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Kitty, the dog that keeps on pulling

David Love was bedridden — going through a particularly ugly spell in his bout with liver cancer — when he agreed to babysit a friend’s dog, a pit bull mix named Kitty.

The first thing Kitty did was jump up on his bed and lick his face.

That was a year ago, and Kitty, Love says, has been helping him ever since – lifting his spirits, detecting his seizures and pulling his wheelchair, all without any formal training.

I spotted Love and Kitty on my way through Brookings, Oregon — the last coastal town one who is southbound goes through before hitting California.

We passed him as she pulled his wheelchair across the Chetco River bridge, saw them again cruising down the sidewalk after we stopped for gas, and finally cornered him when Kitty came to a halt in front of a shopping center on the south side of town.

Love had gone there to pick up some medicine and check in on his buddy, a homeless man named Buddy.

He was happy to talk, especially about his dog.

“She’s my motor,” he said.

Though Kitty was initially just visiting, once her owner saw how taken the two were with each other, she suggested he keep her.

Love’s troubles — and he admits he has seen a few — began when he broke his leg while playing college football.

Complications set in — exacerbated, he says, by too many doctors and too much alcohol, and eventually Love lost the leg.

Things went downhill from there, but eventually Love took what he knew about being down, being drunk and being addicted and put it to good use, setting up missions to help those so inflicted.

He ran an outreach in Oklahoma, then moved back to Oregon and set up another. Not long after that, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which kept him bedridden for long spells. The outreach lost its building, but he now runs it out of the motel room he lives in.

Among those he tries to check on daily is Buddy, a homeless man, also in a wheelchair, who sits at a corner with a sign that says, “Simple Work. Anything Helps. Hungary Broke.”

Buddy’s corner is about two and a half miles from where Love lives, but Kitty regularly pulls him the entire way.

“If I don’t hear from Buddy, I get panicky,” Love said, adding that he needed to visit a nearby drug store for medicine anyway.

Love also suffers from seizures, and he says Kitty seems to have developed the ability to warn him if one is coming.

“She seems to know I’m going to have a seizure before I do,” he said. She will put her head on his legs and look at him, and sometimes “she blocks me from going anywhere and won’t let me leave the house.” Love says he has woken up from seizures only to see the dog standing over him.

Kitty isn’t the first dog — or the first pit bull — I’ve heard of who, with no formal training, assumed the role of therapy and assistance dog. (You can read about another in “Dog, Inc.” my soon-to-be-released book advertised at the top of this page.)

Sometimes, dogs– even those not trained for such tasks – just seem to know what to do, how to help.

For Kitty, one of those tasks is pulling, and she goes at with gusto and determination, straining up hills, slowing down at street corners, coming to a dead halt when she sees someone she’s not sure she trusts.

Kitty is 2-1/2 years old, and has had two litters of pups since moving in with Love. In her spare time, such as when Love stops to talk to someone, she likes to roll on her back in the dirt.

During the times he has been bedridden, Love says, Kitty has been at his side, disproving all he’d ever heard about pit bulls.

“I’ve always been told they were bad dogs,” he said. “But it’s all in how you teach them. She’s a very gentle dog and she’s great with kids. She don’t puddle on the floor or anything.”

I walked with them to the drug store. Love handed me the leash and we agreed to meet back up down at the corner where Buddy was sitting.

But when I tried to get her to come with me, Kitty wouldn’t budge, taking a seat and staring at the store. Only after much encouragement did she agree to come, and even then, every five steps or so, she’d stop, sit and stare at the store.

Once we worked our way back to the corner, she took a seat, her eyes never leaving the storefront.

I’d say Love found quite a dog in Kitty, a pit bull that assumed the roles she saw her owner needed — serving not as a fighter, but as nurse, cheerleader, motor and friend.

Comments

Comment from debbie
Time November 19, 2010 at 6:56 am

What a beautiful, beautiful story. Maybe in all your travels, you met Kitty, Love and Buddy for a reason, perhaps so that you could share this ‘lesson of love’ with us.It seems we all know it, but need to be reminded every now and again..

