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WHAT NOW?

| August 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Isabelle Walcher is pictured with Ginger and a special foster kitten.

Isabelle Walcher is pictured with Ginger and a special foster kitten.

 

Am I saying this right? That Ginger, she is one hunky girl! Maybe she’s not quite “pure,” but she’s got enough pit bull in her to send me sailing across the room with a
wave of her tail. Her version of an apology is throwing herself into my arms and licking my – well, how bad can it be? My face is still here.

Well, that’s our family’s Ginger, beloved by us, yet as a pit bull, feared at the most, avoided at the least, by society at large, proven by the sad number of unwanted pits in shelters everywhere.

That is why Isabelle Walcher, Ginger’s best friend, soon to be a junior at UC Davis, and currently tending kittens at the San Diego Humane Society, has launched a crusade, which she calls the “LoveaBull” project. A project described, as, she says, “The life of a misjudged dog and her human advocate.”

Isabelle Walcher will explain:

LW: Tell us about Ginger, your best pal!

IW: Where do I start? Ginger is a happy blockheaded, butt wiggling, French-kissing, cuddle -addicted pit bull. Or, she can also be described as an enthusiastic three-year-old, 55 pound, brindle and white American pit bull terrier mix who lives with our wonder mutt, 10-year-old, graceful, Ruby. Ginger is not “pure. ” We think she is either mixed with boxer or American bulldog. The “pit bull” breed actually refers to any dog with a block-shaped head, so technically boxers, American and English bulldogs, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, (etc!) are considered to be “pit bulls” – similar to how beagles and dachshunds are considered to be a part of the hound dog category. Or, Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are both retrievers. However, most think of the American pit bull terrier as being the only “pit bull.” Yes – it’s confusing!

LW: You’ve become a big fan of pits. Did you start out that way? How did Ginger come to live with you?

IW: I didn’t even know what a pit bull was until I was a freshman in high school. When I was younger, I would go through “loving” different breeds of dogs I wanted “when I was older.”

First, a dachshund phase, then a poodle phase, even a greyhound phase. I never imagined the breed that ultimately won my heart would be pit bulls. One night, on “Animal Planet,” a new show called “Pit Bulls and Parolees” was on; I couldn’t stop watching it. Wow, in love with pit bulls over a television show. But it wasn’t until I started working with the dogs that I really fell for them. I didn’t understand why people thought any breed could be inherently dangerous. As a high-school freshman, I began volunteering with a local pit bull rescue. By my junior year of high school, my family decided to foster underage puppies for the San Diego Humane Society. Our first foster was five-week-old Ginger.

She had been abandoned, along with her siblings. Many of her siblings were sick and unfortunately died from parvovirus – a horrible disease, deadly in puppies that have yet to develop a strong immune system. But, three years later, we still have Ginger – one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

LW: Was Ginger trained at all when you first got her? How long – and how much training have you put her through – and how might that compare to other breeds?

IW: Since she was so – nearly newborn, Ginger had zero training – like none! Her only job was to survive and be a puppy. But we sent her into training, which Ruby also participated in when she was a puppy. Ginger stayed in puppy class for about two months. Then, on to a “teenage” dog class, and now, she’s done many other classes along with my own training.

Training is a passion for me, so I loved taking Ginger even if she could already master all of the commands. All dogs should go through some training, no matter the breed. Pit bulls, interestingly, have a wide range of personalities, from lazy to extremely active, but even at lazy, they should have training. I think owners have an added responsibility of making sure their dog is a good pit bull advocate.

LW: You’ve learned a lot about pit bulls by now…and you’ve become their “master” defender?

IW: By now, I’ve worked steadily with pit bulls; I’ve watched some great documentaries, read articles, news stories, anything to learn more about the breed and the struggles that they encounter. Also, my personal experience with Ginger has taught me a lot about pit bulls in general. It’s similar to racism among humans – don’t you think? Pits are banned in many cities and even countries. They aren’t allowed in most apartments; people fear and avoid them; and. they are discriminated against on a regular basis. This discrimination is based completely on their stereotypes and the way they look. But – I have a voice, even if Ginger doesn’t.

LW: Yet, you do have to continually defend pit bulls? To say they have a nasty reputation…that’d be an understatement. And it is sometimes based on people’s fearful experiences, so their dislike of pits are not based wholly on their imagination.

IW: Actually, the media is probably more to blame than people’s experiences. Most people I talk to who are afraid of pit bulls say it’s because of all the stories of maulings that they learn from news reports. Rarely has someone actually had a negative personal experience, which leads to his or her fear.
My goal in advocating for this breed is not for everyone to instantly fall in love with them and adopt one from their local shelter. Just to give them a fair shake, and to improve their reputation. No, these dogs aren’t for everyone. Just like a chihuahua – not for me, but not for any “bad” reason.

LW: Can the aggressive nature of badly-trained pits be reversed? It seems sad and unfair to these dogs.

IW: Yes! The best examples are the dogs that were rescued and rehabilitated from Michael Vick’s fighting ring bust – The “Vicktory” dogs. Forty-eight dogs were confiscated from Michael Vick’s fighting operation, and sent to different rescues across the country. But the most difficult ones were taken to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Two of the 22 dogs were court- ordered to live out their lives there. The other 20 were rehabilitated and learned what it meant to be loved. Most of these dogs had been in the fighting ring, and many came to love other dogs and humans alike. This was a major turning point for the pit bull breed. To see how the most “damaged” of dogs could overcome torture and come to love the very species that condemned them to their fate.

It’s truly amazing. This is just one major story, but I’ve met and read about many former fighting dogs that became great family pets. It’s also a misconception to believe their hostility is “how they’re raised.” I used to use that phrase to defend the breed on a regular basis. Then I read about a former fighting dog who, with its owner, was behaving beautifully. A neighbor noted that the owner must have raised him well! Imagine, but, the neighbor didn’t know about the dog’s aggressive history: not raised by the owner, not brought up by “good” people. Yet, clearly, he proved that he could live with other dogs, and love his humans. I think it’s really how the dogs are treated in the moment, not in the past.

LW: What realistic expectations should people have when they consider adopting a pit: training, energy, activity?

IW: One of the reasons I love this breed is how different they all are. I’ve met some that are very – some might say – “lazy. ” They only seem to need a few walks around the block any day – then, off to the couch. They may be good for someone who’s not as active or doesn’t have a yard.

I’ve also met some pit bulls that need at least three 10-mile runs or walks a day. Now, I exaggerate a bit, but they have a lot of energy. Generally, most pits have a medium-high energy level; they need exercise multiple times a day, along with some mental stimulation like training or a toy. Training really depends on the dog, but they should learn basic obedience. I’ve found that most are motivated by treats or toys, which makes them easier to train, and most seem to really enjoy it.

LW: Are pits still the most populous animal in San Diego’s Humane Society?

IW: There definitely are too many (!) at the Humane Society. And, even more in county shelters. It’s heart-breaking –to see them in cage after cage. The shelters do all they can to find homes for their dogs; they even use social media to show how good this breed can be.

See more of Ginger & Pit Bulls on Ms.Walcher’s sites:
Instagram: @loveabull.ginger
Facebook: Ginger the Loveabull
Email: loveabull.ginger@gmail.com

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