BROOKSVILLE — Harley is a 5-year-old male bully breed dog, what many refer to as a pit bull. He has a goofy “bully” face, a stout muscular build, and eyes that tore at the heartstrings of Kelly Detwiler, a Brooksville resident who once swore she would never own one.
She and her husband, Bob, now have three, in addition to Harley, plus four other dogs of differing breeds. But “pitties”, the word for these pups Kelly prefers, are the breed they most want to advocate for.
The couple adopted Harley from Hernando Animal Services, as a puppy. Kelly nearly declined even though she’d been romanced by Harley when visiting the shelter on a mission to save a different dog. But like many who have never owned a pit bull, she’d been influenced by negative stereotyping.
It was Bob who gently talked her into the decision. “They are the greatest dogs in the world,” he said. He had saved a stray pit bull in 1979 and was given viable advice by a friend who had experience training police dogs.
Pit Bulls are “basically hard heads,” Bob said. “Once you get their attention, they are very good.”
Now Kelly and Bob are fighting to break the stigma in an attempt to save dogs who are suffering because of inaccurate facts.
Typically, pit bulls, or other bully breeds, are the most difficult to place in forever homes. Many end up with no time left and are euthanized.
That is a fate the Detwilers take as a failure to protect a breed they both love. Through first-hand experience raising Harley and taking in the others, Bob and Kelly feel the need to be a voice for them and others who are misunderstood because of misinformation being shared.
First, a quick lesson in the “pit bull” mentality that has exacerbated the false narratives about a type of dog still grossly misunderstood.
Pit bull is not a breed of dog but an umbrella term that defines bully breeds, “made up of the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, any mixes thereof, and any dog that vaguely resembles these dogs,” according to Barkpost.com.
Some owners and advocates disagree with the inclusion of certain breeds as “pit bull-type” dogs. Yet those mentioned above are pit bulls in the eyes of the law. “All of these dogs make up the ‘Pit Bulls’ that are sitting in shelters across the country right now, waiting for their forever home, oftentimes in vain.”
The only purebred “pit bull” dogs are the American Staffordshire and English Staffordshire terriers. Both breeds were created by breeding bull dogs with terriers for blood sport and gaming.
Today’s pit bull breeds are actually combinations of several dog types, creating a bully breed umbrella that most dog people identify as pit bulls. Because many were bred for fighting, mistreated, improperly handled and often broken, leading to the negative stereotypes that have been attached, many have no hope of a forever home.
Yet many who ignore the stigma and fall in love with an individual pup recognize the amazing attributes of the bully breed.
The well-defined jaw and strong muscular build are characteristic. So are deep owner-focus and loyalty.
“Harley knows when I’ve had a bad day,” Kelly said. “He climbs on my lap and stays glued to me.”
Kelly and Bob have seen several of these myths debunked with their own eyes. And because they are responsible dog owners, they do stress education is the most important factor when owning any breed of dog.
For instance, Harley and his pittie siblings aren’t always socialized together. The Detwilers are careful to monitor their pack because fights can escalate, particularly between males. This is true with most canines because they are pack animal by design, they say.
Dozer, also 5, is a rescued fighter the Detwilers adopted after Harley. Because they know only basics about Dozer’s past, they are careful to keep an eye on him when socializing with the others.
That fact should not go missed. Any dog that is brought in to a home should be monitored for behavior around certain situations.
Owning a dog is a commitment and responsible dog ownership should always be practiced, they said. Not everyone is the ideal fit for a bully breed of dog, particularly those that have been rescued from abusive situations.
Dozer has a tough beginning but has adapted into their loving pack.
The Detwilers want to spread the word that these dogs are not what they are being portrayed. And many are being overlooked because of unsubstantiated fear.