Posts Tagged ‘dog training’

No Spring Break for these Studious Pups – it’s Canine Good Citizen Test Time!


School For Dogs!

Last Saturday, four eager pups and their humans headed to Southpaws University to take the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. The test is administered monthly at Southpaws Playschool.  The CGC test was first introduced by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989.  Designed to stress responsible ownership and basic dog manners, the test rewards successful examinees who demonstrate good manners at home and in their communities. Sounds reasonable enough, but this test is tough, and requires that dogs meet all 10 elements which test interactions with humans and other dogs:

1.   Accepting a friendly stranger

2.   Sitting politely for petting         

3.   Appearance and grooming

4.   Walking on a loose lead

5.   Walking through a crowd

6.   Sit, down on command, and stay

7.   Coming when called

8.   Reaction to another dog

9.   Reaction to distraction; and

10.  Supervised separation

For details of each element, see

Humans may encourage dogs verbally and with hand signals, but no treats may be used to coax behavior.  Each dog must successfully complete all elements of the test in one try to be passed.  A dog may re-try only one of the 10 test requirements listed above and still pass. But, the good news is, the test is administered monthly at Southpaws, and the dogs may come back and take it until they pass!  It isn’t uncommon for nerves to get the best of a dogs’ humans, and often the test is not passed on the first try.  Once your canine pal passes the exam, he or she is rewarded with a certificate from the AKC.  Successful completion of the exam is often a prerequisite to becoming a therapy dog.

So, on a rather rainy Saturday, the four CGC certification hopefuls were Huey, Titan, Bella, and Jewels.  Everyone was excited and there was nervous energy in the air!   Who, if any, had the right stuff to become a CGC-certified pup?

Candidate #1 – Titan


Titan is a gentle giant who hails from East St. Louis.  Exuding the mental toughness needed to conquer the CGC drills, Titan was all business — and yet gentle as a lamb — as he made his way through the test.  As a young adult, Titan has in his three years become quite the hunk, weighing in at a masculine 94 pounds.  Accompanying Titan through the exam was his friend, Emily.  Laying down a nearly stellar performance, Titan’s Achilles’ paw was that pesky “down” command (he only started learning that one week prior to the test).  Titan and the judge talked it over, and Titan said he is going to polish just a couple of elements up for next time so that he is perfect.  See?  He’s all business.  We expect to see him back in action at next month’s test.  Way to go, Titan, you are nearly CGC-ready!

Titan tests for Appearance And Grooming

Emily Loose Leash Walks Titan!

Candidate #2 – Bella


Bringing her sweet disposition and sassy blue bandana to Saturday’s event was Bella, a lovely girl of approximately three years of age.  Bella also brought along her human, Todd, who tells us that Bella has no formal obedience training.  Well you wouldn’t know it based on her dazzling performance!  Bella was attentive, patient, and above all, sweet.  Her lovely disposition never changed, even when faced with the daunting element “walking on a loose leash.”  This element was a little trying, and so Bella is going to give it another go soon.  We can’t wait to see this girl again, because with her sunny attitude, she would make a fantastic therapy dog.  You go, Bella!

Bella Tests for Reaction to Another Dog.

Candidate #3 – Jewels


Jewels is as lovely as her name, and her doggie day care boyfriend Rascal would be the first to howl Jewels’ praises!  While Jewels was hesitant to reveal her age (she has suitors, you know), a source tells us she is around three years old.  Coming into Saturday’s challenge, Jewels had completed both the Love-A-Bull Basic and Advanced Obedience programs, and boy did her diligence pay off!  Jewels performed all 10 elements well enough to pass and become CGC-certified!  Her human Deborah was so proud, and both Jewels and Deborah looked forward to sharing the news with Rascal.  Jewels is on her way to try for a spot on The Pit Crew, Love-A-Bull’s all pittie therapy dog group.    WAY TO GO JEWELS! 

Jewels Sits While Accepting A Friendly Stranger!

Candidate #4 – Huey


Huey is a handsome, and dare I say dapper, year-and-a-half-old boy who lives with Stephanie and Zach.  Huey is a recent graduate of the Love-A-Bull Advanced Obedience class.  Rarin’ and ready to go, Huey sported a fetching blue bowtie that Stephanie made especially for the big day.  Huey undoubtedly wowed the spectators with his good looks, huge smile, and can-do attitude.

