In college, I decided I wanted to adopt a dog. My roommates and I went to the Orange County Animal Shelter to pick one out. As it happened, I connected with a wriggling, black-and-white 7-month-old puppy, while my roommate found an adorable little Dachshund-Corgi mix in the cage next door.
A volunteer talked to us to help us work out a decision. "Don’t worry," he said, referring to my roommate’s more tranquil choice, "this Zen guy will get adopted, no problem. This girl, though, will probably be put down, because we think she’s part pit."
Sure enough, the sign above her cage indicated "Lab-Pit Mix." Without a doubt, the other dog was cuter, calmer and overall a better choice for four girls in a university apartment, but when I looked at the little girl I would eventually call "Lani," she reached out through the cage and put her paw on me, as far as she could reach. And just like that, the decision was made.
It ended happily for both "Mu" and "Lani," as we ended up adopting both. And though we’ve had our share of dog adventures, from chewed headphones to a lapse in potty training, I’ve never regretted my choice. Lani is now a part of my family, irrevocably. But the story is not so happy for the thousands of other pits who are in animal shelters, because pit bulls are most known by general society as being those scary, extremely dangerous dogs who eventually turn on their innocent family members and <a href="/video/trinity-sandi">maul them or other animals mercilessly</a>. They’re thought of as innately vicious and beyond training their violence out of them. No one wants to risk having such a terrifying animal in their home.
However, many a pit bull owner, myself included, have nothing but great things to say about these "monster" dogs that we care for. Instead, it’s the things that people do that make them terrible, or the cruelty that is more awful as anything a mere dog could do. For example, a pit bull in Florida later named <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/once-shot-and-buried-alive-phoebe-grows-into-gentle-companion/2158600">Phoebe</a> was found buried up to her neck, trapped in dirt, with two bullets in her head (she survived and was rescued). <a href="https://www.facebook.com/MamaJadeNashville/posts/662650723760024 ">Mama Jade</a> wandered up to a home in terrible condition, covered in injuries from her tenure as a bait dog for other fighting dogs to tear apart. As a puppy, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ThePatrickMiracle">Patrick</a> the pit was starved almost to death and then stuffed in a garbage bag and dumped down a garbage chute. You would think these hateful crimes against these animals would turn them into vicious killers, but instead they are loving companions to their forever homes. But some never get this second chance; an all-too-common fate for pits is ending up in a dog fighting ring, forced to kill other dogs or be killed themselves.
Hating pit bulls because of sad media stories is like hating all pizza because someone else got a burned slice once. Does it happen from time to time? Absolutely! But instead of letting that define the dog, we need to <a href="/video/beyond-zero-point-journey-compassion">judge each case individually</a>, carefully examining them for their own particular character, rather than assuming things about them because of their breed's reputation.
After all, so many of the dogs themselves are just like any other. They are incredibly affectionate, loving, and eager to please their owners. But people generally don’t see this side of them. Between horrifying headlines and old studies that claim pit bulls are more likely to bite than other dogs (which have since been debunked; they are, in fact, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arin-greenwood/pit-bulls-time-magazine_b_5521281.html">not more likely</a>), it doesn’t seem like there is any changing people’s minds. However, initiatives like Huffington Post’s #PitbullWeek put the beautiful traits of these loving animals in the spotlight, thus attempting to "change the narrative" surrounding pit bulls.
All of these hero dogs have proven without a doubt that they are capable of being just as loyal, smart and selfless as any other breed. They put themselves at risk without thought for themselves. Here are 10 of the 16 that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/29/pit-bulls-heroic-happy-and-good_n_5563496.html">Huffington Post</a> featured who fearlessly charged in to save humans:
Lefty: Took a Bullet for Her Owner
Lefty didn’t take just any bullet, but a shotgun round that an intruder fired a shotgun at Lefty's owner. Without any concern for herself, the pit bull jumped in the way and <a href="http://www.delmarvanow.com/article/20130730/NEWS01/130730004/SHOT-DOG-UPDATE-Police-release-description-suspects-Va-Shore-home-invasion">took the attack for him</a>. Lefty didn’t walk away unscathed; the pooch suffered extreme injuries on her shoulder and her leg, and ended up losing this leg to amputation. However, Lefty's heroic move was recognized by a large Facebook community, and supporters helped the family cover 100 percent of the medical costs of Lefty's surgery. Now, she's "trotting around like she's been a 3-legged dog her entire life," according to the Atlantic Animal Hospital.
Baby: Rescued Her Family From a Burning House
Baby woke up when no one else did and realized some extreme danger that her family was in. Baby barked and pounced on Rhonda Westenberger and her sister, Evelyn, until they awoke, <a href="http://www.koco.com/news/oklahomanews/okc/Pit-bull-hailed-hero-saves-Oklahoma-family-from-fire/18540240?source=KOCO#!2H2x7">alerting them</a> of the smoke filling their Oklahoma home. The sisters realize they owe their lives to the dog.
"There were flames shooting down the hallway," Westenberger told KOCO in February 2013. "If Baby hadn't woken Evelyn up, I don't think either one of us would have come out of it."
Baby’s work wasn’t done, though. After the people were taken care of, Baby went back for the five other dogs trapped in the home. According to a family member, one of the dogs was hiding underneath the bed, too scared to come out. Baby dragged the dog by the neck outside to safety.
