“We were given the first one, Wrigley,” says Rob Thompson, “but we didn’t know how to tell the person we did NOT want a pit.”
Mr. Thompson is a P.E. teacher at Clay High School over in Green Cove Springs, FL, and like most others, he and his wife, Shirley, were believers of all the hype about pit bulls. This includes what they’re most known for such as their lock jaw and excessive aggression.
“He ended up being the most loving dog we have ever owned. Every time you walk in the door you’re greeted like you’ve been gone for years,” said Thompson. They now have four pits. Thompson and his family own five dogs in total. The fifth being a dachshund.
The Thompsons grew up around many dogs ranging from the dachshund to boxers, so they were no strangers to owning a dog when they became the new owner of Wrigley. Since having Wrigley in their lives, they fell in love with him and pit bulls. That’s how Riley, their female pit bull, came in to their lives. And with her came their youngest pits, Pepper and Cooper, who have been added into the bunch.
“Just like raising a child,” says Thompson, “shower them with love and do your best to mold them into a good person or in this case a good dog.”
They’ve become advocates in their own right for the breed, which sparked the Facebook group they created. The group is called North Florida Pits and it has grown to over 300 people throughout the Jacksonville area.
“The site was started to show people what GREAT dogs they can be.”
As a member of the group, you dive in to see how supportive and big the pit bull community is in Jacksonville. The group members all share advice, pictures of their dog(s), and funny videos they can relate to with their own.
As the admin for the group, Rob and his wife Shirley are always so kind and encouraging to everyone.
When it comes to the discussion of pit bulls, the first thing to make sure everyone knows is that the word pit bull is a blanket term. It’s used to categorize any dog that has a “square-shaped head” and a “bulky body”. This unfortunately can bring dogs that have no lineage of a terrier into that category, but share these characteristics.
The pit bull covers many different breeds of terriers and alike dogs, but five of them are most commonly referred to as pits. These are American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and American Bulldog.
Despite the “American” name used along with the breeds, most of the pit bull types come from the United Kingdom brought over to America by immigrants and bred to be domesticated.
They have a blood and gore background, which is why they have the reputation they do. Once bred for baiting bulls and bears, they were then turned into fighting dogs.
The second thing is the misconception of their “lock jaw”. This is the common thought for most people when they think of pit bulls, but their jaw is no different than any other dog.
The reasoning behind this is that they hold with their front teeth and chew with their back. But put simply, it’s false. There is nothing special that makes their jaw more powerful than any other dog. The misconception comes from their determination and the resilience to give up.
It takes a special kind of person to love these special dogs, but it’s not for the faint of heart. They do require time, training, effort, but above all love. When they receive love, they give it right back ten times fold.
“I don’t DISLIKE pit bulls… but I don’t understand the huge spike in popularity of them… I think there are a lot of breeds with more desirable traits that I would much rather have,” says John Sample.
Samples like others, are in the middle of the spectrum, where they fall somewhere in the middle of knowing about pit bulls. It’s the duty of pit bull owners to properly educate others, so that those who are timid or reserved against the breed can get a better understanding as to why so many people own them as pets.
“From what I’ve seen they just require a fair deal of training and socializing to be good with other people and dogs,” says Sample, “a lot of people don’t even give their pets an acceptable minimum amount of attention as it is, so I wouldn’t want to encourage those folks to take on a dog they’re not ready to handle.”
It’s important that owners of any dog apply proper time and effort, so that they in return get a great dog. As Mr. Thompson said earlier, when dogs are treated as children, they’ll turn out to be who you raised them to be with their own personality.
Despite knowing how good his dog
s are in the eye of the public, the Thompsons have had their fair share of encounters with folks who are still inherently against pit bulls.
“Shirley literally cussed a man out one night at a restaurant because he told us that we had no idea what we were dealing with. ‘That eventually they will always turn on you, [because] they’re a ticking time bomb. ‘[The man] said given the opportunity he would slit every one of their throats’. At that statement… I told him he needed to leave now.”
It’s owners like the Thompsons and so many others who fight just as hard for their dogs and not let their breed get in the way of what they truly give, and that’s a love like no other.
“On aggression …it will surprise you who’s ranked ahead of them. They are now being used as service dogs and police dogs.”
Thompson’s approach to those who are not inclined to pit bulls comes from his background as a P.E. teacher, which comes down to the phrase of “the best defense, is a good offense” in the sense of knowledge.
“We nail them with kindness and education. I try to get them to pet my dogs and erase their fear. First thing they say is that it’s because I have raised my dogs right. That’s when I say EXACTLY… you’ve made my point. There are many breeds that can be vicious, but the difference is that pits are so strong and athletic that people inherently fear them because of what they could do. A prejudgment is made.”
Any dog has the ability to become a part of the family when given the opportunity. It can be by choice or by chance. Either way will be a great beginning.