Sunday, February 1, 2009

Norton, Purina's Hero Pit Bull

A LITTLE over five years ago, my husband and I heard of this "loser" dog needing a home, loser because he was a pitbull that 'wouldn't fight!' We had two dogs at the time, a Rottie and an Amstaff, so we weren't looking for another dog, but something made us call these people to find out about Norton. The owner said thanks but they'd already found a home for him.
Two days later we got a call from this person saying Norton had been returned and would we like to see him. We loaded our dogs into the car and told ourselves that we were just going to look but it would be a good idea to see if there was a chance all the dogs would get along. I won't go into the horror we saw or the condition that Norton was in but we knew immediately that we couldn't leave this 6-month-old pup there.
His scars weren't just physical, he suffered from severe separation anxiety as well. Norton could not be left alone, he would eat his way out of any enclosure or room he was left in. He had to be with people or he panicked. We were lucky enough to be able to have my husband take him to work every day but on the rare occasion we had to leave him alone he had to be heavily tranquilized. We tried all sorts of training and meds but nothing worked.
We resigned ourselves to the fact that wherever we went, Norton came too, then tragedy struck. Our Amstaff, Hillary, passed away. We were devastated, but it was worse for Norton - he lost a very important member of his pack. The separation anxiety got worse, he followed us everywhere. He took to sleeping in our walk in closet as long as the door was open and he could see us in bed. We knew our Rottie was aging and Norton needed a pal. Well, I'll be honest, I needed another Amstaff, not to replace Hillary in my heart, but to help fill the void her death had created. I found a beautiful Amstaff pup at Barberycoast Kennels in Nova Scotia. I was still reeling from the loss of my precious pup so I knew how Norton must be feeling.
Maybe a pup would be good for him and make him feel he had a larger pack to depend on. Little did I know that we would lose our rottie three weeks after our perfect Haley came to live with us. I'm so grateful that we found Haley, she filled my aching heart with love and Norton's life with joy. You could see the love of life in his eyes for the first time. He had a true companion.
During all of this our city passed a bylaw restricting pitbulls but allowing pedigreed Amstaffs (go figure!). We would be allowed to keep Norton if he could pass a 'Good Citizenship' test (same as a temperament test). Norton may have his problems but temperament isn't one of them, he passed with flying colours, after all, we were there so he felt safe. He was 'grandfathered' and the only restriction is that he had to wear a large tag saying "restricted" on it. Oh, he also had to be neutered and microchipped but we had already done that when we got him. One night about a month after we got our new pup Haley, I got up to go to the bathroom, making sure the bedroom door was shut behind me so that Haley wouldn't wander out and have an accident on the carpet.
While I was in the bathroom I was bitten by a spider. I was on medication at the time and it inhibited my body from producing any antihistamines, so I went into anaphylactic shock. My throat closed and I got very light headed, I felt like I was being put under anesethic. I couldn't make it out of the bathroom and I couldn't make a sound. For some unknown reason, Norton got up from his bed in the closet and went over to my sleeping husband and kept pushing him with him nose until Barrie woke up.
When Barrie saw how upset Norton was and that I wasn't there he went looking for me and found me almost unconscious. He called the paramedics and by the time they arrived I had stopped breathing. I spent two days in intensive care and a week at home recovering from a simple non-poisonous bite.
To this day I don't know how Norton knew one of his pack was in trouble but I do know that I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for him. We had rescued him from a 'bad home' and he took returning the favour very seriously. Norton was inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame this year for his heroic act. We received a beautiful oil portrait of Norton from Purina and Norton got a medal and a year's supply of dog food.
He had a wonderful time for the three days we were in Toronto with him, he had his own stretch limo to take him to the TV studios and awards banquet and he was allowed into all the restaurants we were taken to.
The Toronto Humane Society also honoured him in May, he received another medal and a gift certificate for a month's worth of treats. Of course he shares with Haley, he literally allows her to take food out of his mouth.
Boy, for a restricted dog he sure is a good ambassador for his breed.
As for his breeding, I don't have a pedigree for him so who knows, all I know is that he's my hero and I owe him my life.Time, love, and Haley have done wonders for his separation anxiety, we can now leave him home with Haley for 4 or 5 hours without causing him stress and it's getting longer all the time.
Life without Norton? I don't want to even think about it. When the time comes I'll deal with it the best I can, but until then I spend every day loving him. Everyday is a precious gift he gave me.

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