Petey is a pit bull mix who was adopted in the early part of 2019 from a city-run shelter shortly after his new dad, Jeff, retired from the military. Jeff never had a pit bull before and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but from day one was determined to give Petey the life he deserves. Truth be told Petey was a behavioral mess, likely due to an unfavorable past his new dad knew nothing about. But that never discouraged either of them. Jeff has taken all of Petey’s quirks in stride and continues to work with him daily on his training. Petey is praised regularly and he’s really made such wonderful progress. He is the sweetest dog.
One thing that has never really changed however, is Petey’s distrust in other dogs. Despite constant socialization attempts and responsible exposure to community settings, Petey simply doesn’t like other dogs in his personal space. And that’s perfectly okay. Dogs don’t have to be social the way we just expect them to be and Jeff has done everything right to ensure that Petey is okay in social settings, while still allowing him the freedom to be a loner. Their training is done in controlled environments and their adventure time is taken to remote, less-trafficked parks and trails to provide Petey with leashed walks in a safe and comfortable environment. Jeff has always been extremely diligent and cautious; he is a wonderful, responsible dog owner that has truly embraced being a pit bull dad.
A few weeks ago Petey was on a walk with Jeff in their neighborhood for a quick bathroom break before calling it a night. Out of nowhere, a 65 pound dog comes running at them - off leash - his owner, about 15 feet behind him. In the distance you hear the man shout, “It’s okay… He’s friendly.” His dog runs right up to Petey, putting his snout in Petey’s face. The rest of the story becomes somewhat of a blur as the two dogs became entangled in a vicious brawl.
Petey latched onto the other dog’s leg and the other dog had a hold of Petey’s face. After what seemed like an eternity, and with the help of other neighbors nearby, they pulled the two dogs apart. Both Petey and his dad needed immediate medical attention, with Petey requiring stitches on his head and snout. Jeff’s hands were shredded from trying to break up the fight. The off leash dog? He required surgery to repair the damage to his leg.
Police, paramedics and animal control were called to the scene. Following medical attention, Petey was placed on a mandatory hold by animal control to determine if he was dangerous. The reason? Because the “other dog” had been far more injured than Petey had been. It’s an excuse. The real reason Petey was put on a mandatory hold was because he is a pit bull. It didn’t matter that Petey and Jeff were the actual victims in this story. They did everything right. Thankfully, after 72 hours, Petey was released back into the custody of his dad. Now they’re left with the emotional task of trying to move forward.
This story is true, however the names have been changed to protect Petey and his dad’s privacy, per their request. This horrific ordeal is one that could have been completely avoided if it weren’t for someone else’s carelessness.
I personally know that this story rings true for so many others. It happens all too often. Whether you have a friendly dog or not, we have all heard that maddening phrase….
“It’s okay… my dog is friendly.”
Petey’s dad has done everything right from day one. He not only rescued Petey from possible euthanasia in the shelter environment, but he has since worked night and day to build Petey’s confidence, to give him a loving home and provided him with on-going stability and training to help Petey live his life to his fullest potential. All that hard work was stripped away in an instant because someone else decided that the safety of others didn’t matter to them. It’s not just about recovering from their physical injuries. The regression a dog attack can cause in an already reactive dog can take years to overcome. Sometimes, it can never be overcome.
I’ve often thought about how best to share this message without sounding judgmental or crass. But the truth is, this attitude is 100% the result of negligence and irresponsible pet ownership.
The reactive or selective dog is far more normal than people realize. I personally know countless people who work daily to help their pups overcome their reactiveness. It is an on-going process; one which takes love and dedication from a committed pet parent. When a dog owner says “It’s okay, my dog is friendly” to excuse their pup’s inappropriate behavior, what they’re really saying is, “I have no control over my dog.” Many dogs are friendly and social by nature, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for teaching them basic obedience.
What happened to Petey and his dad happens far too often. And it’s inexcusable. Let their story be a public service announcement. Be responsible. Just like people, many dogs don’t like other dogs or people in their personal space. This isn’t just your world. Be courteous and respectful to everyone around you. Keep your dog leashed not only because it’s the law in nearly all developed cities, but because it’s the responsible thing to do.