Sunday, August 06, 2006

History of the Pit Bull/American Staffordshire Terrier

As I mentioned before, my great grandfather, Howard Hadley, left boxes of his collection of research. In his collection are photos of his own dogs, other breeders dogs, fighting dogs, and misc pictures he was able to obtain from various people in the showing and fighting rings. He left hundreds and hundreds of pedigrees; letters written by him and by others in the dog world. He saved his notes on breedings, possible breedings, desired breedings, notes on whelped pups and who he sold each pup to. I personally find the photos the most interesting. There are some old photos in the collection. Most have some sort of identifying notes on the backs, but not all. I have looked through some of the pedigrees, but there are so many... I have looked through quite a few of his personal notes and correspondence--it is all very interesting to read to me anyway. I was very small when he passed away. I remember him sitting at the head of the dinner table in his home-- his last staff dog, Ruffian Rudy, would lay at his left side (Rudy was so obedient). Then after dinner they would both move to the living room with grandpa sitting in his red leather easy chair and again, Rudy laying at his left side. Rudy was always with him, wherever he went so went Rudy at his left side. I remember grandpa being serious, stern, stoic and a bit grumpy. To tell you the truth, my brother and I where a bit afraid of him--not because he ever did anything to us, but just because of his demeanor and his deep voice I guess. He commanded authority. We were a bit afraid of Rudy too for that matter--he was very friendly, but very strong and excitable! Grandpa was always there to control him, but Rudy would get so excited when he saw us kids--he wanted so badly to play with us. But Grandpa would not allow it. We were not allowed to pet him or even talk to him most of the time for that matter. Grandpa was "funny" about his dogs. I remember when he got sick and had to go into the hospital. We went down to Glendora so my mom, grandmother, and great grandmother could all go to see him in the hospital. I asked if I could go (I knew he was very ill even though no one would talk to me about it), but I was told children were not allowed in hospitals because they carried germs and I might make him even more sick--funny what we remember as children isn't it? I remember watching them all get into the car and leaving for the hospital while my brother, my dad and I stayed back at the house. It was only a day or two later I think, I remember being back at my house...the phone rang, my mom answered it in the kitchen. I knew something was wrong by her expression and tone, but then she started to cry. I didn't know what was wrong. After she got off the phone my brother and I asked what was wrong and she told us the grandpa Hadley had passed away. I understood what dying was, but not really the implications I guess--I was only 4 or 5 years old. I remember going down to Glendora after that to see my great grandmother, Janice Hadley (we called her Grandma Jan), and being bowled over by Rudy when we walked in the door. Without grandpa there to control him, he made that a habit when we visited. Grandma Jan let us pet him and feed him "Liver Snaps"--that was always an adventure! We never knew how far down his throat our little hands would go before he realized he hadn't just swalled the Liver Snap whole. On walks, if he wasn't on a "heel" command he would pull so hard on the end of the leash I thought he was going to pull Grandma Jan right over! He was always so happy! I remember when he died too. I believe he came up with some sort of mouth or throat cancer. He had to be put down. Grandma Jan was very sad. He was the last of the staffs that they (or she now) had and ever would have. He was Grandpop's (that is what my mom called her grandfather) dogs. My mom grew up with all his dogs, the pups, the kennels, the shows...she was very sad to say good-bye to that era. Ruffian Rudy was the end of Hadley's legacy.

Friday, August 04, 2006

For those who know about the history of pit bulls, and in particular the breeding history of the show breed now known as the Staffordshire Terrier, may know of my great grandfather, Howard Hadley. Howard Hadley was a well known and respected breeder in the mid 1900's. He was a stern and detail oriented man who took great pride in his dogs and their offspring. He took notes on every breeding, dam, stud, pup, breeder, that he ever had or saw that made an impression on him. He studied the breed and pedigrees as far back as he could find and collected pictures, articles, letters, interviews from anyone he could get them from. Needless to say, he was obsessed with the breed. But his efforts improved the breed and he was integral in making the Amstaff what it is today. When he passed away he left boxes and boxes of pictures, letters, articles, breeding notes, pedigrees, research...I was in awe as I picked through it all. The notes he took, the pictures he had...he saved everything! There are letters to other breeders (both show and fighting) regarding their dogs, possible breedings etc. It is all very interesting stuff to anyone who is interested in the breed. It is quite a collection of....history.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Pit Bull Terrier

The Pit Bull Terrier is considered by some to be a vicious, man-eating, killer dog. Without a doubt this dog has the potential for this very thing. They are a stout, muscular dog with a tenacity unparalled by any other dog. Some have taken advantage of this potential and have trained their "pit bulls" to attack people on sight. Some have used their dogs to protect various illegal activities such as drug houses or drug crops. Some use their dogs to fight other dogs (a horrific site--if you have ever seen a dog fight you know what I saying!) When a Pit Bull attacks it is with a ferociousness that is almost unbelievable. Their bite is unyeilding. Their aim is wickedly accurate. While it is true that these dogs have a potential for killing, they were bred to attack dogs, not people. Unfortunately it is the later that has given this dog its bad name. These dogs have even been banned in some cities--it is illegal to own one! Not that the law stops some people from having them. It is, in fact, the people who have given the dogs their bad name that could care less about the "laws". The "ban" laws, the "drug" laws or the animal "fighting" laws are a joke to them, for that is what their lives are comprised of. I would be interested in talking to anyone who engages in or watches dog fighting. I would like to know what their angle is. I suppose they view it as "sport". They bet money, loose money, win money...loose their dogs often enough. I know because my great grandfather was a breeder of the pit bull...or the american staffordshire terrier has they later became known. The American Staffordshire Terrier and the Pit Bull use to be one and the same actually. But over time they have become separate breeds. The American Staffordshire Terrier is a dog registered with the American Kennel Club, and the Pit Bull is registered with the United Kennel Club. The American Staffordshire is more of the "show" breed, while the Pit Bull is the "macho" breed and has since become a larger more muscular, aggressive dog. Originally the American Staffordshire/Pit Bull was only aggressive toward other animals and was very friendly towards people--and if they were not they were disposed of! Now the Pit Bull is often bred for its aggressiveness without distinction. Its a shame really. An enthusiastic, courageous, and loyal dog, they have been given a bad wrap! I can not argue that there has been some real tragedies involving these dogs and people. The fact is when they attack, they do not attack to injure like most dogs-- they attack to kill--and they have the means! Growing up with these dogs, it breaks my heart to hear the stories of attacks, fights, banings etc. Anyone who has owned a legitimate dog of the breed would agree. They are like no other dog in their loyalty, courage, and most of all personality!