It’s no secret that dog fighting is still active in this area. I see the repercussions of it on a weekly basis when I drop off food, blankets, toys and other necessities at a private pit bull rescue. Why is it private? Because if the former owners ever found out where these dogs were, chances are they would try to steal them once they are ‘healed’. Several of the dogs I have had in my care over the past couple of years have been former fighters; they were slated to be put to sleep because they were too sick or too mean to be “cured”. To me that seems harsh. You can’t expect any animal to rebound from what they’ve endured in a couple of weeks.
Bishop was probably a massive beast in his dog fighting prime. When he arrived on my doorstep he was shivering, shaking and when he looked at me you could see the pain in his eyes. He walked with a limp, had some open sores and was missing chunks of skin from dog bites. The other dogs were cautious with him; in a way they knew what he was going through because they too were abused, former fighters or chained to a tree and rarely fed. He didn’t have a name so we called him Bishop because of his size. He flinched when I tried to pet him, was completely clueless about what a dog biscuit was and wandered around aimlessly all hours of the day and night.
I watched him, studied him, tried to understand what he was doing. Eventually he found a spot that he liked. Under the front window of the livingroom behind part of the couch. It was a small area but he sandwiched himself in there. I guess it’s the same as when a baby gets swaddled and feels safe. Bishop became my shadow. If I went to the bathroom he sat outside the door. If I went to the basement to do laundry he would sit at the top of the steps. He wasn’t overprotective but there were more than a few times that I ended up tripping over him. When I wanted to take him for a walk it was always a problem. His former owners must have beat him with a leash and when he saw it he dropped his head and started to whimper.
Bishop was completely in tune with me. When I started to get sick he never left my side. After my amputation he was my constant companion. He would sit or lay next to my bed for hours and when I was in pain and crying he would put his head on my arm or shoulder trying to comfort me. It was hard to imagine this kind and gentle soul being a former fighter. He is one of the even tempered dogs I’ve adopted; he never gets excited and jumps around but he never growls or lunges at people. Oh, make no mistake, if you don’t belong in the house and he sees you he will back you in to a corner and pin you there but once you are ‘introduced’ to him its smooth sailing.
Most people think that pit bulls are viscous beasts. You could take a cat and turn it in to a flesh ripping monster if you wanted to so saying that one breed of dog is inherently evil is complete ignorance. The Rottweilers and pit bulls that I’ve adopted have all had their own problems and issues but with some love and patience they all became well adjusted. Pit bulls that were formerly used for dog fighting or breeding are some of the most extreme cases and adopting them is not something to take lightly. It requires a lot of love and knowing your limit. There are some dogs that just can’t be saved no matter how hard you try.
Bishop is laying on the floor sleeping about three feet from my desk. His legs are twitching and he’s making little yapping noises. Hopefully he’s having a happy doggie dream and not reliving something from his past. People call me crazy for adopting dogs like this, they say that I am putting my kids in danger or that they could “snap” at any moment. Any time you hear about a dog of any breed attacking someone and the news reports it, you can bet your last dollar that they are only getting one side of the story. You never read about the kid that was hitting the dog with a stick or the adult that was teasing or tormenting the dog before it attacked them.
I recently found out about Bishop’s past and the number of fights he had been in. The scars he has on his body will never heal but hopefully now that he is in a loving home and the only thing he ever has to fight over is head pats and belly rubs he can live out the rest of his years in peace. I do have a fear that his former owner will try to steal him if he finds out where he was relocated to; this happened in the past with another former fighter that was tied up to my back fence and left to die.
Amazingly enough, when the police were called they were forced to side with the former owner of the dog because he has a valid ownership license for him (on the paperwork the dogs name was simply “dog”). Fate and karma however had other plans. When I handed the leash over to the officer the dog broke away and attacked his former owner. He wanted the dog destroyed but after going to court I provided enough paperwork and witnesses that testified that the dog was completely rehabilitated and his attack on his former owner was an isolated incident.