All over the news today is the story of the 9-year-old who was critically injured after being mauled by his neighbor's pitbull, bringing conversations about the breed to the forefront again. Some people feel that the breed is vicious and shouldn't be owned as pets while owners counter that the temperament of the dog is based on the way it is raised. Let me tell you my experience.I lived in the Holt community for a year or so almost 10 years ago. One day, I came home to a tiger-striped pit roaming the street.  I stayed in my car a long time, afraid to get out. I waited until I no longer saw the dog.  I finally made it to my porch and as I fumbled with finding the right key to go in the door, I saw the dog approaching.  I wanted to cry, but I noticed that the dog wasn't running towards me and wasn't barking.  It was seemingly friendly, just inquisitive.  So, I let the dog come up to me and sniff my hand before I rubbed its head. Then, my neighbors emerged from their home and I learned it was their dog, but from that day forward, when I came home, the dog met me at my car for me to rub its head.

My siblings have owned pitbulls for over a decade.  Initially, I was deathly afraid of the dogs because of the breed's reputation, but the more I was around the dogs, the more comfortable I became. A few years ago, I asked my sister to move in with me, and this meant that her dog would now come to my home.

I still had a bit of apprehension, but the dog turned out to be very sweet, loving..... AND SMART! Prime example: This winter, we brought her inside a storage room to protect her from the cold temperatures outside.  Not only did she somehow open the door and let herself out to release her waste, but she also came back in and managed to pull the door back up.  It wasn't completely closed, but I WISH I had a camera recording to see how she did it!

After a few years of living with Sugar (a red pit), we got Blue (a blue pit). Now, Blue was a completely different one!  Blue was also very sweet and playful, but Blue was territorial! He was a very stout dog. Just looking at him, you could tell he was not one to mess with. There was never a time that a car came into my driveway and we didn't know about it.  Neither was there a time where a person walked past the house and we didn't know. We never had any problems out of him, but he had no problems letting others know he was "man of the house."

One night, we were out shopping and came home to police lights at the neighbor's. We got out the car and as we were taking in our purchases, the police lights left our neighbor's and came to our house. The officer approached and informed us that our dog had gotten loose and terrified people at the adjacent property called the police.  Understandable. Here's what I didn't understand, though: The responding officer said he got out of his vehicle and approached my home, at which point Blue appeared. The officer said the dog stood in one place and barked at him.  The bark scared the officer enough to cause him to shoot the dog!  At this point, Blue ran off.

We searched for him all night, calling his name and driving through the area.  He appeared the next day with a hole in his face and throat, an entrance and exit wound.  We got him to the vet, and Blue lived another year or so. His death was devastating.  Before then, I didn't really understand how people made such a big deal out of the loss of their pets.  When Blue died, I did.  He had been such a great protector for a number of years.

Although Sugar is still with us, she's now a bit older. Lately, my daughter has been asking me for a puppy. I've thought about getting her a small, toy breed; but another part of me did consider getting her a pit puppy that would grow up with her and protect her just as well as our dogs have protected us.

Now, I'm not in ANY way saying that all pits are gentle or that they only attack when provoked.  That would not only be insensitive to those who've been affected by attacks, but it would also be erroneous. However, I do compare them to people.  Sometimes, people attack for no reason. You just never know. I know that many people are going to come out with statistics about how many dogs attack, how vicious and deadly those attacks are, etc. However, no breed of animal attacks and kills at a higher rate than humans.

But I am interested in knowing a variety of perspectives. Have you had any experience with pitbulls? Good or bad? Are people's fear of the dogs valid? Are the dogs' behaviors product of their environments or simply innate?