When I moved out west in 2007, I met my first pitbull. I clearly remember the day that we went over to our new friend's house. I knew he had a pitbull and I was terrified as we approached the house with the dog barking inside. As we entered the house I was shocked that the dog showered me with KISSES rather than tear me apart! Within five minutes the dog was curled up in my lap, and spent the afternoon with me on the couch. An instant new friend, I'd never had any dog of any breed cuddle up so close with me. A pitbull lap dog??! No way! From that day forward my idea of the breed instantly started to change.
Then I met another pitbull and another and another (very popular dogs out west) and I noticed one common trend: not one of these dogs ever remotely exhibited signs of aggression and terror like I had once believed. In fact it was the exact opposite and just couldn't understand how they got such a bad rep! I fell so in love with the breed that I once had so ignorantly feared and misunderstood, that we got a puppy of our own in 2008. Our dog Ace has been an absolute blessing in my husband and I's life, and now can't imagine our lives without him- how sad and empty that would be. Ace is the sweetest, most cuddly guy, with the funniest little personality, people can't help but love him.
I am now so passionate about educating people about pitbulls and welcome the opportunity to introduce anyone to Ace who may have misconceptions about the breed, because I know once they meet him their opinions will change. They no longer sum up an entire breed based on a name or a look or what they have read in the paper.
If people in Ontario had the opportunity to meet a pitbull without a cage on its face, their opinions might change, just like mine did. This law perpetuates the irrational fears. As soon as people see the muzzle, they automatically assume your dog is dangerous and cross the street. How are these dogs supposed to socialize properly? We know that proper socialization with people of all ages and a variety of other animals, along with exercise and love will help a dog grow into a happy, well- balanced dog. Unfortunately, many honest and great dog owners feel so afraid of the powers of this law that they live in fear their dog will be taken, so they hide their dogs away from society, and the dog does not have the opportunity to socialize properly. Then a situation may arise that the dog has not experienced before, and may behave inappropriately, perpetuating the negative stereotype of a pitbull. Another reason why the ban doesn't work.
In 2009, when my nursing contract out west ended and there were no other positions in the entire area, (due to the recession, finding work everywhere was difficult) we made the decision to move back home with our families and brought Ace with us. How could we leave him behind? I could never abandon an animal, let alone a family member. At the time, we didn't think much of the ban, as we have a large property with 26 acres up in cottage country where we could let Ace roam, and slip out of the public eye. It was only when we started looking for a friend for Ace at the local shelter, that we realized the significance of this ban, and what it meant to our lives. One shelter volunteer that we met also owned an "illegal" rescue pitbull herself. She warned us that the authorities could come onto our property unannounced, take Ace and have him killed, no questions asked. All it would take was one call from a neighbour to the bylaw officers and he'd be gone.
We lived in fear every day for 9 months, wondering what would happen to us and to Ace. Luckily no one complained, and luckily I was able to find a nursing position back out west and we moved. I now hear the horrible stories of people fighting to get their dogs back, with lengthy court cases and usually unhappy endings. I shudder at the thought of what may have happened to us and Ace.
My husband now owns a successful business out west that caters to children and often brings Ace to work with him- he is our mascot, and everyone loves him. It is so heartwarming to watch the kids hug and kiss Ace, love him and play with him, as children have no preconceived judgments and fears, and love him based on his behavior alone. If only our world were governed by children :)
We hope that one day we can move back to Ontario to be with our families, but until the ban is lifted, Ontario is the last province in Canada we have the option of living, as we refuse to give up our Ace. How unfortunate, as we each have a lot to offer the wonderful community where we would like to live.
Love and hugs from Western Canada,
Leah and Ace