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  • Pauline Hoffmann

Are pit bulls witch hunt victims?

I need to take a different turn today. I recognize that LinkedIn is a professional social media platform. I also recognize that I have been writing about all things infodemic.

That said, I need to pause but I will bring it around.

My husband and I do not have children - we are child-free by choice. We do, however, have dogs. Until yesterday, we were a three-dog family. The guy you see in the photo with this article is Bryce, our pit bull. Yesterday we had to make the decision every pet owner dreads and we put him down. He was declining quite rapidly and we didn't want to see him continue to do so. We think he was about 13.

We think?

We adopted him from the local SPCA. They found him wandering around. I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to claim this sweet boy, but I am thankful they let him go. Our vet thought he was about seven when we adopted him six years ago. Six years ago this week.

We chose him.

He was only the second dog we can say that about. The first, Beeno, our shepherd mix, was also chosen from an SPCA. Most of our dogs find their way to us in one way or another. Maggie, the St. Bernard, was a wedding gift. Cocoa, the chiweenie, was going to be taken to the Humane Society likely to be put down so we took her. Maverick, the German shepherd, needed a better home life so we took him (still have him). Gunnar, the terrier mix, needed a new home because of a divorce (still have him). We sound like we operate a flop house for dogs and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Bryce we chose. We wanted a dog that got along with Maverick and Cocoa and Maverick needed a buddy. Cocoa did not play. She acted like the old lady you see sitting on her front porch yelling at the kids to slow down or someone will lose an eye. The SPCA said he had been there for over 100 days but that he was so gentle. We introduced him to the others and then took him home. We named him (the SPCA had called him El Duce - el no). He was called Bryce because that's where my husband proposed to me - Bryce Canyon. (It was actually in Salt Lake City, but close enough and we weren't going to call him Salt Lake City or Mormon or Later Day Saints or something.)

I remember picking him up at the SPCA. He jumped into the front seat of the car as if he was waiting for me - his Uber driver taking him to his forever home. When we got to the house he ran in and up the stairs to what would become his chair. The photo with this issue shows him on the day we brought him home in that chair. 

It wasn't all roses and sunshine. For the first week we thought he might eat Cocoa. Instead, they became friends and even snuggled together often.

He loved to snuggle and would crawl into your lap. He was a tank - all muscle. He also loved to play. He and Maverick would pull on the same stick or the same rope toy; their own makeshift tug-of-war. 

When Gunnar joined the fray, it was seamless. All three would play together and even cuddle together on the couch or the bed. Yes, we are those pet parents. We pay the mortgage and the dogs run the house.

He had this raspy, deep-throated bark. He also spoke to us. I know that sounds strange but he would walk up to you, tail wagging, and just speak. It generally meant, feed me, let me out, rub my ass. We had a brush used for horses that we got for Maggie and Bryce loved it. All we had to do was pick it up and show him and he would come over ready for his grooming.

And that tail......he once knocked Cocoa off the couch with his tail. She was okay - no worries.

We often took the brood up the back hill on walks. When he was finished, he was finished. He would flop down as if he just ran a marathon and wait for his ride back down the hill. When the ride arrived, he would perk up, jump in the car and be done.

He had a couple of different names. We, like many people, give our dogs odd nicknames in addition to their actual names. He was Wiggle Butt Pork Chop. Bubby. Bubbski. Brycer. Tank.

I was there when he passed, holding him in my lap, gently petting him - one last doggy massage. I told him not to tell the others but that he was our favorite. I told him he was loved and will be missed. I sobbed as I am doing right now as I type this. (I did reread, though, to make sure I have no typos because of the tears.)

What will I miss the most? Bryce nudging me to clear the way so he could sit in my lap. His gentle snoring when he fell asleep as I gave him a doggy massage (essentially, just constant petting). The way he would lay down front first then back - we called it "down dog." His mild and gentle demeanor. 

Why do I share this? First of all, I am a writer. When something horrible happens, I need to write about it. It's cathartic.

I also said that I would bring this around.

Pit bulls are victims of witch hunts. Many municipalities ban pit bulls. Some homeowners' insurance companies won't provide insurance policies or make you may a premium price if you own them. They are considered vicious predators with a jaw that will clamp shut around your limb causing irreparable damage. 


It's not the breed you need to worry about it's how they were raised. That can be said of a number of things, people included.

We vilify what we don't know and don't understand. We fear it and attach names to it. We see that pit bulls are used in dog fighting rings. We see their muscular build and strong jaws. We assume they are all hateful devil beasts. We paint an entire breed with so broad a brush.

Witch hunt.

Take a group of people you don't understand and make them outsiders. Weave a narrative that portrays them as evil or threatening. Ostracize them. Rinse. Repeat.

We are going to miss Bryce as we miss all of our dogs who have passed. We will try to remember him as he was and not how he was in the end. 

We will miss him dearly. Rest, dear Bubby.

If you like this newsletter, subscribe and share with your friends and colleagues. If you like my writing, consider buying my book, Fake News, Witch Hunts and Conspiracy Theories: An Infodemiologist's Guide to the Truth. Preorder on my website:

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