Part Two – My Pit Bull Story

I get it. The stories about Pit Bulls are scary. The media representation of Pit Bulls could make you believe that they are unhinged monsters just waiting to pounce. Truth be told, I used to be afraid of Pit Bulls based solely on what I’d read and heard from the media. In fact, 14 years ago, when my niece was born, I questioned my brother’s decision to bring a rescue Pit Bull into his house. (I mean weren’t they afraid that she would eat the baby?!?) Then, I met Zipper and it was a love fest of the first order.

Yes, like many rescue dogs, Zipper had some quirks like being a little wary of strangers and, in her case, especially men. She was even shy with folks she’d met before but Zipper was a loyal, gentle spirit with soulful eyes and a serious Pit Bull wiggle butt.

Zipper, sporting a snazzy sun hat, the Pit Bull that changed my perceptions

Once I’d met Zipper, everything changed for me. I realized that, like many, I had allowed myself to be influenced by the negative media hype and broad stereotyping of these dogs. For those of you who know my story, you know that while I adopted my first rescue dog, a Yellow Lab named Simon, in 2007, it was in 2012 that my journey in the animal welfare/Pit Bull advocacy world really began when someone asked me about my “Pit Bull” while I was out with Simon one morning?!?! Simon is a purebred rescue lab (see his handsome picture below), so you can imagine my confusion (but that’s another story…).

That interaction launched a year of research about Pit Bulls, eventually leading me to ColoRADogs where I became a volunteer, then a board member and ultimately the Foster and Adoption Coordinator. Oh, yeah, and I became a foster failure through ColoRADogs when I adopted Piper in 2015. (a foster failure is one who sets out with the best of intentions to foster a dog to help get it ready for its forever home but then falls completely in love with their foster dog and realizes they are already home πŸ˜‰ )  


Not even close to resembling a Pit Bull type dog πŸ˜‰
The Pit Bull that changed my life
You would have foster failed too πŸ˜‰

The process of learning about Pit Bulls has been eye opening for me and I continue to learn more each day. The most important thing I have come to understand from Zipper and Piper and all the other Pit Bull type dogs I have met over the years, and from my research and my work with ColoRADogs is: 

Pit Bull type dogs are just dogs and we need to treat them as such by not villainizing OR idealizing them.


Pit Bull discrimination is a people problem

If I had allowed the negative stereo types about Pit Bulls I’d embraced to go unchecked, I would not have Piper in my life and I would be missing out on an amazing dog who is changing my world. 

Photo Credit: Emily Tronetti/Heal to Howl

My girl Piper!        Photo Credit: Emily Tronetti/Heal to Howl

Changing the Conversation about Pit Bulls Part 2: My Pit Bull Story Click To Tweet


If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Pit Bull in America, I highly recommend:

About the Author:

Alison Reder


  1. Kandace September 20, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    I love this. I was fostering a pittie that was on the kill list at our local shelter here in AZ. He was one of the most loyal, sweet and loving dogs I have ever had the pleasure of having. From the first day we brought him home from the shelter to the last day before he went to his final home he was like having a son in the house. My husband worked nights at the time and I always felt safe with Butler at home. He would do his rounds around the house before settling at the foot of the bed. Never was aggressive with any of my other dogs or cat. I miss him so much! If I wasnt renting he would have been a foster failure for sure because he would have stayed with me!

    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      I totally get that! Some dogs just stay with us! Butler sounds like an awesome dog πŸ™‚

  2. Lindsay Pevny September 20, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Zipper is so cute, and so is Piper, so easy to fall in love with!

    When it comes to pitbulls, my biggest concern is that they will attack my dogs. I know they’re not all dog-aggressive, but I can’t take any chances. I often see people post pictures of their chihuahuas with serious and fatal injuries from attacks from larger dogs, sometimes pitbulls. But I also worry about EVERY large dog I don’t know.