Huey did a fantastic job!  Huey has only a couple of little tweaks to make to his repertoire and then he will be back to claim his CGC certificate.  See you soon, Huey!

UPDATE!  Titan came back and took the test again.  He passed with flying colors.  Proof positive that one only needs to keep trying.  Both Titan and Jewels are registered for the Pit Crew, which starts next Saturday the 17th.  We will keep you updated on their progress, as well as all the new Pit Crew trainees!  I know we are all excited.  In the meantime, I know everyone will keep working until all the pups pass!  It is only a matter of time!

Lisa McClain

Crate Training With Patience: A Love Story

Guest post from Mo and Anita Ahmadi, Foster and Adoptive Parents for Love-A-Bull

When we first started fostering Bunny (aka “The Bunster”), we knew she had issues with separation anxiety. Since my husband is retired, we figured she won’t have to be alone long hours while the humans are at work. And in the beginning, the wonderful people from Love-A-Bull took turns dogsitting the Bunster every time we all had to go somewhere. The Bunster turned out to be a great dog! She was just as sweet as can be. And so calm and mellow! So we were very confident that she would do just fine the first time we actually left her home alone while we had dinner with friends. Imagine our shock when we returned a few hours later to a house that looked like a tornado had been through it.

A Small Portion of the Damage Bunny Caused

My first response was to call the (at that moment not so wonderful) people from Love-A-Bull to ask them to come get THAT dog out of my house immediately! The volunteers arrived on Easter and spent a few hours with us. So, after some damage control (and a lot of hand holding), a good night’s sleep, and some reflection, I changed my mind by morning. What I realized was the incredible amount of anxiety and fear Bunny must have felt to do that kind of damage in such a relatively short amount of time! And, then all I felt was sadness! Yes, I cried.

The wonderful (yes, they were once again wonderful!) people from Love-A-Bull brainstormed with us, dogsat for us, consoled us, gave us great training tips, and we stuck it out with the Bunster. It was very clear that this dog had an incredible amount of strength and stamina when her anxiety set in. It was also clear that we needed a very sturdy crate for her. Again, the wonderful friends at Love-A-Bull came to the rescue with a plan.  Of course, the Bunster wanted nothing to do with this little prison. No doubt she has had her experiences with similar devices or something else that scared her.  We started out by only feeding her inside the crate. Well, apparently, the Bunster doesn’t HAVE to eat (at least not if it meant she had to enter the crate). The great thing about this particular crate is that you can take it apart. We took the top and the door off and just used the bottom shell. We put food in it, we put toys in it. You have no idea how long a dog can stretch herself so she can reach food in the very back of the crate, while still keeping her hindlegs OUTSIDE the crate.

Clearly we had to pull out all the stops! So we cuddled ourselves in this crate shell, and so did our daughter (yes, we have pictures of our daughter inside a dog crate – but please don’t call CPS on us!). With much sweet-talking and coaxing, eventually the Bunster would slowly join us in this cozy little den. We continued to only feed her inside that den. Only good experiences, that’s what we told ourselves. Can you imagine how elated we were when she went into her crate (mind you, it’s still just the bottom half at that time) for the first time without any coaxing, food, or other motivation? She just sat in there, looking all smug, saying, “Okay, this is where I get food, right?”

Okay, we felt ready for the next step. We gently leaned the top half of the crate against the back of the bottom, just to “introduce” the Bunster to the second piece. And we just started inching the roof part onto the bottom half. I don’t think any of the humans spent any more time inside the crate at that point, but we still fed the Bunster in there for a while. Eventually, we screwed the top on and put the door in. We had the occasional setback and had to take a few steps back a few times, but eventually, with much love and patience, we found ourselves with a fully intact dog crate and a dog still willing to spend time inside.

Bunny goes in!

After a few weeks of this we stopped feeding her in the crate, but she only got her treats if she went in the crate when asked. After a while just saying the words “go to bed” or “get in the crate” was all it took for her to run in there, turn around and wait for her treat. In fact, the crate is now her refuge. It’s where she goes when she knows she is going to be fed, get a treat, or go on a car ride. First she runs in the crate, turns around looks at us as if to say “I am being good, now it’s your turn to do your thing.”  We also taught her to go in her crate when the TV goes off at night since we let her sleep in there. Even if we turn the TV off just to leave the house, she goes in the crate, which works out great.  Her crate is now one of her favorite places! She has come a long way!

