Pit bulls can have a bad rap. For decades, the media has published numerous stories about pit bulls behaving violently. Just as the world tends to erroneously stereotype humans, however, it has also incorrectly over-generalized pit bulls. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting a pit bull, we’ll introduce you to a remarkable one here.
The Gift of Illness
When someone you love is sick, it can feel like torture. All you want is to ease their suffering and help them feel better. For parents, the experience of having a sick child is perhaps incomparably strong. When our children are ill, time – and the whole world – simply stops. Work obligations, errands, and self-care come to a screeching halt when family members, especially children, are sick. There is one gift in the midst of seeing a loved one fall ill, however.
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Illness can shine a light on depths of love previously unknown. We see a new kind of commitment, loyalty, and dedication, signifiers of empathy and true love that may have been untapped before.
One Pit Bull to the Rescue
One pit bull, in particular, demonstrated unwavering love to an unsuspecting little boy. The dog, named Riddick, appears rather large, muscular, and macho. Judging him by his appearance alone, you might not expect such a robust pit bull to become extraordinarily nurturing around children. However, from the moment his humans brought their first baby home from the hospital, Riddick displayed a gentle, doting side. (1)
The depth of his love became all the more apparent when his little human, Dawson, fell ill with the flu. The brawny pit bull sat next to the young boy and refused to leave his side. He watched over Dawson and curled up next to him nonstop until he recovered. Images of the pit bull’s worried, loving expression as he snuggled up with his flu-ridden boy have gone viral, maybe in part, because we recognize the love and compassion he is so clearly expressing for a sick loved one. (1)
Do Dogs Feel Empathy?
Examining images of Riddick napping loyally next to his sick boy, we are forced to recognize that it appears dogs do, in fact, feel empathy. Although scientists have conducted formal studies to determine whether dogs feel empathy or not, those of us who live with and love dogs don’t need scientific research to prove what we already know – and what Riddick has shown the world: Dogs feel immense empathy. (2)
How do we dog-loving people know dogs feel empathy? Because our canine companions demonstrate this time and again.
We know it when our dog sits by us, nervous and panting, any time we are upset.
We know it when our dog tries to soothe us any time we cry.
We know it when our dog stares at us longingly every time we leave the house.
We know it when our dog feels playful and excited in response to our playfulness and excitement.
We know it when we experience great loss – death, miscarriages, and break-ups -, and they gaze at us with unquestionable compassion as we grieve.
We know it when they run into burning buildings to save loved ones, when they lay next to us if we are bedridden, and when they refuse to leave our child’s side when he has the flu.
- Facebook/ Bryan Junior