Toaster defies pit bull stigma

BLYTHEWOOD – When a Blythewood woman rescued a stray pit bull mix last winter, she already had her own quota of pets. So she boarded the stray with her vet as she looked for it a home.

But the pup’s prospects for adoption grew dim as the vet’s boarding charges mounted. Even those who were looking to adopt a dog, weren’t interested in a pit bull mix, the woman said. With no takers and a need to move the dog from the vet’s kennel, the woman reached out to her friend Minge Wiseman to help by fostering the dog while the woman continued to try to find it a home.

Ralph and Sherry Ellingsen with Toaster | Photo: Barbara Ball

Wiseman took the dog to her horse farm in Blythewood in January. She called him Toaster – for reasons she can’t recall now – and he quickly acclimated to an idyllic life on the Wiseman farm, passing his days playing with Wiseman’s own rescue, a blonde, longhaired dachshund named Barney, as Wiseman, too, began trying to find Toaster a home.

“It’s hard to place a pit bull or even a pit bull mix,” Wiseman said, “because people are afraid to adopt this breed. They don’t know their history or background. But Toaster is a wonderful dog. He just happens to be a pit bull mix. Pit bulls are not mean. By their nature, they are not that way. People just don’t realize what they’re missing by passing up these dogs.”

Indeed, Toaster is the poster pup for ‘the good dog.’ He’s happy, energetic, playful and seems to delight in learning tricks and commands. Wiseman said he loves nothing more than chewing sticks and chasing balls. She says he plays well with children and other pets.

“Toaster’s just the perfect dog,” Wiseman said when she approached The Voice about run ning a free ad in the newspaper in an effort to find a home for him.

After tying a spiffy turquoise bandana around his neck and asking him to sit, The Voice photographer snapped a few shots of the eager-to-please dog and ran it in the newspaper.

After several weeks there was no response. But on April 24, Toaster’s fortunes changed.

It was on that day that Fairfield County resident Ralph Ellingsen, who lives with his wife Sherry on a 10-acre farm outside Winnsboro, pulled The Voice out of his paper box and took it in the house. Reading through it, he spotted Toaster’s photo in the turquoise bandana.

“When I saw his picture,” Ellingsen later recalled, “I told my wife Sherry, ‘There’s my dog.’”

The Ellingsens called Wiseman, whose phone number was listed on the ad, and arranged a visit to the Wiseman farm.

During that visit, Ellingsen said they’d had to euthanize their beloved 12-year-old Black Lab last year after he was diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s taken us some time to feel ready for another dog,” Sherry Ellingsen said. “We really missed our Lab.”

“We camp a lot up in Cherokee, and a dog up there that looked just like Toaster kept coming around our camp site. We liked him and were thinking of taking him home with us, but he would never let us put a collar on him. Finally, he didn’t come back,” Ellingsen said. “When I saw Toaster’s picture, we wanted to go see him.”

It was a match, and the Ellingsen’s came back Sunday to take Toaster home. After playing with him for half an hour in the Wiseman’s back yard, the Ellingsen’s reaffirmed their commitment to their new dog and said they would give him a new name, Tucker, to go with his new home.

“He’ll be an indoor dog at our house and an outdoor dog when we go out,” Ellingsen said. “We’ll take him camping, to the beach, to the lake, in the boat. We’ll have a good time,” he said, playfully ruffling Toaster’s fur.

After thanking the Wisemans and saying their goodbyes, The Ellingsens opened the pickup truck front door and Tucker hopped in, then jumped into the back seat where his new mom joined him with a hug. And the three drove off to a bright new future for Tucker and his new family.

“That’s perfect,” Wiseman said as she watched them drive off. “It’s too bad more people don’t see the potential in pit bull and pit bull mix adoptions. Just like Tucker, they make wonderful companions.”