Meet the Lovabull – Pit Bull Awareness Day 2011

I loved my Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood. But it scared some folks.

They saw the boarded up buildings and kids hanging out on the steps smoking blunts and decided quickly it wasn’t their kind of neighborhood.

Looking at a neighborhood

Beamer from the Montgomery County Humane Society - Love and a Six Foot Leash

Beamer (MCHS) - Photo from Love and a Six Foot Leash

St. Bernard Street (don’t you love that name?) didn’t make a good first impression on everyone. But those who stayed long enough discovered it was a block where people came together. We held regular clean-up days where we’d make sure all the lawns were mowed and the trash picked up. We re-boarded up buildings that had been broken into. We even painted the porch of one derelict place to give it an appealing face lift.

And the block parties–delicious food, games for the kids, visits from the fire department–were the highlight of our summer.

Looking at the dogs

The young men who hung out on our block reminded me of lost souls. Yes, it irritated the hell out of me to step over them lounging on my steps. But they were trying to become men the only way they knew how and every day they showed how much they were still little boys.

The first one to show up with a pibble on a chain leash was Buddha. Buddha was the kid you suspected would find his way someday. He had a strong mother and grandmother in his life. And he always appeared to be a little more grounded than the other boys.

I never once saw him mistreat the dog.

The next pibble to make its appearance spent much of its time sleeping in the other side of our duplex. As with Buddha’s dog, he was there for “protection.” To “train” him, the least confident of the boys would, from a safe distance, toss a basketball at the wall near the dog’s head to provoke a loud reaction.

I lost count of the times I told the kids that if you wanted a dog that would “protect” you, you should treat it really, really well so he preferred you over everyone else in the world. Sometimes I got to deliver this sermonette while scratching a pittie belly.

I remember my husband sitting on the steps one time with the kids when one walked up with his dog. The dog approached Mike for some lovies while the boys were talking about how fierce he was. Pretty soon the dog was humping Mike’s leg. “I guess he’s a lover, not a fighter,” was Mike’s only reply.

Kerry - from the Montgomery County Humane Society at Love and a Six Foot Leash

Kerry (MCHS) - Photo from Love and a Six Foot Leash

Looking at the neighborhood and its dogs

Most of the time we lived on St. Bernard Street, we were the only people who had dogs strictly for companionship. Because “pets” were so uncommon, many of the youngest children were uncertain about Agatha and Christie (or Africa, as she was known on the block; dead British mystery writers weren’t common currency).

Actually, that’s not true. The Latino family down the street had a little puff ball dog. But I don’t think his paws ever touched pavement.

Eventually, our friends Ed and Lisa adopted a pibble of their own. And now there were two families walking companion dogs around the neighborhood.

Other people had a soft heart for dogs. Marie, whose brother Louie inherited the local drug supply business when their brother, Jerome, went to prison, was a harridan with a heart of gold. One minute she was cussing a blue streak in the middle of the night over some perceived sleight. The next she was sneaking food to her brother’s dog.

You’ll never find Marie on an online dog forum promoting positive training techniques. But she shared what kindness she had with those who needed it. And on St. Bernard Street, that included several dogs and not a few cats.

Understanding what is commonly misunderstood

I got frustrated with people unwilling to give my neighborhood a chance. Yes, it had its challenges. But it was a block of people just doing the best they could. And it was home.

People who live with bully dogs get frustrated with people unwilling to give these lovable dogs a chance. Yes, irresponsible owners have involved their bully dogs in violence. But the dogs are just dogs.

Diamond from the Montgomery County Human Society at Love and a Six Foot Leash

Diamond (MCHS) - Photo from Love and a Six Foot Leash

Pibbles starting showing up in my Philadelphia neighborhood around the same time crack did. Before that time, German Shepherd mixes were the most common shelter dogs. But in major cities across the country, bully dogs have, for the past twenty years, been the most common mixes in shelters.

I think pibbles have been especially demonized because of their association with black, inner city men. If pitties were the dog of choice of doctors and hedge-fund managers, even the most shocking stories involving bully dogs would not have resulted in breed discriminatory legislation throughout the country. Society works hard to protect itself from what it most fears (whether it is truly a threat or not). And it’s easiest to protect yourself from those who can’t put up much resistance.

