THAT AIN’T NO PIT BULL – Jack Kelly
THAT AIN’T NO PIT BULL – Jack Kelly
i Lived in New York City when I got my first Pit Bull in 1957. Except for one or two others I was the only person living in the city to own a Pit Bull. You could walk your Pit Bull all over the city and
no one ever even noticed what kind of dog you had at the end of your leash. Oh, so me dog lovers would stop and ask what kind of dog it was, most folks realized, with the dogs muscular good
looks that it was something more than a mixed bred mutt . A common inquiry might be, “Is that a boxer with a long tail?” I’d usually answer, “Yeah, it is .”
Some of the more persistent types would insist on a more exotic answer, so, I usually would make up an exotic new breed to satisfy their curiosity. “This here is an English Badger Terrier.” or perhaps, “He’s a German Lion Hunting Terrier.” One fellow even told me he used to own one of those German Lion Hunting Dogs. Of course most of the times I simply told whoever asked, that
it was a Pit Bull. But, the usual rejoinder to that was, “That’s not a Pit Bull. A Pit Bull is one of those white dogs with pink eyes and a long nose.” It seemed that everyone in the city of New York, amateur or expert, firmly believed that Pit Bull was just another word for a white Bull Terrier.
Living in a crowded place like New York City, you were constantly running into dog lovers with different kinds of dogs. Unfortunately, everyone who owned a dog bigger than a Fox Terrier was convinced he had the toughest dog in the world. I was challenged by everything from a Kerry Blue Terrier to a Rottweiler, from Airedales to Dobermans. One fellow challenged me with something called a Great Pyrennes, a big, hairy, white dog, must have weighed about 125 lbs. He said his dog could kill any Pit Bull that ever lived and that he had $500.00 to prove it. When I accepted his challenged he said, “Are you crazy? This is a Mountain Pyrennes.” I told him I didn’t really care if his dog lived on a mountain or in a valley. The fellow left with his dog and I never heard from him again.
One day, I was even challenged by a tough tom cat. In New York there are, what some natives refer to as a “Candy Store”. Some neighborhoods might call these little stores an “Ice Cream Store” or a “Stationery Store”. They were little stores that sold the daily newspapers, tobacco products, school supplies and they all had a small soda fountain where you could buy a “2¢ Plain”, an “Egg Cream” or a “Cherry Coke”. It was also usually a hang-out for the neighborhood’s would be toughs. The candy store in my neighborhood also had a tough, big old tom cat. This old cat would crouch in the doorway of the store and attack any unsuspecting dog that happened to pass by. It din’t make no difference if the dog was with his owner on a leash or just passing by all by himself. A couple of swipes with those claws would send the poor dog yelping down the street or hit the other end of the leash, all to the enjoyment of the would be toughs. Well I just had to try this out…I snapped a leash on my dog and started walking toward the store. The neighborhood toughs saw me coming. They could hardly contain themselves, they were gently nudging themselves in the ribs and could barely conceal their giggling and louder guffaws. I came abreast of the doorway and here comes old Mr. Cat. He reared back to take a swipe at the dog but the dog got there first with a head hold, matter of fact he got the whole head, shook it a few times and drop the cat on the sidewalk. Neither me or the dog ever broke stride. I walked down to the end of the street, turned around and walked back passed the store. The boys had dragged the body back from the middle of the sidewalk and as I walked by I said, “How’s your cat? Looks like he used up all nine lives this time.”
One of them yelled after me, “Hey, what kind of dog is that.” “Pit Bull” I answered. “Naw”, he replied. “That’s not a Pit Bull. A Pit Bull is one of them white dogs with pink eyes and a long nose.”
Another time I was working a dog for a match. There was a park not far from where I lived and the city decided to build several little league baseball fields out of it and enclose the whole
thing with a chain link fence. It made a great place to work a dog. Early in the mornings I could drive my truck slowly around the fields while holding my dog on a leash, out the window. One, early morning, I had made several trips around the course, when I noticed a fellow, pulled into the park, driving a nice new Cadillac. He got out of the car, watching me intently, and I noticed he had a big German Shepherd sitting in the passenger seat. The fellow shouted over to me: “What are you doing?” “I’m exercising my dog.” I hollered back.
Next time around, when I came into hollering distance, I hollered over to him, “Watch your dog don’t come out of that car and jump on my dog.” “Not to worry”. The fellow shouted back. “He’s obedience trained, he won’t come out of the car unless I tell him to.” Next time around the Shepherd forgot all of his training, come busting out of that Cadillac and jumped all over my dog. The fellow strolled leisurely over to where the action was going on and he had a car blanket with him and he threw it over the fighting dogs. “Better get your mutt out of there, CHAMP just might kill him.” Just then a terrible howling came from under the blanket and the fellow says, “CHAMP’s really pouring it on now”. “Hell”, I said, “That ain’t my dog hollering, that’s CHAMP.” The fellow pulled back the blanket and CHAMP had his nose pointed to the sky, apparently asking whatever God he prayed to, to get this damn thing off his back leg. The Pit Bull was at the end of his leash, which was still secured to my truck, so the fellow, acting with much more alacrity now, was able to grab his dog’s collar and pull him out of the Pit Bull’s mouth. He took a little meat with him. He didn’t have to tell that obedience trained Shepherd to get back in the car, he was already on his way. “What kind of dog is that?” The fellow asked.
