Baby Ernie, aged 5 weeks.
Ernie’s pictured in this post about BSL.
BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) is something I had never heard of before I owned pit bulls. And if I’m being honest, I don’t really remember if I had an opinion either way on pit bulls before Ernie. Sure, my friend had a pit mix (Dexter, who later came to live with me), but I don’t remember having a thought one way or the other about his breed. He was just a big, sweet dog with too-little ears who knew to stay on the porch. Oh, and he let us dress him up. But his canine older brother, Tucker (who was a retriever mix with regular-sized ears), had the same qualities and did the same things.
Baby Ernie (and a very chubby Hemo)
I fell in love with Ernie when he was two days old; he looked like a little guinea pig. While I was waiting for him to be old enough to bring home, I bought a Pit Bulls for Dummies book and set about memorizing it before he came home.
Cement block-shaped head? Pump handle tail? Check and check. At the end of the book was a chapter on BSL and where it had been successfully challenged, and organizations to contact if you had any questions.
I filed it away, hoping to never have to give it a second thought.
A few months later, Ernie and I were in PetsMart getting an ID tag made at one of those “etched while you watch/wait” kiosks. Ernie, a few months old at this point, was exhausted from the sheer amount of people, treats, and toys in the store, and was laying at my feet as we waited for his tag to be finished. A woman approached me, keeping a careful eye on Ernie, and asked me what type of dog he was.
Do I look ferocious?
“He’s a pit bull,” I smiled at her.
She took a couple of big steps back.
“Oh – those dogs shouldn’t be allowed around people.”
My face flushed bright red with a mixture of anger, shame, frustration, and shock. How do you even react to that, when the dog, nay, PUPPY, in question is laying at your feet? Does “I’m sorry you feel that way” even begin to cut it?
Then I moved to the small town of Romeo, MI. A few months after moving there, my step-dad pointed out to me an article in the local paper which reported that the village was thinking about enacting BSL which would ban pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs within it’s borders. I went into full-on panic mode and turned to the “Resources” page of my Pit Bulls for Dummies book. I called about 5 numbers, left messages, and waited anxiously for a reply. I got a call back from a group that had successfully defeated a pit bull ban in nearby Detroit, and they agreed to send a representative to the next council meeting.
I am not a public speaker, but I went to that meeting clutching pictures of Ernie and a few prepared words in my sweaty hands. Ernie, then 9 months old, was at home and although he obviously had no idea what was going on, I didn’t want to let him down. One of the village trustees described pit bulls as being “merciless when they attack” and I almost lost it. Another Romeo resident held up pictures of a child mauled by a pit bull and advocated for their banishment. When it came time for me to take the floor, I was so nervous I had a hard time meeting the gaze of any of the attendees. Luckily I managed to stammer out a coherent sentence or two (thankfully quoted in an article in the Romeo Observer* or I never would have believed it actually happened) before sitting down.
Ernie and his cousin, Sadie Lu, after a long day.
The motion was successfully defeated in favor of enacting a more general (and effective) dangerous dog ordinance. But the seed was planted, and I’ll never forget how close I’ve come to losing my boys, and the hatred and fear people can bear for a dog they’ve never even met.
Through this blog, I’ve met (well, read the blogs of) many other pit bull owners and advocates (like Kate at save the pit bull, save the world, Miss M and Mr. B and their awesome owners at Two Pitties in the City, and rescue/educational groups like Bad Rap, The Unexpected Pit Bull, and Richmond’s Ring Dog Rescue) who have strengthened my belief that these dogs have a place in our world and our homes. All of us can’t be wrong, right?
So now that I’ve shared my sob story, I have to ask for a favor. I’ll be attending BlogPaws West this fall with RichmondPetLovers.com. The catch is that the conference will be held in Denver, CO, a city where Ernie, Dexter, and all pit bulls are not only banned, but would be in danger of being seized and euthanized based only on the fact that they are pit bulls. Maggie at Oh My Dog! has created and is organizing the Operation:Denver campaign to educate Denver’s Mayor Hickenlooper about the facts, rather than the myths, about pits and the people who love them.
Ernie's glamour shot.
Maggie is coordinating a postcard campaign to send 10,560 post cards, or a mile’s worth, to the mayor of the Mile High City. All you have to do is create an electronic postcard (you can download a template for PCs or Macs) and email it to Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s it! Just a minute of your time.
Because I feel so strongly about this, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and I’m going to donate $1 to Operation:Denver for every postcard you guys create. That’s right – if it means no more delicious beers for me, than so be it.
So force me into a ramen diet, guys! Create a postcard and let me know you’ve sent it to Maggie by telling me about it in the comments (or copy me [email@example.com] in the email you send to Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org). If you need a pit bull image, feel free to use any I’ve posted here or anywhere in the blog.
Thanks, friends. BSL is getting my blood boiling.
*The last sentence in this article makes my stomach twist in knots. Is this guy a dog expert? Fuck no, he’s a freakin’ VILLAGE COUNCILMEN. Get a clue, ass.