I will spare you the details of some of the setbacks, like when there was a river of saliva inside and near her crate after we came home, or when she had been gnawing on the crate door, or like when we video-taped her while we were out, just to get an idea of how long she stays calm after we leave before she reaches her state of utter anxiety, or where we left her alone for only a few seconds, then a few minutes, then a few more minutes, then long enough to go to the grocery store, and eventually long enough to go out to dinner again or to attend our daughter’s school musical, without needing a dogsitter for the Bunster at home… BTW, using a video camera to watch what you dog does during times like this is great. The camera helps you identify problems and come up with a strategy on how to solve it. Also, needless to say Bunny is no longer a foster dog in our house. We adopted her.

Bunny with Family

After all the work we had done with her on “curing,” or at least reducing her separation anxiety, we just didn’t have the heart to separate from her again. We couldn’t possibly put her through that again. Also, we had invested way too much money in her already, what with all the damage she had done to our house!  We have fostered dogs since this dog came into our lives, and also before, time and circumstances permitting. We had one other dog who absolutely refused the crate. He was not prone to breaking out, just didn’t want to go inside one. Again, who knows what his past experiences were. But compared to the Bunster, he was a piece of cake to get used to the crate, mostly because we were better trained by then on how to deal with the problem. We just had a plain wire crate. He got food only inside the crate. First just by the door, then just inside the door, then a bit further inside the crate, and eventually in the very far corners of the crate. Again, you won’t believe how long a dog can stretch to get food from inside the crate without having all four paws inside that crate. Oh, and we only have one pictures of our daughter inside THAT crate. This dog learned much faster, let down his guard much quicker, and was not nearly traumatized by crates to the same extent the Bunster was. Also, by now we were experts, right?!

Bunny with Foster Sister, Asha

Anyway, just to recap: Never force them inside against their will! Never put them in there for punishment! With enough “incentives” and patience, they will eventually go in there by their own free will! We promise! Especially, if you try to make the crate a place where good things happen. Where they get treats, where they get toys, where they are safe, where they have nice warm bedding, whatever you can think of to make it a “good” place.

                           Mo and Anita Ahmadi, Foster and Adoptive Parents for Love-A-Bull

Redbox, Piglet, and the Civil War?

Here’s a hint: It hasn’t quite made the top 20 just yet, but it’s an important piece of history — for the United States, for Black History, and for Pit Bull type dogs, alike.

A movie called “Dog Jack” has now come to Redbox! “Dog Jack” is a 2010 film based on the book of the same name by Florence W. Biros.

It’s based on the true story of an escaped slave boy who joins the Union Army during the American Civil War, accompanied by his dog Jack who becomes the mascot of the 102nd Pennsylvania Regiment.

So then, who is Piglet? Well she’s a 3-year-old rescued pit bull and the star of the movie. Piglet had never acted before — oh and she’s deaf.

She was rescued by owner and trainer Tracy Doyle, guessing that she had been abandoned when a breeder realized she was deaf. According to one article Doyle adopted her from a shelter at 8-weeks old while another says Doyle found her in a dumpster at about 12-weeks old. I guess that’s just proof it doesn’t matter where you come from!

“Doyle gets around hearing loss using a no-nonsense training style and hand signals. But a dog with a stable temperament and great resiliency are required. She is chased by bloodhounds, men on horseback and a mob with torches in the movie. They even fire cannons, the vibrations of which even a deaf dog can sense.” – reposted via Stand United (originally Northwest Herald July 11, 2005)

“Not being able to hear has its advantages during filming of noisy, chaotic battle scenes, and Piglet is a sweet-tempered dog who has tolerated with patience and grace the long waits, repeated takes, lengthy sessions of playing dead and handling by strangers.” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Civil War’s Dog Jack saluted after 7 score, 4 years”

Another article appeared in the Post-Gazette when the film premiered in Pittsburgh around October 2009, and had limited theatrical releases — this came over 4 years after the initial announcement that the movie was being filmed. (Just to give you an idea of how long it often can take a movie to be created.) The movie was selected and even won a few film festivals.

Piglet has also become a certified therapy dog and visits patients in local hospitals and nursing homes.

Check out “Dog Jack” on Redbox to rent the movie!

Sourced Articles:

The Pit Crew @ The BeHive

The BeHive (formerly Heart House) is is an innovative afterschool program dedicated to providing a safe haven and academic support for elementary school-age children. It’s just one of our favorite partners that Love-A-Bull’s Pit Crew has the privilege to visit and work with. Many of these children reside in areas with higher crime, increased unemployment, lower income, and lack of affordable quality care.