Creature: Saved an Elderly Woman
Creature demonstrated firsthand the power of animal instinct. She and her owner, Cara Jones, were out on their routine nightly walk, but suddenly Creature bolted from her usual spot to <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/03/01/exclusive-hero-pit-bull-helps-find-elderly-nj-woman-lost-in-the-woods/">find Carmen Mitchell</a>, an elderly New Jersey woman who suffers from dementia. Mitchell was lost, wandering without a coat or shoes. She had ended up separated from her caretaker and lost her way for about eight hours. Without Creature's keen sense of smell and unrelenting drive, Mitchell may have been lost for much longer in the cold temperature, a dangerous thing for an elderly person.
TaterTot: Saved the Life of a Four-Year-Old
<a href="https://www.facebook.com/tatortotthepitbull">TaterTot</a> had only been part of the Smith family for four days. He was a foster dog that Christi Smith had taken in. However, in the middle of the night one day, he began to bark and whimper, pacing between Smith and her four-year-old son. This prompted Smith to check on young Petyon, and she found him incoherent and barely breathing. At the emergency room, doctors found his blood sugar levels had crashed dangerously. Veterinarian Isis Sanchez told KMSP-TV that TaterTot's sharp sense of smell helped him sense Peyton's shift in body chemistry, something that dogs are often trained to do. However, TaterTot had received no formal training, and had acted out of his own concern for the little boy he’d only known for four days.
TaterTot now has a forever home with the Smiths, thanks to his heroic actions. "I am never going to let this dog go," Smith stated. "I owe him for the rest of his life."
Chako: Took 12 Knife Wounds to Save His Owner
On Halloween 2013, a woman in Richmond was attacked by her abusive partner. But she wasn’t alone; her dog, Chako quickly <a href="http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2013/11/pit-bull-sacrifices-self-to-save-owner-from-attacker/">intervened to save his friend</a>. The dog suffered 12 stab wounds while protecting her, likely saving her life. Chako’s grave injuries ended up totaling over $3,000 in veterinary expenses, but the story has a happy ending. All of the cost was covered within a day of fundraising by Ring Dog Rescue and Gracie's Guardians by generous donations through PayPal.
Mercey: Protected His Owner from a Machete Home Invasion
When four males broke into an Edmonton, Alberta apartment, only Mercey and his owner were home. And yet, when they attacked with a machete, <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/pit-bull-hailed-as-hero-after-protecting-owner-from-home-invasion-1.1542502">Mercey jumped in front of his owner</a>, undeterred, and fended off the attackers. The brave dog did suffer from life-threatening injuries afterwards, but once again good Samaritans intervened, and the local police force pitched in to help save Mercey’s life.
Major: Dialed 911
Major was trained to help recognize signs of a seizure for her owner, Ohio resident Terry McGlade. McGlade is a military vet who suffers from seizure disorder and PTSD after being targeted by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan, which makes Major so valuable. And Major didn’t fail him; when he collapsed from a seizure, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/13/dog-calls-911-ohio-veteran-seizure_n_5316492.html">Major pulled McGlade's phone</a> from his pocket and pawed the screen -- which is set up to automatically dial 911 -- until it called the police. The emergency responders say they didn't hear anything on the other line, but sent help to McGlade's home to check the scene. When the police arrived, Major was waiting in McGlade's front yard, and brought them to the back where his owner lay unconscious.
"I probably would have been in severe trouble if he wouldn't have called," McGlade said. "Right now, he is my world because he is an extension to my body. I don't think I could operate in the everyday world without him right now."
Abby: Defended a 4-Year-Old From a Fox
Angelis Proctor, a little girl from Leicester, England, was attacked by a fox who started to bite her in the pants. Luckily, she had two protectors standing nearby. They saw the attack and quickly <a href="http://www.telegram.com/article/20101125/NEWS/11250814/0/FRONTPAGE">chased the aggressive animal away</a>. Then, they came back to check on the young girl, being very considerate heroes indeed.
Destiny: Stopped an Abduction
In 2006, a 9-year-old boy in Fort Collins, Colorado was picking up toys in his backyard one night. Without warning, a man attempted to pull him over the fence while covering his mouth to prevent him from screaming. But someone did hear; Destiny, a two-year-old pit bull, <a href="http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_4095627">charged the would-be kidnapper</a>, who then released the little boy and fled the scene.
Lilly: Took a Freight Train Hit for Her Owner
One late evening in May 2012 in Shirley, Massachusetts, Christine Spain was out walking with her dog, Lilly. Spain tripped on the tracks and fell unconscious, and at a terrible time, as well: a freight train was coming. Though the conductor saw the silhouette of a person and a dog on the tracks ahead, he couldn’t stop the train in time.
The conductor saw that the silhouette was moving -- Lilly was attempting to pull her immobilized owner off the tracks. As the train passed over the pair, the conductor claims to have felt a thump. This indicated the worst, but when he was able to safely exit the train, he found Spain totally fine; <a href="https://www.facebook.com/LillyTheHeroPitBull">Lilly had covered her owner</a> and took the hit for her.
While waiting for emergency services, Lilly didn’t move from Spain’s side despite suffering from extreme injuries, including to her front right leg, which had to be amputated in surgery.
So many lives have been impacted for the better because of pit bulls. With a little more time, love and actions like these, perhaps society can move from <a href="/video/harmony-diversity-how-move-conflict-compassion">conflict to compassion</a>.
Want more pit bull love and REAL information? Check out this video that Huff Post put together: