life lessons thanks to my dogs, Pit Bulls

The Shape of His Head Does Not Determine The Size of My Dog’s Heart

size of my dog's heart

There I was, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, sitting quietly in my car.  Seventy pounds of gorgeousness sat next to me in the passenger seat.  His body curled up into a ball, eyes closed, faintly snoring.  We had just finished a hike.  Something we do pretty regularly, as Cleveland has some of the most gorgeous trails around, and each time I prepare to either be warmly welcomed by fellow hikers, or have to politely smile while dirty looks and rude comments are thrown our way.

On this particular day, the latter happened.  It’s nothing new at this point, and each time I try to be understanding that some people just might not like big dogs.  Maybe they’ve had a bad experience, or their mom’s neighbor had a mean dog, or hey, they just might not like dogs in general, big or small.

Either way, I usually nod my head and keep going.  This day, however, has stuck with me since it happened.  The exact words from this father’s mouth, in front of his two small children and wife, as he nearly sprinted away from us, was this:  “That dog ain’t killing my family!  He isn’t coming anywhere near us!”

size of my dog's heart

And that’s exactly what happened because Romeo, who is a pretty muscular guy, was quietly sitting on the opposite side of me when our path crossed this family’s.  The man bolted away and I was left standing there, looking down at this dog who didn’t seem like a dog anymore because he was part of my family, realizing how ignorant the world actually is and trying to understand discrimination at its finest.  I have a feeling if Romeo could talk he would tell me not to care and that it wasn’t worth getting upset over, but I do care and I was upset.

Well, we kept on our adventure for the day and ended up at Wal-Mart because I needed some eggs.  I sat there, listening to Romeo snore, and was reflecting not only on the day, but also the year.  A year ago, I had no idea who he was or who I had become.  Both of us lived very different lives than the ones we live now, and I felt more than gratitude welling up. 

Maybe it was that guy’s comment that really sent me over the edge, but I remember hearing the first few notes of one of my favorite songs — Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah — and tears formed in my eyes.  I sat there quietly looking out my window, and before any rolled down my cheeks, this wonderful guy came and sat on my lap.  There we squeezed into the tiny space between the steering wheel and my seat, together.  His head resting on my shoulder, mine on his.  While my arms draped around his body the tears came, landing on his beautiful steel grey coat.  

I felt loved.

size of my dog's heart

He’s a dog, just a dog, and a pit bull at that, but I love him.  And I have a dream that one day people will be able to see him, and dogs just like him, the way I do, and the way millions of other pit bull owners do.  

I’ve learned more about prejudice and discrimination in the last 10 months of my life than ever before.  It’s not the color of your skin, the slant of your eyes, the sound of your voice, or the shape of your head that determines who you are.  And the truth is we’re all capable of a hurting someone tremendously.  But we’re also all capable of loving someone tremendously.  We’re capable of helping, healing, and accepting someone.  Pit bulls are no different.

When we discriminate against any certain type of person or dog, specifically pit bulls, we are moving in the wrong direction.  With every nasty comment, abusive action, and ban put on these dogs, we are all taking steps backwards, and it’s my hope that one day we can stop.  It is my dream, and the dream of many, that these dogs will one day be greeted with love and wonder, rather than fear and hatred.  And that they will get the chance to share a love that exists purely because it just does. 

It doesn’t take much to fall in love with them.  They sweep in, claim a little piece of your heart, and change you forever.  You will wonder how you ever really lived before, and you will fight to show the rest of the world that something as silly as the shape of their head does not, cannot, and will not ever determine just how much they can love.  And to judge them solely based on that is a mistake.  

Had you asked me a year ago if I thought it was possible to feel the most genuine kind of love from a seventy pound pit bull, while sitting in my parked car with tears in my eyes because of a past I wasn’t happy with, I would have probably told you no.  But I would have been very wrong, and how amazing would this world be if we could all be proven wrong about something like that.

size of my dog's heart


  • Kimberly

    May 29, 2015

    Such a beautiful post. I could feel the love in your heart while reading it. The feeling of being loved and belonging is so precious. Thank you.

