Open sores and thin ribs marked the tan and white pit bull as she traveled the streets alone. While she scrounged a dumpster for food, her scars told passersby the story of a hard life. Her constant search for shelter, shade and a good resting place was taking its toll. People would shoo her away and even scream when they saw her. You see, Wendy was a pit-bull type dog with cropped ears. While many pit bulls live in loving homes surrounded by a doting family, others are used for fighting or as a bait dog to train the fighting dogs. Sadly, Wendy showed signs of the later.
Pit bulls have a troubled reputation. Some people see pit bulls as dangerous, even if their personality and behavior says otherwise. The fear that some people have toward pit bulls is visceral and, as a result, they want to stay far away from any one that they see. For Wendy this meant that she was less likely to survive with each passing day on the streets.
Jeannie and her boyfriend were out to dinner when she saw the dog leaning up against the wall. Her eyes were closed and her coat was dull. The wall seemed to be a crutch to keep her upright. The boyfriend wanted to leave, but something about the dog compelled Jeannie to get closer. Normally, when someone approached, the dog bolted out of fear, but this time she was so weak she could open only one eye to see Jeannie coming. Losing her balance, Wendy fell to the ground and whimpered as Jeannie got close.
Jeannie did not care that the dog was a pit bull. All she saw in front of her was a living being in need of help. Removing her scarf, she wrapped it around the scared dog using a soft, kind voice to let her know that it was going to be ok. As she was lifted and then placed in the car, the dog mustered up enough energy to lick Jeannie’s hand as to say thank you before crashing in the back seat.
Waking up at the Pasadena Humane Society clinic, the pup now had a name, Wendy. It was given to her by a group of 9-12 year olds who were attending a summer kid’s program called Critter Camp. Hearing her story, the kids held watch over her kennel to make sure she had someone there to care for her when she got well. They, too, didn’t care that she had a blocky head, ugly scars or that she was a pit bull. She was just a pup that needed some love. Their empathy and compassion for this dog was so strong that they stood vigil until she was released from the hospital and placed up for adoption. The campers took Wendy out of her cage and gave her some TLC. They even made her the official mascot of camp that week. Petting her, touching her, and speaking softly helped Wendy build confidence and strength. To help her find a home, they decorated her kennel with messages calling her “a love bug,” “good with kids” and “the greatest dog ever.” The kid’s commitment to Wendy worked. She quickly got adopted by a new family.
We can learn a lot from the Critter Camp kids. Their instincts are spot on, as they have a natural and unbiased reaction to an animal in need. Regardless of the hype around breeds and their possible behavior, this group of young people saw past Wendy’s looks and saw her as an individual. While some would have walked the other way, Jeannie and the kids saved Wendy’s life.
Many people come to an animal shelter with a clear picture of who they want to adopt—the purebred lab, the tiny Chihuahua, or the fluffy poodle mix. Not surprisingly, fewer adopters walk into the shelter looking for an older, battle-scarred pit bull like Wendy. But, luckily, some do. Each day I come to work, I’m amazed by the compassionate people who visit our shelter and give these dogs a chance. I didn’t get a chance to meet Wendy’s adopter, but if I had, I would have thanked them from the bottom of my heart for giving this sweet girl a warm bed, good food and loving home.