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My big beautiful reward from a pit bull dog

One of the reasons volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue is worthwhile for me is the education I receive. Each week there is a lesson related to dogs, palliative care for old dogs, myths about dog breeds, or what life is like with a dog.

Last week, I was reminded about how easy it is to make assumptions when around pit bull type dogs. A very sweet old lady, Gemma, was in the doggy loft when I arrived for my morning shift. She’s a big girl with a steady gaze. I blinked first.


I love all dogs and it surprised me that I reacted to her with even a millisecond of nervousness. My verbal greeting was met with a hoarse bark but no wagging tail when I arrived. With her block head and solid body, I wasn’t sure how to engage with her.

It was a few minutes of eyeing each other before I sat down on the bench, called her over and waited. When she walked slowly closer to me, I encouraged her with patting my leg and eager words. She let me touch her lightly before moving away.

Only after another big dog, Digby, pushed his way past her and plowed his head into my lap that Gemma returned. She gave me another chance to realize that she was a lovely lady who was no one’s fool. She showed me that she simply calculated who was worthy of her letting her guard down.


When I moved to one of the low beds and sat down, she climbed up behind me and laid next to my side. She gave me the chance to apologize for letting old tropes about pit bulls enter my consciousness. I spent several minutes with her, loving and appreciating her intelligence.

We are never too old to learn from dogs, to let go of old stereotypes and to recognize that some dogs just want respect more than a scratch on the chin. Gemma gave me a wonderful lesson about how easy it is to react and why it’s worth it if you don’t. She rewarded me with a beautiful moment together that I can keep in my heart, replacing even the tiniest negativity toward pit bulls.

Thank you Gemma. Senior dogs really do rule.

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