Sunday, August 2, 2015

From abused to adored, Alfie the therapy pit bull

Through his dedication to service, Alfie inspires everyone he meets to change the violent, vicious perception of pit bulls to that of a gentle, loveable, adoptable breed.

From abused to adored, Alfie the therapy pit bull

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Alfie is a certified therapy dog who brightens and enlightens the lives of children across the area.
Alfie is a certified therapy dog who brightens and enlightens the lives of children across the area. Courtesy photo.

Alfie, a rescued pit bull from South Jersey, had every reason to distrust humans.

Abandoned, Alfie was discovered two years ago locked in a blistering shed, dying from starvation and too weak to walk. Despite having passed his behavior tests with flying colors, Cumberland County SPCA’s overcrowded facility combined with Alfie’s physical condition and breed slated him for euthanasia. That’s when he caught the eye of volunteer animal rescue photographer, Sherry Stewart.

Pit bulls have long been the target of advocates who say they are an inherently violent breed. According to the ASPCA website, the term pit bull includes the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. The site continues to say these breeds are commonly used for dog fighting because they can be easily encouraged to fight with other dogs due to their genetic makeup. This, though, doesn’t mean they are naturally aggressive breeds. Preconceived notions that pits are dangerous support the reportedly high rates of pit bull euthanasia in shelters across the country.

Solid numbers on the euthanasia rates of pit bulls are hard to find. According to the American Humane Association, national euthanasia statistics hardly exist, citing that the most recent records are from 1999. An Examiner.com piece, however, says that pit bulls are euthanized at a rate of 75% in municipal shelters while the breed only makes up 33% of national shelter intakes on average. Earlier this year ‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan said he believed humans were committing genocide against pit bull breeds. “Our ignorance level,” he said to Huffington Post, “is growing way too out of proportion, to the point that we believe that getting rid of a breed is a solution.”

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Knowing this, Stewart reached out to the Pit Bull Pride of Delaware to get Alfie admitted into their adoption program. They agreed to take him but he needed a temporary home. What was just meant to be a foster home became Alfie’s permanent residence when he and Stewart became inseparable. Alfie’s story is not remarkable because of his own rescue, though. What sets this pit apart is his ability to rescue others despite the odds.

Today, Alfie is a certified therapy dog who brightens and enlightens the lives of children across the area. After visiting with students in a Philadelphia school, Alfie made such an impression that the children vowed to help change the perception of pit bulls in society and worked with a Philadelphia branch of the Pennsylvania SPCA to raise funds to buy equipment used for dog fighting raids. At the end of their interaction, the students wrote, “Most of all, thank you to Alfie…for inspiring us to do this project and teaching us to NEVER judge a dog (or person) by his or her appearance.”

Alfie’s attitude and ability earned him his greatest achievement last week. Alfie and Stewart made a therapy visit to the nationally recognized Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Alfie proudly outfitted with an issued vest and badge. The hospital is the only Level II pediatric trauma center in Delaware.

Through his dedication to service, Alfie inspires everyone he meets to change the violent, vicious perception of pit bulls to that of a gentle, lovable, adoptable breed.

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Layla A. Jones philly.com
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