Name: Holland, aka Holly
Age: 1 year, 2 months (2/1, was her “Adopt-a-versary”!)
City: New York City
Favorite things: 1. FOOD! 2. Chewing on things (see #1). 3. Howling in her sleep. 4. Being a “snuggle-pup-agus” on the couch. 5. Playing with her friends at the dog park. 6. Getting her way. 7. Bounding gleefully through the snow. 8. Cheating at tug-of-war. 9. Chest rubs. 10. Sneaking into the bedroom (where she is NOT supposed to be) and then looking so cute that I can’t kick her out (see #6).
No one knows exactly where Holland (named after the Tunnel) originally came from. She was found alone, on the street, with worms and a displaced hip– at just 4 weeks old! I wasn’t doing so well at that time either. I had gone through a very bad experience at my job. I ended up basically having a nervous breakdown and quitting. I felt like a failure and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Then I saw Holly’s picture on the website of our local no-kill shelter (www.animalhavenshelter.org). Although he was very hesitant (he’d never had a pet before), my husband Rob supported me in my quest to add this tiny “beagle mix” to our family. Bringing Holly home brought me back to life. Her joy became my joy and her unconditional love helped me begin to love myself again. She definitely rescued me as much as I rescued her.
It quickly became clear that Holly was neither tiny nor a “beagle mix.” Turns out she is 1/4 Jack Russell, 1/4 American Staffordshire Terrier, 1/4 Groenendahler and 1/4 Unknown. However, I tend to identify her as a pit mix because that is how others see her, for better or for worse. She has a beautiful Staffy “smile” and those wide, Egyptian-looking Staffy eyes. She was barred from a local doggie daycare simply because she “looks substantially like a pit bull…and we are not insured for those kind of aggressive dogs.” I certainly wouldn’t take her anywhere near Denver. Fortunately, we live in Lower Manhattan, where rescued pit mixes are fairly common and relatively accepted. Relatively. There are still parents in the neighborhood who pull their kids away (“NO! Don’t pet that doggie. That’s a mean doggie.”) and owners of TDDs (Tiny Designer Dogs) tend to glare and cross the street.
However, no amount of education from me could do as much to change minds as Holly herself. She loves everyone and every dog– effusively and persistently. She has won over my entire family (including my 94-year-old great-aunt) and everyone who works in my building. Just today, a couple of TDD owners came into the dog run, saw Holly, and quickly marched their Maltese straight into the small-dog area. I shrugged, but Holly wouldn’t let it go. She ran to the fence, wagged her tail, brought over a ball, and jumped up and down until the woman finally bent down to acknowledge her. “Look, honey,” she said with wonder, “the dog is nice.” Eventually, they came back into the main run, but declared that their TDD was “too scared” to play with Holly…until Holly walked over, bowed down, and gave the Maltese her favorite green ball. The couple left 20min later, gushing about what an amazing dog I had.
I have two wonderful pit bull memories so far. The first was taking Holly to the Mets’ Bark in the Park event last April. Unfortunately, even in municipalities without BSL, many events like this bar certain breeds due to insurance concerns. The Mets, however, do not (GO METS!!). There were several hundred dogs at the game, including a couple dozen pitties and pit mixes. We were all in close proximity, in an unfamiliar setting, among unfamiliar dogs…and there was not a single altercation, not even a growl, from ANY of the dogs. Just a bunch of pups and their owners wearing Mets jerseys, enjoying biscuits and beers and a ballgame. When Sports New York broadcast excerpts later that night, I almost cried. I wish the media would show those kind of images more often. (PS- The proceeds from Bark in the Park go to North Shore Animal League– so that’s YAY too!)
My second great memory is one I shared on your blog previously. I took Holly with me to the tiny Upstate town of Clayton, NY, where I was coaching at a lacrosse camp for a week. I was deeply nervous that far from the city, and a stone’s throw from Ontario (where there is BSL), Holly would encounter a lot of prejudice. I prayed that the girls and their parents wouldn’t freak out when they saw Holly on the field. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The girls had no preconceived notions. They accepted and adored Holly for exactly what she is— a really cute, really friendly puppy. Their parents followed suit. By the end of the week, she had become the camp mascot. “If we eventually form a real team,” one of the dads said, “we’re going to call them the ‘Clayton Pit Bulls.'” They wanted to be pit bulls! Not because pit bulls are “ferocious” or “dangerous,” but because pit bulls are “cute” and “smart” and little girls like to hug them. I can’t think of a better breed image than that.