Hard. Worth it, but hard.This was my experience with my pitbull. Our boy was found by a friend on a morning stroll. Tiny and scarily thin, she walked the neighborhood she found him in to try to find an owner—at least a mother dog. No one recognized the flea-infested pup and no one wanted him. She brought him to me. We discussed his fate as we watched him strut around my living room.“That puppy has worms,” I observed. My friend turned to me, incredulous.“How do you know?”“’Cause they’re coming out of his butt,” I replied, indicating.The decision was made that he would stay with me, I’d nurse him back to health and find a more suitable home. After all, I was 19 and living at home—I knew my parents wouldn’t want another pet (1 other dog, 3 cats, and a few small pets as well).I took him to our vet, got him de-wormed/vaccinated and weighed (4.8 lbs.) and found out his age (about 5 weeks).“He should really be with the mother at this age,” the vet informed me. “Not just for nutrition, she needs to teach him how to be a pup.”I looked down at the dirty puppy, bundled in towels, on my lap. He was working on shredding his bedding—he certainly was active.That night I took him outside every hour, on the hour, to relieve himself. After 24 hours, I was finally able to see more waste than worms in his droppings. His little bloated stomach began to slacken, it just made his bony frame more startling.His aggression began with my other dog, a senior lab/beagle mix. It started as play-based aggression and quickly became dominating. This required correction. His energy level was through the roof, and he was growing rapidly. We later found out he is a predominantly pit/Great Dane mix—those long legs!He began displaying dominance-based aggression toward my mother. As she’d try to water her plants, he’d nip at the heel of her pants and try to pull her shirt. “Puppy stuff” some people would say. Maybe, I thought, but he’s getting so big.At about 5 months, he started picking fights with fenced dogs while on walks. I enrolled him in training. He completed every level of training they had to offer. He was great at obedience. Horrible at socialization. At 1, he received major surgery for a knee injury that he sustained during a play session in the back yard. It was a 10-month recovery process. For him, it was painful and probably traumatic. But it guaranteed him a life free of future pain. I just wanted him to be able to run. He needed to run.At 2, fully recovered, I resumed his training. I always had treats in one pocket and his deterrent in the other (emits high-pitched whistle, just jolts him to attention). I exercised him, daily, vigorously. I was consistent with my discipline.By 4 he was secure enough to stop trying to dominate everyone. But walks were still an issue and he was possessive. Feeding time was a matter of dropping the food bowl and running out of the way. I began standing across the aisle from him while he’d eat and methodically desensitized him. One of my favorite things to do now is to lay my hand on his head as he eats, feeling his cranial muscles working as he chews.At 5, we made a breakthrough. He was in peak physical shape and mentally, he was at peace.We named him Stinky, in memory of his humble beginnings we say, but it was just a name that stuck “Stinky Puppy”, he never answered to the more refined names we tried. Raising him was hard work, but dealing with the people we encountered was worse. Whenever I’d express my frustration with his aggression people would nod “…yes…vicious…pitbulls”. I never believed Stinky was aggressive because he’s a pitbull, I’ve met many well-adjust pitties throughout the years. He was a special case and every time he behaved in a way that affirmed certain groups‡ stereotypical beliefs about his breed, I’d cringe and vow to work harder. (No one ever said he was aggressive because he’s a Great Dane.)At 5 weeks old, Stinky was emaciated and infested with round and tape worms. The vet informed me that a puppy that young with that bad of an infestation likely contracted the parasites while still in the womb. His mother was either severely neglected, or on the streets. She obviously struggled to care for him, and lost him. I read article after article discouraging people from adopting a puppy so young stating proper socialization needed to be taught by the mother and litter-mates.One time, early on, after a frustrating wrestling match in the back yard with Stinky, my mom came into the house and announced “That’s it, I can’t do this anymore, we have to find him another home.”“No one is going to want him, Mom,” I pleaded “he’s too much to handle and a shelter won’t even give him a chance. He’ll be euthanized.”She reluctantly agreed to give me more time to work with him.He’s an 11-year old senior dog now, who splits his time between helping my dad in the yard (he’s great at chewing sticks) and napping on his Serta doggie bed. I moved out eventually, he stayed with my parents (their request). I knew he was better off in a home with a yard than a small apartment, so I agreed.I visit regularly and make sure to post a pic online for family and friends, he’s so popular. The last few years, I’ve received a lot of compliments on his good behavior, how prompt his responses are and how quickly he learns new things. But I can’t help but smile inwardly every time any one calls him “gentle”, and he is. We’re very proud of his progress, he and I. We just needed a little more time.5 weeks. Playing in the grass on Thanksgiving, a couple days after being found.5 years. Panting, after a romp in the sprinklers. There’s that pittie smile!11 years. Surrounded by the remnants of the tree branch he just shredded. Such a good boy.