A Life After Cruelty: One Pit Bull Finds a Family to Love

October 24, 2018


Julie Sonenberg had been looking for a pit bull to adopt for almost a year—one who would mesh well with her five-year-old daughter Billie, her husband David and their 11-year-old Pug, Milton.

“After we moved to the suburbs in 2017, I began looking for a second dog,” explains Julie, Senior Administrative Manager for the ASPCA’s Volunteer Program. “With a young daughter and a mostly blind senior Pug, it was important to find a dog who would be gentle and sweet with them.” 

Julie also longed for an “ambassador” pit bull—a term used for dogs who showcase the breed’s most positive qualities. Every time she came to work, she walked hopefully through the ASPCA Adoption Center. One day she noticed Patsy, a large, three-year-old pit bull.

Patsy and Julie

“She is strikingly beautiful, and for a large dog, she was rated to be good with kids,” says Julie. “Kennel staff and volunteers all told me she’s a gem. I took her for a walk and found her to be so sweet and lovely.”

A Cruel Past

While Patsy was lovely, her background was anything but. Julie learned that Patsy had been siezed by the NYPD on April 16. She had been found abandoned in a crate in an apartment on Staten Island with severe bite wounds on her head and ears. Initially taken to Staten Island Veterinary Services, Patsy was transported to the ASPCA the next day.

Patsy after being rescue

Dr. Alison Liu, a Forensic Veterinarian at the ASPCA, thought Patsy was alarmingly underweight at just 36 lb.

“We see a lot of underweight and emaciated animals, unfortunately,” says Dr. Liu. “But animals don’t lose weight overnight. To become nearly 20 lb. underweight, as Patsy was, took a significant amount of time. She clearly didn’t get enough calories, and she wasn’t fed frequently enough.”

Patsy's injuries

Dr. Liu treated Patsy for roundworms and an ear infection, and noted scar tissue around her bite wounds and shredded left ear, all in various stages of healing. In the weeks that followed, as she healed, Patsy gained weight, eventually reaching a healthy 50 lb.

Patsy's injuries

Paulina Wass, a Senior Animal Care Technician at the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center, recalls that Patsy was initially nervous and scared. “But she loved games of fetch,” Paulina says. “When we played with her, she opened up.”

A New Life

Julie’s family adopted Patsy on July 12. At a housewarming party that soon followed, Pasty—now Petunia—wowed neighbors with her skills at fetch. 

“She was the star of the show,” says Julie, who recalls that Petunia played with various guests for five hours. “She was in heaven!”

Petunia often tries to get her older sibling Milton to play with her by bowing and running away. Though her tail often strikes his face, the older gentleman takes it in stride. 

When people walk in through the front door, Petunia runs to get a toy. “When she’s really happy, she tosses her toy in the air and rolls around on top of it with glee,” reports Julie.

Billie and Petunia

Petunia can also distinguish which toys are hers and which ones are Billie’s, according to Julie. “If Billie throws the toy for her, she will bring it back and gently put it in Billie’s hand or lay it at her feet. She also takes treats gently, and she doesn’t jump up or beg.”

Petunia jogs with Julie, “like she’s been doing it her whole life,” and she enjoys hiking as well.

Petunia and her new family

All that activity takes a toll, and in the evening, Petunia turns into a couch potato, climbing onto the sofa—one foot at a time—to watch television and get belly rubs. “We call it slinking. It’s adorable,” says Julie.

”The couch by our front door is now Petunia’s couch. She sleeps on it all the time,” Julie adds. “It’s nice because it’s a central spot where we can walk past and kiss her on the head as we go about our day.”

Petunia’s personality shows no signs of her traumatic past, and Julie says she is a trusting and loyal companion.

Petunia Billie and Milton

“She’s been an amazing ambassador. Everyone who meets her just loves her,” reports Julie. “If you just look at or talk to her, she wags her tail, even if she’s sleeping. If she sees someone when we’re on a walk, she wags her tail.  

“She’s had some nightmares which makes me feel sad for what she endured in her past,” admits Julie. “But I’m so happy to know what a wonderful life we’ve begun together. And I know she’s happy, too.”

This Saturday, October 27, is National Pit Bull Awareness Day and we hope that you help us as we continue to spread positive messages about this misunderstood breed. So many pit bulls are just like Petunia, simply waiting for someone to see beyond a negative stereotype and give them a chance.
Petunia’s story is just one of many pit bulls’, and we hope that as people continue to open their minds, more pit bulls are able to find loving homes year-round.