Pit Bulls

Montreal’s Ban Against Pit Bulls Leaves Me Wondering One Thing

Good morning lovely readers.

I hope you’re doing well.  I hope you’re doing better than the dog lovers in Montreal.

For those who may not know, October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month and I was hoping to start the month off by sharing a few fun and easy ways to advocate for our pit bulls.  On Tuesday, however, Montreal passed a ban against all ‘pit bulls’ and my heart – heavy with sadness, disappointment, and frustration – feels the urge to ask many questions but this one keeps popping up in my head: What Exactly is a Pit Bull, Anyway?

And why are these dogs being banned?  And why does this specific legislation not allow the remaining pit bulls in local shelters to be adopted to areas that haven’t banned them?  And, most importantly, why do the dogs who don’t have owners the day the legislation passed have to be euthanized?!

A death sentence for many, many dogs because they are simply considered a ‘pit bull’.  

Which brings me back to my original question…

What exactly is a pit bull, anyway?  

Is it the mean looking, blocky headed, solidly built dog that society has come to fear?  A type of terrier that’s known for mauling anything in its way?  Or an inherently dangerous dog that should be banned to keep communities safe?  

Or is it a dog whose head is so big he must rest it on you at all times?  A type of terrier who rolls around in the grass, giving you that upside down alligator smile?  Or an inherently affectionate dog that can’t go a day without cuddling?

It’s funny that for as much as I advocate for this breed, pit bulls aren’t actually even a breed.  The phrase ‘pit bull’ is really just an umbrella term that covers a broad range of dogs that look somewhat similar.  And a lot of the time, these somewhat similarly looking dogs aren’t, in fact, pit bulls.  The American Bulldog, Boxer, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, and Mastiffs are often misidentified as pits.  That alone proves how unreliable, unfair, and incredibly dangerous breed specific legislation is.    

Unfortunately, with a 37 to 23 vote in favor of the ban, the majority of Montreal legislators don’t agree.  Even the mayor himself, Denis Coderre, told reporters, “I have a responsibility as the mayor of Montreal to protect the citizens.”

Again, leading me back to wonder what exactly a pit bull is in the first place.  And do the legislators of Montreal even care to find out?  

Because I know what one is.   

And chances are if you’re reading this, you probably do too.  And so do the millions of people who love or have once loved a pit bull.  Just this week I started bringing Romeo to the bus stop to get Christian off the bus, and a grandma of one of Christian’s friends got to meet him.  She was completely unsure of him the first day.  She mentioned how scary he looks.  How big his bark is.  How he appears to be such a handful.  

By day two, as Rome laid like a little frog in the grass, she couldn’t stop telling me what a good boy he was.  

She got to know a pit bull.

The Truth Is…

Some pit bulls have attacked, yes.  Some pit bulls have killed, yes.  And yes, all the rehabilitation in the world may never save that one dog because they’re too far gone.  These are all true.  But this is not specific to one breed.  This is especially not specific to any dog that has a big, blocky head and muscular build.  Breed specific laws don’t address the root of the problems.  They don’t penalize bad owners.  They don’t promote healthy, happy, and responsible relationships with dogs.  

They are based out of fear and ignorance.  And sadly, many well-adjusted, happy, healthy dogs will lose their life because of it.  BSL doesn’t work.  I encourage you to look at some of the ways you can help below.  As disappointing as this week has been, I am confident that if we rally together we can make a difference.

Ways You Can Help:

  • Sign & share the petition against the city and Mayor of Montreal: SIGN PETITION HERE.
  • The Dodo has a very informative article regarding the details of the ban, share on social media to spread awareness of what is really going on:  THE DODO’S ARTICLE.
  • Maybe you’re on the fence and think BSL isn’t so bad…read and continue to educate yourself (and others) by checking out StopBSL.org: WHAT EXACTLY IS BSL?  And, WHY BSL DOESN’T WORK.
  • Continue to share pictures and stories of your own pit bull or pit bulls you know

Please be their voice.  They need us more than ever right now.

romie

life lessons thanks to my dogs, Lily the Ridgeback

What is a Soulmate Dog?

It’s become a new routine of mine to take the dogs to the dog park after the kids get on the bus for school in the morning.  Yesterday was no different.  I waved goodbye to Christian as his bus drove away and then opened my back car door, motioning both the dogs to hop in.  They were thrilled we were going somewhere before 8 am.  

As was I (please note the sarcasm here).  

The dog park is more for Romeo’s benefit.  He needs to run.  He loves to run.  I mean, really, really loves to run.  I don’t think anything makes him happier than open land, wind on his face, and the freedom to do whatever he pleases. 

As I stood there watching him run laps around me and Lily, who was – of course – sitting about a foot to the right of me, I laughed at how we had simply become spectators to the show he was putting on.  If you’ve ever seen a pit bull smile, you know how easily it can melt your heart.  Now imagine a pit bull smiling, while flying in the air.  All four legs off the ground…. over and over and over again.

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It’s almost magical.

That’s just how it is with Rome.  His presence.  His eyes.  His steel gray coat.  His bark.  His big head.  And slender, muscular body.  And of course, his ready-to-play-at-a-drop-of-a-dime attitude.  Everything about him is somewhat magical and always has been.  I quickly learned when we got him two years ago that this is now Romeo’s world and we’re just living in it.

Trust me, though, it’s a fun world to be in.  

A world that causes a little trouble here and there, and reminds you to lighten up and have some fun.  Without Rome knowing it, he adds so much comic relief to the everyday stress of single parenting.  But every now and then I’m reminded of the year right before we got him.  It was a year that lacked the fun, excitement, and head shaking experiences that Romeo brings to the table.  It was dark and lonely and only a few steps away from when my life (as I knew it) would fall apart. 

