This is Ilsa:
Four years ago, we were living in Pittsburgh. I had few friends, fewer hobbies, and Brad was super busy with law school, work, and cycling. I really needed someone or something in my life. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and after months of deliberation, Brad and I went to the animal shelter in our neighborhood to look for a dog.
We saw a few dogs that day that caught our eye: a black lab who had the loudest bark I've ever heard, a beagle mix that bit the volunteer as she took him out of his kennel, and two pit bulls: Dice and Candy. We decided not to bother with the biting beagle, and we took the lab, Dice, and Candy each into the visitation room and for walks around the block. Candy was the best. She rubbed on our legs like a cat in the visitation room, tail constantly wagging, and when we took her out for her walk, she acted like it was the best thing ever. She was runty and skinny and had recently given birth, but she was as sweet as, well, candy.
I never had any intention of owning a pit bull, but we adopted her on the spot and she became part of our little family.
She had been abandoned, neglected for sure, possible abused. She winced when you made too sudden a movement. Still, we took her home, renamed her Ilsa, and hoped that she wouldn't kill us in our sleep. We were so scared that first night, not knowing what to expect. She was timid and frightened, but still loved attention and wagged that tail almost constantly.
Over the next year, we learned a lot about her. She would destroy books sometimes, mainly dog training ones. She ate a Garmin once. She didn't like other dogs. She enjoyed licking her belly. She smelled really bad sometimes. She would occasionally go for days without eating for no real reason. She would shit on the floor out of spite every now and then.
She was home with me when our apartment was broken into and she scared the guy away with a bark I've not heard before or since
She still loves every single person that she meets.
She has since warmed up to certain dogs, but not all. She hasn't eaten a book in a long while, nor has she shit on the floor recently. She knows when I am sad and sticks to me like velcro. If I cry, she comes over to see what is wrong. She loves to sprint in circles in her new fenced-in backyard. She's my favorite hiking partner.
And we have gone on many adventures together.
She's not the best dog in the world, or the most easy to manage, or the most media-friendly. But I wouldn't trade her for anything.