Friday, October 21, 2011

The story of Rhett

There was a dog who once had a home, but was abandoned by his owners when they faced hard times. He waited for them, and tried to survive. But then he was found, and adopted by a woman who was smitten by this handsome boy. She wanted to give him a forever home. This is her story:

I miss his velvet ears. I have some of his hair in a pretty little silver box.


In the neighborhood where my husband and I live, there is a graveyard nearby. Dogs are sometimes abandoned there, victims of the economy, and of owners who considered them expendable. It breaks my heart to see these dogs discarded like last week’s newspaper. I’ve always loved dogs. My childhood years were filled with happy memories of our Beagles - I loved their musical howls. One of our beagles actually slept on top of her doghouse - just like Snoopy.

We had been looking at rescues, thinking of adopting an older beagle, when I started seeing a beautiful dog in the graveyard. Kind neighbors would bring him food, which he would take warily and run away. One day, I saw him drinking from one of the leaky sprinklers on my front lawn.  He looked at me warily, but with kind, soulful eyes.  He had his drink, and then returned to his vigil at the graveyard, crossing his front legs, sitting like a statue, waiting for an owner who would never return. One day, I brought him out a can of cat food. He let me pet him, and I was smitten. I told my husband how beautiful he was, and he said, “Well, catch him and put him in the garden” - and that’s just what I did.


The vet thought he was a Chow/Lab mix. His hair was short, but thick and luxurious, with a copper-like metallic sheen. He had a teddy bear face, a black tongue and a curly tail. He’d been neutered as an adult, appeared to be 3-4 years old, and had no microchip. I named him Rhett, because he was handsome, and a bit of a rogue, but also because of his beautiful red coat.  He was never destructive, didn’t dig in my garden, and was very polite about his bathroom duties; always in the same place, and never when we walked. He was a gentleman, very well behaved. Somebody had obviously trained him well, although from what I understand about Chows, they are naturally polite dogs. He was also a very good watchdog. If he barked, we knew something was up. He knew the difference between the little old ladies that walked by, and the hooligans.

Rhett was very smart, a quick learner. I taught him to sit at a snap of a finger, and lie down with a hand command. He also knew “Give me five”, “Give me ten”,  adored having his belly rubbed and would roll over on his back if you said, “Belly time”, he played “patty cake”, and did a “happy dance” when it was supper time.  He was very enthusiastic about food.  One time, he stole a whole container of Loft house Sugar cookies. He would also “speak” on command. If  I threw something, he would grudgingly and dutifully go retrieve it, but if you threw it again, he would give you a look like your were insane…as if to say “Hey, I JUST brought it back to you, silly.”  He had a kind of aloof dignity that I just adored, and respected.

Because of Rhett’s shy idiosyncrasies about going potty, I had no luck in getting him to relieve himself on walks.  A friend told me about the Dog Park, so I thought I would give it a try. At the dog park, Rhett was minding his own business, investigating the grounds and marking the trees, when a pit bull cornered him and would not let him pass. Then the pit bull grabbed him by the neck. I came over and kicked the pit bull, the pit bull owner came over and the dogs were separated. I remember she said that her pit bull was “correcting” my dog’s behavior.  I’m not sure which was more disturbing - the pit bull or it’s owner. Thankful that no blood was shed that day, I put Rhett on a leash, and never returned to the dog park.

About a week later I was walking Rhett and Scarlett, our other Chow mix, when we were attacked by an off-leash pit bull. Another horrible, crazy owner.  A couple of weeks later we were attacked by yet another pit bull. Reports were increasing in my neighborhood of  people being attacked and injured, of their pets being killed, by pit bulls - a little girl’s Chihuahua mauled right in front of her.  A neighbor’s beautiful Chow attacked and seriously injured while on a walk. A neighbor’s home was invaded by a pit bull. A child attacked while sharing Easter Candy. The nephew of another neighbor had his testicles bitten off by a pit bull. One evening when I came home, a loose pit bull chased me from my car to my front door. It was surreal, a war zone.

