Though Felanie is no longer with us, this site will continue to spread the messages of equality, tolerance, fairness, and love that Felanie carried with her and shared with others throughout her life. Though she never knew it, Felanie directly changed the hearts and minds of the people she met, and, through this website and other publications that tell her story, I hope she is able to open the eyes and hearts of those who never had the pleasure to meet her.
I can sum up her story fairly quickly; though the details are a bit unusual, the story itself shares a common thread with many other pit bulls’ tales.
Puppy Felanie was acquired by an acquaintance of my husband, a twenty-something young man looking for a status symbol. He named her “Felony,” cropped her ears to make her look vicious (the only time he ever took her to the vet), and began to tease and torment her in an effort to “toughen her up.” The low-level mental and physical abuse didn’t make her tough or mean; the poor dog became a hollow shell of fear and suspicion.
Two years later, Felanie’s previous owner got in some trouble and vanished. My now-husband and I moved into the house where the young man had lived, and there was grown-up Felanie. She was ours. I changed the spelling of her name right away, and in public, we called her “Fel.” If I had known more about dogs, I would have changed her name more significantly, but at the time, I didn’t think you could change the name of such an old dog!
At first, Fel was a terrifying dog to live with. She had some serious fear issues; every little movement and noise startled her, and she spent a lot of time slinking, darting, growling, and hiding. She definitely did not trust us at all. Her truly devilish appearance did not help (totally red, with pointy ears and yellow eyes), nor did the fact that I’d never had a dog before. Furthermore, I knew that Felanie was a pit bull, and pit bulls are notorious for killing people, eating babies, and being totally unpredictable.
But I wasn’t about to let my own fear possess me. And I wanted to give Fel every possible chance to become part of our family. I immediately started reading books and websites. I enrolled the two of us in obedience classes. I loaded my pockets with treats.
In weeks, Felanie had given up many of her fearful behaviors. Within two months, she and I had become a tight team. And over the next year, she graduated at the top of two obedience classes. We moved from obedience to canine sports—agility. She was fantastic—enthusiastic, obedient, agile, and attentive.
Ultimately, Felanie became everything I could have wanted in a dog. She was intensely loving, faithful, gentle, quiet, tolerant, and completely obedient. She was not the “Evil Pit Bull” I had so feared. She was a wonderful companion from start to finish.
It’s not easy to explain the dramatic impact Fel had on me. On a superficial level, she helped me develop a genuine interest in something for the first time in my life. All the way through my bachelor’s degree and on into my first job, I had no real interest or specialty to call my own.
But because of Felanie, I found myself learning about and sharing information about pit bulls and dog behavior through my website. This became a “specialty” of sorts, but I also saw the potential to delve deeper into communication so as to improve my website and communicate more persuasively and authoritatively.
So, in a convoluted way, Felanie inspired me to get my master’s degree in technical communication.
But her influence permeates deeper than this. Because of her (and now, Dozer and Star), I became a member of the heavily stigmatized group known as “pit bull owners.”
This was the first genuine experience with discrimination I’d ever had, an experience I probably would not ever have had if not for Felanie. It was both shocking and painful to learn that, because of my dog, I was personally unwelcome in dozens of cities and towns across the country. Certain politicians apparently consider me—and many other pit bull owners just like me—a criminal who is undesirable in their community!
Felanie lit the flame of justice that burns inside me today, and in her memory, I will continue to speak out against prejudice and stereotype in all its forms for as long as I live.