08/28/2015 11:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

One Heart at a Time

Feeling blessed to find a neighborhood hairdresser; I strolled just around the corner for my first appointment. As I walked in, Kim says "this is Sporty" as she hoisted the elder statesman up into the salon chair. We talked about my cut, maybe a color and, of course, about Sporty. I learned that the tan and white beloved one is a "pit bull", and maybe this is the first time I hear this term. He is strikingly handsome and has a very strong presence that transcends his advanced age. If you are a student of the human experience, you always notice strong bonds. The one between this gal and her friend left me with a very big impression.

That same summer, our next door neighbor's son, one you might describe as a metal head, appeared on the scene with what could only be described as a young and taller version of the elder statesman.

Image Credit: James Ostertag

We were instantly struck by his physical beauty and outgoing and playful personality. He would play with our lab along our backyard dividing fence. He is athletic, graceful, and brilliant. My husband pushes the anti-social want-to-be young man for an in person play-date for our lab with the "maybe a pit bull". Perhaps faking his reluctance, the young man agrees to the date and our dogs, his Goover and our Clarise enjoy themselves thoroughly, romping like long lost school mates.

There's a knock at our door. As we open the door, he blurts out "I can't keep him" and "you liked him" and "I don't know what I am going to do". He is crying and suddenly, there is not much left to his façade. We, however, are processing very fast; second dog, a pit bull, an ongoing relationship with his previous owner...... We agree to "test" the compatibility and secretly, if we are being honest, our own comfort with owning a "pit bull." We suggest taking him for the weekend and letting him know then if we could help.

Yes, we kept him! It only took hours to see that he was kind, intelligent, funny, and brave and belonged with us. He was 11 months old then and left this world at over 16 years. He faced his fears and helped us face ours. He woke every day cheerily, abhorred conflict, advocated for play, aged gracefully, modeled life-long learning, loved fiercely, and lost gracefully. As he aged, he learned to ask for help but always did the very most he could.

Image Credit: James Ostertag

Most importantly, he contributed to this family, his family for 15 years.

Image Credit: James Ostertag

He made a mark, he changed perceptions He made us better. We taught him to ride in the car, to say Momma and to sleep under the covers. He taught us to make up our own minds, to laugh at him and ourselves. He was the first "pit bull" we opened our hearts and home to but not the last. His legacy reaches deep into the hearts of everyone who met him and whose minds and hearts were changed forever.

Image Credit: James Ostertag

His legacy is in the happy faces of those who came after him and are here now doing exactly the same thing.

For the second year, The Huffington Post is holding a week-long, community-driven effort to bust the myths and raise awareness about pit bulls, a maligned "breed" that often bears the brunt of dated, discriminatory legislation that can make it near impossible for these dogs to find a forever home. You can follow along with HuffPost Pit Bull Week here, or on social media where we'll be using the hashtag #PitBullWeek.

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