The scariest thing about Pit Bulls is the ignorance that surrounds them.
“For those who told me he was a lost cause, for each person who crossed the street when they saw us in my neighborhood, there were twice as many people who told me to keep going. […] My dogs ignited a call to action within me so profound that I was compelled to do something. Mr. Bones & Co. is my ‘something.’“
It took years before Mr. Bones finally found his way home. In the early morning hours of July 2, 2012, I came across the NYC Animal Care & Control’s Urgent List via a Facebook thread, completely by chance, and there he was – a ragged dog with an enormous lemon shaped open mouth smile. I had never heard of the Urgent List and was unaware of the exponential number of animals euthanized at our city shelter each year. The gravity of what it was consumed me. And so, that same day, a few hours before his scheduled expiration, Mr. Bones found himself in the backseat of my car, driving away from Brooklyn AC&C, en route to my home in Manhattan.
At an estimated 6 years old, he was severely malnourished, covered in scars, old puncture wounds and what appeared to be a cigarette burn or two. His tail was a battered twig of fur, blood and bone. His mouth hid a level of dental trauma so severe I still cringe when I remember what his teeth looked like. Over the next six weeks, Mr. Bones was treated for a serious case of canine influenza, his tail healed without an amputation and he underwent two oral surgeries to remove nine teeth that had shattered so severely only the pulp remained. (A year later, he would undergo a third surgery to remove another five.) Mr. Bones made a full recovery, but this was just the beginning of his story.
Our road was not easy, and we still stumble sometimes. Mr. Bones will never pass his AKC Good Citizen test – he can’t hold still while a stranger handles him, he wants to lick and be mouthy, unsure of where the touch will lead. I stopped caring about this title because he is my good citizen. Mr. Bones can’t attend our special events due to extreme anxiety around strangers. He needs gentle, slow introductions to most men, but once he feels comfortable he will loyally obey every command asked of him and seek their affection. He has always welcomed children gently and with great respect, which speaks volumes about him. Mr. Bones will never be able to be off leash at a dog park with other dogs due to fear-based reactivity, but he is beyond gentle with any puppy I foster, sharing his bed and toys with them, ‘mothering’ them in a way that amazes me. This is how I learned he was resilient in the most special of ways. Mr. Bones loves my first dog, Charlotte, like he grew up with her and that is more than I could ever ask for.
The life Mr. Bones led before me is a mystery. There are pieces to his puzzle that have surfaced during his rehabilitation and training that enrage me. I try hard not to dwell on this, simply because I see that Mr. Bones does not. On occasion, I will catch myself watching him, marveling at a creature that was condemned by many, and how far we have come, together, when I suddenly realize I am crying. This awkwardly big, goofy dog will stop what he’s doing, bound over to me, jump on whatever is available so that he can reach my face, and tackle my tears with a well meaning, sloppy tongue. He is telling me to just get over it, because he did. Over the years, I have stopped imagining what I would say, or do, if I ever met the person(s) who had him before I did. His ability to forgive and not look back astounds me.
There were many professionals along the way who believed in him enough to help us; Dr. Mary Buelow, who gained his trust to successfully perform three oral surgeries over 18 months, and the other emergency vets at Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists who didn’t judge me the day I brought them a very sick dog off death row. I am grateful to the dedicated trainers at Instinct Dog Behavior & Training who saw the foundation I laid with him and encouraged me to keep working through his issues. For those who told me he was a lost cause, for each person who crossed the street when they saw us in my neighborhood, there were twice as many people who told me to keep going. He is my labor of love, in the truest sense.
His long journey home has led Mr. Bones to settle into being a hilarious, overly dramatic, mildly mischievous, incredibly lovable and loyal dog. He is far from perfect, but this only adds to why I love him. Mr. Bones made me an unlikely Pit Bull champion, a real life Crazy Dog Lady and a true believer in just how much every “underdog” is capable of achieving. A relatively new ‘dog person’ after adopting my first dog ever, Charlotte, from Animal Haven in April 2010, as I write his story to share on our new website, I cannot remember what my life was like before two sets of paw prints, much less one belonging to a Pit Bull, burrowed their way into my soul.
My dogs ignited a call to action within me so profound that I was compelled to do something. Mr. Bones & Co. is my ‘something.’ React, speak up and get involved. What will your something be?
Elizabeth (Elli) Frank
Founder & Co-Executive Director, Mr. Bones & Co.
April 15, 2014