Recently the Pit Crew went to visit with The BeHive at Marshall Apartments and wanted to share some photos of our visit. Check out the pictures here!

One of The BeHive’s goals is to encourage these children to become good citizens. So is it a coincidence that the Pit Crew dogs have to be Canine Good Citizens too? Sounds like a perfect match!

If you and your pit bull type dog are interested in becoming a part of Pit Crew, the first step is the Canine Good Citizen (CGC). You can find out more about CGC online here.

We generally hold CGC testing at least once a month with the next one coming up March 10th.

If your dog already meets the prerequisites for Pit Crew (also see Pit Crew F.A.Q.) — we’re registering new participants now for the next class beginning March 17th!

Links to Upcoming Classes:
Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test – March 10th
New Pit Crew Class – March 17th

The 2012 Membership Package now available!

Love-A-Bull’s membership package for 2012 is now available for purchase through the store! We partner with many local businesses and supporters to offer a variety of discounts and benefits with you $25 yearly dues payment.

As a reminder, your dues sustain the full range of programs, activities, events and initiatives that Love-A-Bull presents to its members and the public on an ongoing basis, including our training programs, education and outreach efforts, flyers/brochures, legislative tracking, community events (including National Pit Bull Awareness Day), and more.

We appreciate all of our dues-paying members, and this is a great way for you to feel that while you’re helping Love-A-Bull achieve its goals, you’re also getting more “bang for your buck”!

Here are the discounts in the package for 2012 (with more being added throughout the year!):

Dues can be purchased through our online store here or by sending a check made out to Love-A-Bull to: Love-A-Bull; P.O. Box 18792; Austin, Texas 78760.

You’ll receive your membership card via e-mail upon receipt of payment (please include e-mail address with your check, if sending by mail). Print out and present your membership card when redeeming discounts.

Join us as a dues-paying member for 2012 — the pitties (and Love-A-Bull) thank you!

Come out this Saturday to Practice for the CGC

Love-A-Bull is sponsoring a free practice session for the Canine Good Citizen test 9 a.m. Saturday at Shoal Creek Greenbelt and Dog Park.

The meeting will include coaching and advice from Love-A-Bull trainers. Read AKC’s detailed description of the CGC test. Teams will work on as many drills as time permits.

What to bring:

  • 6-foot leash
  • 20-foot lead
  • collar (buckle or slip collar made of fabric, leather or chain) or a harness that does not restrict the dog’s movement
  • brush or comb
  • treats
  • water



9 a.m. Meet and greet
Gather at the three benches to the west of the Shoal Creek Greenbelt & Dog Park parking lot. See map below.

9:15 a.m. Practice starts
Participants will go over as many exercises as time allows with special attention paid to those skills individual teams need help with the most.

10:30 a.m. Practice ends
Feel free to stay in the area for a walk.   Please keep in mind that neighborhing Pease Park requires dogs to be leashed.

To RSVP for CGC practice, visit Love-A-Bull’s page.

Advanced class teaches pit bulls restraint

When a group of four pit bulls first gathered in the lobby of the self-service dog wash and day care that would be their training classroom for four weeks,  their excitement made it difficult for handlers to control their behavior. Some dogs barked while others would not stop pulling toward their neighbors.

mud puppies logoBy the final class on July 24, they could lie still while handlers placed treats, squeaky toys and balls within reach. When entering or exiting the classroom, the pit bulls could sit at the open door and wait for the signal to go through.

The pit bulls had learned obedience.

The group met once per week at Mud Puppies, 12233 N. FM 620, a self-serve dog wash and day care that partners with Love-A-Bull to provide a space for free training classes for members.

Trish Jones, a Certified Canine Behavior and Training Specialist, showed the group how to use positive reinforcement to achieve training success.

“The most rewarding part for me is having these wonderful dogs in my classes and seeing the difference between the first class and the last class, she said. “It is an amazing feeling to me to see these people really working hard and taking the time to make their dogs well behaved.”