This time I decided my dog was a Southern Hog Hunting Terrier, and continued on my way for another turn around the baseball fields. Next time I came around to where he was still standing he yelled over, “I’ll give you $50.00 for your dog.” Next time around he upped his offer to $100.00. I figured if I made enough trips around this field he might get up to a pretty respectable price. The fellow stayed there and watched until my dog had enough work. I took the leash off him and put him in the box in the back of my pick-up truck. “Wait”, the fellow said as I was leaving, “What kind of a dog did you say that was.” “A Southern Hog Hunting Dog” I replied. “Oh, I thought it might be a Pit Bull. But everybody knows a Pit Bull is one of them white dogs with pink eyes and a long nose”.
I was in the water main and sewer business when I lived in New York and had quite a few men working for me. One of them was a fellow named Danny Green. He used to help me work dogs and one day ask me if he could have a pup for a house pet. I gave him a beautiful, white and brindle, seven month old pup. The trouble was Danny lived in a six family, walk up tenement, flat and Danny just could not keep from telling everyone who would listen that the pup was a fighting Pit Bull. One of his neighbor’s little daughters was playing with the pup and got her leg scratched. Danny’s neighbor headed straight to the A.S.P.C.A. and Danny headed right back to my shop to give me back the pup. Next day an A.S.P.C.A. enforcement officer, along with an A.S.P.C.A. veterinarian came knocking on the front door of my shop. “We want to see your white and brindle fighting dog”. They explained. I bought in the pup and the vet shook a stick at him and declared that the pup did not have rabies. Then the enforcement officer said to me, “I don’t know what kind of dog that is but it ain’t a Pit Bull. A Pit Bull is a white dog with pink eyes and a long nose”.
Web Daniel and I used to keep a kennel in the Bronx. It was located on a narrow road between the Harlem River and the New York Central Railroad tracks, right underneath the George Washington Bridge. Everyone who matched dogs in those days matched one at this place. The Uptown Boys’ and S.T.P. both matched their first dog at this place. Ozzie Stevens, Big Brad, Dusty Long and all the fellows from Pennsylvania, Andre Giroux and the Canadians, all the boys from Long Island, New England and New Jersey all, at one time or another, matched a dog at our kennel. Web and I kept about a dozen dogs there. One of them was a pure Corvino dog that we called SCHRIMPIE. Joe Orday had bought a dog from a fellow in Chicago. He called the little brindle dog BEAR. Some time later, after Joe Corvino had died, he bought a bitch from Mrs. Corvino called BLONDE CORVINO. Joe Orday bred them to each other and had a nice litter of four or five pups. One of them went to a fellow named Charles Tenerowicz, he called his bitch CANDY and when CANDY was old enough he bred her back to her sire, BEAR. SCHRIMPIE was in that litter and Web bought him from Charlie. He grew up to be a beautiful, well made little brindle dog and when he was 18 months old he weighed all of 22 lbs., soaking wet. SCHRIMPIE
wanted to grab everything we walked by him but we never even rolled him, we had nothing anywhere near to that size.
10-12 elderly fellows kept kennels of hound dogs, everything from Beagles to Black and Tans. The youngest of this group was a fellow every body called, Joe Red. He was 72 years old. The oldest was a fellow of 93 who also lived in a shack on the strip, and acted as an unofficial caretaker and night watchmen for all of the kennels. One Sunday morning Web and I were walking SCHRIMPIE along the strip, bemoaning the fact that we’d probably never get this little ace matched, because of his size. Joe Red came driving by and slowed down to bid us, Good Morning. He asked us, “Is that one of them there fighting dogs you fellows keep”. “Sure is.” We both answered. “I got a Beagle could whip that dog”. Joe said. Web and I grinned evilly at each other. “Why don’t you go get your Beagle and bring him back down here with as much money as you can beg, borrow or steal”. Wasn’t 10 minutes later, here comes Joe Red, leading a jaunty little Beagle on a leash, follow by the entire contingent of local, old, hound keepers. “We got $50.00″ Joe Red announced” “Well then, turn your dog loose”, I told him. He did and Web turned SCHRIMPIE loose. SCHRIMPIE went right to work, grabbed a front leg and shook it out. The panicked Beagle nipped SCHRIMPIE on the end of his nose. SCHRIMPIE drop that leg like it was a hot potato and headed for the wide open spaces. Joe Red was right behind him, running as fast as his 72 year old, arthritic legs would carry him. “Joe Red,” I yelled after them. “Where are you going“. “I’m gonna catch your dog for you”. Joe Red yelled back. “Joe, let him go we don’t want him back. Come back here and take this $50.00.”, I told him. As I handed Joe Red a brand new 50 dollar bill he said to me, “I really shouldn’t take this money. I knew all along that wasn’t a Pit Bull. A Pit Bull is one of them white dogs with pink eyes and a long nose” I said, “Well, maybe he’s an English Badger Terrier”. How times have changed in the past 50 years.