    There was one time I was walking Matilda and we encountered a very large pitbull. It was tan, and reminded me of a lioness, it was just huge. But I could tell it was just curious, and I didn’t want to make Matilda nervous, so instead of picking her up, I walked towards the big dog. The pitbull just sniffed her, and I stroked her back – I didn’t even have to reach down. It was so huge, but so calm!
    Lindsay Pevny recently posted…12 Signs Your Chihuahua Needs To Go To The VetMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Lindsay – I really do understand your concerns. Big dogs of any kind – especially those that have been so poorly represented in the media – can be scary and, of course, they can do more damage in a altercation. I appreciate your openness and understanding that not all pit bulls or large dogs are inherently aggressive. I think you raise an important point about learning dog body language and assessing each dog as they approach. Also, I totally agree about Piper and Zipper being adorable! πŸ˜‰

  3. Pawesome Cats September 21, 2016 at 2:59 am - Reply

    Great post. Unfortunately my only encounter to date with a pit-bull wasn’t a good one, but I certainly haven’t let that one experience influence my view of the entire breed.
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    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry that you’ve had a bad experience with a Pit Bull type dog and I so appreciate your willingness to stay open minded about these dogs. πŸ™‚

  4. Valerie Desmet September 21, 2016 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Haha, I foster failed with Charlie too!! My recent foster just found her forever home!! Yay!! After 4 dogs you have to put a stop on it, haha!!
    It’s so sad that people are still so uncomfortable towards ‘bully breeds’. A few weeks ago, I met thΓ© sweetest pit bull EVER!!
    Valerie Desmet recently posted…#ADOPTEDMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      Yay for foster failures!!! My daughter told me three is my limit πŸ˜‰

  5. agirlandherhusky September 21, 2016 at 6:38 am - Reply

    Echo’s best friend is a Pit Bull. She always greets him (and me) with loads of kisses and a wagging tail. Echo and Kylo, the pit, love to wrestle and play rough but they wouldn’t ever hurt each other. They also love to cuddle and sing together. Those two are a mess. Kylo is such a sweetheart. Echo loves his pitty friend.
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    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      I love the pictures of Echo and Kylo πŸ™‚

  6. Kelly September 21, 2016 at 6:49 am - Reply

    I have to admit I do not know any pit bulls or pit bull owners. But I believe that any dog, any breed, can have their issues. But having said that – is it the dog that has the issue or the way the dog is brought up? What about the environment a dog is brought up in? In a perfect world all dogs would have responsible owners, but this unfortunately is not the case, and it’s the dog that suffers. Thank you for your wonderful posts about the pit bull and trying to help people understand the wonderful dogs hey are.

    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      You can come play with Piper anytime πŸ˜‰ You are so right about owner responsibility being the key and, of course, community outreach & education and making resources (medical care, training, etc.) affordable and accessible to everyone.

  7. Malaika Fernandes September 21, 2016 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Im glad you did this post people need to be reminded that there are reall no bad dogs just bad owners that haven’t bothered training or socializing their dogs

    • SimonDawg September 21, 2016 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you liked the post. What happens (or doesn’t happen) on the human end of the leash is so critical.

  8. Rebecca at MattieDog September 21, 2016 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Great series of posts about understanding, appreciating and working with Pit Bulls! Just like people, labeling one type/group/breed is an easy, and incorrect, response to a complex and truly an individualized issue. Thank you for helping to spread knowledge and empower people to learn more about this beautiful dog breed!
    Rebecca at MattieDog recently posted…My Dogs Love Ellenos Yogurt Dog TreatsMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad you are liking the series. Next up are six (maybe seven…or eight) things to stop asking Pit Bull Owners.

  9. Rachel September 21, 2016 at 11:28 am - Reply

    For my next dog, I would love to adopt a pit bull. Not because I necessarily have a close connection with one or any affinity for them in general. But I hate that people stereotype them and I also hate that they fill our shelters! A dog is a dog is a dog is a dog. Thank you for educating people about pit bulls.