In the midst of the darkness, however, a calm, quiet, loyal, and loving force was present.  She was unassuming and safe; as if I had known her my whole life.  A familiar face in the heart of a storm.

Her name was Lily, and she is my soulmate dog.

*

Being a first-time dog owner, I did everything by the books.  Pink leash, pink collar, pink name tag.  Even got her one of those PetSmart “puppy guide” books that comes with tons of coupons I never used.  I logged many hours on Google learning all about our new life with Lily but all I really knew was she was born May 16 and was a ‘hound mix’.  Took some time but we actually learned she was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and that is when I fell in love with the breed.  I joined as many Ridgeback groups on Facebook as possible to soak up more information and share pictures of my sweet girl.  

That is where I met Deena, a dog (and beer) connoisseur of sorts.  I’ve never actually met her but you can tell just how lively and fun of a person she is.  Married, no kids, travels a ton.  At the time, she had two Ridgebacks – one being Piper.  And although the physical characteristics of Piper and Lily were very different, Piper was about 9, with plenty of gray hair covering her face and Lily, just a 13-week old puppy, they still resembled each other in ways that were hard to ignore.  

Soulful eyes, sweet disposition, beautiful faces, gentle souls.  Piper was Deena’s soulmate dog.

I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I liked the sound of it:  Soulmate dog.  Sometimes referred to as your “once in a lifetime dog”.  Again, it was a term that was new to me but oh, how I loved the idea of it.  And I soon realized how well-known this was.  It’s almost like a well-kept secret that only dog lovers know.  Mention the words lifetime dog amongst dog lovers and you’ll be greeted with a sigh, a nod, a smile, and then a handful of stories about how their dog has changed them for the better.  In ways that have never happened before.  Not from a marriage or a child or a dream that’s finally seen the light of day.  

But a dog.  Pretty magical.

Soulmate dogs are dogs we love in extremely powerful and unexplainable ways.  Never really knowing how we lived before them or how we will ever live without them.  They hold such special places in our hearts that seem to reach just a bit deeper than anything else.  They come along when we least expect it.  Maybe in moments of pure happiness or moments of crippling grief.  Wherever you are when you and your lifetime dog find each other, you will soon experience not only unconditional love but a sense of comfort and peace and deep connection.

A bond that truly is once in a lifetime.

*

Lily is that for me.  

She was a silent reminder to put one foot in front of the other when I barely wanted to get out of bed, as if she was nudging me (literally and figuratively) to get back out in the world again.  A 13-week old puppy suggesting to live again, who would have thought?  Even if living meant forcing myself to take a walk with her or to feel things I didn’t want to feel.  That year before Romeo, although dark and hard to look back on, was the biggest turning point of my life.  It’s when I started to break cycles so deeply rooted within myself and learned how to observe my emotions, rather than react off of them.  

I was 28 years old and finally growing up.  

Lily stood patiently, playfully, and loyally by my side.  Never needing more than I could give but always instilling a sense of hope that life will get better.  And it has!  I often think, it could have been any dog but it was her.  My fiercely devoted and stunningly beautiful Ridgeback.  My once in a lifetime girl.  My soulmate dog.  

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Reflecting

Okay, What’s The New Plan?

When I got the official “refusal to renew your lease” letter in the mail from my former landlord, my heart dropped.  Time froze for about 10 seconds as I scanned the room wondering what on earth I was going to do.  I sat on my couch and felt flushed, anxiety completely took over my body.  School had just started for my then kindergartener and third grader, I just started a new job — one I was banking on to help me finally get ahead — and I had very little in savings.  As if the past few years weren’t hard enough, this was the crappy icing on an even crappier cake.

For the next week, you could find me crying randomly at red lights, in the shower, or making dinner.  Repeating to myself, what on earth am I going to do, what on earth am I going to do?  I had 60 days to figure it all out, and barely $60 to buy groceries, let alone move my family.  Despite the shame and guilt and embarrassment weighing so heavy on me, we figured it out.  We moved, we got settled, we adjusted.

This was just a year ago.

Today life looks very different (all in very good ways) and it got me thinking how the ability to adapt has been the key to our happiness.  I used to have pretty rigid views on how my life was “supposed” to go.  Plans I would be so married to, so obsessed with, so hell-bent on having that I would eventually become incredibly overwhelmed and discouraged when “life had other plans.”  Discouraged enough to lose focus and throw in the towel, eventually abandoning lifelong hopes and dreams… and ultimately, and above anything else, our happiness.  (And my sanity!)  

Since having Romeo (coincidence or not), we’ve learned to just take life for what it is.  Maybe it’s because when you take in a rescue dog you have no other choice but to accept what is and not what you expect to be.  Romeo has taught us so much about love and second chances, but he’s been my greatest teacher when it comes to slowing down and surrendering to what’s right in front of my eyes.

So, now we take the days as they come, just as they are – nothing more, nothing less.  Taking the good with the bad… the crabby moods with the happy ones, the busy days with the relaxing ones, the days where the kids actually get along and the days I wish this wasn’t my life.  Or the days when I’m so exhausted I want to quit my job… and then the days when work flies by and I’m filled with so much gratitude to work where I do.

Balance.  

Living in the moment.  

Learning how to adapt accordingly.  

Accepting life, taking chances and trusting the process without over-thinking every tiny little detail.  Letting life be messy, knowing it won’t be messy forever.  Enjoying and fully appreciating when things are easy, knowing that nobody can escape harder times.  Rather than questioning, with such despair, what on earth am I going to do, I now have a much simpler and hopeful life mantra:

Okay, what’s the new plan?