“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars”. -Kahlil Gibran, Artist & Poet (1883—1931)

Ask anyone in the United States if they have heard of a Pit Bull and they will answer in one of two ways: Yes, they are the best dogs in the world!!! Or…Yes, isn’t that the fighting dog?!?

The former has actually spent time with one of these dogs and the latter has probably read or listened to the news. What most people, including both groups, don’t realize is there is no such thing as a Pit Bull.  “Pit Bull” is a nickname given to American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. These three breeds along with the English Bulldog, the Boston Terrier and several other breeds have all evolved from a fighting dog bred in Europe in the early 1800”s, known as the Bull and Terrier. Something else most people are unaware of is how much of the Pit Bull’s fighting has been for this country.

Sallie

Sallie, a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Sallie, came to 1st Lt. William R. Terry when she was but four weeks old. Always by the side of Lt. Terry, Sallie grew up among the men of the regiment. She followed them on marches and into battle. At the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st – July 3rd1863, Sallie was separated from her unit. Unable to find her way, she returned to the Union battle line at Oak Ridge, where Sallie stood guard over the dead and wounded. Sallie continued her faithful service until February of 1865 when during the battle of Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, Sallie was struck in the head by a bullet and killed instantly. Sallie was buried on the battlefield while surrounded by enemy fire. In appreciation of her loyal devotion, a monument of Sallie now stands in Gettysburg, directly in front of the monument that commemorates the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Jack

The brown and white Bullie breed, who understood bugle calls, was the mascot for the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. This fine soldier was a dependable member in his unit, His career spanned through nearly all the regiment’s battles in Virginia and Maryland. He was present at the Wilderness campaigns, Spotsylvania, and the siege of Petersburg. Jack’s duty, was to seek out the dead and wounded of his regiment once the gunfire silenced.  He, himself was wounded severely at the battle of Malvern Hill. Although he was able to escape a capture by the confederate soldiers and survive the battle of Antietam in 1862, (in which 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded,) Jack was however, captured twice and became the only dog to be traded as a prisoner of war, when during his second capture he was exchanged, according to war time protocol, for a Confederate soldier at Belle Isle. Jack disappeared shortly after being presented a silver collar purchased by his human comrades and was believed to be a victim of theft.

How horribly ironic that the Philadelphia Eagles, an NFL team affiliated with the home state, of these proud and loyal heroes, would find it acceptable to hire Michael Vick, a man notorious for the torture and death of Pit Bulls, while he, himself lived in Virginia, the state where Sallie and Jack gave their lives for our soldiers. Add to this, that the inspiration behind football half time shows was another heroic Pit Bull.

Old Harvey

Old Harvey was the mascot for the 104th Ohio Infantry. he was beloved for the companionship and humor he provided the troops. It is said, Harvey would show his great love for music by swaying from side to side while the soldiers sang campfire songs in the evening. He was wounded in two different battles but, survived each time. Harvey’s tag read “I am Lieutenant D.N. Stearns’ Dog. Who’s Dog Are You?”

The 104th had a portrait of Harvey commissioned so that he could still be part of their reunions after his death.

Today, Harvey is remembered by the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, where a portrait of the troop features a proud Harvey posing with his fellow soldiers.

“Jack Brutus”

Jack Brutus another fine soldier (shown here in uniform) serving during the Spanish – American war became the official ascot for Company K, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. “Old Jack” as he was known, and his unit, spent most of the war encamped at various places here in the states providing coastal defense from Maine to Virginia. Old Jack died of spinal troubles in 1898.

The Pit Bull’s steady temperament, extreme level of intelligence, acceptance of training and steadfast sense of loyalty made them the perfect military mascot.

A Symbol Of American Pride

n the early twentieth century Pit Bulls were so respected for their loyalty, determination and bravery that they were chosen to represent America in WWI on posters used for recruitment and to sell war bonds.

Stubby

The first decorated canine war hero and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant was an American Pit Bull Terrier Stubby. Born in 1917, he wandered into a Connecticut National Guard encampment on the Yale University campus. He was a scrawny little pup of about four weeks old, found there by John Robert Conroy who smuggled his beloved companion aboard the troop ship, the SS Minnesota. Stubby learned to salute and his military career began. He served beside Conroy in the 102nd Infantry 26th Yankee division, during WWI, in the trenches in France. There Stubby would seek out wounded soldiers, which were significantly less, because Stubby could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before the humans, and became quite adept at letting his unit know when to duck for cover.

