I will begin this story with the cold hard truth. My foster dog Nitro is unadoptable. Or at least by many standards and statistics in the animal sheltering world, he should be deemed as such. In fact, I am sure that in many shelters he would have already been euthanized by now. Not in ours, but sadly in many.
Let me explain why.
First, in some shelters he would be euthanized upon entry into the shelter environment for the most lethal of sins. He’s a Pitbull. Well, a Pitbull mix anyway. One strike but a huge strike for many dogs.
While I’m sure I don’t need to explain much about that sin since you only need to have watched a little media reporting over the years to have been bombarded with every dog bite by a Pitbull over the last 20 years. If they would only do the same for every Chihuahua dog bite as well to give it a bit of proper perspective. And yes, I know, I Chihuahua bite does not do the damage of a Pitbull. But that is a different discussion altogether.
Regardless, many people who are looking to adopt will, no matter how altruistic their intentions, not give a second look to anything that resembles a Pit. Even those who aren’t altogether certain what a Pit looks like…as often is represented by questions such as “do you think he has any Pit in him?” when standing in front of a dog that no more resembles a Pitbull than a cat.
I just want to take those same people and sit them down on my couch for an hour and let them experience first-hand what they obviously know nothing about. Granted being attacked by a Pit in my house means having one lay his head in your lap or another climb into the middle of your chest for snuggles. And yes, it can be uncomfortable especially when those pesky elbows find the most sensitive spots like just below the ribs or worse, but they will find none of the creatures characterized by the media reporting in my home.
In reality, Nitro doesn’t look much like a Pit at all by normal standards as he’s much more Labby with his blocky head and rounded eyes but there is no denying his body build divulges some Pitty heritage in there somewhere. And sometimes he resembles some of their personality characteristics. But so does my cat, Teddy.
Google Pitbull characteristics and see if these don’t crop up.
“Strong Willed, Obedient, Loyal, Friendly, Clownish, Stubborn, Courageous, Intelligent, Affectionate”
Undoubtedly Nitro (and Teddy) has several of those but is distinctly lacking of others.
For instance, it might be a stretch to call him obedient. He’s a bit slow to learn and as such, his obedience is based entirely on what everyone else does. If they sit for treats…he sits for treats. If my 8 dogs go running through the house to chase falling leaves, Nitro is right with them. If you tell him to off your lap, he dully looks at you as if you’re speaking a foreign language.
Intelligent? Again, he’s not the sharpest tack in the box but he has learned where his bowl is, how to get on the bed, our normal daily routine, how to use the dog door (which has challenged much smarter dogs than he) where the kibble goes that Bruce snuffles out of his bowl and yet does not go looking for—quite the find! He’s learned that he stays in the garage with some other dogs during the day and that means treats and the potential for scarfing food from the foster puppies there! He knows how to walk on the treadmill, how to get off if it goes too fast, how to sit and many other things. He does not however know that chewing electrical cords is a bad thing or if he does, it doesn’t seem to dissuade him from taking a bite now and then. Nitro 3- electric cords 0.
So I’d be in some sort of foster mom denial if I tried to attest anything other than he’s just a tad slow to pick up the nuances of things that I find readily in more intelligent dogs.
Courageous? Nope! He more unaware and free-wheeling than courageous. He’s more curious than courageous. Nitro knows no enemies and as such, while he doesn’t fear anything, applying courage to that behavior would be a stretch. He’s just unassuming, unafraid and unencumbered by any experience that would suggest that he should shy away from anything.
But oh my, he is strong willed, loyal to a fault, friendly, clownish and affectionate. Just try to dissuade him from joining you on the couch and you will see every single one of those traits in one fell swoop. Nitro is 55 pounds of love and believes the best way to demonstrate that is to plant himself in the middle of your lap.
Yet, it’s the Pitbull moniker that gives him his first strike regardless.