On Memorial day, around 7:00 in the evening, I was feeding Scarlett, alone in the house, as she was on medication.  She began howling and carrying on, and I knew something was wrong  I looked out the back French door, and was horrified to see the whip of a tail attached to a giant white pit bull.  Rhett had assumed from what I read is a “submissive” posture.  He had surrendered to this pit bull which somehow got into my back garden. I ran inside and called the police, then ran to my front door and called for help. Several neighbors ran to our help within seconds. One of the young boys knew that the pit bull belonged to a man across the street, and he ran to get him. Another neighbor asked for my gate key, while two other neighbors went for golf clubs and a shovel, in an attempt to stop the pit bull which was still attacking Rhett.


The owner of the dog arrived to see his pit bull wagging its tail, covered with the blood of my dog, as if everything were fine. As my dog lay wounded, this owner couldn’t stop grinning - was it some twisted sense of pride? He took the pit bull and left without a word. My next door neighbor helped me pick up Rhett, and she drove us to the emergency hospital while I held him and put pressure on the wounds.

Rhett survived the initial attack, but would never again be the same. He was profoundly disabled, his behaviour that of a stroke victim. He walked at an angle, he drooled, and he would fall while going around corners. He had a haunting, defeated, humiliated, and confused look.


I  didn’t understand how the pit bull was able to enter my seemingly secure back yard, which is surrounded on all sides by a dense, 10 foot high bottle-brush hedge and a masonry wall, until we noticed that the two bottom rungs of the wrought iron gate had been damaged, so that with enough force, a determined attacker could push through. This pit bull had escaped from its yard to ram himself through a locked wrought iron gate. This beautiful garden, which was meant as a restful oasis of peace, had been violated by this hideous creature, transforming it into a slaughterhouse, a nightmare and a lingering sorrow.

My Rhett, my handsome friend, continued to suffer strokes as his condition deteriorated. I could see that he was barely existing, and so I had to make the heart breaking call to my vet. Choking on the tears, I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and Rhett started to follow me, as he always did. I could see a strange, faraway look in his eyes as he stood there. I ran to him and held him. My handsome boy died in my arms. We’d had a bittersweet, 3 week goodbye. When the vet called back I gave him the news that Rhett had already passed, and he gave me the phone number to the pet crematorium.  


I shed a tear for Rhett every day.

30 comments:

  1. I actually was shedding a few tears while reading this, and I'm not usually swayed by emotional stories, so that says a lot. Poor Rhett, and of course his grieving owner who has to live with the memory of losing such a wonderful dog.

    It truly is a war zone; many people have learned that they have to live with the fear of a neighbor's pit bull attacking once again. We shouldn't have to be afraid of being attacked while walking our dogs, but unfortunately, in many places, that fear is justified.

    I'd like to see the day when we don't have to be afraid anymore.

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  2. another casualty of the war pit bulls are waging against our pets. so sad. so infuriating. so unnecessary.

    rip Rhett

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  3. OH MY GOD.. Soooooooooo sad. Very Moving. Thank you. It is helpful to se ethat pitbulls have lots of victims that we don't hear about because they don't make the news.. but the heartache is still horrible

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  4. I'm so sorry this happened to you and Rhett.

    The feeling of powerlessness--the injustice--must have been overwhelming. I felt homicidal just reading about it.

    Ro Martinet

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  5. I, too was touched by the story of Rhett. I'm also angry that there are so many foolish people who own pitbulls and condone their behavior. Even when it causes such suffering to both dogs and their owners. The breed should cease to exsist.
    Sharon L.

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  6. I am sorry for the loss of Rhett, truly it is a sad thing to loose an animal you love dearly. The owner of the Pit Bull should be held responsible. But to the comment saying the breed should cease to exist, is just as horrible to hear. Fight for tougher laws to protect ALL breeds, and do not discriminate. Every animal has a right to be on this earth, does not mean every human has the right to own them.

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    1. the breed should cease to exist. It is like bringing a tiger in your home and calling it a tabby. By their very nature they are unpredictable, do not respond to submissive gestures, do not warn of an impending attack, and if they were spayed and neutered into oblivion, I would feel vindicated.