Creating a world safe for people and dogs

Today is Pit Bull Awareness Day. The campaign calls attention to the plight of pibbles and the vilification that has put them in danger throughout the country.

But Pit Bull Awareness is not only about bringing attention to breed discrimination. It also promotes responsible care of bully dogs so they can show the good citizenship we expect of all dogs. The campaign can do more to prevent dog bites (by any type of dog–prevention advice is good for everyone to follow) than any amount of legislation.

Check out the Bless the Bully’s website for news about breed discriminatory legislation but also tips on responsible dog ownership and care. And educate everyone you know about responsible dog care so that bites, by any dog, become a distant memory.


Sloane at the Montgomery County Human Society from Love and a Six Foot Leash

Sloane (MCHS) - Photo from Love and a Six Foot Leash


I was driving down the road the other day when I realized that I missed recognizing a marketer par excellence on my post about bloggers who promoted good marketing for dog causes. I was so distressed, I ran the car off the road, plunged down a 100 foot embankment and sent my Suburu into the lake. Ok, not really. But I was very upset with myself.

And yet, perhaps my bad memory is a gift from the universe. Because the person I forgot to recognize has done her excellent marketing on behalf of pibbles–Aleksandra (please don’t make me type your last name) of Love and a Six Foot Leash.

Aleksandra uses her blog to highlight the pibbles she fosters. With her charming stories and beautiful photos, Aleksandra could make anyone fall in love.

And today, she’s partnering with the Montgomery County Human Society to find homes for at least four pitties by sponsoring their adoption fees. You see, Aleksandra did such a great job raising money for the medical care for her foster dog, Little Zee, there was enough money left over to help a few other dogs.

Here’s how you can help and grow some marketing chops of your own:

  • Visit Aleksandra’s blog to see the gorgeous dogs she’s highlighting for adoption today. I dare you not to fall in love.
  • Share her link on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog.
  • Send a link to anyone you know living in the DC metro area–especially if they could use a loving companion.

The photos accompanying this post came from the Love and a Six Foot Leash website. I apologize for not getting prior permission to post the pictures but hope Aleksandra will forgive me and allow the use of the images.
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  1. What a great post! We’re hoping all those gorgeous Pitties find new forever homes today! Happy Pit Bull Appreciation Day!

    Pit Bull Frogs

  2. What an interesting perspective Pamela. I have to agree that I think there is something to the association people make between black, inner city men and pibbles. I didn’t know that Shepherds were the dog of choice until crack showed up? What is the link there? The need for a tougher dog because crack was such a bigger money maker? It’s got me wondering now.

    I’m glad you didn’t really run off the road, but I SO agree that Aleksandra is a great marketer for pibbles (btw – do you think if we just all them pibbles all of the time it would change how they are viewed?). She takes some amazing pictures and is, in my opinion, is a great example of what AJ’s story covered (the one you covered in your marketing post) – that is that a good picture can help a dog find a home.

    Very nice post.

    • I didn’t mean to suggest there is a direct causation between the arrival of crack in the inner city and pit bulls. I think dogs run according to fashion. And this was a correlation, not a causation. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

      Prior to pibbles, shepherd mixes were very commonly found in shelters. They were practically all we saw when we adopted Agatha and Christie from the Philadelphia SPCA on the early 1990s.

      I have two reasons for using the term “pibble.” Part of it is because it’s an adorable term that fits these smiley, affectionate dogs.

      But part of it is my sensitivity to the fact that pit bull is commonly referred to as a breed and that’s not quite accurate. There are identified bully breeds (e.g. Staffordshire pit bull terriers, American pit bull terrier, etc.) but most dogs called pit bulls are mixes of all kinds of dogs. And nowadays, any dog with a blocky face and a smooth coat can be called a pit bull regardless of his heritage.

      It’s sloppy thinking that allows us to pass sloppy legislation.

      And yes, Aleksandra is a great marketer and a great photographer. I swear the post got a whole lot classier than I put the pictures in. :)

      • Thanks for clarifying Pamela. It’s still interesting to me that German Shepherds were the dog of choice and then they weren’t anymore. I wonder what made pitbulls the new thing to have?
        I also didn’t know that GSDs were common in shelters back then. How sad. We didn’t see them very often at our shelter. I’m hoping that’s because owners loved them so much they couldn’t stand the idea of giving them up, but I suspect it was just less people getting one from a breeder, etc.

