By Jen Milner, StubbyDog.org
Two years ago we had an amazing opportunity. My partner, Brian, and I were picking up our foster dogs from an adoption event for the Utah Animal Advocacy Foundation and saw a pen at the front with two pit bull puppies. Dropped off at the humane society with their sister when they were 5-weeks old, all three were blind.
We already had a 10-year-old pit bull mix at home. Boo had come into our lives as a stray and proved to be a loving companion. Young and not prepared for working with pit bulls when Boo arrived, I learned that he could be reactive with our other dogs, and I didn’t know how to address this nor did I have the resources needed. He inspired my love for pit bulls, and my experiences with him resulted in my hope to one day have a pit bull I could train and socialize in all the right ways – I wanted an ambassador for the breed.
It wasn’t the ideal time for us to raise a puppy, but one came home with us a week later for a trial weekend. We couldn’t send him back. As he navigated our house, his head swayed from side to side, and it became obvious that his name would be Stevie the Wonder Dog.
Stevie was happy and confident from the beginning. He loved meeting new people and new dogs. He went with us to the farmers market that first weekend, and we couldn’t walk five feet without someone approaching to pet him. He loved it! At the dog park and at his day care for dogs, he became a favorite and found new friends, both canine and human, everywhere he went.
It was clear from that he was destined to be an ambassador. He began puppy kindergarten and quickly moved into a Canine Good Citizenship class. As soon as we passed our CGC test, we registered to become a Delta Society Pet Partners team.
I was a nervous wreck at our evaluation, but Stevie sailed through it confidently. The evaluation tests basic obedience skills similar to the CGC along with the dog’s natural reactions to strange people and new situations. Stevie didn’t flinch at two women yelling at each other who came close to pet him. He seemed to enjoy their clumsy petting. He jumped when someone dropped a metal bowl near him but quickly recovered.
After Delta approved us, we started as volunteers at an adult detox center serving homeless and low-income clients. Stevie greets each of them and offers his love. For him, it is just what he does, but for the residents, it’s a break in routine and a positive connection to the outside world.
We hear stories from people about their dogs, as many have pit bulls at home too. Some have told me of a bad experience with a pit bull and want Stevie to provide them with a good experience, which he always does. I’ve also heard some wonderful renditions of Stevie Wonder hits inspired by Stevie.
A woman told me that Stevie made her feel connected to her son, who also has a pit bull. On our first visit, a resident declared, “Well, I’m going to go to a treatment program, then the Paul Mitchell school, and then I’m going to adopt two pit bulls and dress them in pink sweaters.” Amen to that. I think that’s my favorite.
An important part of this story is that we live in Salt Lake City, a community that has embraced pit bulls as many cities have not. Our county shelter has a program devoted to encouraging adoption and targets responsible guardianship of pit bulls. Many well-behaved pit bulls walk around town with their families. In other places that I’ve lived, people would cross the street to avoid my dog, but here people bring young babies to meet him.
It would have been a lot harder to expose Stevie to such a variety of people and experiences if our community wasn’t so receptive. And who knows, maybe three blind pit bull puppies would not have been considered worth saving.
This article first appeared here on StubbyDog.org.