I WAS INTRODUCED to the American Pit Bull Terrier in the year of 1985. I was in a tavern in New Zealand having a few ales with some good friends of mine when the topic of conversation turned to dogs. I, who have never owned a dog listened to my friends as they told their stories of the various breeds of dogs that they had owned. Stories were told, some were boosted by the amount of alcohol that was consumed. One of my mates who had never said a thing this whole time, drained his glass and said "be here tomorrow same time and I'll show you a real dog." With that, he left and we turned back to our glasses and carried on telling more lies. Next day we were waiting for our mate with this "real dog" to arrive. There he was, in his classic 2002 BMW with a little smile on his face. We went over to his car and he got out, went to the back door and out jumped the most awesome looking animal I had ever seen. After I picked my jaw up off the ground I said "shit!", "what sort of dog is that?" It looked like it weighed about 45 lbs, but to me it looked like the incredible hulk on four legs. I had never seen a dog like it. The rest of my friends were of the same opinion. "That", he said, "is an American Pit Bull Terrier." "I want one, I want one, I want one" was all I could think about. I asked him about the dog and where he got it from. He didn't know too much about its pedigree but he said his son got it from Australia. I asked him if he was for sale and what he said nearly floored me. "You can have him." "Do you want him?" I said "shit yeah". "Give me a couple of days and I'll pick him up." For the next day or so I called all the book shops I could to get reading material on the breed. I got all of Richard Stratton's books and studied them intently. With the help of these books I had a little idea of what the breed was about. The time came for me to collect "Benson". I was excited as I pulled up to the house. My friend came out and I said "where's Benson?" "My son took him back, I'm sorry." After that disappointment I knew there would be other Bensons.
MY FIRST DOG was called "Casper". He was a Sorrel's/Greenwood breeding. A very intense dog who did it all. I had him four years, until someone gave him anti-freeze to drink. I still miss him. I met Andrew Marshall, who started a registry in New Zealand for the breed, through the distributor of the Stratton books. He and I were to form a friendship through the dogs. He told me of others who were interested or who had dogs in my area. Ken Moran was one who I came to know very well and with him formed The American Pit Bull Club of Auckland, NZ. The club was formed in 1989 and we held our first show the following year. Due to the media interest in our breed we had the largest newspaper reporters at our show along with national TV coverage. All told there would have been about 1200 people at that show, either those who were interested in the breed or those who were curious to look at these "killer" dogs. The show went of like a dream. All the dogs behaved themselves, no fights, no bites. We were stoked.
FROM THOSE BEGINNINGS we made enough money to bring Judges to New Zealand, the first being Gary Hammonds. Then Richard Stratton, James Crenshaw, Frank Rocca, Bert Sorrells, and Joanie Sorrells (who became my future wife).
In 1996 I decided to come to the home of the American Pitbull Terrier and I attended the Nationals in Denton, TX. I met many fine dog people there. My host in Denton was a fine gentleman named Ed Hinkle. Joanie met me in Texas and we made our way back to Florida with a couple of her friends. While in Florida Joanie and I told each other how we felt about one another after having formed a great friendship while she was in New Zealand. Seeing that yard with over one hundred dogs was incredible. I saw Gary Hammonds yard in Texas, but his dogs were under trees and you couldn't really see the numbers. But out in the open, Joanie's yard looked huge. Back home in New Zealand, five dogs is a large yard. I saw some great dogs on that yard; Sailor, Raisin, Sidekick, et al. My stay at her house came to an end and I had to get back home. I made my way across the states via Greyhound, stopping at various points along the way. I stayed with Able Santillion in Houston, TX. I also stayed with Richard Stratton in San Diego. Great people.
WHEN I GOT BACK to New Zealand I cleaned up all my affairs and returned to the states and married Joanie. We have made Northwest Florida our home and I can tell you that I have never been more happy in all my life. We now have a great strain of dogs on our yard that anyone would be proud to own. Who would have thought that having a beer all those years ago would have given me a wonderful wife and son, and all those great dogs.
I am very contented with my life. I worked eight years at Walton County EOC as a E911 dispatcher and Communications Supervisor and presently as a Environmental Specialist with Walton County Department of Health. These dogs have been so good to me.
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