  • Joan Harrington

    May 29, 2015

    Hi Ashley,
    Loved your post so much! I can totally relate about the discrimination about big dogs and especially Pit Bulls, but as you say in your post, they are just a dog and if they are loved like you love yours, then they do not have to be mean, its those that train them to be mean are the ones that need a slap or a punch in the face :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    Always enjoy your posts, girl :)

  • Susan

    May 29, 2015

    I too, have a pit mix named Milo. A trainer once told me he should be a comfort dog, and little did I know at the time, his comfort would be much needed in my own life. I feel I depend on Milo so much to lift me from those dark days, but he volunteers quite generously without asking for anything much in return. A soft bed, good food, a scratch on his head is all that is required to be worthy of his acceptance. I advocate for pits when I can, and I will have another when it becomes necessary.

  • K. Lee Banks

    May 31, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this. It is so sad that some people believe the hype and don’t consider the facts, such as how well-behaved and loving your dog obviously is. Such a handsome boy!

    We lost our beloved 12 y.o. black lab over 2 years ago, but we have two young dogs now (2 1/2 y.o. hound mix and 1 1/2 y.o. black lab/whippet) who sleep on our bed and are definitely treated like family members.

  • Jenn Alex brockman

    May 31, 2015

    Aww. This makes me tear up. I love dogs of all shapes and sizes.
    my father in law’s dog bit my face when we first brought her home from the pound. I was trying to play with her and she didn’t know how to play……. She must have thought that I was being agressive.

    She has never done it since and, in fact, now knows how to play – sort of. She still won’t fetch, but will play wrestle and rough housing a little.

    She is my autistic daughter’s favorite dog ever and is one of the only dogs who will tolerate my daughter’s behaviors and noises.

    We think this dog may have some pit in her background, but we can’t be sure. Something about the shape of her head.

  • Denise

    June 1, 2015

    Ashley what a great story and I too think people should not judge big dogs (or people for that matter). It’s the demeanor of the dog, not the size. The one time my husband got bit by a dog, it was a teeny tiny dog, so you just can’t go by how a dog looks. Also, love the pic of you and Romeo!

  • Jan Kearney

    June 2, 2015

    I was tearing up reading your post Ashley – and I totally get it.

    Here in the UK, Pit Bulls are a banned breed. The worst of it is, the ban is purely on looks. If a dog expert says a dog is a pit bull type, then you have the dog taken from you and need to go to court to prove it isn’t. You may be able to get an exemption and keep the dog muzzled at all times in public, but otherwise the dog is destroyed.

    I understand the discrimination too. I had a staffordshire bull, he was a big boy – very muscular and fit at his peak. The number of people who crossed the road to avoid us walking, or made comments and the few who threw stones etc was unbelievable.

    Staffy’s are so over-bred now and many end up in shelters, unloved, unwanted and with a bad name. All they want is a comfy bed, nice food and some love and you’re repaid a thousand-fold with love and loyalty.

    I’ll stop now before I start ranting!

    Love the pics of Romeo – he’s gorgeous!

  • Deb

    June 28, 2016

    I had the same experience. I was pretty intimidated about getting a Pit but my daughter fell in love at the “dog and jog”(we rented him to run with her). He is the coolest dog in the world- Sounds just like Romeo. He is the biggest snuggler and I don’t think would ever hurt a fly. However- I do feel comfortable if someone were to hurt us, I think he would take care of business. There is such loyalty. The best part of owning a “pit”- the “smile” you get when they haven’t seen you in a few hours. I call Boxer my daughter’s “therapy dog”. He is her buddy and she would do anything for him.

    Pits are perfect- great size- not too big, not too small. They are pretty low maintenance when it comes to their coats, they are awesome travelers(he goes on vacation with us), and they are always up for some love :) The sad thing… I can’t let my insurance know that we own him(he is a Boxer mix right…?) or they would cancel our insurance… Great post! Thank you for sharing!

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