Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aware and enlightened

I had wanted to post something for Pit bull Awareness Day Oct. 9, but Sunday came and went without a minute to spare. So imagine my delight when I found out that October is actually Pit bull Awareness MONTH! Woo hoo.

Truth be told, however, Hathaway and I try to make every day of every month Pit bull Awareness Day so people start to realize how incredible these dogs can be. We have made friends at the dog park and around the neighborhood, at the soccer fields and the pet store. People I have never seen before call out his name and rub his big head. And on Saturdays and Sundays at sporting fields teaming with hundreds of kids and adults, Hath is usually laying on the sideline, watching the action and getting his belly rubbed by child after child after child, or sometimes an entire team at once.

Puppies climb on him and toddlers standing at eye level pluck his favorite ball right out of his mouth and he plays or waits or chases, whatever he understands his job to be at that moment. We have taken the first steps toward teaching him to be a therapy dog.

And still we have moments, like the lady at the dog park a couple of weeks ago in her fancy clothes walking her trendy Lab. As I was talking with my friend Beth, another regular with two small schnauzer types, Hathaway was stretched out in the cool grass, chewing his rubber ball like bubble gum. He wasn't on a leash. He rarely is.

When the woman was about 20 yards away, she waved and very sincerely called out, "Is it safe to walk by?"

Caught off guard (being in a place where everyone knows Hath's name), I looked around for a moment. When I saw it was only me and Beth standing there, it was clear she was asking about the dog.

I waved back and just as politely said "Of course" and turned back to my friend. Beth bit her tongue for as long as she could, so the woman had passed us but wasn't completely out of earshot when she burst out with an "Are you KIDDING me? Did she mean Hathaway?" followed by a few more colorful words.

I just shrugged. It happens -- not all the time, but regularly enough. For some people, it doesn't matter that he is an AKC-certified Canine Good Citizen or how much training he's had. For some people, it won't matter that we will eventually be visiting nursing homes or helping kids to read. They'll hear the word --pit bull -- and the rest won't matter.

So every day, if we can meet someone new or play with another kid, if we can be out around town and in stores, sitting for pats and playing with puppies, we might change one more opinion. That might mean one more dog is rescued and that's why every day is Pit bull Awareness Day for us.