Changing mind, changing lives: Jennifer Dirks
A number of years back, few could have imagined Millie as an ambassador for pit bulls. She was even labeled “unadoptable” by a Sioux Falls TV station that featured her on the news. It was tongue-in-cheek, of course. But it made a point about Millie’s situation: she didn’t fit into two specific categories that would’ve increased her chances of finding a home. First, she doesn’t have a big, blocky head that people who like pits often desire. Second, she’s a pit bull-type dog, which are among the least likely to get adopted due to negative stigmas.
As fate would have it, Jennifer Dirks was watching the news that night… and fell in love. As she puts it, “Millie just spoke to me.” So much so, that she and her husband, Charlie, came all the way from their farm in Groton, in the far northern part of South Dakota, to meet her and take her home.
Jen and Charlie never had anything against pit bulls. But after 2-years with Millie, they are champions of the “breed.” (The term “pit bull” is not an actual breed, but rather a category characterized by blocky-headed dogs). Those block heads are widely known to be highly people-oriented. Jen describes Millie as a “Velcro dog” – one that never leaves your side. A real mush with an expressive face. Very laid-back. A couch potato, actually. As Jen puts it, “She’s so polite, takes treats gently, doesn’t get into the trash or jump on people. She’s an absolute dream. And, perhaps best of all, she doesn’t fart!!”
Millie unabashedly loves her humans and vice-versa. But she can be dog-selective, though she does well with most after proper introductions. And so it was with the Dirks’ dog Sadie. After Millie got home and had her two-week shut down, Jen and Charlie took the dogs on side-by-side walks and closely monitored sniff sessions. The dogs became fast friends. Millie even sensed that Sadie was a senior dog and not quite as playful as her prior foster siblings, but loved her just the same. (Sadie passed away after a long, happy life in 2016).
Given all this wonderful firsthand experience with Millie, Jen and Charlie take the responsibility of owning a pit bull to heart, spending countless hours online educating themselves about pit bulls, enrichment games, training, and the like. They just wish they lived closer to Sioux Falls so they could participate in SEPR pack walks and Train-A-Bull sessions!!
Millie’s social schedule was pretty full this past holiday season. Like when the Dirks’ hosted a going away party for a friend. One of the families arrived with their children, the youngest being a year-and-a-half old who loves dogs. While she was petting Millie her mom asked Jen what kind of a dog she was. Pit bull mix? Uh-oh!! Jumping at the chance to use her knowledge and experience to educate, Jen gave the mom a quick history on Millie, and a hands-on lesson in the true nature of these dogs.
A bit later, as she and the mom chatted over some cake, Jen lamented how busy she and Charlie get during harvest time on the farm, which means less quality time with Millie. The mom – in a record-breaking turnaround - responded by offering to bring a couple of her kids over to hang out with Millie!!
Though Jen was thrilled that she and Millie had made such a powerful impression, she declined the sweet offer, at least until the kids grow up a bit! In the meantime… Jen, Charlie and Millie will remain doggedly committed to changing minds and changing lives, one pit bull at a time.