Let’s face it. Last week was a singularly spectacular week for Northern Nevada. Tesla announced that it is now officially Battle Born, the Wolf Pack showed the PAC-10 who is boss, our Aces began their run for the title, and perhaps in a slightly less-heralded event, Bess the dog was adopted. Now, I understand that with all of last week’s superlative fanfare, that there is a chance this last bit of news passed you by. There might even be chance that a pet adoption does not strike you as congruent with the other bombastic events that took place last week. I can understand that. I forgive you. I can only assume that you did not have the opportunity to meet Bess, which would make all the difference.
Bess is a 5-year-old, black-and-white Staffordshire Terrier. In other words, Bess is a Pit Bull. Well, technically she is some amalgamation of dog breeds that produced a square head, a sweet face, and an eminently charming disposition. What proportions or percentages of heritage created Bess is almost impossible to guess. She had a sort of a long, squat body and floppy ears – she could never pass breed standards to be considered a Staffy. She is a dog. A pretty special dog.
Through a variety of circumstances, all outside of her control, Bess was with us at Nevada Humane Society for quite a while. As a result of her tenure, and in much larger part due to her incredible sweetness, most of us at NHS were instantly and forever smitten by this mess of a dog. She’d practically climb you to deliver huge wet kisses, and she’d barrel into you to get as close as she possibly could. Bess must be a believer that physical distance equates with emotional distance and she wants to leave no question how she feels. She loves you, she loves everybody.
Bess is a little older and labeled a Pit Bull and—in spite of her incredible demeanor–she stayed with us for longer than she deserved (NHS has a stunningly low average length of stay of 13 days for dogs). As demonstrated in a letter to this paper printed just last week, Pit Bulls have a reputation. Certainly there have been some pretty ugly incidents recently and these events help contribute to the negative perception of what has been described as “America’s dog. “
As is typically wise in these situations, it is best to review the facts. According to the American Temperament Testing Society, 90% of dogs labeled as Pit Bulls (typically a conglomeration of a number of different breeds and mixes) passed their evaluation–a far higher “passing” rate than many other breeds. At the end of the day, NHS treats every dog as an individual. Each dog is evaluated using the most effective, predictive behavior assessment available. Any dogs who show profound human or animal aggression are not made available for adoption. NHS considers the dual obligations of saving pet’s lives and keeping our community safe to be our most sacrosanct responsibilities.
Data on the issue of dog bites and aggression is hard to come by. Data is almost impossible to uniformly and accurately collect. Both sides shout loud and present often questionable statistics. Here’s the skinny as far as I see it, and I see a lot of dogs. Work hard to educate yourself, teach your kids how to prevent dog bites, train your dog to have good manners, adopt from reputable sources, spay and neuter your pets, and help create a safe community for everyone. In my experience, there is no good or bad dog breed; there are dogs with a variety of innate and environmental variables, just like you and me. Not for nothing, but I have done this for a long time and I have been bitten three times. It was never by a Pit Bull.
Bess went to a great family. That family got a great dog. I don’t know about you, but I am celebrating. Special thanks to the Reno Aces for helping Bess find a home. She was adopted at the ballpark thanks to our home team, an incredible volunteer named Shelly, and a staff member named Sam. The Aces won that night.