Pulling herself slowly with all of her might, a small black puppy – who looked very unhealthy – landed at my feet, exasperated from the efforts. I immediately bent down and patted her head, looking around to see if anyone was missing her. The only people in sight were completely ignoring her and walking by. I scooped her up in my arms, instantly falling for her and knowing something was very wrong. The kids and I were on the way to a relative's to celebrate a birthday for my oldest. This was not the sort of surprise we were expecting to occur on this day.
When the kids and I missed our first bus that day, we were frustrated knowing friends and family were awaiting our arrival. But as soon as we met with this helpless being, we knew right then why we were late. She was meant to find us and we were meant to help her. Why else would a puppy in such condition happen to come across a family passionate about helping animals – a family who had just recently adopted yet another from a kill shelter? At the time, we had no idea what we were getting into or what kind of dog this was – just that she was a creature in desperate need of love and care.
I dropped the kids off with the relatives, so as not to ruin the birthday fun and I took the puppy to get some help. She got scanned for a microchip, since she had no collar. I also proceeded to cool her down with free help from some kindly experts. It turned out that she was suffering from heat stroke and would have likely died not long after we found her had I not been there to help. I got her cooled down nicely and since no owners could be immediately detected, I had no choice but to bring her back to the birthday celebration with me. I wasn't met kindly with this decision by some people. But I can be stubborn when it matters and I did what I knew was right.
We knocked on several doors throughout the neighborhood up and down several blocks looking to see if she had escaped a loving owner, but it was to no avail. No one had seen her before or knew who she was. So we took her home that night. The kids named her Lulu as an assumed temporary name and she took to it right away. Because the area no-kill rescues were not able to help right away, I decided to let her stay for a while and provided her information to several places (like shelters and veterinary clinics) in case someone was looking for her. She was even put up on the popular lost section of one of the most common area shelters with zero results. The two calls we received in the entirety of Lulu's stay with us were not even close to leads.
Flash forward to a few months later and Lulu was doing so much better. She had grown both up and out. She was skin and bones when we found her but plumped up with us rather quickly – to the healthy size she should have been. Her coat was finally shiny and you could only see some of her prior scars if you knew where they were and looked closely. And Lulu was in love with us. We were a family. She chose my 8 year old son the first night and never left his side after that. We were still looking to see if Lulu had a family out there missing her. But our hope was fading.
Then, one early Sunday morning, sometime close to Christmas, I heard a rude knock at the front door. Because I am a single mom, I rarely open the door unless I know exactly who is there and know that person well. I looked out the peephole and saw a familiar stranger – a neighbor who I had seen yelling at other neighbors before. So I opted not to answer. I'm sure he knew we were there because my son and youngest daughter had been snuggling on the balcony with Lulu just minutes before the knock. He knocked a few more times, louder each time. We were silent, including the dogs. Then, came the yell “Animal control is on their way for that dog!”
I still didn't answer and still didn't quite understand which dog he meant or why. I then heard a faint voice utter “pit bull” and it dawned on me what she may be. Shit! If she was, they weren't allowed in my building or in my city. All that time, we thought she was a labradane or a lab/pointer. I took her to one place, hoping I was wrong and we could keep her. They affirmed my worst fear about the situation before I even asked. “Ma'am, this is a pit bull. We can't guarantee what will happen if she needs to stay here.” I cried and hugged Lulu close and I told them she wasn't staying there.
I enlisted the help of a good friend and we attempted one place that said they could help rehome her. But once we got there, they stated a 25% chance she would be euthanized. Again, I was not accepting that fate for Lulu. She was a good girl right from the start – untrained at first due to her condition, but extremely loving, tame, and very happy-go-lucky. No way was anyone going to kill her just for being born as a so-called vicious breed. No way. This is the kind of thing BSL (or Breed Specific Laws or Legislation) causes. Banning specific breeds often hurts innocent animals and family, rather than punishing someone truly at fault. My nickname for the BSL laws is “BS Laws” because, from what I can see, that is exactly what they are – BS – pure bull$***.
The third try was a charm. I found a place that would help Lulu find a good home and if for any reason she could not be adopted out, they would sign her back over to me so I could make sure she was safe. This was more hopeful. I didn't want to give her up at all. But I obviously had no choice. So, with tears in my eyes, I filled out the paperwork, giving them the equivalent of a book, outlining everything I could think of about her that would fit on the pages supplied. Some of the pages had text spilling over into the sides of the pages that weren't lined or meant for answers. But, I didn't care. I wanted to make sure everything was covered. This wasn't the time to stay in the lines.
Because of Lulu's undying loyalty to my son, she refused to go into the examination room and would only go with the staff when they had my son come along. She was the same way regarding the kennel. She would not leave a room my son was in. So we had to lead her to the back and put her inside that cage. We don't cage our animals at all, so this is the part where we all really started to break down. But for Lulu, we hid the pain and gave her love while she wiggled her happy body, not knowing what was really happening. She trusted us fully and while I felt like we completely let her down, I knew in my heart this was the only way to save her from a worse fate. But I still felt that I had failed her, seeing her trusting eyes on me from inside the kennel. I completely broke down at that point and had to leave.
Lulu ended up getting what is hopefully her furever home just days after we signed her over. I know that we saved Lulu's life, not once, but twice. The pain still cuts very deep, and I am in tears writing this. But stories like Lulu's need to be heard because people need to know the true consequences of BSL (Breed Specific Legislation). Yes, some people do raise pit bulls to be mean, vicious, attack dogs. But they are not born that way. They are naturally loving dogs, like Lulu. It is the people doing wrong, not the dogs. Don't punish the breed. Don't punish the animal. Punish the people in each specific offending situation. BSL is nothing but racism and segregation all over again, only this time it's within the dog race instead of the human race.
Lulu was one of the lucky ones, even though she went through quite an ordeal. Why? Because she is alive. Sadly, most of these dogs don't get as far as Lulu did. They are killed every day in American shelters, simply because of who they are. They didn't ask to be here and they don't deserve to be treated this way. According to at least one source, pit bulls are the number one bred dog in the United States. They're also the hardest to adopt out, in part due to BSL and in part due to misinformation being spread about them. Every year, 3-4 million dogs are euthanized in the United States. It is said that at least a third of them are likely bully breeds, maybe more.
What am I doing to help change this? For starters, I am working on opening up my own no-kill animal rescue. I also spread the word in various ways and bring attention to current bully breeds at risk of being euthanized in United States shelters.
You can view some of my rescue work at Heart 'N Mind Paw Rescue
All Images © Lyn Lomasi; All Rights Reserved
(You tell me how vicious Lulu looks in these photos...)
Pit Bulls Were Once America's Babysitter
What's in a Name-Bully Breed and Pit Bull Myths
Banned Breeds are no More Aggressive Than Others, New Study Finds
Why BSL Doesn't Work
Why Not to Breed Pit Bulls
More Pet Advocacy
Defenders of Animals
American Humane Association
Animal Rights History
Compassion Over Killing
Responsible Pet Ownership