September 9, 2010
Tiger in the Concrete Jungle
An End Dogfighting in Chicago success story
"Everyone expects a young black guy and his pit bull to make trouble," Jeff told Peanut. "You have the ability to succeed at this and prove them all wrong. But you have to take this seriously."
For 14-year-old Douglas "Peanut" Jackson, a student in Jeff Jenkins' Pit Bull Training Team (PBTT) classes, those stern words weren't easy to hear.
Just a few weeks earlier, Tiger had been banned from Peanut's apartment complex. Tiger, a young brindle pit bull, was a good dog, but when the building manager looked at him and Peanut, he saw only trouble.
A striped dog's checkered past
Tiger started life as a rambunctious young pup with ears scarred by an at-home cropping job. After his friends convinced him the dog needed the tough, cropped-ear look, Peanut tied rubber bands around Tiger’s ears to make the ends fall off.
The duo showed up at a Pit Bull Training Team class only after prodding from Sean Moore, who had first seen Peanut in an alley preparing to fight a stolen dog. Now that Peanut had a brand-new puppy, Anti-Dogfighting Advocate Moore hoped for a breakthrough.
For the first several classes, Tiger was full of energy. The pair made progress, but the sullen look on Peanut's face never changed. The young man was distant, avoided eye contact, and spoke rarely.
When the dog was banned from their apartment complex and sent to live with Peanut's aunt, Peanut was devastated. His attendance at the weekly PBTT classes became sporadic. When he and Tiger did show up, Tiger seemed stressed. Tiger became aggressive toward other dogs, had fresh scars on him, and was becoming a little hand-shy. It was clear Tiger was being fought.
That's when Jeff called Peanut out in class. "You have the ability to succeed at this and prove them all wrong. But you have to take this seriously." Peanut grabbed Tiger, turned on his heel, and walked out.
Out of his shell
Jeff's lecture had angered Peanut, but some inner strength brought him back to class the following week with a new attitude—and Tiger responded in kind.
Tiger's aggression ebbed with Peanut stepping up as his "leader." As Tiger excelled in class, Peanut's pride was obvious, and the two were often caught cuddling and playing. Peanut even started smiling now and then.
Around this time, Peanut and Tiger's home life improved, too. After explaining the pair's progress in the PBTT classes to Peanut's landlord, Sean got Tiger readmitted to the apartment building.
Second chance pays off
On July 17, Tiger passed his Canine Good Citizenship test with ease. The Canine Good Citizenship award is one of the highest distinctions a dog can receive—bestowed only upon those who display exemplary temperament and obedience during rigorous testing. The same friends who once convinced Peanut to crop Tiger's ears are now impressed with Tiger's obedience and devotion.
Now 15, Peanut would never fight Tiger again. And he preaches what he practices, traveling to Milwaukee recently to talk with other young people in that city's new End Dogfighting program.
"What I learned is that you can take the love for pit bulls for a long run and make a change in the way people look at the pit bull breed," says the young man. "Pit bulls are not just dogs but are family."