and bears combined – and there were 16,000 murders in the United States in 2008 alone. While the media loves to hype dog attacks, which in turn creates mass hysteria, statistics and reason prove beyond a doubt that you should be far more worried about the Sunday school teacher next door, like the one who killed little Sandra Cantu, than you should be about the family dog.
The Berkeley Humane Society desperately needs monetary donations and temporary foster homes to help with the effects of the recent fire. Please visit their website, www.berkeleyhumane.org to donate online. You can also mail donations to: BEBHS, 2700 9th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710. To find out more about fostering, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.