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    2. tell that to the 100,000 to 250,000 pets and farm animals and wild animals that fall prey to pit bulls every year, THEY have a right to exist. Over 200 PEOPLE killed by pits, THEY have a right to live, also. Pits should be spayed/ neutered out of existence. I agree with the first Anonymous.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this story Jake,
    I do believe pit bull owners should not act in the way that the ones above did, they shouldn't condone that sort of behavor, I think in my opinion the owners should have had more responsibility. I do think that if you have a pit bull it should be raised and be around tons of dogs as a puppy and get a long perfect with every dog it meets before even considering a dog park at all. Sense pit bull were bred with terriers that kill rats, then i can see why one would kill a chihuahau, i'm not an expert this is just an opinion

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  8. JS JOHNSON, don't kid yourself. YOU are the problem! you need to spend time on pitbullchat and gamedog forum and educate yourself about the breed! STOP reading the kook who write the happy pit bull blog and all the rest of those kumbaya nutters who think socializing pibble at a an early age and giving them tutus and hugs and kisses is all that you need to have a well behaved gripping dog.

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  9. JS Johnson, Responsible behavior from pit bull owners is extremely rare. A truly responsible pit bull owner would not even consider a dog park for his/her pit bull.

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    1. Just owning one is irresponsible so, that's that.

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  10. JS Johnson...

    Please, just please stop with the nonsense.

    I have never had a pit bull as a pet but I have had them around me since I was a child. So before anyone here claims that I'm being biased; remember that first comment.

    All the pit bulls I've personally known have been professional escape artists and have been known to easily invade secure yards. An intact male that was a good dog to me got loose from a 6 foot fence and was hit by a car. A female pit bull who was sweet as can be got loose from her secure yard, invaded another yard, and killed the neighbors cat. Both of these pit bulls were owned by responsible owners, neither of these dogs were provoked into escaping their yards and causing damage to something else or themselves.

    I have been viciously perused by two pit bulls and both of them were owned by fluent people within my well to do neighborhood.

    I do not hate pit bulls, I cannot hate pit bulls, because they've been in my life and I see the inbred demons they hold; I cannot fully blame them for responding to what it is they were bred to do.

    But I CAN promote that more people take responsibility and bred these dogs to have better temperaments; and to do severe screening of potential owners. I am a pit bull advocate; just like you are. But I am different in that I acknowledge that the problem isn't only the owner, but the purposefully bred nature of the dog.

    You may be able to repress the dog's nature for a while, and if you're lucky - its entire life. But there are too many reports that shot even this is a failed attempt on most occasions.

    Prevent the deed, regulate the breed! And this is coming from a pit bull lover!

    If you really love the breed as I do; you would do ANYTHING required that truly prevents these dogs from being in the wrong hands, and prevent people and their beloved pets from suffering due to your ignorance on the pit bull problem.

    - Sandra

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    1. They are not safe dogs. Period. You never having a problem means nothing.

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    2. thank you, Sandra, because I also rescued pits, and liked them, and in my own ignorance I am lucky neither me or my children or pets suffered a mangling, THAT didn't happen until last year, and it changed my life. AND I did my research, and found out about how much damage this breed causes. I have been unfriended by ma ny ''real world" friends, and attacked by many who do not know me, but have attacked my educated belief of pit bulls, as I now KNOW "it isn't how you raise them" but it IS the genetics. I don't hate the dog, either, but I also don't think many who advocate for them care about them, when so many are bred as disposable dogs, 3000 a DAY are euthanized. The pro-pit people are the worst. They attack the victims, blame the owners, and put tutu's on a killer and parade them around as if they were more valuable then the people and pets they kill, on a daily basis. Thank you for saying what I believe, most people who DO own them? Shouldn't.

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  11. I would also like to add that I truly feel for Rhett. His death was an unnecessary tragedy...

    As a dog lover in general, I do not want to see any animal unnecessarily hurt by someone who's ignorant on the breed they own.

