Oh holy conundrums. Tuesday brought new faces to a familiar dilemma: Ten 'pit bull type' dogs came into the shelter where only one adoption kennel was waiting to welcome them. The problem grew tougher as we got to know each lovely dog.
Two of the new intakes were a mated pair, brought in off the streets by kind Oakland Police officers. The female (left) - named 'Mamas' - is pregnant, somewhat aloof and workably reactive to other dogs. The male, obviously someone's pride and joy, showed a warmer people-soft personality and desire to connect. As unlicensed strays, they had to be fixed before they could leave the shelter.
The owner was upset about losing out on his litter but after battling the desk staff, finally came to the decision to surrender his female to be adopted out or destroyed, whichever came first. He promised to come back for his pride and joy male - the bubble headed blue - but never returned.
His unlicensed stray problem then became our problem. With only one spot for a lucky Ambassadog, we're faced once again with the hardest question of all: As we work to keep our ambassador program moving forward, what do we do with perfectly good dogs that look like pit bulls but aren't really pit bulls at all?
The mated pair were a 4K investment for their owner. They're registered as American Bully Dogs, a new fangled creation of English Bulldog, Neo Mastiff and, yes, Pit bull - Designed to appeal to a demographic that likes its dogs to mimic low riders in every way.
Low. Ri. Der. Don't drive too fast now.
The personality of these offshoots is anything but pit bull. It's normal for them to be low key and pretty darn aloof ... Not the traits pit bull fans generally go for. This particular pair has the added challenge of edgy dog/dog manners - totally workable, but still. They aren't the love-to-please-you types that help make our job with true pit bulls so very easy.
We bantered back and forth for hours. Do we make room for one of these Pit bull imposters and put some resources into polishing up their manners? They tend to be very desirable because of their looks and - after all - it's not their fault they're mixes! OR do we give the coveted kennel to one of the many wriggly dogs who are practically oozing through the bars to push their fat heads into our laps?
Sometimes you have to just relax and let your answers come to you. In between sussing out an alarming plethora of blue puppies today, this sweet senior made his way into our eval line up. He was so sure that we were there to make him happy that all those 'What do we do?' questions melted away. He is - for lack of a better word - a Real Pit bull. Or, what we want Pit bulls to be: Social, sentimental even. Even keeled. Funny. Cheerful to a fault.
He reminded me that, when we're looking for dogs that get to wear the Pit bull label, we're looking for personalities rather than exteriors. And those personalities tend to match an ideal version of a dog that we've collectively agreed is a Pit bull, DNA be damned.
I'm sorry for the American Bullies. They're a fad breed and will hit a rock bottom as their numbers increase. Until their advocates get busy with rescue (and reducing their production), the unlucky dogs that land in the shelters will be stuck in No Man's Land like a lot of mixy dogs and will either be condemned for looking too much like Pit bulls or, in situations like ours, declined for not being Pit bull enough. We can only hope that the American Bully fanciers heed our call for help for this unlucky pair and throw them and other dogs like them a quick lifeline. Stay tuned for updates.