Behind the Scenes at The Real Pit Bull

Sedona (photo courtesy of The Real Pit Bull)

By Mary Harwelik, CPDT, and founder of The Real Pit Bull, for Pet News and Views

In October 2010, Sedona the Pit Bull made the trip from Ohio to New York and finally to The Real Pit Bull, Inc, in New Jersey thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers involved in saving 200 dogs from a cruelty raid late in the summer. The Pit Bulls seized from this cruelty case were owned by a suspected dog fighter, were neglected and spent their entire lives on chains.

In the past, dogs like Sedona and the others from this case who have come to be known as “The OH200” would have likely been euthanized rather than placed into rescues. But thanks to a concerted effort on the part of organizations who have in recent years had success in the rescue, training, and placement of fight-abuse victims, the dogs from this large scale bust (the single largest of its kind) were offered a chance at a new life.

The Real Pit Bull, Inc, a NJ-based education, advocacy and rescue organization dedicated to the American Pit Bull Terrier, has been rallying for equal rights for “fight bust dogs” for years. So when the opportunity arose, RPB jumped at the chance to bring a dog from the OH200 bust into its unique training/placement program, “Karma Dogs.” Sedona, the smiley little “gremlin dog” with the silly ears, was the first dog officially entered into this program.

The Karma Dogs program rescues, re-socializes, trains, and then adopts out American Pit Bull Terriers that exhibit exceptional breed temperament. After an extensive evaluation and training period, the dogs are certified through the Canine Good Citizen program, and placed into situations where they can blossom as spokesdogs for the breed: as therapy and service dogs, for instance, and of course primarily as companions. Specifically, RPB seeks homes that would like to do breed advocacy work, education, and speak out on behalf of the Pit Bull, with their spokesdog by their side.

Sedona, like so many abuse victims, came to RPB without any training or socialization whatsoever. The civilized world terrified her. Everything was new–cars, people walking down the street, the wind blowing, the couch in her foster home living room, the TV, a phone ringing. She didn’t know what toys were, had no idea how to play, and even a Kong toy stuffed with delectable doggy treats was a source of confusion for her.

Perhaps the saddest thing was Sedona’s fear of people–she would shake in her crate while offering a scrunchy smile and a tail wag, so obviously wanting to be friends, but simply too frightened to move from the very back of her safety zone.

The socialization and training of dogs like Sedona who come into rescue so incredibly neglected takes a lot of time and patience. RPB uses only positive reinforcement training for dogs in its program, which increases the success rate and speeds the process. There is nothing so rewarding as seeing a dog begin to come out of her shell and discover that life can be beautiful. Little victories like Sedona figuring out how to sit for a food reward, play with another dog, get excited to greet people who came to visit her, and experience the comfort of cuddling on the couch for the first time were all causes for celebration.

Since Sedona has come to The Real Pit Bull, she has been the sweetest, most gentle dog. Never has she complained, lifted a lip, shown a tooth, grumbled one growl. She has taken everything in stride, trying her best to overcome her fears, do what is asked of her, and live in the moment. Considering all she’s been through and where she’s been, it is amazing how much love she has for the people in her life. She is a truly exceptional dog. RPB looks forward to adopting out Sedona to her special someone, so she can begin the next phase of her life as a true spokesdog for her breed, and most importantly a beautiful companion.

For more information on RPB, its Pit Bull adoption program, and Sedona, click here.

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