Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A tribute to my Ziggy Marley.

Yesterday was my birthday. I think it was one of the best birthdays I have ever had. I had the chills for most of the day that an African American FINALLY made it into the white house. I was filled with a tremendous amount of hope that ignorance and lack of education are slowly becoming a thing of the past.
My dogs name is Ziggy Marley, and he is the one thing that puts a smile on my face EVERY day. Ziggy's breed is also widely descriminated against. Having worked exclusively with his 'breed' for several years now, I thought I knew how much they were descriminated against. I did not.
I was sure that because I had worked with this breed for so long, that when I rescued one, my friends and family would just love him by default. This, however, was not the case!! Ziggy loves to learn and do new tricks, so obedience classes have become his favorite thing! As a six month old, he breezed through his CGC test, which is an AKC recognized temperament test. Shortly after, we took a class that teaches him how to do tricks on a movie set, or a commercial, or for modeling. (Ziggy actually is doing a move called "flat" in the picture above, where he is to lay down and put his head on his paws and is not to move until I tell him he can.) Now that he is a bit older, he excells in his advanced obedience classes, and has become a class favorite. He will start showing in the spring.
I have had a wide variety of reactions to Ziggy when we walk down the street. One woman actually came over to me with her two lovely children in tow, petting Ziggy and smiling from ear to ear telling me how beautiful and well behaved he is. (We were doing an exhibition for a mental health clinic where Ziggy was performing service dog training. Opening refrigerator doors, retrieving objects, bringing them to you. The same with cabinets, opening and shutting the doors.)
"What breed is he?" she asked. "He is a pit bull." I said with a big smile. Her face dropped, she grabbed both of her children by the shoulders and scurried away. The little boy wined in protest, "But Mommy, he is friendly!"
On the other side of the coin, I met an older man at a gas station whose eyes welled with tears as he petted him, because he had never met a pit bull before, and couldn't believe how beautiful and well behaved he was. He shared with me the horror stories he had heard about the breed.
As one of our wonderful volunteers at the shelter once said, "If you want to feel what it is like to be discriminated against, walk with a pit bull."
I feel yesterday was a day of hope. A chance to learn to forgive, as these dogs have taught me just that. As I said on my website, "I think we as humans owe these dogs an apology. The good news is...they have already forgiven us. "
Thank you Ziggy Marley, for reminding us that the pit bull dogs are really just dogs...four paws, two eyes, ONE HEART.

Photo of Ziggy Marley was taken by Lisa Fishler. Her links can be found below.
(As an aside, she adopted Ziggy's brother, both of whom can be admired on her website!!)


  1. Happy Birthday Beth! That was so beautifully written, and all so true... Having your bday fall on such an amazing day in our history must be a really good omen --
    p.s. Give Ziggy a hug from me, and tell him Taiho says hi!!

  2. Ziggy is beautiful; I want to paint him! I love the way he is pausing to look at you and tell you how much he is loved. There is such deep contentment in his eyes. Wow, what a special birthday memory for you. Happy, happy birthday.

  3. Beth, What a great day to have your birthday on. Growing up in the bronx in the 60's I felt a revolution happening. The sounds of rioting in the streets while sitting in grade school. I heard people chanting "Black Power" out the windows of the 2nd floor window near the Cross Bronx Expressway. I was the minority in school.. Out of 40 kids in class I was one of 4 white students. To see Barack Obama take the Oath was exhilarating. What a great day to have your birthday on. Ziggy is a beautiful doggie. Good luck teaching him new tricks. Meg and I have taken our pitbull Schnoogie on many hikes in the Shawangunks. Always leashed and always waiting to see the reactions from people we meet on the trail we let Schnoogie greet people because we know she is well behaved although an excessive greeter. Some people ask what kind of dog she is. A pitbull we say. Most people we have met look confused. Hmmm. That's a pitbull? Scratching their heads they walk away. She is not the exception she is who she is. A very loved doggie. She doesn't know discrimination. She is allowed to go in one of our favorite restaurants. The owner of this restaurant calls Schnoogie her niece. Aunt Merle always gives her a bowl of water and a plate of shredded chicken. I just finished sewing up her "karate guy" dog toy for the third time. She finally got the device out that says "Hi YA" when it gets slammed on the floor. This is her favorite toy. She will play with it long and hard tossing it all over the room until it squeals " Hi Ya" then in her gentle manner she lays down and rests with it. Thanks Beth for a great story and Happy Birthday!