Lily, The Woodlands, TX

Hi! My name is Lily.

My litter was born around January 2011 somewhere in/near Montgomery County, Texas. After just a couple of months, we were surrendered to a local kill shelter by our breeder because he didn’t like our markings. :(

Fortunately, there were some kind-hearted people at the shelter that gave us a second chance and turned us over to a rescue group. I guess you can say I’ve received a couple of second chances because I contracted Parvo while in foster care, but I received the care I needed and beat the odds a second time!! I was super lucky to find my forever family just a couple of months later in June of 2011.

In addition to my human mom (the “Momager” because she’s my mom and manager :) ) and dad and two girls, ages 7 and 10, my forever family had two female dogs, a Boxer named Camy (3 yrs old at the time) and a pit bull named Nike (13 yrs old at the time).

Nike, by the way, was not named after that company that supports convicted dog fighters — she was named after the Greek Goddess of Winged Triumph! Nike’s story is really important to me because it helped determine my mission and purpose, so it’s important that I share her story too.

Nike belonged to a friend that really just didn’t have a place to keep her. As a little puppy, she was passed from person to person, kept in bathrooms, dorm rooms and sometimes left tied to a tree for the day in random empty lots. Nike’s owner asked the Momager to pet sit her for a semester while he left to go study abroad.

A semester turned into over two years. During that time, my family never heard from Nike’s owner. Although he left her bed and some toys, he never answered any emails about her care: what vaccinations she needed and whether she should be spayed (she did get spayed).

Before Nike, my family was always a “Boxer” family. When Nike came into their lives my family didn’t know anything about pit bulls. They didn’t know about their history or reputation and were not “experienced” owners, as some rescues require. They only knew that Nike needed a home, a loving family and a safe environment.

Nike taught my family that pit bulls are just like any other dog – that we just want a family to love us and be a part of! We have huge hearts, are loyal, quick learners, gentle, funny, athletic, great snugglers and love to give kisses!

Nike also exposed my family to some of the unfortunate aspects of pit bull ownership including the harsh stares and judgmental comments. At the time, they lived in Mexico, where blood sports (bull fighting, cock fighting and dog fighting) are widely accepted and enjoyed. The Momager received offers to fight Nike and breed her and always worried about her — that Nike would be stolen when left in the yard or poisoned by neighbors that said she was “evil” because of her breed. :(

More than two years later, Nike’s owner finally came back to claim her. Just a handwritten note on a scrap of paper that was left under the door one day. “I came for my dog” it said. The Momager refused — Nike quickly became part of the family and the Momager wasn’t going to give her up! Fortunately, Nike’s owner easily conceded.

When my family moved back to the U.S., positive comments from more neutral observers were more frequent, although generally cloaked as exceptions. People would tell the Momager, “She’s good with your kids because she knows them” and things like that. During the next 13 years up until when I came into the picture, the Momager noticed that being a good dog just wasn’t good enough –– not when you’re a pit bull.

When I was adopted, Nike had already been diagnosed with cancer and had a lot of tumors, including one in her eye, that was removed. Our vet said that because of her age, it would be risky to put her under anesthesia to remove all of them and that we should just do our best to make her life as comfortable as possible.

Nike crossed over the rainbow bridge on Christmas Eve of 2012. She was a beloved member of our family for a month short of 15 years. I only spent about a year and a half with Nike, but from the first day I came home, she welcomed me and took me under her wing. We miss our sweet, gentle giant with all our hearts and a day doesn’t go by that we don’t stop and think about her. She changed our lives and hearts forever and for that, we are eternally grateful. My family is now a “Pit bull family” and always will be!

After I was adopted and came to my forever home, the Momager and I had a serious heart-to-heart talk. She confessed that she wasn’t sure if she would ever have another pit bull after Nike. “It was a big responsibility…it’s emotionally taxing,” she said, “carrying the burden of an undeserved reputation and everything that went along with it.” The heartache and frustration of knowing the truth about us and dealing with the ignorance, close mindedness and even hatred of others.

