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Happy Tail: Spanky, the red nose Pit Bull

There are breed specific traits, some endearing or useful. Pitbulls reputation always precedes them; a 'gateway surrender' at Sugarfoot of Spanky, led to some difficult moments, until a life changing encounter with Dr. Olt. Spanky now has better social skills and a forever home at Sugarfoot, paw-in-paw with his excellent friend, Page, an Australian Cattle Dog. The journey is worth every minute of this read; click on the headline to read it all, with Spanky and a new best friend, Dr. Olt.
The next earlier Peg Shaeffer column: Happy Tail - The story of Cowboy. Posted June 22, 2014

By Peg Schaeffer

When people call here and want to surrender a Pit Bull I don't usually take them in. Although I am not "breed specific" and try to rescue all dogs the Pit Bull Terriers don't usually fit in here. We have several and they're all good dogs but sometimes don't work out in the environment here. Pit Bulls' aggression trait has been bred into them. They are normally aggressive, and this is only to be expected. Despite the stories and myths, Pit Bulls are not normally aggressive towards humans. This is abnormal behavior in a breed that is naturally friendly. While Pit Bulls were bred as fighting dogs, this was to fight against other animals, and dogs biting humans, especially their handlers, were put to death. This has resulted in a breed that is aggressive, but loves people, since those characteristics were selected for encouragement.

Every breed has a special trait

Every dog breed has a trait they're known for. Beagles are going to hunt rabbits and they have a built in ignore switch. When they're on the scent you can call them until you're blue in the face and for some reason they can't hear you. But if you open a can of food or the refrigerator door - they're right on it.

Jack Russell Terriers are like the energizer bunny. They last and last and last. We have one named Lil Bit that makes me laugh all the time. She's always on the go. Even today - she climbed on the top bunk of the Kuranda bed that's on the deck and pulled one of my plants, pot and all, off the railing. Just because it was there - no other reason. Labrador Retrievers love the water. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, any herding breed needs a job to do or they get bored and in trouble.

Had rejected surrender of Pit Bull; but owners left him at gate

So when I got a phone call about a Pit Bull someone wanted to surrender I told them I wouldn't be able to take the dog in. The next morning she was outside the gate. She was a big bodied girl and was happy to see me. She wagged her tail and had a smile on her face. So I put a leash on her and headed up the driveway with her. A puppy ran up to greet her and she lunged at him. So she went to the kennel area. This area is where we keep some of the dogs. They have a separate fenced in area and pens inside. So Spanky went inside. She made it quite clear that she could and would eat any dog that crossed her path. Yet, whenever a person comes to see her she jumps up and down inside her pen waiting to get petted. When she jumps up her wide tongue licks her face and on the way back down she gets you again. We don't let her play rough with us and if she gets a treat she has to sit and stay.

Spanky has own special routine

Spanky knows the routine. We feed her in her pen in the morning and then we put her in an outside pen for exercise and so she can get fresh air. Before Keith goes to work at night he puts her back inside. She loves Keith. Sometimes he carries her, rather than put her on a leash, and she has a big wide mouthed grin with her tongue lapping his face all the time.

A few weeks ago Spanky just wasn't herself. She was lethargic and wouldn't jump up and down when you entered the kennel. She might do a half jump but that was all. Then one night when I went in to say good night to her and give her a treat she jumped up and collapsed. It was almost like a blackout. She was scared and went into the corner and wouldn't eat her treat. So the next morning I made an appointment with the vet.

Spanky is great with people, but can be dog aggressive

I explained to them that Spanky is great with people but can be dog aggressive. I was apprehensive about taking her but she needed to be checked. I didn't take any dogs with me like I usually do and put her in a crate in the Tahoe. Before I took her into the office I checked to make sure there were no other dogs in the waiting room. She walked quietly in, not tugging on the leash like usual. I figured it was because she wasn't feeling good. She was very well behaved and went into the exam room. Dr. Olt came in to examine her. Spanky gave her a huge kiss and let the vet check her over. She even lay on her side so Dr. Olt could listen to her heart. Turns out Spanky has a heart murmur. So Spanky was given medication and we made a return appointment for a checkup in two weeks.

The pills seemed to work and when Spanky went back for a recheck I also brought a Beagle with a head tilt, an Australian Cattle Dog with a skin infection, and Diablo, our Chihuahua, just came along for the ride.

Spanky went in the crate and the other dogs were loose in the Tahoe. Spanky never made a wrong move. When I got there, without thinking, I let Spanky out of the crate and led her in, with Raindrop and Gertie on leashes next to her and Diablo in my arms. Spanky never tried to hurt them. In the exam room while we were waiting I let Spanky loose and she never showed any signs of aggression to the other dogs.

She didn't show dog aggression this time, and gave Dr. Olt a kiss

She was so happy to see Dr. Olt. She gave her a big kiss and let the vet listen to her heart. She then waited patiently while Gertie and Raindrop were checked. She lay on the floor, spread eagle, with her legs stretched out behind her. She was totally relaxed.

I guess all Spanky needed was time. I still won't let her loose with the other dogs but I'm not as concerned about her behavior as I was. Sadly most Pit Bulls in shelters don't have the luxury of time. But Spanky has proved to us that a little love can go a long way.

Story a reminder of a Golden Book dog story

This reminded me of a story I read when I was little. It was a Golden Book about a family that bought a house and the neighbors next door had a big mean dog. The family had a little dog so to be safe they built a big fence to keep the other dog out. When the fence was done they let the little dog out. The big dog next door leaped the fence and everyone held their breath waiting to see what he would do. Instead the two dogs romped and played and became friends. So they planted roses along the fence and everyone lived happily ever after.

Spanky will live at Sugarfoot ever after, with her ACD friend, Page nearby

Spanky will live with us happily ever after. When it's not summer time she is given the run of the garden during the day. She has a friend, Page, an Australian Cattle Dog mix that stays next to Spanky's pen door during the day and sleeps in the pen next to Spanky at night. When Spanky is in the garden Page waits by the gate for her. They have a special bond. So even the dog with a notorious reputation can find a friend and be a friend. - Peg Schaeffer

Peg Schaeffer, Sugarfoot Farm Rescue, 860 Sparksville Road, Columbia, KY 42728 Telephone: home 270-378-4521 or cell 270-634-4675 email:

This story was posted on 2014-06-29 09:43:01
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Happy Tail: Spanky the red nosed pit bull

2014-06-29 - 1820 Campbellsville Road, Greensburg, KY - Photo by Peg Schaeffer.
Spanky at the doctor's officeThis is Spanky, with Dr. Ange Olt of the Mill Creek Veterinary Center in Greensburg getting good news that her heart murmur is getting better. - Peg Schaeffer, Sugarfoot Farm Rescue, Sugarfoot Farm Rescue, 860 Sparksville Road, Columbia, KY.

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