Meet 2 pit bulls that had it rough. Their human families' love saved them from stigma.

Canelo and Lula found forever families, and those families changed everything.

Like many pit bulls, Lula was a stray.

When Lula first showed up at the Hughes' home, she was severely underweight. She was also covered in scars and had evidence of mistreatment, but her sweet disposition won her family over immediately.

Lula was "just a giant head attached to a bag of bones," Ame Hughes told me about the day her family met her.


Lula photos via the Hughes family, used with permission.

And yet, Ame said, "I knew we were goners from the start. She's just too easy to fall in love with!"

Pit bulls have an unfortunate history in America as fighting dogs.

They're sometimes kidnapped or recruited into dogfighting circles. This bad reputation — often misguided — makes it difficult for pitties to get adopted. In fact, some adoption centers won't put pit bulls up for adoption at all.

But studies (like this 2013 one from the American Temperament Test Society) have disproved people's fears about pit bulls, showing that the pups are actually far more friendly and stable on average than most other dog breeds. Many pittie owners, like me and others, will tell you their dogs are nothing but loving.

Rather than risk Lula's low chances of adoption from a shelter, the Hughes family decided to take her in. They gave her a forever family on Valentine's Day 2012.

“She's a gentle baby," Ame says about Lula's temperament three years later. “[She] will kiss whatever happens to be in front of her face, including our guinea pigs."


Lula is also a big fan of napping with the Hughes kids in her favorite chair.

But even once a pit bull is adopted, discrimination lurks everywhere on a daily basis.

When my husband and I first adopted our pit bull, Tori, the adoption organization suggested — like places do for many types of dogs — that we enroll her in behavior training. We live very close to a PetSmart, so we planned to take her there. But guess what? PetSmart does not allow "bully" breeds to be trained at their locations. (They also specify that they don't allow wolves. Good to know, right?)

It's a common and sad story, one Simona Mihiela says she's faced with her pit bull, Canelo. Simona has been Canelo's dog mom since he was six weeks old.

All Canelo photos via Simona Mihiela, used with permission.

"He has been the joy of my life!" Simona told me. "[He] still thinks he's a 13-pound baby. He tries to crawl in my lap!"

But when Canelo grew into a 126-pound big boy, he didn't always mind commands like "sit" and "stay." So Simona sent him to an extended behavioral training course that a friend recommended.

Look at that sweet face! But, no, not quite a lap dog anymore, are we, buddy?

What's hard to realize is that pit bull mistreatment can happen anywhere.

Simona says when she took Canelo to obedience training, he was healthy. When he came back, he was 17 pounds lighter and covered in cuts and scars. She believes that because of his breed, Canelo was used for stereotypical dogfighting during his "training." He had fresh and healing cuts and sores all over his body, and his teeth were damaged, she says. According to Simona, the training facility, which has since closed, says Canelo caused his own injuries.

Poor Canelo!

Canelo is safe and sound now, thanks to Simona's efforts.

He's on five different medications and needs surgery on his teeth, Simona says. But despite that, he's still a happy pup. With her own form of training now, Simona encourages him with treats, toys, and “showing him tons of love."

Canelo and Simona: forever friends!

While Lula and Canelo were lucky enough to be saved from tough situations by their families, many pit bulls aren't.

But even people who don't own pit bulls can help change the current stigma! Organizations like The Humane Society of the United States offer rewards to people who report suspected instances of dogfighting. And Facebook groups like Your Pit Bull and You, Bully Rescue and Advocacy, and Pit Bull Advocates share positive pittie news and educate followers about training tips.

If pit bulls don't have humans expecting and encouraging them to fight, maybe we can see how family-friendly they can be!

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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