His whimsical balancing act has made him a star – and an irresistible “spokesdog” for pit bulls.
He’s patient, good-natured and droll. And he has a uniquely humorous talent that has attracted attention from news networks, TV shows and dog lovers all over the globe. Scout is a charming nine-year-old pit bull who loves to balance “stuff” on his large, handsome, unusually fl at head. And that stuff can include just about anything you can imagine – from sombreros and party hats, to vases of flowers, board games, and even a stack of pancakes!
It may seem an unusual calling for any dog, but then Scout is one of a kind, according to his “mom”, Jen Gillen. Certainly, when you look at his photos, it’s almost impossible to imagine that he was once a scared, malnourished soul who had been neglected, abused and underfed by his former family.
“He came from the All Breed Canine Rescue in St. Thomas, Ontario,” Jen says. “When I first adopted him, he was super antisocial. The rescue told me he was very scared of other dogs, and that he didn’t even like cuddling.”
Jen could see Scout’s potential, however, and instantly connected with him. “I knew he was the dog for me.” She determined to give him a second chance at life with loads of TLC and positive training. “Within three months, he was a totally different dog,” she says. “Together, we were able to work through his separation anxiety and social issues, and he started blossoming into the big lapdog he is today!”
As if Scout’s transformation into a gentle and loving canine companion wasn’t amazing enough, Jen also discovered something else about her new friend. “He can balance anything on his very fl at (and kissable) head,” she laughs. “It all started with a friend’s suggestion, and the way Scout sits very still. It made me realize there was some potential with this. I’ve never let Scout get away with begging, so with a little bit of extra training we were able to cultivate this into a really rad series of pictures. I make him sit and stay for everything – going outside, crossing the street, waiting for food – so all I had to do was ask him to sit and stay with objects on his head!”
The result was “Stuff on Scout’s Head”, a website devoted to delightful photos of the fun-loving pit bull balancing a range of objects on his head. “One picture that really stands out in my mind is the vase of fl owers sent to Scout by a local fl orist who is an amazing dog lover herself – she never thought they would end up on his head, but she was delighted!” In other photos, Scout is balancing a huge rawhide bone, a bunch of asparagus, an empty paint tin, a notebook computer – you name it, Scout’s had it on his head!
But “Stuff on Scout’s Head” also has a serious side. One of Jen’s main goals is to help educate people about pit bulls, and disprove the false belief that they’re vicious, unpredictable dogs. And because the province of Ontario has Breed Specific Legislation, that makes Jen’s job even more challenging.
“I think as a whole it’s wrong to label an entire breed as ‘bad’,” she says, adding that she sometimes encounters negativity from those who fear the pit bull breed. “We do what we can. Scout has a baby blue muzzle with decorative sparkle bones on it, and he always walks at my side to help him look as friendly as possible.” Despite his amiable demeanor, however, Jen says people still go out of their way to avoid him. “Once, he was wearing a cowl-neck knit scarf and a mother made her daughter cross the street as the toddler laughed and pointed out: ‘Mommy, that dog is wearing a scarf!’”
Jen has been posting her fun photos for over two years as a way to help soften people’s attitude towards pit bulls. But what she didn’t expect is that Scout and his talent would suddenly be discovered by the media. Over the past six months alone, he has appeared on CTV News, Animal Planet, numerous social media sites, and most recently, the Rachel Ray Show in New York. “It was amazing!” Jen says of the latter trip.
There’s now also a book in the works, titled Lessons in Balance: A Dog’s Reflection on Life. “It will be coming out in the fall, which is super exciting,” enthuses Jen. “There will be a lot of really fun pics along with some words of wisdom that we can’t really divulge yet! I’m so glad we’re able to raise awareness not only about pit bulls, but also about rescue, through all of this. As a whole, we’ll continue educating, raising awareness, and rebranding what everyone thinks of when they hear the words ‘pit bull’.”
With his affectionate and whimsical personality, Scout is perfectly suited to the task of being a “spokedog” for his breed. “He’s definitely a charmer, and quite the ladies’ man! He has a great combination of typical pit bull features, a soft soulful look, and even the occasional wink and smirk.
“It’s true that dogs come into your life at the right time and this was no exception,” Jen concludes. “I think to pinpoint the greatest joy Scout has brought me is very hard, but just being able to watch this guy develop into who he is now – and having him by my side – there are no words to describe it.”