Xuma our Sweet Pit Bull
Pit bulls are feared. The media describes them as jaw-locking, vicious beasts. The media is wrong.
We live with Xuma. She is an American Staffordshire Terrier, which falls into the pit bull family. Xuma is friendly and playful, tail wagging to welcome all. She cannot read, so she does not know that she is supposed to be dangerous. She wants to sniff the butt of every dog she meets, and expects every person to stop and pet her. With ears perked and head tilted to one side, she pauses to meet and greet. Despite her friendliness, people sometimes change direction when they see her. Xuma is friendly, but she is also tenacious: she does not give up. Even when rejected, she sits, then lies down, rests her head on her paws, and watches the people go by, disappointed at the lost opportunity.
We adopted her from the city shelter six years ago. When they found her living on the streets, her nipples were heavy with milk. They could not find the puppies. Over my years with Xuma, I educated myself about pit bulls and learned that the media does a disservice to the breed. They not only fail to describe the breed correctly, they are quick to blame the Pitt bull if someone is bitten. The media fails to ask the pertinent questions. Why did the dog become angry? Was it provoked? Was it protecting its territory? Good journalists should include both sides of a story. Instead, they play on people’s fears. As a result, all pit bulls are seen as dangerous.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Pit bulls were popular. Helen Keller, Theodore Roosevelt and the Little Rascals all had loved and trusted family pets, all dogs in the same pit bull family. Now, due to these myths and assumptions, the breed is not only feared, but banned in cities across the United States. I wonder if there have been less dog bites in those cities? I doubt it.
Cosmo, also a pit bull, lived with us for a few months. He and Xuma loved to play together. While Xuma does not appear as fierce as some Pit bulls, Cosmo, who had the misfortune of having his ears docked, may seem intimidating. At forty pounds, he’s not a large dog, but he is muscular and broad through the chest. People fear him. People are wrong. What Cosmo wants most is a good cuddle on the couch.
A friend volunteers to walk dogs at a local animal shelter. He fell for a large Pit bull and adopted him. The result? He now has a very friendly and happy dog. He also has the job of educating family and friends who are afraid to visit him because of the dog.
I wish I had a heroic story to tell about Xuma saving a child from drowning that might convince you that Pit bulls are great dogs, but she has yet to engage in such heroics. We will never know how she came to be homeless or what happened to her litter. But what I do know is that she is a great family pet, calm and trusting, always cheerful, looking for a tummy rub and a treat, and always welcoming the dogs we have fostered. She is a good dog, it is that simple.