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      You are so right that “a dog is a dog is a dog”! When you are ready for pit bull puppy, I would be happy to connect you with reputable rescues in your area πŸ˜‰

  10. Tenacious Little Terrier September 21, 2016 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I agree! They are not baby eating monsters nor are they perfectly angelic creatures that would never hurt a fly. I think people tend to go for either extreme which is not helping the breed!

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Agreed! Unfortunately, I think that extremes are easier for people. It’s much harder to dig in and have the deeper conversations that go beyond generalizations and stereotyping to a place where we can actually move forward and create positive change for Pit Bulls.

  11. Lola The Rescued Cat September 21, 2016 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Mommy thinks pit bulls are beautiful. They get a bad rap all the time. There are no “bad” dogs, only “bad” owners.

  12. Maureen September 21, 2016 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    As you know, I live in the Denver metro area and still can’t believe there is a ban against pit bulls. It’s disgusting. I love your pictures by the way! They are so cute and engaging!
    Maureen recently posted…What Everyone Ought To Know About Aging Dog EyesMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Maureen! I’m pretty sure all the pictures except for the one taken of Zipper were taken by professionals so now I have my work cut out for me for the next post πŸ˜‰ I think (desperately hope), eventually, BSL will be overturned in Denver.

  13. Ruth Epstein September 21, 2016 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I have never had one but I am an advocate for them and always standing up to them when people complain in the dog park – the owners are to blame

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      I never take Piper to dog parks because I know that if something were to happen, even if it wasn’t her fault, she would be blamed because she is a Pit Bull. Responsible ownership is key! It’s so disheartening but it makes me feel better knowing that folks like you are out there supporting us.

  14. Tonya Wilhelm September 21, 2016 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Adorable photos. Congratulations on the new addition. Love.
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  15. Tami September 21, 2016 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    We couldn’t agree more in that the conversation needs to change and education is needed. Any breed can have their quirks, and humans have certainly done their own unique brand of disservice to the pittie breed through crappy breeding, inhumane treatment and sheltering, but just as the human race shouldn’t be judged by a few bad peops, pup breeds should get the same grace. Thanks for sharing!

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      It really is all about what happens on the human end of the leash.

  16. sadieandco September 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    First of all, Piper is BEAUTIFUL! I love her smirk!

    Okay, here is the short version is the most recent experience I had started to pen:

    Henry had his first visit to the holistic vet. His allergies were bad that day, it was a new clinic (environment) for him, and things were done differently there.

    As we were walking out of the office, there was another dog entering the clinic. The tech suggested I wait while she asked if the other dog was okay with other dogs. I noticed the dog that had just entered was a ‘pit bull type’ dog. I found it interesting that she felt the need to question their dog. Until, she asked if Henry was okay with other dogs. Most of the time, yes. He can be a bit grumpy depending on the day and today might be one of those days (Henry is a solid 20# but looks smaller). The other couple were not concerned and were fine with me coming out and giving us the space we needed to let Henry decide if he felt like socializing. The dogs said a quick ‘hello, goodbye.’ My apprehension was the same about this ‘type’ of a dog as it would have been about any other, larger dog that day. Non-existent. I was reading my dog to manage the situation!

    Ask my dad and you would have a different opinion. The day his JR Terrier was nearly mauled to death by ‘this kind’ of dog was pretty traumatic for him. I can’t even imagine. The owner stood off to the side and screamed in panic (useful). She had no experience with the breed and clearly, could not even manage. I explained to my father; it was unlikely this woman had spent time training with her companion. She was to blame for the incident. She just happened to have a ‘pit bull’ the same thing could have happened with her untrained, unsocialized Golden Retriever.

    We are responsible for our dogs.

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      I can’t disagree with you at all about Piper! πŸ˜‰ I really appreciate you sharing both your story and your father’s because I think both perspectives have to be a part of the conversation if we are going to make any progress. You raise a really important point about dog owners needing to learn how to read dog body language in order to assess a situation and avoid conflict. I feel for your father. So sorry for his loss. I can’t imagine how horrible that must have been for him. We have to find a way to educate individuals and communities and to make training and socialization accessible.

