I have officially had my pit bull mix Ember for an entire year. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell her story a little bit and perhaps encourage you to consider adoption.
About a year ago I was working primarily as dog staff at my local Humane Society. I have a very clear memory of the day Ember (who went by Sandy at the time) was brought in as a stray. I went to the kennel door and looked in at her. I had never seen a dog with a beautiful fawn brindle coat before. She was huddled in the corner, which wasn’t unusual. A lot of dogs that come in, whether strays or surrendered, are frightened by the foreign environment. But what was unusual, was that when I put the leash around her neck and tried to lead her out of intake she completely froze. I got her no more than a couple of steps past the kennel door and she wouldn’t move. As I tried to gently coax her to come out further she started to tremble. It absolutely broke my heart. We allowed her back into the kennel and decided to try again later. My coworker visited her a few times offering her treats to try and gain her trust. Eventually she did make her way outside of that kennel, but only to go into a different kennel in a special area for strays. We took her picture and posted it online hoping someone would see it and claim her. Obviously, no one ever did.
I began visiting her briefly with treats myself. She would still panic sometimes and shut down when we were walking from the kennel to outside or visa versa, but the treats did help to keep her focus. She became familiar with me and I was able to transfer her with less trouble. When no one claimed her she eventually made her way out to the floor where the public could see her in the hopes that someone would adopt her. She was surrounded by loud, unfamiliar dogs, which certainly didn’t help with her fear. She would bark defensively or due to stress, but no more than any of the other dogs. When I would take her outside she wouldn’t really play. I usually found her waiting by the door until it was time for her to come back in. I fully admit that by this time I was hopelessly in love with her. I secretly wished no one would adopt her while I tried to make arrangements that I could take her. My husband came to visit me once at work for my lunch break. We took Ember (still Sandy) outside to sit with us while we visited. My husband was quite taken with her as well. She was certainly shy, but she had a way of connecting with people. Her mere presence created a compulsion to want to make her feel loved and safe. If I’m being honest, I knew after that, that she was my dog. I didn’t have an application in and I certainly had no claim over her, but somehow I knew.
My husband was the one who put the application in. We were both willing to do what we had to do to be able to bring her home with us. When our application was approved I was over the moon. She was spayed shortly after and then finally the day came that we were able to bring her home. My husband picked me up from work and we quickly realized that she was terrified of the car. He tried to walk her around a bit to get some of the nerves out, but eventually he had to just pick up her and put her in the back seat. We went to PetSmart and allowed her to pick out her own bed and some toys. She did pretty well all things considered. While there was concern that everything would overwhelm her, it was certainly more relaxed than the stressful environment at the shelter. We went to a neutral location to introduce her to our other dog (we were prepared to keep them separate if the meeting didn’t go well). But it did go well. Bandit was the perfect teacher, never the aggressor, but vocal when her boundaries had been crossed. Ember was naïve to dog etiquette, but respected what Bandit communicated. They quickly adopted a sort of teacher/pupil relationship. After that we brought her home where we introduced her to my mother and grandmother. She was standoffish, but her sweet nature shone through regardless. We were then met with the realization that she was afraid of the steps. We already knew she had a lot of issues that we were going to have to work on, but it quickly became clear that there were even more issues than we realized. Introducing her to our cat Jose happened in supervised small increments over the first few days. It was evident basically right away that Ember wanted to play. She would constantly give her prettiest play bow and paw at the air in Jose’s direction. She basically lit up every time she saw him.
Within the first few months she was over the fear of the steps and the car. As a matter of fact, car rides are now one of her very favorite things. She loves to alternate between sticking her head out the window and mounting the middle console so she can look out the front windshield. She hates the rain (or any bodies of water for that matter), but I was delighted to discover that she loves the snow! She even won over Jose who is now best friends with her. They nap together, play together, and get into trouble together. Regular partners in crime. It became apparent quite quickly that she was very smart and able to learn tricks with relative ease, but for some reason she really struggled with her potty training. Of course, we didn’t realize until much later that Bandit had also been having accidents in the house (Bandit is 15, so this was a new behavior caused by her age). It’s possible Ember was blamed for an incident or two that weren’t actually her fault. Thankfully, if that’s the case, she’s forgiven us.
As I look back on the past year I feel such pride in how far she’s come. She smiles and plays freely. She’s still very much afraid of certain things, like rain and strangers. We’ve had more than one run in with off-leash dogs which has shown her that not everyone will treat her the same way Bandit does, which has made her a bit suspicious of all other dogs. She’s discerned that the toads in the driveway are okay, but the chipmunk on the front porch has ulterior motives and must be stopped. In short, she’s adorable and sweet, but she still has her fair share of issues. I’m very excited because tonight we have her first training with an organization that specializes in pit bulls. I see how far she’s come and how much potential she still has and all I can think is that I have to do right by her.
I adopted a one year old pit bull with a good number of issues from the animal shelter. I’ve never once wished she was a puppy or a different breed or had perfect behavior. Just like when we fall in love with people despite the fact that they’re not perfect and we don’t wish they were because that would just strip them of everything that makes them… them. If you’re in the market for a pet, I would urge you to not only look at the young ones, or the small ones, or the ones that seem best behaved. Take the time to meet the scared ones, the stressed ones, the old ones, and the ones that no one else wants. You may just find one that you need just as much as they need you