        I completely agree that the pitbull often gets confused with other bully breeds. I’ve even had people confuse Boxers with them. Pibble is a much better term to describe all these loveable breeds.

        When I was reading Aleksandra’s post I was wondering what the before pictures looked like of the dogs both you and Aleksandra featured on your blogs. Such lucky dogs to be able to have their photograph taken by her. Each one of them was so endearing.

  3. I’ve had direct experience only with three Pit Bulls and all three had sweeter than Poodle dispositions. I didn’t know this was Pibble Appreciation Day. Good post.

  4. Really interesting perspective, and a great post. I love Aleksandra’s photos – and the event she’s doing right now for PBA is fantastic!

  5. Hi Y’all,

    Love Pibbles.

    One major problem is that there are so many places, some towns, some entire counties or states, or provinces…even entire countries…with BSL. When people travel a lot and either want to board or take their dog, often they hesitate to adopt a bully breed of any description. Many boarding kennels, even hotels and camp grounds specifically refuse to allow the “bully breeds”.

    If you are young and you don’t know where you’ll be living or working in the future…I’ll let you finish the thought.

    BrownDog’s Human

    • Such a good point. And many people are surprised to find they can’t even get homeowner’s insurance if they have a pit mix.

  6. This is such a fantastc post, Pamela. You really nailed it. I haven’t written anything yet partly because I really wasn’t sure how to approach the subject for the 50th time. It’s something I am passionate about but lately I have grown very weary of saying the same things over and over again.

    There is very definitely, and very obviously, a link between society’s fear of pibbles (love your use of the word) and their connection with black, inner-city men. It exemplifies how systemic racism still is. I really appreciate you covering the correlation here as well as you did. It’s easy to get angry and very hard to explain without lecturing. You achieved that perfectly.

    We live right next door to a neighbourhood much like St. Bernard and when I mention to people where I live, I normally get a lot of stares or wrinkled noses. I don’t mind. It helps keep my rent low. 😉

    • Thanks, Kristine. I find that every animal justice issue has a major effect on people as well.

      BTW, your personal take on the subject was fabulous.

  7. Another great post, Pamela. And it’s wonderful what Aleksandra is doing for these 4 gorgeous dogs. In New Zealand there are very few pure bred Pit Bulls, and what is a pure bred Pit Bull? It seems anything with a blocky head and a big, smiley grin with a short coat is called a Pit Bull. Frankie qualifies. I’ve had as many people tell me he’s got pittie in him as say he’s a Kelpie cross. Not the same people though, lol. He’s a lovable mutt. And so are most ‘pitties’. I wonder if calling mutts pitties is good or bad marketing? Would a mutt find the right home quicker than the same dog described as a pittie? Perhaps it would depend on where the dog is? Who knows. I don’t.

    • If NZ has few pibbles, it probably doesn’t have the hysterical fear we have in the U.S.

      Great questions about the marketing issues. It’s hard to know what would do the most for the cause. But I know we have a long way to go.

  8. The pitties I’ve had direct contact with have been incredibly sweet. In the city where I work, they have become status symbols for many of the people living there in poverty. Many of the kids that I work with have only seen big scary dogs in their neighborhoods and are surprised when they meet Bunny and see how gentle and sweet she is. Sadly, one third of all the dogs in our local shelter are pibbles. That’s about 1,000 dogs out of 2,500.

    • I think exposing city kids to sweet kind pups is a real service. I found the same thing–children in the neighborhood were surprised to find they didn’t have to fear a dog.

  9. As usual, Pamela, you have done a stellar job of marketing. Why didn’t you list yourself in that marketing post? :)

    And I’m not talkin’ to Aleksandra. I’m too green with jealously over the AMAZING pictures she takes. 😉

    • Thank you. But I’m a stinky marketer.

      As for your jealousy–you give us only the briefest hints of your photographic powers. I know you have beautiful models. Perhaps someday you’ll share your skills more in your blog. :)

  10. OMG . .so many gorgeous, sweet faces – I know many pibbles that are just the sweetest dogs ever. Great post!


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