Pet Diaries: The Special Needs Pit Bull Who Taught Us Love Isn't Perfect
Introducing Pet Diaries: Life lessons learned from our pets. This 9-part series is brought to you by GOOD, in partnership with Purina ONE®, and explores how having a pet can change your place in your neighborhood, community, and beyond. Check out more stories at the GOOD Pets hub.
Screenwriter/author Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and writer/director Kurt Lustgarten met in Los Angeles to collaborate on future film projects. As an added bonus, they fell in love. One of their major obstacles was that Kurt lived in New York and Kiwi in L.A. While discussing Kurt’s move to L.A., Kiwi proposed they adopt a dog together. Here is a he said, she said account of how a dog adoption figured into their roller coaster romance.
Kiwi: I wasn’t really sure if Kurt was ever going to move here, so I kind of floated the idea of getting a dog as a test—
Kurt: One of those girly things where you measure a man’s commitment by asking him to sign a binding contract.
Kiwi: True. Plus my other dog, Maui, seemed like he was lonely.
Kurt: I suggested we get a greyhound since I’d had one before, but then she saw this video of a pit bull puppy named Pippin.
Kiwi: She was one of the cutest, weirdest dogs ever.
Kurt: She was a special needs puppy. She’d been mauled by another dog, and her foster owner got her surgery to reconstruct her nose, which was great, but it left her with no sense of smell…which for a dog, seemed like it could be a big problem.
Kiwi: Kurt sent me a very long email detailing how a “special needs pit bull” could be extremely high-maintenance.
Kurt: I like to plan ahead before calling action and—
Kiwi: I’m more of a rush-into-things kind of person. Which is basically what I did with Pippin. Her foster owner brought her over to the house one day and I fell instantly in love. I admit I didn’t fully consider the ramifications before I got her. Kurt, on the other hand, is a little OCD, so he was taken aback by all her snorting and licking and destruction. So not only was he annoyed with Pippin when he moved in, but he was also kind of annoyed with me.
Kurt: I felt like the two of them were constantly starting all these little fires I had to put out. It was a lot to get used to all at once.
Kiwi: We had to get used to Kurt, too. He’s very tidy so he was always trying to get me to clean up after myself, like the way he does.
Kurt: We had to make adjustments. I had to get used to Pippin’s demonic snarfing noises and also, without a sense of smell, she doesn’t know what is food and what isn’t. To her, everything is edible: dried leaves, lip balm, back issues of Us Weekly….I had to watch her constantly to make sure she didn’t eat something that would kill her. I would find myself doing the same things with Kiwi. But unlike Pippin, Kiwi is untrainable.
Kiwi: That’s the hardest thing in a human relationship. You have to accept the person you love, you have to embrace their flaws. Love is really having to change who YOU are and not who the other person is.
Kurt: I learned from Kiwi and Pippin that nothing is a lost cause. Pippin had her nose ripped off and she still found a way to be one of the prettiest, happiest dogs I’ve ever seen. There are very few mistakes that can’t be fixed and you have to make the best of them. And maybe, if how we ended up with Pippin is any proof, maybe sometimes it’s good to be hasty.
Kiwi: But sometimes it’s better to be thoughtful and methodical. I need to practice that more often.
Kurt: I remember one night a few months after getting Pippin, when she transformed from an adorable puppy into a 40-pound chunk of muscle. She crawled into my lap, her eyelids were shutting, and every time she was about to doze off, her mouth would close and it would snuff her air supply, so she’d gag herself awake. I finally pried her mouth open and stuck my finger in her scary pit bull jaws, and I kept it there while she slept.
Kiwi: Pippin fell asleep instantly. She just needed someone to help her breathe.
Kurt: She reminded me it takes trust on both sides in order to help each other….
Kiwi: Sometimes if Kurt and I have a fight or something, I’ll get fatalistic about it: “Oh, it’s over, we’re going to break up, this is terrible.” But it occurred to me recently that that’s not a very Pippin-esque attitude. She’s so positive. No nose? No problem. So that’s what I try to think now if we have a fight.
Kurt: “No nose, no problem?”
Kiwi: No, that I love Kurt and he loves me and big whoop if he’s tidy and I’m messy and he moves slowly and precisely and I run roughshod. We may not be on the same wavelength in every single way but how we handle our imperfections is what makes us unique. If we are struggling to breathe, we’re learning to stick a proverbial finger in the mouth. And we may have flaws, but flaws are part of what makes Pippin cool, and they’re part of what makes us cool, too.
Kurt: But only if one of us is cool enough to sound like this when she sleeps.
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Top photo courtesy of Jesse A. Sobol