In October of 2008, we were a newlywed couple that was also new to Army life. We had just moved into on-post housing and decided that we wanted to adopt a puppy. A brief search led us to a Red Nose Pit Bull puppy. We named him Spencer. I had worked at animal hospitals in the past and had loved the Pit Bulls that came in. There were never issues with them like there were with other breeds and most of them were big babies. Spencer definitely fit that mold.
Spencer was full of personality from the first day he became a part of our family. He was afraid of everything initially, especially the stairs and small dogs! We took him to the dog park and on play dates with our friend’s dogs. He loved our backyard in post housing, and aside from barking at the occasional bird or artillery, he was a quiet and well behaved dog. We never received complaints about him.
As many know, in January of 2009, the Department of Defense passed the breed ban. We hadn’t known that was something that was even a possibility, so we were frustrated that Spencer would face limitations in our future moves. He was undeniably a full blood, Red Nose Pit Bull. Fortunately, he had been grandfathered in at our current post, and we hoped that between the times that we moved again something would be done to change the policy.
Several months later, my husband left for his first deployment. I was pregnant and 2,400 miles from both of our families. Fortunately, I had built a support system of great friends by that point and the quiet of our house was less painful because I had Spencer. Spencer kept me busy. We went on walks, and he claimed a large spot on the couch where he preferred to sleep and snuggle with a blanket. He was a loyal and faithful dog, never leaving my side when I was at home and he kept me entertained with his funny antics like hiding laundry and snatching my food from the counter.
My friends visited my house often and always complimented how sweet he was. His biggest vice was that he felt everyone who came through our front door was there to see him and only him, and he insisted on giving them lots of love for that. He was excellent with our friends’ children, and I had no fears about his behavior whenever our baby was born.
When our newborn son arrived, Spencer was in love. He awoke every time the baby monitor sounded and stood patiently next to the nursery door. He would sniff the crib, and typically fall asleep on the floor of the nursery while I cared for and rocked the baby. He became a gentle giant when our little one was learning to crawl and a patient friend to our son. year after my husband had left for his deployment, Spencer happily jumped into his arms upon his return home. He wasn’t wary of the man he hadn’t seen in so long, he was so overjoyed that he let my husband hold him like a baby.
A year and a half later we welcomed our second son, who Spencer also adored. He was patient and careful with our sons. However, the prejudice against Pit Bulls quickly caught up with us. When the time came for our family to move, we began to search for housing options.
It is nearly impossible to find a rental home or apartment in the community that will welcome a Pit Bull. Unfortunately, now post housing won’t allow them either. Short of purchasing our own home everywhere we go to (which is obviously impossible), we cannot find housing to accommodate every member of our family that included Spencer. Our choice was made for us: we needed to find Spencer another family without these limitations. It broke our hearts.
Often military families get a bad reputation for not providing forever homes to the pets they adopt. We never intended to do that. We had gotten Spencer as a puppy with every intention of having him for the rest of his life. He had a special place in our family for many years. After careful screening, we eventually did find a family that we felt was the best match. Spencer now lives with a retired Navy sailor, his wife, and their two year old son. They are kind enough to send us photos and updates and have a living situation that won’t prevent them from keeping Spencer as a part of their family.
The last time we saw Spencer, he was confused as we were saying our goodbyes. He had been an amazing dog. He never did anything wrong and was exceptional with our children. He never growled at a stranger, scared anyone, and certainly had never been vicious as so many feel that his breed is. He was a great dog with a family that loved him so much. He just happened to be a Pit Bull.
We have been sad, heartbroken, and hurt that he couldn’t continue on our journey with us. There has to be change, because we aren’t the only family that has had to say goodbye to a pet because of an outdated, unscientific thought that the breed makes the dog. It doesn’t. Although our story doesn’t have the ending that we wanted, I hope it draws attention to the fact that families are being impacted by this policy. Spencer will always have a place in our hearts and in our family, even if he can’t be a part of it anymore. The military life brings enough challenges, hardships, and heartache without having to rehome a family pet.
Jessica is an Army spouse and a blogger.