“Pity!” Eleanor called. “Pity! Where are you?” She didn’t know whether to go left or right. “Pity! Where have you gone?”
Pity was about six blocks away. She heard the children’s voices from the Theodore T. Buttz-Montgomery Elementary School. They were on recess, and the squealing from the playground both attracted and frightened Pity, who could not resist moving a little closer.
Poppy Donovan stood on the concrete at the edge of the basketball court, looking out at the Adventure Playground, as they called it, though it was mainly a series of ladders and platforms painted bright blues and yellows. She was a substitute teacher, here today by virtue of Mrs Simmons contracting food poisoning from a chicken taco. Poppy would have liked full time work, but with three children aged three, ten, and seventeen, she had only a few hours a week to spare. She loved teaching, and at her in-home job as a kind of telephone companion, she often found herself dropping interesting facts about history or geography, much to her clients’ confusion.
In ancient Greece the courtesan Neaera, was so beloved by her patrons they organized to buy her freedom. From then on she gained the honorific, “Herself mistress of herself.”
She was a fierce parent to her children, savagely protective, and these children, laughing and running and climbing, were her children for the day. So when she saw Pity, not even half a block away, approaching slowly with her head down, she momentarily froze.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is one of the so-called bully breeds often labeled a pit bull. In fact, “pit bull” isn’t a breed, but a term used to describe the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Height: 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 7 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 30 to 85 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 16 years
Poppy Donovan approached the Adventure Playground, saying in a steady but firm voice. “Children, move back into the classroom now.”
Young voices rose and squealed and cajoled.
Pity raised her ears, looked up, and caught Poppy’s eye.
Human beings involuntarily give off chemicals called pheromones when they are alarmed. Because a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than ours, most likely a dog can detect those chemicals.
“Walk, don’t run,” said Poppy.
Pity saw action, movement, and a tall thin woman staring, and it looked interesting. She picked up her pace to a trot.
Poppy now had a greater distance to get to the door of the school than the distance between her and the dog. She screamed.
Pity barked. She pinned her ears back. She was confused.
Poppy made a run for it, and Pity continued her trot, and then heard Eleanor’s voice getting louder and louder as she ran down the street towards them.
“Pity! Pity, come!”
Eleanor had a leash, and clipped it to Pity’s collar. “Naughty girl,” she said, “running off like that.”
“I’m going to call the police,” Poppy said to Eleanor. “Your vicious dog put my children in danger.”
Pity the pit bull dropped to the ground and rolled over, exposing the breast nubs on her belly. Eleanor gave her a good scratch, for not running away before she could clip on the leash. Then she stood up straight and spoke directly to Poppy.
“Sorry you were scared. Pity is harmless, even when she’s frightened, which is a good thing in a dog. If you want to teach those kids to be frightened by something they don’t understand, instead of learning about it, then you are going about it the right way. C’mon, Pity.”
Poppy watched them skirt the basketball court and cross the parking lot to the sidewalk. They disappeared around a corner.
It only takes a brief look at the history of pit bulls to realize that the dogs are not the problem; the humans who misuse them are. For over a hundred years, holding the owners personally responsible was enough to prevent attacks, and the breed was perceived as very child-friendly. With outreach and education, it may be possible to restore that image and rehabilitate the pit bull’s reputation, restoring an iconic American dog to its rightful place among mankind’s best friends.