Trainer offers skills

Jones, owner of The Confident Canine, has been training dogs professionally for more than 12 years and shares her home with 9 dogs rescued from shelters. She started offering her skills to Love-A-Bull in May.

a woman sits on  a bench surrounded by four dogs
Trish Jones knew she wanted to be a dog trainer after she met pit bull Rocky. While in school to be a veterinary tech, a classmate brought the sick puppy into class. After nursing him back to health, Jones became his guardian. Training the stubborn pit bull convinced her to help others overcome the difficulty of caring for challenging dogs. Photo courtesy The Confident Canine

“Love-A-Bull is such a great organization.  The amount of work this organization does to educate the public about pit bulls is remarkable,” she said. “I am proud to be a small part of that.”

In class, students learned a variety of commands, such as “watch me,” “stay,” “leave it” and “heel.”

Jones encourages her students to take the dogs as many places as possible on a regular basis to practice the commands.

She hopes the people who have attended her classes will continue to do more with their dogs, such as getting a Canine Good Citizen certificate, doing therapy work, learning search and rescue skills or participating dog sports, such as agility.

“The more visible  these well-trained dogs are, the  more their reputation will improve,” she said. “I hope they take my advice to heart so that everyone can see that these dogs are special.”

Kimbo learns

When the free class started July 3, a white pit bull mix with black spots called Kimbo was so excited by the new surroundings and other dogs, he slid across the polished cement floor as he entered Mud Puppies. When Jones gave instructions, he often got up to sniff nearby classmates.

A pit bull sits in front of Mud Puppies, a self-serve dog wash and day care.
Kimbo spent countless hours in and out of class to learn the skills needed to pass the Canine Good Citizenship test. Photo by Joseph M. de Leon

As the weeks progressed, he learned to pay attention to his handler. Kimbo usually stayed when told and when his mind wandered, he responded more quickly to corrections.

He was beginning to master obedience.

“Kimbo is such an adorable boy — he draws you in with his doe eyes and he reminds me of a marshmallow! I can’t help but smile when I see him in class,” Jones said. “Kimbo has a wonderful temperament. He’s fun and loves to play, but he is also capable of being calm.”

On July 31, Kimbo is scheduled to take the Canine Good Citizen test at South Paws Playschool, 2324B South Lamar Blvd. It will be his second attempt. Two months ago, he passed seven of 10 sections of the test.

If he passes, Kimbo will be one step closer to joining the Pit Crew as a therapy dog.

Those interested in taking the next Canine Good Citizen test, noon July 31 at South Paws Playschool, can visit Love-A-Bull’s page for details.

Kimbo changed my mind about pit bulls

When my wife Denise and I bought a house in Austin last year, I knew it was time to bring a dog into our family. I never imagined the impact adopting a stray pit bull would have on my life.

A pit bull sits along the edge of a lake
Kimbo spent 3 days at Belton Lake where he walked the trails and played in the water.

Now I’m becoming a pit bull advocate and I spend as much time as possible with Kimbo, which includes taking him to bars and on trips.

When we moved from state to state in pursuit of newspaper jobs, we shared our home with a cat. Now we care for three.

Our ideal dog would need to get along with our cats, have a playful, yet obedient temperament and be laid back enough not to destroy our new house or yard.

Denise gave me two rules: no pit bulls and no white dogs.

A pit bull sits next to a labradoodle
Kimbo’s friend Chloe, a golden doodle, joined him for Love-A-Bull’s third annual Pints for Pits at Shangrila.

“White dogs always look dirty and pit bulls make me nervous,” she said.

“I’m not trying to get an aggressive dog,” I answered.

We had no idea we were stereotyping pit bulls, which in retrospect is absurd.

For one, we know what it’s like to be stereotyped — we both have many tattoos, often dress in black and we’re Hispanic. People sometimes take one look and think they know us.

We also read a lot. We watch PBS and listen to NPR. We’re well-informed animal lovers. At least that’s what we thought before we fell in love with a pit bull.

Winning our hearts

three people stand near a pit bull during an adoption at Town Lake Animal Center
Kimbo, formerly known as Alfalfa, left Town Lake Animal Center on March 25 to live with Joseph, Denise and Ian.

After spending weeks visiting animal shelters and searching online for the right match, we came across a mother and several small children walking a cute white dog with black spots at Town Lake Animal Center.

As they walked, the kids would hang their arms around his neck and they giggled as they ran circles around him. The dog had a playful gait and his walk turned into a prance as his wagging tail forced his whole body to wiggle.

He was a pit bull.

“Look at how good he is with those kids,” Denise said.

