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How We Became a 2 Pit Bull Family

"Sweet female pit bull needs a home after being rescued from the backyard of an abandoned home," read the post in a local mom's newsletter. Instantly, instinctively, I knew we'd be getting a new dog. A second pit bull.

"Kids, look at this! There's a pit bull who needs a home," I yelled to my then 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, who were downstairs watching TV. "What do you think?"

"Can can we get her?" they both asked, excitedly.

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This wouldn't be our first pit bull rescue. Goggles, our first dog, was getting old at 14 and slowing down, so we had room in our home for a second dog. My kids weren't born when we found Goggles at the shelter, so they'd heard her story but weren't part of her adoption process.

There was no photo or any additional information in the newsletter, but I quickly contacted Debbie, the woman who had rescued the dog from the abandoned house. Debbie agreed to meet me at a local park a few days later.

As I walked toward Debbie and a small brown and white dog, I fought back tears. The dog had been starved and her bones stuck out like sharp, jagged blades through her sagging skin. She held her head low and walked slowly. Debbie estimated she was about a year old. Because she was in such bad condition, she'd be going to a local pet rescue called People Loving Pets, where they would spay her and put her up for adoption, Debbie explained.

On the way home, I called Barry, my husband. "I want to adopt the dog," I told him. "She's a survivor and really cute, but she'll need a lot of TLC."

"Let's do it," he said without hesitating.

I've been deeply touched by the special bond between Cocoa and my son.

The kids got a chance to meet the dog briefly at the park the next day. Petting her, my daughter slowed her hand as she ran it across the dog's back. "She so skinny," said my daughter, quietly. Then, our family waited anxiously for the call from the rescue. There was only one potential problem. Another family wanted to adopt her, too. I was surprised at how attached to her we'd already become, and I knew we'd all be devastated if we didn't get her.

The days turned into a week.

Finally, good news. "You can come get your dog!" said Alana, the woman who runs the rescue.

The kids named her Cocoa and we brought her home. We rushed to the pet store to buy collar and leash, a dog bed and a crate, treats and even a pillow. The kids wanted to make sure Cocoa felt pampered and loved after such an awful ordeal.

After a visit to the vet, Cocoa was determined to be 18 months old. The kids watched anxiously as she got her shots, a microchip and a full check up. She looked slightly better but was still very thin and small.

We immediately hired a dog trainer to make sure Cocoa was obedient and would follow commands. She's high energy but gentle and a good listener—unless she spots a squirrel in the yard. Then she's off and running, barking like crazy. Of course, we've had a few minor incidents, like the time Cocoa decided she didn't like the place where a small palm tree grew in the back yard, so she dug it up. We replanted it, and she dug it up a second— then a third—time. The spot where it used to be is now her favorite place to chew her toys.

Our family never intended to rescue two pit bulls. It just happened that way.

It's been about three years since Cocoa arrived at our house. In that time, Goggles passed away. There isn't a day that goes by that we don't miss her, the beautiful black and white girl who gave all pit bulls a good name. But we're lucky that, from the very beginning, Cocoa immediately became an integral part of our family. Feeding her, walking her and making sure she gets lots of attention is part of my kids' daily routine. I've been deeply touched by the special bond between Cocoa and my son. It is an incredible friendship that developed immediately, starting with her cautiously following him around the backyard and, within a few weeks, taking part in rambunctious soccer games.

Our family never intended to rescue two pit bulls. It just happened that way. We're used to the occasional questions about the breed. We're familiar with hostile glares from people who are afraid of Cocoa. That's understandable given the negative coverage of pit bulls in the media. We're also careful. We never take Cocoa off leash, since nobody wants an off-leash pit bull running towards them, even if she is harmless.

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Cocoa has brought an abundance of love and fun into our lives. From a sad, timid dog to a high energy, friendly and adorable member of our family, Cocoa has taught my kids what it means to open their hearts to rescue an animal in need. That's an invaluable lesson that will last them a lifetime.

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Image by Christina Simon

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