I fell in love with a pit bull

Six years ago I fell in love…. with a pit bull.

On a warm Spring day the husband and I decided to attend the Open House of a new animal shelter in Fort Collins- Animal House Rescue and Grooming.

Knowing my love of Boxers, the husband pointed out a black and white dog named Maggie, listed as a Boxer-mix. I looked at Maggie and said, “that’s not a Boxer- that’s a pit bull!”

Maggie was transferred to Animal House Rescue and Grooming after being on the euthanasia list at an out-of-state shelter.

We spent some time visiting with Maggie having no intention of adopting her or any dog that day. The husband didn’t even really like animals all that much (or so he thought at the time!)

Despite our mental protestations that we were not going to adopt a dog, let alone a pit bull, we couldn’t forget about sweet and playful Maggie.

The idea of a adopting a pit bull was intimidating- I’d only heard the horror stories of dog-fighting and pit bull attacks. Before I could seriously consider adopting Maggie, I needed to do some research. What I learned about pit bulls was very different than the bad reputation pit bulls get in the media.

From canine gladiators

The predecessors of today’s pit bulls were Bulldogs bred in England for the sport of bull-baiting. When blood sports were outlawed in England in 1835, fight enthusiasts began to breed smaller, more agile dogs for illegal dog-fighting. These dogs eventually became modern pit bulls.

Bulldogs of the 1800′s and modern pit bulls, the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and American Staffordshire Terrier (AST), are game dogs, prized for their ability to refuse to quit the task at hand despite overwhelming adversity or risk of personal injury. This trait is the main reasons pit bulls are favored by dog-fighters. These smart, tenacious, and strong dogs were effective fighters in the ring.

to America’s Sweethearts

In the early 20th century, American Pit Bull Terriers were celebrated as symbols of courage and bravery. A white APBT was used to symbolize the United States of America in war posters published during World War I.


WWI Allies War Poster

A pit bull named Stubby was a decorated WWI hero, participating in 18 major battles, warning his regiment of incoming attacks and once preventing a spy from escaping. Stubby was awarded the rank of honorary sergeant, and received an audience with three Presidents.

Sgt Stubby Parade Magazine

Sgt. Stubby on the cover of Parade Magazine

Pit bulls weren’t only popular symbols of America’s fighting spirit during WWI- an American Pit Bull Terrier named Petey was a bona fide star of the popular TV series, The Little Rascals and short films, Our Gang.


It wasn’t until the 1980′s that pit bulls began to lose favor and be vilified in the media.

Will the real APBT please stand up

American Pit Bull Terriers are, by nature, affectionate and anxious-to-please. Contrary to popular myth, APBTs were bred for their good temperament and high tolerance toward humans to avoid redirected aggression during fight training and dog-fighting. In fact, American Pit Bull Terriers tested higher than Golden Retrievers and many other popular breeds in testing by the American Temperament Test Society, Inc., passing at 86.8%.

It is true, however, that APBTs are more likely to be dog-aggressive than many other breeds. That doesn’t mean they can’t get along with other dogs- many APBTs are dog-friendly, but owners should be aware of the increased risk of dog aggression.

American Pit Bull Terriers are extremely intelligent (read: trainable!) and high energy, requiring regular mental stimulation and physical exercise. They make great working dogs such as police dogs, rescue dogs, and therapy dogs, and they often excel at sports including agility and weight-pulling.

American Pit Bull Terriers are loyal and good-natured- especially with children- widely believed to once be called “the Nanny Dog”, as evidenced in the photos below:

nanny dog 8

nanny dog 2

nanny dog 7

Would a dog by any other name be as sweet?

During my research I discovered pit bulls go by many names. In fact, the term “pit bull” is a generalization that may represent any number of dog breeds and mixed-breed dogs.

That means when you read about a “pit bull” attack, the accused dog may or may not be an American Pit Bull Terrier. Just look at this infographic from The Toledo Blade.


The only breeds that can be truly classified as pit bulls are the American Pit Bull Terrier, as recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and the American Staffordshire Terrier, as recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), and sometimes the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, as recognized by the AKC.

It’s easy to see how difficult it is to accurately classify a dog as a pit bull, and why there’s such rampant misidentification of the breed.

I love a pit bull!

After my thorough research dispelling the myths about pit bulls I was ready to bring Maggie home. Any hesitation I had about adopting a pit bull was gone.

This doesn’t mean, however, that sharing my home with a pit bull is easy- I must be the epitome of responsible ownership for the sake of my dogs. Any accusation against my dogs is likely to be blown out-of-proportion and my dogs could pay the price with their lives.

I regularly fight hate and discrimination- even right here in dog-friendly Fort Collins. Pet businesses refuse to provide services, and some family members will no longer visit us in our home.

If Fort Collins instituted a breed ban, we would be forced to move out of the city I love so much. Even without a city-wide breed ban in place it’s extremely difficult to find rental housing or buy homeowner’s insurance with a pit bull.

Loving a pit bull isn’t easy, but I don’t regret my choice to adopt my first pibble, or the pibbles I adopted later.

001-31[1]Photo by Lazio Images

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  • Erica

    Thank you so much for advocating pitties! My husband and I foster and we love when we get pit bulls because they are so smart and easily trainable no matter what background they came from. We love them so much and we love seeing other pit advocates!

    • Chrysta Bairre

      After sharing my home with pit bulls, it’s truly my pleasure to spread the word! :) What great dogs!

      Have a fantastic day!


  • antiBSLgirl

    Just stumbled across this. The b&w pics showing the heritage and the “degree of pit bull” in them bothers me. None of them have American Pit Bull Terrier, but are labeled “some pit” or “mostly pit”, which is wrong which is why it’s easy for the media to call any dog a “pit bull” Even some APBT owners refuse to call their dogs “pit bulls” because of negative media attention. I am totally against BSL, I just believe that picture doesn’t help.

    • http://tailsoffortcollins.com/ Katrina Pfannkuch

      Thank you for sharing your insights with us here. I took the blog over from someone else starting in September of 2013, so I did not create this original content. However, now that your comment is visible on the post, others who come by will be able to read your opinion on this topic.

    • Brian Curtis

      Some of them have AmStaff which IS, Pit Bull. Even though it is not American Pit Bull Terrier. Which is exactly the point, the attempt to put a blanket label of “pitbull” on dogs is pointless.

  • dktur

    APBT generally isn’t included in those mail-in DNA tests. I think it usually comes up as “mixed breed.” All I know is that I love, love, love..with all my heart…my little pibble/pit mix/pit-type baby :)
    She is wonderful…and I love when people compliment her behavior and then I tell them she’s a “pit.” We’re changing minds one person at a time.

  • Brian Curtis

    These dogs really are dangerous. Once you get to know them, you want to save them all. I owned many breeds from age 5 to age 30. I never had a real preference, I just liked dogs. Then I had a pibble basically dumped on me. Best gift I ever received and the only breed I plan to have from now on.