One year ago, I made an admittedly half-baked decision to adopt a dog. I took the subway up to the ACC on East 110th St. and waiting impatiently for the adoption center to open. Laika (or “Laura”, as she was named at the time) was the first dog I saw. She was clearly part pitbull but fit none of the stereotypes that I had about that breed. Having grown up with a purebred Golden Retriever, I had expected to take home a scrappy retriever mix that day — affectionate, snuggly, loyal, friendly. In my mind, pitbulls fit none of those adjectives. But after making the rounds, it was Laika’s pretty face that stuck with me, and I asked to meet her. Out of the cage, her playful, extroverted personality immediately shone through… I was covered in kisses moments later, just as I had always imagined I would be when I first met my future sidekick. She didn’t bark (at all)… to the point where I was worried her vocal cords had been removed. (Not the case.) She wasn’t hostile or aggressive. She wasn’t damaged or traumatized. She was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen. So I took her home.
I’m not saying our relationship hasn’t been without speed bumps or that adopting a pet (especially when you live in a one-bedroom apartment and work 12 hours a day) is a straightforward or even logical decision. All I’m saying is that the stereotypes that dog (haha) her breed have proven to be without substance. I am so much richer for the love she brings into my world. When I walk Laika, I can sometimes see fear in the faces of passersby or other dog owners; when Laika reveals herself to be friendly to a fault, the fear melts away into amazement. Laika has nothing but kisses for everyone who crosses her path, and it’s usually the small pocket dogs that go crazy, barking at her angrily. Like most injustices in the world, the breed’s bad reputation is the result of ignorance. So I want to do my part and provide some resources (as well as my personal testimony as a pitbull owner).
“Troublemakers” by Malcolm Gladwell: one of my favorite essays, essentially making the same point I try to make above. Stereotypes are the result of miseducation. Pitbulls are aggressive toward humans? Quite the opposite actually. Aggression toward humans was explicitly bred out of pitbulls.
Fun facts about pitbulls from everybody’s favorite dog whisperer
PAWS facts on adopting a pitbull
Fun facts about Laika: she is afraid of bicycles and mice (she’s kind of a scaredy cat but don’t tell her I said that), she loves it when I turn the blow dryer on her when I’m drying my hair, she will do anything for a treat, someone asked me if she was pregnant the other day (thank goodness she doesn’t understand human talk).
Keep in mind… there are geographies, buildings, and landlords that explicitly ban the breed. Certain insurance companies may make it difficult or impossible to cover the breed. My insurance company (Liberty Mutual) does cover her. Please educate yourself before adopting a pitbull to ensure that you’ll be able to provide a long-term home.
My little girl, Laika