Hi! My name is Meatball. My story started in the first dog park in the city of Cleveland, Tremont’s Clark Fields.
Soon after the park was opened, a group of people came to use the park with their dogs and found a small, probably 6-week-old puppy tied to the fence. That was me. One of them, who had two male German Shepherds, said she would take me home with her. She named me Clark. That should be my happy ending, right?
Sadly, as I got a little older, her dogs—who were unaltered—started attacking me and she let them. This continued for a couple of months with me, requiring frequent vet care. The vet at Gateway Animal Hospital suggested she have me neutered, which she did, but the attacks didn’t stop.
The vet then suggested that if she wanted to keep me alive, she should have her other male dogs neutered. She had one neutered and then decided—after another attack that nearly killed me—that she wanted me euthanized because I was “too expensive and costing too much money.” She asked the vet to do it.
The vet, having seen the abuse I suffered for the past year and knowing what a good boy I am, asked my owner to sign me over to the vet clinic and covered the costs of that day’s treatment, which were substantial. She signed me over and a vet tech went into the waiting room where the president of a rescue was waiting for her personal dog to be seen by a vet, and asked if she could take me into her program.
She fell in love with me and not only took me into her rescue, but fostered me at her home. I also got a new name: Meatball.
Right around the time all of this was happening, there is a woman named Sandy whose dog Ted was dying of cancer. Ted was an amazing pit bull—socialized, Canine Good Citizen Certified, a neighborhood celebrity. After he passed away, the vet tech—who is Sandy’s friend—started sending her photos of me.
She told Sandy that I am an amazing dog with green eyes who she claimed was “just like Ted.” Sandy wasn’t ready.
Meanwhile, the trainer who certified Ted as CGC contacted her and said Ted was the first pit bull dog she had certified and she wanted to do a special fundraiser in Ted’s honor for his rescue. It would be a CGC workshop and certification test for “monster” breeds—bullies, Rotties, Dobermans…—to show how wonderful they are. All proceeds would go to Ted’s rescue. Sandy didn’t know it at the time, but I participated in that fundraiser and received my CGC.
Sandy’s friend the vet tech once again started sending her photos and videos, and tagging her on my photos on Facebook. Sandy knew she wasn’t ready for another dog and that no dog could replace Ted. But to shut her friend up, she agreed to meet me four months after she started sending her photos.
I went home from the meet-and-greet with Sandy and we’ve been together for five years.
My mom says I’m a clown, a goofball, a dog who has changed hundreds of people’s minds about what a pit bull dog is “supposed” to be. I have helped her foster half a dozen dogs, including “Monster” Bonzai, who was afraid of every dog until he met me. I showed Bonzai how to have fun. Mom says I am a therapy dog for dogs…
One time, a play session between Bonzai and I turned rough. And that one time was enough for Bonzai to infect me with Babesia Gibsoni, a bloodborne autoimmune disease that generally is not treated until a dog shows symptoms (treating an asymptomatic dog can cause the disease to flare up and can be fatal).
Twice now, I have overcome bouts of Babesia, which cause my red blood cells to mutate and my white blood cells to attack them. We’ve been fortunate in that when I begin to break with the disease, I show symptoms early on like lethargy and lack of appetite. Bonzai showed no symptoms—although my family knew he had it—until the day he died; and at that point, his internal organs were shutting down.
So now, through my Facebook page, I helps educate people about Babesia Gibsoni, which can be spread by dog fights and by kenneling dogs in close quarters. Whenever I become ill, our friends (and strangers) rally around us.
The first time I became ill, the medicine to treat me cost $1,700 at a traditional pharmacy or from the vet. The Cleveland MetroParks Zoo uses the same medicine to treat kangaroos and had a bottle on hand that recently had expired and could no longer be used for zoo animals. The vet at the zoo donated it to me at the request of a friend of my mom who used to work there.
The second time I became ill, my parents’ friends researched alternative sources for the medicine and one found a compounding vet pharmacy that would make it for 1/10th of the price of a regular pharmacy. My parents been able to share that info with other dog owners who have dogs with Babesia Gibsoni.
Along with that medicine, I have to take steroids and antibiotics and have frequent bloodwork done, which can add up to hundreds of dollars. Friends have held fundraisers for me and the last time, so much money was raised that much of it was donated to other families with dogs in need of veterinary care.
My mom says that I am such a meathead/goofball that no one can look at me and be “afraid” of pit bull dogs. I am a clown who play bows to every dog I meet and who gators on my back to get attention from humans.
I’ve won kissing contests and when asked to “wiggle my butt,” I flip around in a circle and presents my wiggling, wagging tail end to my audience.
I’m very grateful to Ted. Mom says Ted’s journey took him away from this world, which made room in her heart and home for me. I know I didn’t replace him, but mom says in my own right, I am irreplaceable.