Howard is an optimist.
Whenever the pit bull puppy sees a new person at Greenwich Animal Control he celebrates. He jumps, he wiggles, he dances. Sometimes he wags his tail so hard it strikes the side of his crate and draws blood. The veterinarians call it “happy tails.”
But when the people leave, or move on to another dog, perhaps a smaller one or something other than a pit bull, Howard turns into the saddest dog in the world. He is still just 1 year old, a puppy. He doesn’t know he is a pit bull.
Howard is one of eight pit bulls languishing at Greenwich Animal Control. All have histories. All are abandoned: Red, was thrown from a car; Merritt who was found near the parkway. Some were left at the shelter held by a rope. Maya, Sadie, Chowder, Ginger, Ruby, Red, Merritt and Howard all need love and a real home.
Fortunately, other pit bulls have found wonderful families.
Charles Costello and Erin Randall, of Greenwich, adopted a pit bull two years ago at Greenwich Animal Control. Now they come back to show off their Kermit, and maybe find another pit bull for him to play with.
“People have the wrong perception, ” said Costello. “And when you have a pit bull you see how loving they are. They are the best dogs. And we plan to get more. It is really sad that people think pit bulls are bad, because it is untrue. They are great dogs.”
Kermit sat quietly posing for a photograph while the couple sat smiling.
“We are very fortunate to have him, ” Costello said. “He’s our friend at home, very loving, great companion for both of us.”
Angela and Gene Schmidt, of Stamford, work in the Greenwich Public Schools. Angela is the principal of North Mianus Elementary School, and Gene is the assistant principal at Julian Curtiss School. They already had three dogs when a fourth came calling.
Christine Winston, of Bully Breed Rescue in New Canaan, knowing that the Schmidts love dogs, asked the couple if they would consider fostering a pit bull. The dog was found abandoned in the Bronx, N.Y. In the shelter, she wasn’t doing very well either.
“She lost 30 pounds, ” Gene Schmidt said, “skin and bones, ” and she must have been allergic to the cleaning liquid, which was hurting her paws.
The Schmidts decided to foster her until a permanent home could be found. But Bella, with her playing, her high-fives and giving kisses to the grandchildren, changed all that.
“The most amazing thing” said Angela Schmidt, “was that my mother had a fall and all the entire wait for the EMS, Bella never left her side.”
Bella had found a home.
Animal Control Officer Suzanne Carlin sees a lot of pit bulls.
“Dogs are dogs, ” she said. “It is the people who put the negative titles on the dogs. Not the dogs.”
“Dogs are like children, ” Suzanne continues. “If you take time to care for them and love them, you will get a good dog. Dogs are amazing. They have unconditional love.”
Ken Berenson, a dog trainer who works at Round Hill Community Hall in Greenwich, loves pit bulls and would not let these dogs be hurt.
Berenson laments that many were harmed and killed in Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring, which is chronicled in author Jim Gorant’s “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.”
“Vick is exposed as a serial killer of dogs, ” Berenson said. “He didn’t just run a dog-fighting operation. He murdered the dogs he didn’t want by hanging, drowning, electrocution, and bashing their heads in. The book also chronicles how 45 of the 50 the dogs were saved by temperament testing, training and nurturing.”
“Unfortunately, due to all the negative hype, ” Berenson continued. “Pit bull has become an umbrella term that encompasses a number of members of wonderful breeds, including the American Staffordshire, terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and even mastiff breeds that look like large pit bulls.”
Due to the success of the famous “Petey” of “The Rascals, ” the American Kennel Club registered the breed as the Staffordshire terrier in 1936. Now there are many pit bulls mixes.
One of Berenson’s dogs, Billy, his American Staffordshire terrier, is a champion.
“I found Billy to be extremely easy to train, ” he said. “So were the other pit bulls, Amstaffs, and Staffordshire bulls. They are very intelligent, athletic and people oriented. They need responsible ownership because of their tremendous strength. They have always been one of my favorite breeds and Billy was one of the my favorite dogs ever.”