The first time Grace Hagen saw Beddy White, it was love at first sight. And while this mahogany colored, elderly pit bull has a charming and engaging personality, it’s a good bet she would probably never win any beauty contest.
Hers ears have been chewed off and she has numerous scars from what look like dog fights. One eye is opaque gray with blindness and she came with numerous tumors and bumps that have since been removed. And yet, she loves people and captures the heart of just about everyone who meets her.
“I really wasn’t looking for a dog but when I saw Beddy’s picture I knew I wanted her,” said Grace. “There was just something about her.”
Beddy came from Milwaukee, brought to the Northwoods by Bria Swartout, the director of the Oneida County Humane Society (OCHA). Bria went to an animal control conference there and after a presentation the group was given a tour of an animal shelter. This was a place where unclaimed pets were euthanized if not claimed in so many days. And Beddy’s time was near.
“For some reason I just couldn’t let her stay there,” said Bria. “I decided to bring her back here because I knew I could find her a good home.”
Alarmingly, Beddy was just one of more than 90 pit bulls or pit bull crosses at this particular shelter. And the problem isn’t only in big cities. Currently at OCHS there are 13 dogs up for adoption, nine of which are pit bull crosses.
“There is definitely a lot of these dogs in shelters right now,” said Bria. “It’s a shame too, because they get so much bad publicity, but most make really good pets with the right owners.”
Bria believes the reason there are so many pit bulls in shelters is because these dogs, like any pet, need socialization and firm training when they are pups.
“I’ve seen it over and over where people decide to get a pit bull puppy and then don’t realize how much work there is to training a dog,” she said. “Then when they get about six months old they end up here lots of times. It’s not that these dogs are vicious, it’s just that they can be head strong and they are a powerful breed.”
However, Bria is quick to point out they can make excellent pets.
“They are very loyal, very loving dogs,” said Bria. “And many bully breeds get lumped into being called pit bulls. Everyone assumes that a dog with a blocky head and short hair is a pit bull and vicious. But most of the time that’s not the case.”
It’s a mystery as to why there are so many of these dogs in shelters across the country. Even with all their bad publicity, people seem to keep breeding them and that’s something Karla Ortman would like to see end.
In July 2012 Karla organized The Fix is In, a mobile spay and neuter clinic that travels around to Northwoods’ communities offering low cost spay and neutering operations for dogs and cats. In the two years this organization has been in operation, more than 4,000 animals have been fixed. That’s a huge impact since one female dog can have two litters a year and cats even more.
“Maybe it’s because right now pit bulls are the fad dog,” Karla said. “There was a time when Dalmatians were all the rage and Chihuahuas went through this too so maybe that’s why there are so many pit bulls.”
Unbelievably pit bulls at one time enjoyed a wonderful reputation. In WW I a pit bull named Stubby earned several war medals and was honored at the white House. In addition, the pit bull was at one time considered a symbol of unflagging bravery and reliability, and represented the United States on many recruiting and propaganda posters throughout the years. Many famous figures, including Helen Keller, President Theodore Roosevelt, General George Patton, President Woodrow Wilson, Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart, shared their lives and homes with pit bulls. In addition, many of these dogs are capable of making wonderful therapy dogs and are gaining popularity as police and search and rescue dogs.
But there is one pit bull that finds the comfort of a soft blanket and the gentle hand of its owner all it needs to be happy.
“Beddy White has turned out to be the perfect dog for me,” said Grace. “She really brings a lot of joy wherever she goes.”