Comment from Diane McCornack
Time November 19, 2010 at 10:55 am

Love your blog, read it every day BUT I hate to be the downer on your last few posts but did you mention to this guy that spaying Kitty would be the RIGHT thing to do? It’s a heart warming story and I’m glad they found each other but GIVE ME A BREAK buddy fix your dog!

Comment from Peggy @Peggy’s Pet Place
Time November 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I’m so glad Kitty can help this man, such a strong bond between human and dog. Kitty looks strong but I hope she gets lots of time to rest and play too.

Comment from Ida Noack
Time November 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Cross posted this wonderful story to a few animal / pit friendly FB sites! Good work John – hugs to Ace.

Comment from Abby
Time November 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

While some may find this story “heartwarming”, I find it disturbing. First of all, in the US, there is a distinct difference between a therapy dog and a service dog. Service dogs are individually trained to perform tasks or do work that directly mitigate the handler’s disability. No formal training? It’s not a service dog. A therapy dog is a dog that visits hospitals, schools, therapy centers etc to aid in the healing process. This dog is not a therapy dog.

Allowing a dog to pull a wheelchair without having it medically cleared to do so is dangerous and inhumane. Not to mention the dog is not wearing specialized equipment for pulling, but a regular walking harness. Very, very dangerous for the dog’s joints and health. Dog are never taught to pull a wheelchair by walking so far in front of the chair either.

Additionally, I find it incredibly irresponsible and downright disgusting that this dog is permitted to be bred on top of everything else.

Service dog training takes anywhere from 18-24 months and involves specialized training and a dog with an impeccable temperament. Real service dogs accompany their handlers into places of public accommodation and are not bred regularly if they are female. I’d like to see an article on a legitimate service dog team. Please do your research next time.

Comment from jwoestendiek
Time November 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Abby, In a world where everyone who needs one could get a formally trained service or therapy dog — and, yes, as the owner of the latter, I know the difference — I’d agree. But until everyone has the means, and can navigate the bureaucracy, I suspect people, and dogs, will do what they have to do, and that dogs, in ways big and small, will continue to assist their owners despite the lack of a diploma. David and Kitty’s situation might not be ideal, but I don’t see my mission as strictly portraying ideal situations — only to portray reality.
John/ohmidog!

Comment from debbie
Time November 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I disagree somewhat with Abby. Why do we always think everything has to be trusted to the training and ‘EXPERTS’. The ABC’s and Rote of life?
What about the wonders and miracles that are sent our way? The ‘just because’, unexplained,no explanation needed. On the other hand,Yes, I too thought that Kitty should be spayed and wondered what has happened to the puppies? Are they being sold for money? Perhaps it was an opportunity for John to voice concern to David about this, but in my opinion maybe John is the just the messenger for us the readers of this blog, to realize that Yes, not everything is perfect or scientific or by the numbers..but when we trust that things happen to us for a reason, that people and animals come into our lives for a reason, maybe we too will be pulled to where we need to go in life…and maybe there are times and places for research blah blah blah, but John please give us stories about love, life and the wonder of it all..

Comment from Anne’n'Spencer
Time November 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Thanks, Debbie! You said just what I’ve been thinking. We’ve read more than one story here about a dog being torn away from a human “for its own good.” The usual result is disaster, because a dog’s “own good” is almost always to stick with the human to whom it’s bonded so strongly. They don’t give a rap whether we’re rich or poor. They’ll sleep next to us on satin sheets–or under an overpass. They’ll dine with us on sirloin or share our bread crusts. They’ll stick with us no matter what, and this is a large part of what makes them–well, what makes them dogs. I’d like to find a way for Kitty to be spayed. I’d also like to see her have one of those special harnesses such as Rottweilers and other big dogs wear. Maybe these things could somehow happen to smooth the way for this pair. She looks strong, sleek, and well-fed to me, and I believe she’s in a good relationship with her human. We should not lightly tamper or even consider tampering with, this bond. I also agree with your request to John. He’s told us a love story here.

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