In 2006, I met Duval, an American Staffordshire Terrier, known to many as a "pit bull." He was originally a petsitting client of mine. The first time he came over to spend the weekend, my husband, who had not met him, expressed concern about having a strange pit bull in our home. "What if he hurts Alex?" (our other dog at the time). I assured him all would be fine. On day one, I stepped out to run an errand, and came home to find Will napping on the couch with Duval's head on his chest. When Duval went home he asked "does he have to go?" We were hooked on the breed. Within a few months we discovered that his owner could no longer keep him, and we adopted him without hesitation. However, we did not take our decision lightly. We read everything we could. We occasionally went to the dog park so both dogs could run off leash, and we spent the entire time following him around and worrying. It became pretty clear that Duval was completely bombproof. In our 8 years with him, I've never even seen this dog growl or curl his lip. If he is bothered by something, which is rare, he simply walks away. Or lets out one single bark which seems to communicate to other dogs that they better "act right." He loves being around people and especially kids. He is a Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog. His specialty is reading education assistance. He travels to school and meets with kids who need a little extra encouragement, and they read to him. There are times when close to 20 kids are crowding around him and I can't even see him....an extremely stressful situation with most dogs. Duval just stands still and takes it all in. He is nearly 14 now and the therapy visits are a little tougher, but the kids love him so we still go when we can.
In 2010, I met the wonderful ladies who started Angel City Pit Bulls while handling my foster dog Roo at adoption events. To me, Roo doesn't feel like a pit bull at all- she is lanky with a skinny face and a curly tail. But t most people who see her on the street, her brindle coloring, short coat, triangular ears and athletic build suggest to them that she is a pit bull. And that is what the shelter had labeled her. And many, many dogs in the LA shelters are like her. Roo ended up staying with me because after months of working so hard to train her, I just couldn't give her up. She has been my training muse throughout the marathon training program....so far she has run up to 15 miles with me, and she doesn't even seem to get sore!
Long story short, I am running this marathon for the underdog, the many pit bull type dogs who find themselves in the shelters here in LA, in most cases, not because of anything they have done wrong, but simply because their owners can't house them. Stereotypes have made it difficult to find housing for dogs that "look" like a pit bull. Or weigh more than 20 lbs, or sometimes, just dogs in general. It is almost becoming cost prohibitive to rent as a dog owner in this city. And dogs are dying as a result. Angel City has been the savior to many of these dogs, many like Duval who have gone on to do therapy work, and many like Roo who are great athletes and go to agility classes or help their owners get exercise. Training hasn't been the easiest for me- I am dealing with a chronic condition in one foot- plantar fasciitis, which causes pain in my heel, especially when I run. I recently found out that I have arthritis in my left hip and foot. And I have asthma, which means I spend the bulk of my long runs constantly trying to clear my airway of gunk. But I do it for the dogs, because somebody has to.