New pit bulls have not been allowed to live in Florida’s Miami-Dade county since 1989, when a ban against the breed took effect following some tragic attacks. Breed advocates, who see the law as discrimination, asked voters to overturn it. That includes Miami Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle and his wife, Jamie, whose dog, Slater, has become the face of the movement. After Buehrle signed with the Marlins, the family had to find a home outside of Miami-Dade in order to keep Slater.
Last summer when a teenage boy and his father were robbed on a bike trail in Portland, Ore., the alleged mugger brought along some muscle — a large Pit Bull — to intimidate the pair into giving up their valuables.
But it turns out that the dog, Scooter, was a big softie behind that tough-dog exterior. She'd just been running with the wrong crowd.
Scooter wound up at Multnomah County Animal Services and was there for seven months with no prospects of an adoption when she got a lucky break. One of the workers called Angela Adams, who runs the Born Again Pit Bull Rescue, and that was the beginning of Scooter's new life.
Adams, who has a bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing and works as a caregiver to an 81-year-old veteran, founded the rescue in 2007. “I started it out of my home, privately, independently, totally funded out of my pocket,” Adams says.
She began rescuing Pit Bulls after falling in love with one named Jasmine. “After I read a statistic that for every 1 Pit Bull-type dog that finds a home, 600 die in various facilities in the U.S. — I had to do something,” Adams wrote in her blog. “Something is better than nothing.”
“I love the breed because they are super intelligent, and they are very, very loving,” she says. “They live to make you happy, so it is so easy to train these dogs.”
Last year, she pulled 42 dogs out of Multnomah County Animal Services, and all went through foster homes before going up for adoption. So it made sense that the shelter turned to her to help Scooter. “Obviously, in a shelter it’s so hard to get a read on a dog,” Adams says. “These Pit Bull-type dogs want nothing more than to be in a home environment … they go downhill so quickly because of the stress.”
Once Adams got Scooter home, she realized the dog who’d taken part in this robbery was no bully. “This dog is rock solid,” she thought, and transferred Scooter to her organization. Adams says the dog's previous owner had taken advantage of some of the misconceptions around Pit Bull-type dogs and used her to intimidate and create fear. But “honestly, Scooter did not need rehabilitation; she was so lovely.”
From Adams' house, Scooter went to one of the foster homes in the Born Again network, with key trainer Merissa Micochero, who runs Paw n Hand K9 with her husband. “She had very little issues. She’s great with other dogs. She fit right in with the family,” says Micochero, who has two small children at home. “She’s a great example of how you can take a really awesome dog and, just because of how she looks, you can scare the bejesus out of someone.” In fact, Micochero got Scooter started on her way to becoming a therapy dog. Micochero fostered Scooter for about a month. “Scooter was awesome. Her [training] was basically just minor behavior adjustments, helping her figure out exactly what we expect of her.” And that was one of the factors that made Kris Beattie, a 70-year-old retired nurse in Oregon, interested in offering Scooter a forever home. “She has a most interesting personality and is wonderful with my grandchildren, learns quickly, and has the typical bull-type stubbornness,” Beattie says. “The hardest thing so far has been 'come' — perhaps because she belonged to a homeless person and may have always been on a leash — but we're working at it! She is a sweet girl, and we're glad to have found her.” Now, Beattie hopes to have Scooter tested to get her therapy dog certification in September. Instead of being feared for her tough looks, she'll be welcomed for her healing spirit. That's a big — and wonderful — change for this sweet dog.