By SAMANTHA PERRY
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
She would arrive at the Daily Telegraph property with the onset of the noonday sun. Finding the perfect spot in the grassy strip between the parking lot and the railroad tracks, she would lay down, stretch out and snooze until late afternoon shadows chased the sunbeams from the lawn.
Ever so often we would make eye contact. I sensed a gentle soul. She was obviously smart and street savvy, but too timid to make physical contact with any of the Telegraph humans.
She was a pit bull. A beautiful sweetheart who was seeking restful, peaceful afternoons.
When Senior Reporter Greg Jordan came running into the newsroom last Tuesday afternoon, I knew he had a big story. Greg had just come from a Bluefield Board of Directors meeting. Gasping for breath after racing up the stairs, he informed me the city was planning to ban pit bulls.
Like me, Greg is an avid animal lover — and an astute newsman. We both knew, instantly, the board’s proposal would spur a tumultuous debate. Within moments after the first news update was posted to our website, readers began to make comments. Most were from pit bull owners, decrying the proposed ban. I read each posting carefully — that day, and the next, and the day after.
I empathized with the pit bull owners who described their sweet and loving pets. I took note of those who wrote of banning “the deed” instead of banning “the breed.” And I smiled at photos showing affectionate pit bulls playing with children and cuddling beside sleeping infants.
But I also sympathized with those who shared horror stories of dogs running loose in neighborhoods, tearing up trash and property and frightening parents who had young children playing outdoors.
The day after the dog brouhaha broke in Bluefield, I pulled into the Telegraph’s parking lot and spied a beautiful Siberian husky pup romping in the paper’s lawn. I watched as he ran up to the train tracks and began following a scent beside the steel beams. I muttered a prayer that he wouldn’t become a victim of a Norfork-Southern engine.
The next day, I saw a small black dog begging for scraps in the Hardee’s parking lot. He was feisty, playful and pitiful. I noted many French fries being tossed from vehicle windows.
He obviously knew how to get a free meal, but who was watching out for him?
Why, I wondered yet again, were so many dogs — big and small, pure breeds and mutts — running loose on the streets of Bluefield and throughout our county?
My own baby, Pugsley, rests near my feet as I write this column. He is snoring loudly and drooling — as Neapolitan mastiffs tend to do. Weighing nearly 200 pounds, Pugs is much bigger than a pit bull. He is descended from a line of giants — a modern-day version of an ancient war dog.
It’s funny, though, he doesn’t act like a dog of war. He tries to curl up on my lap when I watch TV, and cries when I walk out of his line of sight. Although Pugs is a big baby, I could not imagine living in a residential area with him. His formidable mass and face scare people. And the problem with a dog his size is that he can hurt someone unintentionally. He is big enough to knock an adult down with an accidental bump or jump (I know this firsthand).
Because of this, Pugs spends his time enjoying the country life, where he has a large, fenced-in yard to play in and a big-screen TV he can watch from his dog bed.
One has to wonder how the pit bull ban in Bluefield will ultimately affect the Mercer County Animal Shelter.
For years, the shelter has been plagued by overcrowding as it takes in dogs from across Mercer County and beyond. The lack of a spay-neuter ordinance in the county contributes to the problem, with many dogs having litters of puppies year after year.
Many want the shelter to discontinue the practice of euthanasia. It’s a great idea, but the logistics of taking in so many dogs, housing them and getting them adopted would be incredible. It would require funding, and lots of it.
If the pit bull ban is adopted, how many dogs of this breed will soon be taking up kennel space at the shelter? Will volunteers be able to get them all adopted or find them homes at pit bull rescues? Could there come a day when homeless beagles, boxers and puppies are turned away at the shelter because it is full?
Bluefield is not an island, and the impact from a breed ban will ripple through the county.
For several months, the black pit bull was often spotted along Bluefield Avenue. Once she even followed me through the paper’s parking lot to my car. She seemed to crave human contact but was too scared to allow anyone to touch her.
Had she had the courage to jump into the back of my SUV that day, she would have soon found herself at a new home in the country where she could enjoy the comforts of a large yard and big-screen TV. Sadly, although I opened the door for her, she could not bring herself to climb in.
A few weeks later we realized the pit bull was no longer hanging around on the streets. The story was that a nearby homeowner had taken her in, providing a house and a fenced-in yard.
Now, I wonder how long she will have it.
Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @BDTPerry.