Sunday, Oct 28
Over the past three years, since our first launch of the "Show Us Your Pitties" campaign, to say I've enjoyed advocating for Pit Bulls is an understatement. Believe it or not though, I was once guilty of buying in to stereotypes of bully breeds.
At first I thought my fears stemmed from a childhood fear of big dogs. I'd never been around pit bulls or any bully breeds, so I also assumed it was fear of the unknown.
Don't get me wrong, I never thought of Pit Bulls as being vicious or dangerous, but their appearance just intimidated me. My fear was simply lack of exposure and education.
How could I do my job effectively when I was so nervous? Unbeknownst to me, very soon I'd meet a boy who would change my mind, and my life, forever.
Shortly after I joined the Humane Society team in August 2015, we received a call from the McKean County SPCA in Bradford, asking if we could take in some dogs. Their shelter was full, and their only options were to transfer dogs to other shelters, or euthanize.
Our Director eagerly agreed to help, and within a week, we had seven new dogs arrive at our shelter. I didn't know much about the dogs, but I was excited to check them out.
The next afternoon, I decided to take a walk through our kennels wing. If you've ever been to a shelter, whether the Humane Society or another, you know that the first sight of a human can send dogs into a state of excitement filled with barking and jumping.
I took my time walking to each kennel and greeting the dogs. After several dogs, I came to the next kennel,and there he was.
Seated before me, was a black and white pit bull named Pierre. He wasn't jumping and barking like the other dogs. He simply looked up at me with his kind, gentle eyes, and I looked back at him and smiled. In that moment, I felt an entirely new connection.
There wasn't a single thing about Pierre that made me nervous or uneasy. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I knelt down and offered Pierre a treat, and like a little gentleman, he took it so politely. I held my hand up to the kennel door, and he sniffed it, then licked it. He seemed content, relaxed, and happy to be at our shelter.
I couldn't wait to meet Pierre out of the kennel for the first time.
Falling for Pierre was one of the easiest, most natural bonds I've ever experienced with a dog that wasn't mine. I quickly learned he was a big goofball who loved to play, do tricks, eat treats, give lots of sloppy kisses, and snuggle with the best of them.
I would learn Pierre's back story, which would break my heart. One thing I knew for sure was that Pierre deserved a wonderful family, and we were going to find it for him. Pierre was adopted by an incredible family after spending about 4 months at the Humane Society, in December 2015.
The day Pierre went home was so special. He was so excited to be with his new family, and he made it a point to go around the room and show each of our staff just how happy he was. At that moment, I knew Pierre was exactly where he was meant to be.
Saying goodbye to Pierre was a very bittersweet experience for me. As happy as I was for him, there was a huge part of me that was going to miss him so much. I realized that as important as it is for our staff to bond with the animals in our care, it's equally as important to be able to let go.
Seeing a pet leave the shelter and heading to their forever home is rewarding beyond description. With Pierre, here was this incredible dog that had spent nearly 2 years of his little life in a shelter, finally chosen. What you take away is knowing that you impacted that life and you played a role in getting them to that place.
Thankfully, it wouldn't really be goodbye for me and Pierre. Over the past 3 years, I've had the pleasure of building a friendship with Pierre, now Bear's, adopter.
Pierre taught me a lot. He taught me how kindhearted, gentle and sweet Pit Bulls are. He taught me to love and embrace pit bulls and bully breeds a like, because they are not bad dogs. He taught me that pit bulls are some of the most loving, affectionate, attentive, loyal dogs you will ever meet. Most of all, Pierre taught me not to judge; to open my heart and my mind, educate myself, and love these incredible dogs with all my heart.
To Pierre and all the adorable Pitties I've had the pleasure of loving these last 3 years, thank you. Thank you for leaving a lasting impact on me, so that I can continue to educate others and advocate for Pit Bulls everywhere, who deserve wonderful, fulfilling lives.