There's a Pit Bull in My Lap!
By Mirja Bishop (WLA Shelter Volunteer)
Ivy sat in my lap today!! Ivy is a 2 year old white and brown pit bull. Before I started volunteering at the West L.A. Animal Shelter I had never even been close to a pit bull and here I am with one in my lap. The awesome physique of a pit bull – the muscle bound shoulders and hips were enough to make me keep a safe distance away, that is until I met Ivy. Sadly most of the pit bull stories that I had heard or read about were the ones that my friends still recount to me. A pit bull attacked a child, turned on his owner etc. and yet pit bulls are one of the most trustworthy of all dogs. Yes there are pit bulls that have been bred to be aggressive but there are others like Ivy or Caramel or Cabesa who are among the sweetest most loving dogs that I have ever met.
Ivy likes to hang out!!! I had never paid much attention to Ivy before but a week or so ago one of the volunteers brought her out onto the grassy area to run. Forget the running, forget the ball. Ivy just wanted to hang out with the girls. She moved from one of us to the other sitting on our foot, looking up at us and pleading with her eyes “please scratch me right here!” A scratch in the right place took her feet out from under her and she rolled over onto her back and waited for her tummy to be rubbed. “Oh this feels sooooo good!” is what her pale brown eyes spoke so clearly. She reached to the sky with her legs and stretched them back and forth in sheer delight. Her face was the essence of pure joy. She was one happy very large girl!! That was my first introduction to Ivy. I was anxious to see her up close again and in a few days that chance would come.
Ivy was brought into the smaller exercise area to stretch her legs and get out of that awful, confining cage that she calls home. She did the obligatory sniff around the grass then came over and sat next to the bench where I was watching her as if to say “what are we going to do now?” She looked up at me and in a moment plunked her front paws on the bench. The next thing I knew that muscular brown and white body had crawled onto the bench and very casually stretched herself onto my lap. So here I was with a 60 or 70 lb. pit bull sitting on my lap. Well not all of her but most of her. She looked straight at my face and I remember thinking at the time that she was about 6 inches from my jugular vein! That was an interesting few seconds until I realized what a gentle giant Ivy was. She squirmed a little to get into a better position then looked at me as if to say “OK you can scratch me now”. I ran my fingers up and down her muscular chest and watched as her eyes almost closed in complete satisfaction. Never had I been this close to an animal of this size and strength. I could tell without question that all she wanted to do was be next to a human person who would treat her with love and respect and would scratch her tummy. I loved that moment with Ivy and I will never forget it. For a few brief moments Ivy was just one of the girls and I was her pal.
There is another pit bull girl that has my heart. Caramel or Wiggley as I have named her has been at the West L.A. Shelter since November 2007. I have heard A. C. T’s and volunteers who know her describe her as being an “awesome” dog. She loves her treats. When she sees me coming she begins to gyrate. From the tip of her white tail to the tip of her nose she moves in rhythm. She almost closes her eyes when she reaches to take her treat. Never once in spite of her excitement has she grabbed at a treat. She loves to have her head and chest scratched. She plasters her body close to the cage door thereby giving you the full benefit of her broad chest. She is a smiling dog and the smile is even broader when she is being loved and paid attention to. At some point during the petting she rolls onto her back revealing a pink tummy ready for that special tummy rub. I love this brown and white pit bull girl who seems to be smiling all of the time. I saw her on the grass one day and watched as she ran and leaped with sheer delight. She looked like she would never stop. The absolute happiness that she felt could be seen in every muscle of her body. I would love to have her find a home and I know she would make an awesome friend for someone. I would miss that smiling face though that after all these months in a cage still manages to exude love and sweetness.
I don’t know Cabesa very well.. When I walk down the aisle where his cage is I see him quietly watching me, waiting patiently for his treat and for a few words of kindness. He wags his tail ever so slightly as if to gently say “thank you”. He is a giant dog with scars on his head but with sweetness in his eyes. He is so large and so awesome in appearance that it’s hard to imagine him being adopted and yet he seems to me to be a gentle giant whose eyes weep with the sadness of the life that has been given to him.
I love these pit bulls. There are many others. I would guess that a good half of the dogs at the West L.A. Shelter are pit bulls. Many are strays whose owners never came to claim them; some were turned in by owners for various reasons. There is a true sadness in the eyes of each one of these mammoth dogs whose reputation precedes them. I, for one, will never again assume that to be a pit bull is to be vicious. Yes they are dogs that command respect and proper handling but they can also be sweet, loving companions to a human friend. They have found a way to my heart and I am better for having met them.