  17. Jodi Chick September 21, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    I guess I was extremely lucky that I met the pitbull that shaped my perception of the breed so early in life. One of my earliest memories is of my own first dog, a pittie named Madonna. (Um…in my defense, it was the 80s and Queen Madge was all the rage.) I distinctly remember her standing at the ladder to the slide as I climbed and then running around to the foot of the slide to meet me. She was my best friend, my older sister and the best part of being a little kid. She was stolen before I outgrew my toddler years and for years I would run home after daycare, hoping she would be home. It’s such a kind and gentle breed, if they’re just giving the chance to be well-loved, sucky house dogs. I really wish I had a photo of us both πŸ™
    Jodi Chick recently posted…Win the War Against Shedding with a bObi Pet Robotic VacuumMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      HAHA! Love the 80s reference! πŸ˜‰ I’m sorry you don’t have any pictures of your with Madonna but I can see that your memories of her are vivid and bright. Thank you for sharing your story!

  18. Sweet Purrfections September 21, 2016 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I do admit I have been a little apprehensive about pit bulls. I’ve read a lot more about them from responsible owners, but I still have a healthy respect for the breed.
    Sweet Purrfections recently posted…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      I think it’s great to have a healthy respect for all dogs (might have to use that line in one of the next posts in the series) πŸ˜‰

  19. The Daily Pip September 22, 2016 at 4:41 am - Reply

    I am continually shocked about how many people make comments about pits – just as part of conversation even people who are actually animal lovers. For me it is very similar to when I hear people saying things that are racist, but they don’t realize what they are saying and think it is OK because they view themselves as open-minded. Sigh …

    Another great and thought-provoking post!
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    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      The next post in the series is about the questions Pit Bull owners are asked all the time and offers some alternative ways to approach the conversation. Like you, I am also surprised when folks in animal welfare or the pet blogging world make comments that are either based in broad stereotypes or the myths that have been perpetuated by the media and anti-pit bull groups.

  20. Talent Hounds September 22, 2016 at 8:30 am - Reply

    The big jaws and physical strength of certain big breeds like Pit Bulls and the media around them have made me a little nervous, but I must admit, I have met some very gentle ones and agree we need to change the conversation. It should be about responsible parenting and socialization of any breed.
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    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      I completely understand your concerns. Some bigger dogs can be intimidating, especially if it is obvious that they have not been properly socialized and trained. I’m glad that you’ve gotten to meet some sweet pit bull type dogs. I agree with you that the conversation absolutely needs to be about responsible ownership, proper socialization, access to resources, and community outreach and education.

  21. Beth September 22, 2016 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    It is so discouraging that while some places are repealing breed discrimination laws, other places are trying to enact them.

    I am glad that Zipper changed your perspective. You probably already know about the Majority Project, but just in case you don’t: I have added the book Pit Bull-Changing the Conversation to my wishlist, so hopefully I’ll be reading it after the holidays!
    Beth recently posted…Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Angels RestMy Profile

    • SimonDawg September 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      It is indeed discouraging and if you’ve heard about what is happening in Montreal right now, it is beyond discouraging. The city votes on a horrific ban on the 26th of September that will have devastating consequences, if passed.

      I LOVE the Majority Project and you will LOVE the book! πŸ™‚

  22. Bryn Nowell September 23, 2016 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Thank you for this post. Dogs are dogs, regardless of breed. Pit Bull type dogs are no better or worse than any other breed…they are dogs that have a range of quirks and characteristics that are unique.

    While I don’t own a pit, we have helped foster them through Pibbles and More animal rescue. We have also assisted with transporting them to foster and adoptive homes for the same organization. My time with them has always been filled with laughter and joy. It also came with the responsibility to socialize, train, praise, and show love. This would be the responsibility for ANY breed that is being fostered in order to ensure they develop a platform that will better prepare them for life after adoption.

    • SimonDawg September 27, 2016 at 11:29 am - Reply

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! πŸ™‚

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