Over the weekend, I got the opportunity to attend, and present at, Best Friends' No More Homeless Pets Conference in Las Vegas. I'll be posting some thoughts from the conference later in the week as I work through articulating the stream of thoughts that have come from the conference.
While I was there, I was very happy to get the opportunity to buy an early copy of Ken Foster's new book "I'm a good dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet.
I had the pleasure of meeting Foster about 5 years ago -- when he was on tour for his book "The Dogs Who Found Me, what I've learned from the pets who were left behind". In the book, Foster lays out sometimes humorous, and sometimes sad, stories about the dogs that have found him in life. Over time, Foster has become a founder of the Sula Foundation, a pit bull advocacy (and sometimes rescue) group in New Orleans.
So, I was thrilled to be able to pick up a copy of Foster's new work. And it didn't disappoint.
The book is a short read as it's only about 140 pages long and contains more than 80 photos. But I think the impact of the book will be pretty significant.
The book is broken into four chapters -- with many outstanding images along the way and often interupted with stories of pit bulls owned by celebrities, or in pop culture, or those that have influenced other advocates throughout the country.
In Chapter 1, Foster makes an attempt to define 'pit bull' -- not the easiest task in the world. Foster acknowledges that the definition changes depending on who you ask: from very narrow definitions from breed enthusiasts that refer to "pit bulls' as only purebred American Pit Bull Terriers to broader definitions that include 3 or four breeds of dogs and then on to very broad definitions, sometimes even used in a legal tense, of any dog that physically resembles a pit bull. He attempts to give the history of the breeds (again, something that has variable answers depending on your source) to help define the dogs.
In Chapter 2, Foster talks about Pit Bulls as family, and introduces us to several families he's met over the years whose dogs have very much become part of their family. Foster also notes that the ideas of pit bulls as family is not new -- and takes us through many historical photos depicting pit bull type dogs in family photos that would indicate that they were, even 150 years ago, often considered family.
Chapter 3, Foster entitles "The Comeback". Earlier in the book, Foster laments that this is a book he wanted to write many years earlier, but there was no interest from publishers to do so. However, I'm glad he had to wait, because much of this chapter largely wouldn't have existed 5 years ago. The chapter talks about dogs rescued from Hurricane Katrina -- and how the majority of all the animals saved in Katrina were pit bulls. In Foster's opinion (and it's one I tend to agree with), Katrina exposed pit bull typed dogs to rescuers from throughout the country who, up to that time, had had little to no exposure to the breed. He thinks it was then, that perceptions of the dogs among animal advocates began to change.
Then, a short time later, you had the dog fighting bust at Bad Newz Kennels. With Mike Vick's arrest putting the dogs in a higher profile, several organizations reached out to see if authorities would allow the dogs to be temperament tested to possibly allow for their release. The release of the dogs, and the reality that nearly all were allowed to go to rescue and many to re-enter public life, and the media publicity that followed, helped to elevate "pit bulls' back to the roll as a beloved dog in American Culture again.
Throughout the chapter, Foster focuses on several dogs that have been rescued from dog fighting rings across the country over the last 5 years.
In Chapter 4, Foster looks at pit bulls in the community. He discusses pit bulls as working dogs, both now, and historically. He looks at dogs that help children with their reading skills, as therapy dogs, as dogs that help soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Disc Dogs, Agility Dogs, show dogs, celebrity dogs and dogs that simply live in our communities and live their lives mostly on the couch.
For regular readers of this blog, you will probably not see a lot of new information in this book, but you'll likely love the stories he tells, and how he combines those stories into a larger narative of pit bulls. You'll definitely see familiar faces, like Wallace, and Leo, and hear from familiar voices. But while the book may have been written for the many of us that celebrate, and love, pit bulls, I don't know that that is where the book will have its biggest impact.
"Does the fact that people question our pit bull love make it that much more intense? Possibly -- because in the case of Sula, I know that I saved her life, and despite what some people say, saving an animal's life is never a selfless act; there are huge emotional rewards. Like all forbidden love, from Romeo and Juliet on down the line, each time anyone questions or disapproves of our love, we defiantly love each other even more than before." -- Ken Foster -- from the Forward.
So go out and get a copy of the book - and you may think about buying multiple copies as gifts for your pit bull loving friends, or your family that just doesn't understand why you love the dogs so much.