After being gassed, Stubby began warning his unit of poison gas attacks. There is no way to know how many American soldiers this Pit Bull saved but, the respect he was given by the U.S. after the war is a clear indicator of how valuable Stubby was to the men of his unit. During his Military career, Stubby aided in the capture of a German spy, was severely injured by shrapnel, sent to the Red Cross hospital for surgery, awarded the Purple Heart and sent back to his regimen. After the battle for the French village of Domremy, the grateful women of the township fashioned a hand sewn chamois coat, to display Stubby’s service chevrons, metals, pins and buttons, this became his recognized trademark, and is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum.

In his lifetime Stubby was invited to the White house by three Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge. In 1921 John Conroy and Stubby headed to Georgetown to enroll in law school where Stubby became a practicing Hoya, he served several terms as mascot to the football team. Between halves, Stubby would nudge a football around the field with his nose, to the delight of the crowd. His performance is deemed the inspiration, that started elaborate half time shows, at football games across the country. Until his death, in John Conroy’s arms, of old age, April 4, 1926, Stubby was a “True” American Pit Bull Terrier

From their conception these dogs have been bred for human companionship, and since the 1900”s they have been bred for conformation showing as well. From the very beginning Pit Bulls have been used, not only as military and college mascots but also as farm dogs, early settlers relied on these dogs to move livestock and keep them safe from predators. Other farms used Pit Bulls to keep down the rat population, or for watching the children as families worked their fields. Their calm and gentle nature with children has earned them the nickname of “Nanny Dog”.

Many highly respected historical figures have shared their lives with Pit Bulls: Helen Keller owned an American Pit Bull Terrier named “Sir Thomas.”

President Theodore Roosevelt owned a Pit Bull named “Pete” who nearly caused an international scandal when he pulled off the pants of the French ambassador during a White House function.

(Pit Bulls! Always good for a laugh.)

Since coming to America, nearly 200 years ago Pit Bull dogs have been valued in film, advertising and as beloved family members. They are the only breed of dog to have graced the cover of Life Magazine three times.

Tige
In 1902 a comic strip was created featuring Buster Brown, his sister Mary Jane and their American Pit Bull Terrier, Tige (thought to be the 1st talking pet in American comics.) The cartoonist Richard Felton Outcault joined with the Brown Shoe Company to advertise a new line of children’s shoes in 1904. Buster Brown Shoes are still around today.

Nipper
Let us not forget Nipper the American Pit Bull Terrier that served as the RCA trademark dog.

The Pit Bull’s negative media image started just over a decade ago, when some suggest, that an absurdly, sensationalistic Sports Illustrated cover began the hysteria in 1987, tarnishing intensely the reputation of America’s hero dog.

Petey

Pit Bulls have fulfilled many important roles in our society.

Bud

In 1903 Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson hit the road with co-driver Sewall K Crocker and a Pit Bull named “Bud,” who wore goggles, just like his master, to keep the dust from his eyes. Together, the three made the very first road trip across the United States. Bud drew almost as much attention, if not more than his fellow travelers. Horatio was quoted as saying “Bud was the one member of our trio who used no profanity the whole trip” Later Horatio donated his car and Bud’s goggles to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Bud continued to live with the Jackson family until his death of old age.

The Pride Continues…
Today Pit Bulls are valuable members of society, working in search and rescue, saving lives after disaster, helping law enforcement, as drug and bomb detection dogs. As therapy dogs visiting hospitals, improving the morale and increasing the chance for recovery, in seriously ill patients or by putting a smile on the face of a child, as they read to the dog with new found confidence, in a children’s literacy program. Pit Bulls are and have always been a National Treasure.

Truffles,
CGC / TDI licensed

RCA

RCA was turned into a shelter, a victim of housing discrimination. While at the shelter she was temperament tested and scored the highest of the 170 dogs participating in the test. RCA was chosen to be Alaska’s 1st hearing assistance dog. True to her breed, she has a great love for children.

Dakota
Unwanted and abandoned, rescued dog Dakota is now a rescuer herself. Possessing a great love of people, high intelligence, the drive and the desire Dakota excels as a search and rescue dog. She and her handler, Kristine Crawford, were one of the elite search and rescue teams selected to work at the site of the Columbia Shuttle disaster.

Officer Neville

Rescued K9 Neville now serves America as an explosive detection dog for the Washington State Patrol. Neville screens over 200 cars a day on the Washington State Ferry system. Trooper David Dixon says “Neville is the perfect dog. He works so hard occasionally looking up at me to ask “Am I doing OK” in return I praise him and say “Good Boy Neville, Find It.”  Neville always does.

From the 1800’s through today Pit Bulls have not failed to give 100% to the people they love, and the ability to love…is a Pit Bull’s most dominant trait!