Brenda Battles the Bulge: I Call Bull – Week 9By Brend Welch
I’ve always put too much stock into what other people think of me—how I look or don’t look; what I say or don’t say; do or don’t do; believe or don’t believe. I’ve often pushed down parts of my personality that I think people may not like. My silliness. My honesty. My vulnerability.
On my long and winding road to health, happiness, and harmony, I have to find my sweet spot of acceptance for what makes me unique. I need to try and be an unbiased observer, identifying those things that fuel me and drain me. When do I feel good about myself? What causes me to want to withdraw from the world and tuck into the fetal position? What are the things that I hold in great esteem and most want to embody?
About two weeks ago, the world did me a solid of sending me a life coach of sorts, in the form an 8-month-old dog—more specifically, an American pit bull terrier. Yes, a pit bull.
Katie Makrides established Pit Pride in Frederick, MD to help educate, support, and advocate for pit bulls and pit bull mixes. I met her through a friend a few years back and followed her Facebook posts about pit bulls. Her tireless dedication and resourcefulness kept my attention, and soon enough I felt myself mentally taking a step back and looking at pits with a different perspective. Up until that point, I loosely held a negative impression of the breed. I’ve never known anyone to have a pit bull as a pet, so that negativity was based on media stories of dog fighting and aggressiveness toward humans. I bought into the hype.
But Katie told a different story, one of loyalty, intelligence, obedience, and love. Her words prompted me to do a bit of research, which broadened my perspective. Many months ago, I tentatively reached out to Katie and asked her to give me a heads up if a dog crossed her path that might be a good fit for our family.
A little more than two weeks ago, she emailed saying she had found the perfect dog for us named Ace. He was dropped off at a shelter in Frederick. The folks at the shelter decided to put him down because they had too many pit bulls, and Ace had mange (which, by the way, responds easily to treatment). She got Ace out of there and brought him to Buckeystown Veterinary Hospital, and the people there gave him medical attention and love. I talked to as many people as I could about Ace, and everyone adored him. I was told he was sweet, eager to please, had a great temperament, and showed no aggression toward people or cats.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself driving Ace home to live with us. He is a sweetheart in every way. Although he has not had any training, he is learning quickly. He is content in our home. No aggression at all. He hasn’t once made a motion to even chase the cat. He just wants to be loved and to love.
Yet, something was off from the get-go. I first felt it when I brought Ace into a local pet store. I turned down an aisle and a family picking out a cat collar scurried away in a tiny huddled mass. I watched one person after another go from a relaxed posture to a defensive stance when we walked by. When others with their dogs on a leash in the store caught sight of Ace, many made an audible gasp, and promptly dragged their pooches as far away as possible. Each time that happened, I looked at Ace, expecting to see him foaming at the mouth. Each time he was chill. Not tugging on the leash. Not growling. Nothing.
Later that day, I took Ace for a walk around our neighborhood. I watched as people actually crossed the street to get away from us. Many of those people didn’t have a dog—they were just out getting exercise. Yet, they still crossed. One woman did stop, and was in the middle of asking me if she could pet Ace when her husband who was a few paces behind her blurted out, “Don’t! That’s a pit bull!”
I understand that pit bulls have a bad reputation and people fear them. That is one of the reasons why I got him the bright turquoise-colored harness, collar, and leash instead of the one next to it decked out with skulls and crossbones. It’s also why I wrapped the leash a few times around my wrist so there was barely any slack between myself and Ace, who, by the way, is 40 pounds, which is on the smaller side for the breed. He wasn’t furiously tugging on the leash trying to get to the people or other dogs. No whining. No barking. He did nothing to warrant such a reaction except show up in the body he was given.
So, why do I consider Ace to be a life coach?
He doesn’t care if people cross the street. He doesn’t care that people judge him based on the way he looks. He doesn’t know what breed he is, or that his breed has a bad reputation. He shows up as he feels, and so far, that has been happy and thankful. He shines. He loves unconditionally. He is forgiving. He lives in the present and doesn’t begrudge the past or worry about the future. He thrives on clear and consistent communication. He never pretends to be something he is not.
I need these reminders quite often these days as I work to kick bad habits to the curb and form healthier ones. Lacey Lee has been such an incredible person to have on my team because, and I mean this in the best way possible, she’s kind of like a pup herself. She’s enthusiastic, energetic, encouraging, happy, thankful, and doesn’t judge. I feel like I can be myself around her, whether I’m having a great day or a challenging day. She’s always happy to see me. From my experience, she’s like that with everyone she comes in contact with.
As much as I joke that I wish I could carry Lacey around in my pocket all the time, that would be just weird—and hard on my back. But I am incredibly fortunate that grace brought another gift into my life through Ace. Who would have thought that probably one of the most misunderstood and reviled breed of dog models traits that I hope to embody more in my life?
In broadening my knowledge of pit bulls, I came upon this quote, which is fitting for this blog:
“No matter what you have been told by other people about how you are not good enough, YOU ARE worthy of having the best life. And, you are the one who must believe you are worthy. That takes listening to the truth of your heart, not what other people tell you.”