Next he’s a black dog. Black is just too common. As I’ve said many times, black animals are the most difficult to get adopted. There are more black animals in shelters than any other color and they seemingly get lost in the midst of what some will consider dullness or not being “flashy” enough. Others will appoint bad luck to the color. But generally I believe they are hardest to place because there are just so many. People want something different. A spotted dog will be adopted well before a solid. Long hair before short, and etc. and etc. and etc. Strike 2!
Layer that on top of the reality he’s not a young cute little puppy but rather a young adult dog, he’s quickly at three strikes and heading for the dugout.
So let’s pretend for just a moment we’re playing some other game that allows more than three strikes. It’s my game so I make the rules. Bear with me.
Nitro has one other issue that makes him unadoptable. Nitro has seizures. Or has had seizures. A few times in the shelter and in the 2 1/2 months with me, he’s had one day that included six seizures. Each short lived, each left me frantic, him scraping the ground as if running from his side, and drooling all over himself. It was frightening. But within a few minutes, he is back on his feet and while wobbly, he is looking for whatever it is Nitro looks to the world for.
With a slight change to his dosage of medication, which he takes twice daily on a somewhat rigid schedule of every 12 hours (which means between 10 and 14 hours apart in my world of inconsistency), he has been seizure free. But it’s likely these will be a part of his life forever. And his medicine, albeit inexpensive, will need to be a part of his life forever too. But the idea of adopting a dog with seizures scares the bejeebees out of most people. I suppose there would have been a time it would have made me wary too. No longer.
And while I believe it is either past seizures or possible the medication or just his normal nature, that leaves Nitro with often an expressionless face, ears that are so still they don’t give away any clue of what he might be planning, and eyes that are equally untelling, Nitro is an absolute delight.
I liken him to a child with autism. He sometimes seems emotionless. He sometimes seems just a little slow. He sometimes seems to be in a world all his own. And yet I find this dog to be one of the sweetest, happiest, most carefree creatures I’ve ever met. Truly if I had to choose to be any creature on the face of the earth, it might be him.
He LOVES everyone! He LOVES everything! He knows no foe. Ask the trainers that came from afar to teach our shelter staff how to create amenable playgroups out of strange dogs in a stressful environment. They labeled Nitro a SUPER STAR! Unflappable, unassuming, a dog for all dogs! Nitro can go out with anyone. As such EVERYONE and EVERYTHING seems to love Nitro!
Even when reprimanded by other dogs for being too carefree or not very “personal space sensitive” (as I call his bull in a china shop attitude in my home), his reaction is to just to bounce off and continue on. Never a raised lip or snarl or snap or resistance. If he were a person I believe he would say with a shrug “sorry, my foul” and saunter off to the next thing that strikes his fancy.
He enjoys everything equally. A clump of grass to toss in the air, a litter of new puppies to play with and let climb all over him, a cat on the couch to nuzzle, personal time in the bathroom (more than I do but trying to reprimand him is akin to lecturing a cat), an empty plate that needs licking, some rowdy dogs willing to wrestle or an old dog looking to cuddle. He loves the car, pre-rinsing the dishes in the dishwasher with his tongue, visiting friends at the shelter, returning home to tell everyone about his adventures in this neat place, and he LOVES people! Snuggling with people most of all. Which is second only to eating! His medication likely helps encourage this vice but he loves his food, his treats, your food, the cat food or the cat food container…eating!
He’s happy every moment of every day and while it would be easy to feel sorry for him because of some of his minor challenges, his attitude and personality far overshadow what some might pity him for!
I feel sorry more for those who are missing out on this lovely boy than for him. While people will often say I should just keep him, he deserves to be someone’s special dog and not just one of my very large pack. But he’s happy. I just wish he could share that happiness with someone or a family that deserves such unfettered joy.
I wish too that more could know him as I do and share in the benefit of the lessons he is teaching me each day. He may be unadoptable but he’s not unworthy of being loved. As I believe it doesn’t matter where you come from, how you look, your age, or even how smart or brave you are. If you love well, without prejudice and with abandon, you are worthy of the best that life has to offer.
And if you’re a dog named Nitro, you are happy regardless of all the strikes against him.