He came in to my life on November 26, 2011 and changed it forever.
I had been fostering for Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) for several months, fostering many dogs from a Chihuahua to a Pit Bull. One dog had an embedded collar, and all were very thin and in need of socialization with people and other dogs. I saw a picture of a dog that needed help on November 21st. He was picked up by ACPS from an abusive situation. He was living on the end of a thick chain, covered in his own urine and feces, flies and fleas. There was no food or water. He was literally skin and bones. Ironically his name was Handsome. He did have companionship though. A small puppy was there with him.
When the officer arrived he gave them food. Although he was starving, the older dog allowed the puppy to eat all the food. He wanted human contact more than he wanted food.. He just wanted the officer to pet him. Once he got to the shelter he was checked over by the vet. He wanted attention from everyone, and he got it. He gave out kisses to everyone that gave him attention. He weighed less than 34 pounds. Less than half of what a full grown Pit Bull should weigh. Yes, this sweet, unselfish, loving dog was a “mean and aggressive” Pit Bull.
I picked him up on Saturday. He had already started to gain weight since he was being fed regularly. As I took him out of the shelter, I knew he was a strong dog. He was pulling on the leash to go to his next adventure. I loaded him into the back of my SUV and headed home. As I’m driving, he decides he does not want to stay in the back. He jumps into the back seat and then starts moving into the front seat. I’m trying to keep him away from the gear shift and out of my lap as I’m driving down the highway. I manage to get him in to the passenger seat, but he’s still not happy. I finally get him to lay down on the passenger seat with his head across the center divider touching my leg. Then he was calm and happy. All he wanted was to see me and touch me. This was my first sign of what an amazing dog he was.
When we get home, it’s time for the introduction to the three resident dogs in the house. Introductions are very important. You never know how the new abused dog will react or how your own dogs will react to a strange dog in their house. I start with my passive male lab/rottie mix, Logan. He loves every dog and proves to love Handsome as well. I now bring in my very picky female lab mix, Shylah. She doesn’t love him as much, but she does tolerate him. Now I bring in my female boxer/ lab mix, Lucy. She is the alpha mama dog. She greets him well but is a little standoffish. She is now the mama dog that must teach the new dog how to behave in the house. I always find it interesting to watch the signals between the dogs as they get to know each other. Handsome is very submissive and learns from his new friends.
Handsome is happy to get a nice bath and food in his belly. I feed him twice a day to help him gain weight. He is fed in the bathroom to keep him separate from the other dogs, in case of food aggression. I also feel that he needs quiet time and time to enjoy food again. After a couple of days I test him for food aggression. He does not care when I try to take his food away from him or when the dogs come in to the bathroom to lick his bowl after he is done.
After a few days in the new house, he is now part of the family. He plays well with everyone and Lucy is acting like the perfect mama. She is taking care of her boy. She cleans his ears and teeth and watches over him as he learns house manners. I try to think of a new strong name for him. I go through all the usual Pit Bull names like Diesel, Tank and others. But nothing seems to fit. One day, I was looking at him and came up with the name Vinnie. I don’t like it. He needs something strong and tough. Vinnie keeps popping into my head and I can’t get rid of it. I start researching the name to see what it means. I found out that it means Conqueror and Victor. I thought it was very fitting for a dog that had survived what he had. So he became “Vinnie”.
I soon realized I was in trouble. Through the weeks of rehabilitation for skin issues as well as helping him gain weight, I was becoming attached to Vinnie. Was he going to be a foster failure? I knew that if I adopted him I couldn’t foster anymore. Four dogs was enough. When I started thinking about somebody adopting him, I wanted to do a home visit, background check and probably take some blood to make sure that they were good enough for him. I realized that nobody was good enough for him. I wasn’t good enough, but I knew I would fight for him and his breed with everything I had. And that was the best I could do.
After a few setbacks with health issues, I took him in for neutering and heartworm treatment on January 23, 2012. He became an official member of the family January 24th when I adopted him. Needless to say, he was not feeling good. He was in pain and groggy from the surgery and heartworm treatment. I made a soft bed on the floor for him and he came in the house and just laid down on the bed. Soon Lucy came over and laid down next to him on the bed and placed her head on his side. She was taking care of her sick boy. Ironically, Lucy was a foster failure, too. As with Vinnie, it was meant to be. She has been very helpful in teaching and helping all the fosters I brought home.
- Lucy comforting Vinnie after his surgery
Since I have brought Vinnie into my home, I have become a vocal Pit Bull advocate. If you don’t like Pit Bulls, meet Vinnie and you will immediately change your mind. He is the most loving dog that I have ever had. Of all the dogs that have passed through my house, Vinnie has shown more love for all people and dogs that he comes in contact with than any other. He is always ready to give kisses, cuddle in your lap or play. All he asks in return is a belly rub now and then. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone being prejudiced against a dog they have never met. Just like every human being, every dog on the planet is an individual. They shouldn’t be stereotyped. You can’t judge all dogs by the actions of one. If I had done that, I would never have known one of the greatest loves I have ever experienced. Vinnie is now like my child, and I love him unconditionally. If you ever get to meet him, I am sure that you will love him, too.