Most pit bulls make the news when they do something horrible, or when they are associated with something violent. “Pit Bull Mauls Child.” “Police Shoot Pit Bull.” Even those of us who only casually follow the news or pay attention to animal stories have seen or read these headlines over and over.
Of course, there are few news items that buck this trend.
Just two weeks ago, I read about a pit bull who saved his owner from drowning. And, in the years since Michael Vick was arrested and details of his horrific dog fighting operation reached the public, we’ve learned of incredibly inspiring stories of some of the rescued pits who became therapy dogs, overcoming the treatment they received.
"Bandit," a 6-year-old pit bull mix at the Peninsula Humane Society, won’t make any news reports. He never attacked anyone - unless you count a vigorous licking! - he hasn’t stopped a burglar, and hasn’t been shot at by police. He has no fighting scars. He wasn’t abused.
Yet, Bandit did do something extraordinary. He made Peninsula Humane Society history by becoming the first shelter dog to enroll in and pass our AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class.
To potential adopters, this says Bandit is one special dog - something we believed all along, that was confirmed by an impartial AKC evaluator.
In passing the CGC evaluation at the end of the course, Bandit proved he has good, consistent manners, he can greet strangers in a friendly manner, can walk on a loose leash, walk through a crowd, and stay.
Bandit is currently available for adoption at our new Center for Compassion in Burlingame. Once he’s adopted, his new owner can send his CGC paperwork to the AKC to make his status official. Sorry, that’s way too many initials - we’ll explain when you come to meet him!
You may be wondering how a dog with no owner enrolls in class. Our volunteers took him - and worked with him outside of class! - which makes the achievement that much more remarkable. Our staff behaviorists worked with his as well.
This work and the certification he earned becomes part of Bandit’s resumé; part of his story.
A Canine Good Citizen certification (CGC) is distinct from therapy dog status; in San Mateo County, owners can seek therapy dog status and enjoy the benefits - like taking their dog everywhere they go - if their dog helps them perform a task they otherwise couldn’t perform.
The CGC status is helpful in other ways. For example, if an owner’s employer considers allowing pets in the workplace, they could use the CGC class to show their dog can be well-behaved in this setting. Or, CGC can be used by people looking to secure pet-friendly rental housing.
Securing housing is part of Bandit’s backstory: He was surrendered to our shelter in January 2010 because his owners couldn’t find rental housing that would allow them to keep their dog. They worked something out and picked him up after a few days, only to be forced to surrender him once again in September 2011 for the same reason.
These owners have called 19 times (as of June 15) to check on him. We were thrilled to share his great news. It will be even sweeter when we can tell them that Bandit has found a new, "forever" home.
About that ideal home - we’d love to see Bandit steal the heart of an adopter who has a yard and some prior experience with his breed. If not, we are happy to explain what’s unique about the breed.
Bandit can live with other dogs who share his calm, friendly temperament. Cats? Probably not. And, given he’s a strong dog, any children in the home should be teens.
As we often do with dogs we know will benefit from obedience training, we are making this training mandatory with his adoption. Most adopters later tell us that training was a wonderful bonding experience and a great way to get started on the right paw with their new dog.
I’m used to pitching dogs and saying “this one won’t last - visit today." Bandit should be one of these dogs, but we know many visitors will see "pit bull mix" on his profile card, they might think “aw, it’s great they’re giving this dog a chance,” and they’ll keep walking.
Stop by and say hi. Meet Bandit and play with him. His story will end with a happy home.
After all, we find homes for 100 percent of the healthy dogs and cats in our care - we just want it to be today, not nine months from now.