Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Last Friday we brought home our newest bundle of joy. No, not a human baby; we still have several months to wait for that. The newest member of our family is a lovely adult pit bull, whom we've named Gryphon. We've waited a long time for him.
I have a fondness for many non-human animals (and a Pagan respect for all), but ever since my sweet Lugh radicalized me, my heart belongs to pit bulls. They're profoundly people-focused dogs, loving, loyal, and affectionate. While they can be horribly abused and exploited, they retain their optimism and love for people. It seems like it's nearly impossible to damage the heart or soul of a pit bull. See how the Michael Vick dogs are doing? (For lots more information about pit bulls, see the links in the sidebar.)
Gryphon was left behind in an apartment to starve to death. He was in bad shape when he was found and brought to the SPCA in a city north of here. That SPCA, like most, still, alas, is a kill shelter, but Gryphon's execution was stayed for a long time because he was a favorite of the staff. Still, after a year, no one had adopted him. (Pit bull adoptions are problematic in that city because of prevalent dog fighting. Also, he's really big. And he really looks like a pit bull.) When Gryphon started to show signs of kennel stress, some volunteers at the shelter called a pit bull advocate they knew and asked if she would take him, thereby saving his life, and try to place him in a home. She tried for a year. She attempted one adoption, but when it quickly became clear that the people had adopted him for the wrong reasons and it wasn't a good environment for him, she took him back and decided to keep him, even though her Lab was increasingly jealous and destructive, and even though she doesn't have a lot of money and works two jobs, which necessitated leaving the dogs at home for up to 12 hours at a time. Not ideal or what she wanted, but an economic necessity. On those days, Gryphon would spend up to 12 hours in his crate. But when we met him, he was clearly healthy and well-socialized, a testament to her devotion as well as his temperament.
The foster mom took down all the posters advertising his availability. But she forgot to take down the one at our SPCA, the one where Adonis and I volunteer. The day we closed on our house, Adonis went to his dog-walking shift and saw the poster. Somehow we'd missed it before, even though we always look at the SPCA bulletin board. He took a photo of the poster with his iPhone and brought it home to me. He called and talked to the woman. We went to meet the dog, out in the country about 45 minutes' drive from our town. After spending about two hours with him and his foster mom, we knew he was ours. We called her the next day and told her we wanted to adopt him. She was thrilled.
The next weekend we went to visit them again. We talked with the foster mom about our experience with dogs and pit bulls. She called the volunteer coordinator at our SPCA to ask about us. And then, last Friday, we brought him home.
After Lugh died last fall, we had hoped to adopt again within six months. But our landlord forbade it, not because of anything we or Lugh had done, but because our adopting Lugh had apparently strained relations with the neighbors, who didn't want a "dangerous" dog living next door. We were crushed, and our resolve to buy our own house was strengthened. Was it a coincidence that we learned about Gryphon the same day we closed on our house?
Gryphon is bonding beautifully with us. I'm surprised at how swiftly and easily it's happening. We've set him to a routine to increase his sense of safety, and we're spending as much time as possible giving him exercise, love, and attention. This fall we'll begin obedience classes. We'll slowly transition him to the homemade diet we feed our dogs. Molly's "Animal Wellness" flower essences are wonderful allies, and Gryphon, Adonis, and I are all taking the "New Beginnings" essence. Soon we'll have a ritual to welcome him formally to our family. And this weekend he'll get his first bath.
Last night during our evening walk, we approached a group of children outside a small daycare center in our neighborhood. We were soon surrounded by six small children and the proprietor, a woman who proudly announced that she was grandma to two pitbulls. Gryphon stood patiently while the children petted him and asked questions, even if he was more interested in grazing on the grass. A man who I think was the son of the daycare provider and father to a couple of the children came over and showed his daughters again how to approach a strange dog (first ask the owner's permission, then let the dog sniff your hand, then stroke gently under the chin; never pat the dog on the head). He asked me questions about whether we'd rescued the dog and where we'd found him. As we moved on, the man said to me, "it's a good thing you did." I'm so used to encountering fear and anger from strangers about pit bulls that I almost started crying in gratitude.
Then we arrived home to a friend who'd come over with treats and toys to play with Gryphon. Lucky dog. Lucky us.