Patrick Stewart story puts renewed emphasis on pit bull plight

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Many years ago, I saw Patrick Stewart star in a one-man theater production of A Christmas Carol. It was phenomenal. He was phenomenal. In fact, the performance moved me to tears…

And while that performance left no doubt that he is a fantastic actor, a recent news article left me with no doubt that he is much more. He is a fantastic human being.

Speaking as someone whose interactions with professional athletes made me cynical extremely cynical about celebrities, that’s saying a lot.

A man and his dog

The story to which I’m referring is the one about Stewart and Ginger. Ginger is a dog that Stewart and his wife are fostering. But she’s not just any dog. She’s a pit bull. And she’s clearly wormed her way into the actor’s heart.

As he tells the media: “I find that my relationship to the world and to the news every day in the papers and on the television has been changed by Ginger, because she has brought such a quality of patience and tolerance and fun into our lives, that it has, in a very short space of time, shifted my sense of where our world might be going. I literally find myself more optimistic than I was, and there is only Ginger to account for this. It is the impact of sharing my life for only seven or eight days with Ginger.”

Sadly, Stewart and his wife can’t adopt Ginger because U.K. laws make it all but impossible to bring her back there when they go home.

But what’s even more unsettling is the public reaction to the story.

Mixed reviews

There are few animals on the planet more polarizing than pit bulls. A lot of people love them, — no matter what. And a lot of people hate them — no matter what.

The story about Stewart and Ginger generated plenty of comments from people in both camps. The pro-pit bull people said Stewart’s relationship with Ginger just goes to show that these dogs are loyal, loving, and misunderstood. The anti-pit bull people said it doesn’t matter. As far as they’re concerned, all pit bulls are unpredictable, dangerous, killers.

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Personally I love pit bulls. For the most part, I think they’re great dogs. But they’re also big, strong, dogs. So I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable having one in a household with small children or the elderly. I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable having one in a household with an inexperienced owner, either. In my opinion, these aren’t necessarily the best dogs for beginners.

All of that being stated, I’m not a big fan of so-called breed legislation. I think it’s overkill.

All we really need to do to help pit bulls is to actively promote responsible pet ownership and forums for honest, open dialogue without fear of recrimination, without name-calling and without hateful rhetoric.

It’s not asking a lot — but sadly it seems it’s asking too much.