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"Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale... if somebody told you I was just your average, ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied." - Peter Parker in Spider Man (2002)
When you bring a dog into your home for the first time, the expectation is always that they’ll be the kind of pet everyone dreams of. The one that loves all other dogs and humans, alike. One that you can take to dog parks, pool parties, restaurants and even bar crawls. But what happens when the life you dreamed of with your dog ends up being less than the standard expectation? Why do we immediately question what is wrong with them?
Sure, this dog certainly exists; it is where our societal expectations come from. But the truth is, this expectation is far from reality for so many dogs and their families. Just like people, each dog is an individual with their own set of needs, wants, desires and personalities. We don’t bat an eyelash when a person is introverted and prefers the company of a few select people, so why do we stigmatize animals for being the same way? Just because someone’s life doesn’t look how we expect it should, doesn’t mean their dog isn’t perfect in his or her own way.
Spidey is believed to be an American Pit Bull Terrier who was surrendered to the humane society in 2017, just 24 hours after being purchased from Craigslist. He had lunged at a male in his new home and immediately after, was muzzled and dropped off at the shelter; never given the chance to acclimate to his new surroundings or family.
Like most dogs, he didn’t flourish in a shelter environment and spent his days cowering in the corner of his kennel, drooling from fear. Thanks to the dedication of one particular shelter employee, he did eventually open up a little. He passed his Behavioral Analysis Test with flying colors with no signs of aggression… until other people began to enter the room. It quickly became clear that Spidey did not trust new people. More and more, his aggression became apparent and he was deemed unfit for adoption. As a result, euthanasia was recommended by several professionals throughout his eight month stay at the shelter.
It was that same shelter employee who saw something in Spidey that would eventually save his life and become his only advocate. It was her persistence that kept him from euthanasia. And through some miracle, she convinced her Director that she was equipped to give him the environment he needed to feel safe and where he wouldn't pose a danger to himself or anyone else.
Despite her experience with rescue dogs, Spidey’s new mom still felt overwhelmed and questioned if she did the right thing for him. Yes, she saved his life but at what cost? Spidey was insecure, distrustful and he lunged, barked and growled at everything. Cars, trucks, bikes, people, dogs, children; you name it, he tried to attack it. It was a difficult time for Spidey and his new mom, and there were times she felt the embarrassment and the guilt over having “that dog.” Were they the topic of conversation in stranger's homes?
“Some crazy pit bull tried to attack me today….”
But she never gave up and little by little something changed in Spidey. It was as if he came to the realization that his mom was not going to let him down, as he had been so many times before.
Spidey’s training will be forever-ongoing. But today, he thrives. His days consist of a lot of walks, safe socialization and regular exposure to new people and the things and smells he’s found so scary in the past. He’ll always require safe and supervised introductions, but you’d never guess he was the same dog that almost didn’t make it out of the shelter alive. Once he lets you into his circle, he loves you forever. He loves to cuddle, gives kisses and sticks to you like velcro. Whatever his human is doing, is exactly where he wants to be. He’s eager to please and thrives on praise.
Spidey was let down in his early life and probably more than once. One might say he is a living example of the poor reputation this breed has, and one might say that his aggression is justified given something dark and scary in his past. But he overcame it all with guidance, love, stability and training. He was almost two by the time he was surrendered, and his previous life is completely unknown. But the takeaway is that whatever happened to him before he found his forever family, doesn’t matter today. Spidey was failed by a system that as hard as it tries, fails countless others who don’t have an advocate in their corner the way he did. And he still went on to be a wonderfully loyal and loving part of his family.
He and his human are bonded for life and his mom wants everyone to know the very best part about being Spidey's human is how privileged she feels to be his chosen person.
“I loved and love seeing his progress and the complete 180 he has done since Nov 2017. From not being able to be introduced to my own parents, to now being the best grand-furchild they have!”
Just like people, every dog is different. Behavior and personality have nothing to do with breed itself. Spidey may require a little more effort from day to day but that doesn't make his life any less valuable, it doesn't make him any less lovable and it doesn't make him any less perfect than any other dog in the world. So next time you see Spidey Man patrolling the neighborhood, just remember he's working hard to keep you safe!
Follow Spidey and his daily adventures HERE.