    As I've explained to JS, "raising a pit bull right" is not going to remove the high prey drive of a pit bull. Or any future aggression it may develop once it's hormones and testosterone kicks in. Pit bulls that do respond well to intense training often do so because of less aggressive demeanor that's generally obtained through breeding either intentionally or unintentionally.

    I would also like to say that because many pit bull breeders run backyard operations, you cannot be reassured that you're purchasing a pup from someone who's truly breeding for a certain temperament. Even websites that run small and humane breeding operations often overlook temperament to achieve a certain phenotype such as a color or head size.

    The problem with pit bulls is two fold. Get a puppy and you have to wait for its real personality to develop. And even then they have a higher rate of striking their owners and other people they've known for years out of the blue despite being raised right. Look at the Pruett and Forney pit bulls that attacked people. What about pit bull Kappa and the Taglirine pit bulls? There are more stories similar to these out there. Adopt an adult pit bull and you run into the problem of the dog having an ambiguous, cloudy, or fallacious past written by the humane societies. This can be seen with the pit bulls who ended up being cat killers. And a pit bull who was recently removed from pet finder for attacking a herding type dog.

    - Sandra

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  12. A friend of mine owns a pit bull. He's discriminated by other pit bull owners because he educates people on the fact that pit bulls do better in a house with older children and that pit bulls are not a dog for everyone. Especially people with little dog experience.

    Good to see the pit bull advocacy group shooting down the few responsible educators out there.

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  13. Pit bull advocacy has caused a lot of problems and has a lot of blood on its hands. With the overwhelming amount of pro-pit education web sites and rescues, there is no reason why any pit bull owner should still be saying "its the owner" or bringing a pit bull to a dog park. Pit bull advocacy is responsible for the death of Rhett and so many like him, and will ultimately cause pit bulls to be banned.

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  14. It’s refreshing to see some advocates for pit bulls who can admit the truth about these dogs, that they carry inner demons. It's not their fault, they are dangerous dogs, not a breed for families with children, as was Rhett, a Chow mix, another unpredictable breed. Let us do what we can to promote vigilance and responsibility, and where it is needed, such as in my town, some temporary breed specific policies such as mandatory spaying and neutering, micro chips, and possibly, policies about keeping these dogs out of criminal and negligent hands, and mandating ways that owners will be held liable for any blood shed from their dogs. The outrage is there are too many times when no restitutions are made, seldom an “I’m sorry”. There needs to be a better advocacy for these dogs, one that can extend the compassion they have for these dogs to people, many of us have very horrible memories, and now survive each day mourning a loved one, or a life that will never be the same. It’s time to stop blaming victims, the “biased” media, the vulgarities, and advocate for responsible owners, which requires a mindset that can admit that these are indeed dogs that carry a demon, be able to admit it. Not all dogs are created equal, some are simply more dangerous, riskier, unpredictable...a proper mindset respects and has empathy for this kind of dog. In the end, this mindset saves a life, and that of the dog itself.

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  15. On September 5, 2009, our miniature poodle, Fabian, was attacked and killed while on a leash in our driveway. On July 20, 2011, Fabian's Law went into effect in our State, Arizona. Fabian's Law holds the "Irresponsible Dog Owner" of an "Aggressive Dog" accountable if it attacks another domestic animal or person while of their property. Fabian's Law is not breed specific. It goes after who is truly responsible, the "Irresponsible Dog Owner". We want to see Fabian's Law in other State's that have weak leash laws and do not protect "Responsible Dog Owner's". To learn more www.fabianslaw.com.

