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Pit Bull Therapy Dog

When I think of service dogs, Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes usually don’t come to mind. Then I met Emmett and Maggie Marton.

Emmett the therapy dog

Maggie writes the blog Oh My Dog. She adopted Emmet, a Pit Bull/Plott Hound mix, from Friends of Homeless Animals in Virginia about four years ago when Emmett was two.

A Pit Bull Service Dog
From the first day Emmett came to live with Maggie, he endeared himself to friends, family, and neighbors. “Everyone just adores him, and he loves everyone right back,” she says. “When we lived in D.C., I started looking for a therapy dog training program, but didn’t have much luck. There was one facility right down the street from us that did training and boarding, but they told us that they weren’t insured for Pit Bulls, so we’d have to look elsewhere.”

Then, two years ago, Maggie and family moved to Indiana and started her search again. “There is a phenomenal program here through the Monroe County Humane Association,” she explains. “They offer a training session every other week, and there’s a Delta Society evaluator right here in town. (Delta Society is a human services organization dedicated to improving people’s health and well-being by providing positive interactions with animals.) It was the perfect fit. We took classes for about nine months.”

Pit Bulls and Children
“Emmett loves children,” says Maggie. “We do a few programs regularly: Animal Reading Friends at the local public libraries, classroom visits, and pet therapy visits at a local mental health facility with the residential kids. He performs wonderfully in all three situations, but he really shines at the mental health facility. He showers the kids with attention, sitting next to each one in turn. They throw their arms around his neck and plant big kisses on his nose. And he just wags his tail the whole time.”

The first day there, Maggie noticed a quiet little boy sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees, peering out at her suspiciously. “When Emmett walked around to say hello to everyone, this little boy touched him lightly and then retreated,” says Maggie. “While most of the kids elbow, scream, and shove to be the first one to get to play with Emmett, he sat quietly in his spot, never yelling or angling to get a turn. After a few visits, he still hadn’t asked for a turn, so as we went around the circle I asked him, ‘Would you like a turn walking Emmett?’ He stood up and smiled, saying ‘Yes, please’ so softly that I barely heard him.”

“Since then, each time I ask him if he wants a turn. He never imposes himself; he sits, waits quietly, and grins this huge grin when he takes the leash. We’ve been visiting for several months now, and a few weeks ago we had to miss our visit while Emmett had surgery. The next time we came in, this quiet little boy dashed over and said, ‘I missed you, Emmett!’ He wrapped his arms around him, Emmett leaned in and gave him a big kiss, and made the boy giggle.”

Fear of Pit Bulls
Despite his winning personality, Emmett occasionally meets people who are afraid of him. “I’ve encountered a lot of people who have really bad ideas about Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes,” says Maggie. “We do several public outreach events, like working at a booth at the county fair. When people ask me if he’s a Pit Bull, I tell them that Pit Bull is actually a generic term that encompasses a lot of different dogs, and that Emmett is an American Staffordshire Terrier mix. I always add that he’s a very friendly therapy dog who adores children. Often that works. Some, however, scoff and say, ‘Until he turns on you.'”

Still Maggie is on a mission to educate people about Pit mixes and pure breeds, and to share Emmett’ love with others.

25 comments to Pit Bull Therapy Dog

  • Lou

    …And I knew you both when……American Staffordshire Terrier mix???? and I always thought he was just a big ol marshmallow!!!! Great job Emmett AND Maggie!!!! I am so proud of both of you!!!!

  • […] This post was Twitted by maggiemarton […]

  • Hooray for you, Emmett, and Maggie! You are making such a difference in the lives of people. Hooray for showing up those who say your breed is bad. Wish more people could read this story.

  • J. Smith

    Emmett is a very handsome fellow. This is a great story and I know that everyone he comes in contact with love him.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Pitbulls get such a bad rap. We all see the horrible stories and we never hear of the celebrations. As an advocate for dogs in every way and responsible owners, thank you for sharing this post.

  • Any dog friend of Lou’s is a friend of mine. Go Emmett.

  • Sherry

    Pits and pit mixes are wonderful dogs.

  • I *love* their story! It frustrates me when people stereotype based on breed- so important to share stories like these!

  • Heather

    This is such a great story and inspiration. I just recently adopted a Blue Nose Pit and she is such a wonderful loving addition to our family.