But then she told me that when she saw me — saw my markings, markings almost identical to Nike’s (look at our side-by-side walking photo!) — she immediately changed her mind. She thought about Nike and everything that she taught them, the unconditional love she always gave, the happy smiles, Nike’s unwavering loyalty and devotion, and all the awesome times. She remembered how Nike always protected our family, even when she was old and weak, partially blind and deaf and dying of the cancers. She remembered how important Nike was as a beloved family member.

Deep down, she knew that she owed it to Nike and to all the other dogs out there just like her — just like me — to give one of us a second chance and to continue to try to change people’s minds about pit bulls.

My calm and loving temperament convinced the Momager that I would be a great therapy dog and ambassador for pit bulls and that this would be my mission: to carry Nike’s torch in a way that would touch many lives and to show others that “good” pit bulls are not the exception — that we’re the general rule! I was destined to join the ranks of the many, many other “working” pit bulls out there making a positive difference!

In the spring of 2012, I passed the Pet Partners evaluation and became a registered therapy dog! I was ready to test right around turning 10 months old, but Pet Partners requires dogs to be at least a year old, so I had to wait. With almost 40 years in the business and thousands of teams around the world, Pet Partners is by and large, considered the “gold standard” among animal assisted therapy organizations. The fact that Pet Partners does not discriminate against any breed of dog is a testament to the notion that any dog — that dogs of all breeds — have the capacity to bring happiness, comfort and joy to others! It is an organization with very high standards — for people and pets — and it’s such a huge honor to be a registered Pet Partner therapy dog!

A couple of months later, I became a certified Reading Education Assistance Dog through Intermountain Therapy Animals of Utah, another top-notch organization with a 15 year history that is also represented by many therapy animal teams around the world — including pit bulls!

I am registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) as an “American Shelter Dog” and received the AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title in September of 2013 after completing my first 50 therapy visits. My official name is “Lily, Pit Bull Ambassador & Therapy Dog.” My name is very important to me because it represents my promise to Nike and commitment to other dogs like us to always put my best paw forward.

Some people dislike “pit bull” distinctions, but I don’t! I’m proud of who I am — I’m Pit Proud! And yes, I will take every single opportunity I get to let everyone know! If I can change even just one mind – encourage someone else to go to their local shelter and give another pit bull a second chance, then it is well worth the effort. Hopefully, I will change many minds!

As a therapy dog and community volunteer, my mission is to improve the lives of people and pets by:

  • Comforting and bringing joy to the clients I visit through my therapy work;
  • Promoting a love of reading and learning in children through my work as a Reading Education Assistance Dog;
  • Educating others about responsible pet ownership, the importance of spaying and neutering, and safety around dogs;
  • Promoting the acceptance of others’ differences by “not judging a book by its cover” and educating about the negative and harmful effects of stereotyping and discrimination of people and pets (breed specific legislation); and
  • Acting as an ambassador to improve the public’s perception of pit bulls!

During the past two years, I’ve had the privilege and honor of meeting thousands of people, mostly children, and participating in a variety of events in my community and surrounding areas. I am eternally grateful to all the people, businesses, organizations and facilities that have looked past my breed and partnered with me to improve the lives of both people and pets.

I am also extremely thankful to all my friends in the media who have shared my story and message that each and every one of us — even the rejected and misunderstood – has something valuable to offer to make the world a better place!

Some highlights include:

  • My partnership with The Woodlands Children’s Museum, which began in February 2014, to give a 30 minute class titled, “Lily’s Canine Safety Course,” to the KinderReady class. Twice a month I have the amazing opportunity to meet with two groups of pre-K kids and teach them how to be safe around dogs and caring, responsible pet owners.
  • Hosting my very own booth in the children’s Artopoly Area of The Woodlands 2014 Arts Festival. Voted the best art show in the State of Texas and the 3rd best art show in the nation, it was a huge honor to be a part of this two-day event, which bought in over 18,000 visitors!
  • Partnering with Operation Pets Alive! to celebrate my 3rd birthday by sponsoring Transport Truck #86 and giving 10 at risk shelter dogs a one way ticket from Texas to the Dakin Humane Society in Massachusetts, where they all found forever homes within 1 week!

My proudest moments by far, however, are when I am able to bring a smile to someone’s face, to bring someone a moment of joy, or to make a positive impression and turn a doubter into a believer!!

I invite you to be a part of my journey on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram!

Lily

Parent: Debra

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