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  16. what i am so sorry about your dog 3 pit bull's killed my miniture pinscher yea i am on i hate pit bulls group and someone reported me cause i won't let them start drama with me i have a disability they either leave me alone or i will contact here in Indiana the APS office that's the adult protection services and i health problems also so they need to stop there bologne.Dog's can bit and i hate to tell them alot dog's are tameable so they better go check there self with pit bull's especially the law's in Indiana for that moron who say's he work's for the Human Society if he work's for them why is he hating on chichuhua's and minture pinscher's then i don't believe he work's there either like my husband said and he left them all messages to leave me and cussed everyone of them out. If they like i can bring a lady off of myyearbook who will collect there information online they posted it she can get it and copy and paste to that group lol!!! she is that vindictive is she but chow's are mean so are Rott's and doberman's also and pit bull's i heard even dalmantions where mean i find that hard to believe but they are i know someone who got bit by one of those. My 12 year old son watch these mean dog's kill are mini pin i will miss Rocky and he took it so hard and all the owner could say was there sorry well those owner's end off getting citation's and moved up out of the neighborhood i went down there and thank goodness i didn't go to jail but i loved my dog and he was a part of are family and didn't want to see this happen. These dog's wasn't even leashed just running through the front yard not even chained not restraint at all and just went through a locked gate and attacked my dog he was on a leash mine was my son got away from them dog's these people are the same people who's other dog that died attacked and bit my 9 year old daughter race isn't issue there is a dog dead here. I don't see what i said on there even consued as being racisted at all my friend's on there even said that also those owner's this makes the second time one of there dog's has attacked they need to be sued and arrested and all i heard was a sorry, sorry won't bring back my dog and that jerk on there saying i lied about my dog no i did not got proof of that written on paper for the jerk to see. My son wasn't even on these people's property either with are dog he was in the road to keep him away from those vicous dog's those people in that group need to educate there self on what a tameable dog is instead of having a vicous dog they think there so great to have one day they will find out those may turn on the owner and it can happen. So they need to start listening to someone who is trying to tell them something if not there mouth is going to land them in legal trouble's that's for sure you don't get on a social network cussing people out and when i said what i said i done already seen what 3 to 4 people wrote before i said that so they are stirring up the trouble there if it is titled i hate pit bulls why are they in there for since they love those breed's so much sound's like to me they love the drama and have a miserable life and just want to keep bring other's down with them. One day though they will learn next person they cuss out it may end off being a law enforcement officer and they sure can track them down regardless of what info they do have on there.

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss and harassment. Bully people own bully dogs.

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  17. I am so sorry about poor Rhett...what a lovely friend you had...as you know I lost my Jackson to a Pit Bull attack initiated by two out of control, ill trained poodles who had been attacking Jackson for a year....I am so sorry you and your family had to endure a tragedy made only worse by an irresponsible and callous owner. With much support and understanding, Kim

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  18. This still makes me cry. I'm so sorry.

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  19. What a heartbreaking story. RIP beautiful Rhett.

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  21. I'm very sorry about your loss. My dog was almost taken from me by a pit attack. The cavalier attitude people, such as the pit's owner in your account, have with the lives of other people's innocent and docile pets is very angering. This attitude is reflected in the insistence by pit nutters that pit bulls are only aggressive toward other dogs, as if that is a calming salve.

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  22. I would like to start by expressing my deep sympathy for what happened to your Rhett. This was beautifully written and brought me to tears.

    I am a Pit Bull owner and can say myself that even my sweet girl has her issues. The difference is that I am aware and continually exercise, socialize and train my Pit to prevent the horrible occurances like Rhett's.

    Being a responsible Pit owner is as full time a job as being a parent. I have worked very hard and so has my family to ensure that we have a mentally stable and docile pet.

    I will be the first to say that she does not like cats. Although she has been around many other dogs, I do not trust her around small dogs because of her breed. She has done fantastically with my family and other large dogs. (She is 65 lbs) and even my mother who is very against pit bulls has been won over by my Cinnamon.

    Before my current Pit, I adopted a Pit we named Zorro. Within a year it was apparent that he was mistrustful of everyone outside our house. By his second year, I chose to have him euthanized. He had bonded strongly to me and started protecting me from my husband by growling and putting himself between us.He waas my companion and got me through after my first child was stillborn

    The difference here is responsibility. Although I was heartbroken to put Zorro down, I could not ignore the signs.

    Cinnamon is 4 years old now and other than chasing cats she is friendly and sweet with everyone. Being a responsible pit owner, no matter how much I love her, I would not hesitate in putting her down if she showed signs of aggression. I feel strongly that if a person wants to own such a powerful breed, they need to be prepared to put in the time and effort necessary to ensure safety, and make the difficult decisions when necessary.

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