    I have recently considered therapy training for her and would love to get involved. Does anyone know of any local therapy dog training programs that will happily accept pit bulls in the bay area?

    As an advocate of all dogs, stories like this make me really happy to see that these dogs are able to stand up for themselves to defend to their bad raps.

  • What a wonderful story! Pit bulls get such a bad rap and it’s so encouraging to see such heartwarming stories. Thank you for sharing.

    Barbara Techel

  • Mary Ann

    The world really IS full of wonderful animals and people like Emmet and Maggie. Unfortunately, all you usually hear are the horror stories.
    Thank You for brining this amazing team to everyone’s attention! Many blessing to Emmet, Maggie and all of the other human/animal teams who bring such joy and caring to others.

  • Well, at least one thing moving in the right direction relates to Pit Bulls and other “bad” breeds as service dogs. As reported by Life With Dogs (and me on my Fetching News this week) the Department of Justice has issued a regulation that prohibits communities from discriminating against service dogs based on their breed or their size! Only a specific dog’s history and behavior can be taken into account. Perhaps the light will go on for non-service dogs as well!

  • […] with one last happy Pit Bull story. This one is about a therapy dog named Emmett, a Pit Bull mix. Click here to read the story of how Emmet brings a young boy out of his […]

  • Readers, Do you know of a therapy program that accepts Pit Bulls? Heather, I would check with Maggie. Best, Michele

  • Michele, Thank you so much for sharing Emmett’s story! I’m so proud of my guy, for working so hard and for being such a happy, hug-able pup – regardless of his breed!

    Emmett is registered through the Delta Society, which is a national organization. They do NOT discriminate against breed. Here’s the website for this awesome organization: http://www.deltasociety.org

  • […] Emmett’s story was on the Care2 Network, thanks to Michele at Pet News and Views! […]

  • We need to continue to show that pit bull and pit bull mixes are awesome. That they do not deserve the hatred and fear that has been directed towards them. We are one of the few PHX area animal rescue groups that believe that pits are worth saving. Let me brag: please check out http://www.rhar4all.petfiner.com We have some wonderful pits that do justice to the breed.

  • You have every right to brag. Thank you for your wonderful volunteer work. Michele

  • Angie

    Thank you, thank you for such a positive pittie story! I have a pit-lab-greyhound mix that I am getting ready to become a therapy dog. We take our CGC test in a month, and then will complete the Delta Society evaluations. They are such wonderful dogs with an undeserved bad rap.

    @Heather, I am not trying to be mean, but trying to educate you. There is no such thing as a “Blue Nose” pit bull. That is simply the color of his/her nose. There isn’t a specifc “type” of pit bull like blue nose, red nose, brindle, etc. Those are simply colors of skin and fur. They don’t make the dog any different than a black or pink nose dog. It is just a “selling” feature that backyard breeders and those who do not understand the breed use in their incorrect lingo. The “types” of pit bulls are show, working, and companion pit bulls. There are also “line” types such as Colby, as the specific honest breeding lines that APBTs are bred from.

    Regardless, thank you for adopting a pit bull rather than purchasing from a breeder. Most pit bull breeders out there try to talk the talk, but they are simply backyard breeders ready to take your money and provide you with a unsocialized, sick, and ill tempered dog.

    As for trainers in the Bay area, I assume that you mean in California, feel free to contact http://www.badrap.org and they should be able to help you. They are one of the greatest pit bull resources out there.

  • […] end Breed Specific Legislation. She and her hubby, John, have a therapy pit bull mix named Emmett. See my story about Emmett here. And visit Maggie’s blog, Oh My Dog!, to see how you can participate by signing a postcard to […]

  • Definitely the names and existence of these two pit bulls would make a difference to the image that attached to the breeds. My dog has pittie friend and she’s very gentle, especially for kids, just hope someday pitbull and border collie are just the same friendly breed..

  • Patti

    I love the fact that there is so many Pit lovers out there! Just wish there were more as well as other breeds like Rots! I was told by my insurance company I couldn’t own either breed or I would be dropped. I was also told there was only allowed so many pit bulls in a township and if I wanted one I would have to go fight them to get one! I find it insane that because people mistreat an animal or neglect them and they turn on someone or another animal they blame the breed! I think when a dog attacks they need to look at the owner and considering locking them up!

  • My husband and I are keen pet owners and are amazed by how much useful knowledge can be learned from articles like this. Keep them coming!