There is one thing that new pit bull and Rottweiler owners have difficulty preparing for, and experienced owners find impossible to get used to: judgment, discrimination, and (often-willful) misunderstanding from those around us. However, we are far from being the only group that suffers from these hurts, and our annual participation in Pride is a powerful reminder that as we work to create a better world for pit bulls and Rottweilers, we are working toward creating a world where everyone is welcomed and embraced.
For ARLP, being present at Pride is more than just another opportunity to increase community exposure to our breeds: It is a chance to show support for another group that has been “othered” by society – people in the LGBT community.
Some of the most salient similarities between our two communities are the egregious physical and legal barriers. We can’t take our dogs across certain state or national lines, board them at certain doggy daycare facilities, rent just any apartment, or purchase just any insurance. Likewise, “LGBT people face discriminatory insurance and tax measures as well as 500+ other legal inequalities,” ARLP volunteers Katie Louis and her partner Jada Hansen – pit bull owners who initiated ARLP’s participation in Pride seven years ago – point out. “Every year we go to the capital with our daughter to lobby for our equal rights. Right now we are working to stop a vote that will permit the majority to vote on the rights of the minority. The minority is our family.” In both the LGBT and the pit bull/Rottweiler community, “Misconceptions are working through the law to harm families… people must gather from the grassroots level and try to create change” and protect their families, Katie and Jada say.
Katie, Jada, and daughter Lili at her first Pride celebration
For many Rottweiler and pit bull owners, what can be even harder to accept than the rampant legal discrimination is the way we can be blissfully going about our lives, proudly talking about our dogs’ charming personalities or showing off their lovely manners, when suddenly we are stung by an ignorant comment about our dogs – and, by association, ourselves – that stems from misconceptions and closed minds. Every owner of a dog whose breed has a bad rap in the collective public mind has a story (and usually multiple stories) like these ones, gathered from ARLP volunteers:
- Someone met Jazmin and said, “But she’s so nice, are you sure she’s a pit bull?” - Jennifer K.
- On a recent walk, I got permission for Tally to greet a small fuzzy white dog. Tally was waggy and jumpy and the white dog was fine, but the guy was kinda standing sideways, all uptight, and I said something about Tally being pushy with her friendliness. The guy replied, "Some people are uneasy because she's a ...." He seriously didn't finish his sentence. Like 'pit bull' is an expletive. - Ruth P.
- Someone once told me that because Bettie was a pit bull, she should be put to sleep. - Lindsey W.
- A lady at the dog park told me she saw a special on TV about the Rottweiler, and that they are “butchers of other dogs.” I explained that no, the documentary was explaining that Rotts were called The Butcher’s Dog, because they would help farmers get their herds to the butcher, and then escort the farmer home with his money...not because they were butchering other dogs! - Diane S.
- Someone once quit a training class I was in because they didn't want to be in class with a pit bull. - Betsy C.
The hurt of these collective experiences weigh heavily on us, a feeling that many within the LGBT community can relate to. The LGBT community also faces the “belief that all individuals can be summed up in sweeping generalizations,” Katie and Jada point out.
Fortunately for us, the empathy that stems from LGBT individuals’ struggles can also make them outstanding pit bull and Rottweiler owners. As Katie and Jada put it, “the LGBT community (as a group) is more open to the possibility of adopting pit bulls, since we’re more sensitive to issues of discrimination. We know that popular negative opinion on a matter, especially when it comes to discrimination, generally needs to be confronted and fought against.”
So fight we do. Individually, we work hard every day to make sure we are ideal representatives of what pit bull and Rottweiler dog/handler teams should be.
Through education and advocacy, we endeavor to pave a path that will make it easier for future owners of misunderstood breeds.
In our daily lives, we strive to defend ALL Rottweilers and pit bulls, not just the ones asleep on our couches at home.
And, at Pride and elsewhere, we celebrate.
We celebrate the challenges that have made us resilient and the qualities that set us apart from the crowd.
We celebrate belonging to a community of open minds and hopeful hearts.
We stand up and celebrate ourselves and each other - not just pit bulls and Rottweilers and their owners, but all who have been made to feel that they do not belong.
Katie and Jada put it best when they said, “The LGBT community has gotten a long way by demonstrating that the most important thing you can do for yourself and your community is to be yourself. When you are confident and yourself, you are better able to give back to the community. We must teach people to embrace our unique differences.”