As the group approached the row of kennels where we stood, the mother noticed our interest and stopped in front of us.

a pit bull sleeps belly up on a sofa
Kimbo made himself at home right away, curling up on the sofa as if he’d lived there all along.

“Wow, what a good dog,” I said. Too bad we didn’t get here sooner, I thought.

The woman told us she brings her children to play with the dogs, but dogs are not allowed where she lives. She asked if we wanted to walk him and I took the leash.

We played in one of the dog runs and we started to fall for him. We wondered how he would do with our cats, so when we saw squirrels and birds in a nearby pen, we walked him over. He eyed them several times, but his glances looked to me more like playful curiosity then malicious intent.

a pit bull lies near two cats
At first the cats avoided Kimbo, but eventually began sharing a spot in the sun with him.

Two hours later, he was snoring on our sofa.

The white American Staffordshire terrier mix with spotted skin watched our cats with the same wonder we saw in the dog run. When we told him ‘no,’ he backed away from the cats.

A few days later, every time he saw the cats he would suddenly crouch into a play stance — forelegs splayed, hind quarters erect with his tail wagging his body. We knew we’d found our dog.

“It’s like he’s always been with us,” I said to Denise. “He just belongs.”

Kimbo the Market Mutt
We adopted Kimbo, formerly known as Alfalfa, from Town Lake in March. He was estimated to be about 10 months old because he was brought to the shelter as a stray. He’s loving, obedient and attracts a lot of attention.

At first, I didn’t want to call him a pit bull.

a pit bull sits in a wheelbarrow near a vegetable garden
Kimbo loves to do whatever we do, including work in the garden.

When people would ask me what kind of dog I have, I’d tell them Kimbo’s an American Staffordshire terrier mix. I soon realized pit bull isn’t a bad word.

On Kimbo’s first trip to the Cedar Park Farms to Market, his presence drew polar responses. Some people clutched their children away while others guided their pets in a different direction.

It was hard not to take it personally. Couldn’t they see this dog was prancing playfully around, body wiggling? Having several people comment on how beautiful and well behaved Kimbo was made it easier to overlook.

a pit bull yawns as his human squats next to him at a farmers market
Kimbo enjoys meeting peole and dogs at the Cedar Park Farms to Market.

When market organizer Carla Jenkins saw Kimbo, she fell to her knees. She kissed and hugged him and wound up laying next to him. The crowd of shoppers had to step over Carla’s hands and feet as she babied Kimbo and took his picture.

Carla turned to me and said, “I think we found our Market Mutt,” an online profile of a friendly dog that visited the market that week.

The market is in a mall parking lot, so Carla was lying on the pavement. Kimbo has that effect on some people.

Training success
What I didn’t know about pit bulls when we adopted Kimbo is they love people.

Kimbo gets so excited when he meets someone new and he never seems to forget which neighbor pet him along our regular walk route. Each time we walk past a particular house, he quickens his pace, wiggles his body and looks expectantly for his friend.

a pit bull lays down next to a ball hear a recreation center
Kimbo practices a long stay at Gus Garcia Recreation Center. Food, toys and praise make it fun to train him.

Before Kimbo, I had seen well-behaved pit bulls on the TV show “The Dog Whisperer,” but I’m no Cesar Milan. You’d have to be a freak of nature with a canine sixth sense to achieve that, right?


Here’s the secret to dog training success: make him a part of the family, provide consistent discipline and reinforce good behavior with plenty of praise.

These days, Kimbo is attending the free training class Love-A-Bull offers its members. Our goal is for him to join the Pit Crew as a therapy dog.

Becoming an ambassador
In 2005, I attended a Dow Jones News Fund residency at New York University for minority business reporters. Participants would later intern at daily newspapers with few or no Asians, blacks or Hispanics in the newsroom.

Whether we liked it or not, we would be ambassadors for our race, our advisers told us. Many of our future coworkers and readers never had contact with people of color in a professional setting.

a pit bull stares into the camera
Kimbo practices “watch me,” a command that focuses the dogs eyes on the handler to keep his attention.

I consider Kimbo an ambassador for pit bulls — people will remember his behavior because he is a pit bull.

When I walk with him in public, we regularly drill his obedience commands, especially when others are around.

When we approach an intersection and I say “down.” Kimbo lies down. He watches me as I look both ways. When I say “OK” he gets up and we continue.

People often seem impressed and sometimes ask “Is that a pit bull?”

Now I say: “Yes, he’s a pit bull.”