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I’m a Proud Pit Bull

By Kayla Muzquiz

Kayla with her boyfriend Logan Martinez and dog

I remember knowing that something was very wrong. I was 9 and my sister probably 11. We were waiting outside of school in Brownsville, Texas for my mom to pick us up. This was a rare treat instead of taking the bus. The bus came and went and we kept waiting. When the police came and I saw they had mom’s purse, I knew. I said “mom died”. 

My mom had been a person with a disability, and things weren’t easy. We grew up fast. But she was great at managing my care. I had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. She made sure I had the right medication. I had cognizant issues but I was also in the gifted and talented program. 

After the car accident that took my mother’s life, everything changed. I hardly knew my dad, but somehow very quickly he worked the courts to get us. We had no choice. One day he just picked us up at school. It was bad from the beginning. There were square tiles on the floor, and I had to stand still on them and not move. I was rambunctious. If he told me what to do, I did the opposite. The punishment was quick, Mexican-style. He hit me with cords and I couldn’t sit down at school. The physical abuse became sexual. I felt powerless.

The thing that finally broke me was when my dad killed our dog for pooping on the floor. It was so cruel to do that. I was scared but so overwhelmed. I told my counselor. A few days later we were walking on the beach and a cop pulled up, read dad his Miranda rights and took him away. We eventually went to be with our grandparents. But I was not good. I got caught self-mutilating. I was both suppressing my feelings over what had happened, and being aggressive. My grandparents couldn’t cope, so my journey in foster care began.

I was sent to my first treatment center in Texas when I was 12. By the time I aged out I had been in three more placements in two other states, all owned by private companies making money off the backs of kids like me. In each of them the people seemed more interested in treating me as a problem to be passed around from facility to facility, rather than a child in need of real help. They all had names that sounded like resorts. They were anything but. 

I remember being stripped bare and told to squat and cough like a criminal – I didn’t even know what that meant. They never told me why I was there. I was given no therapy. They called me ‘the little Mexican’ and put me in a kitchen where I did dishes all day. They had this youth group that was just cut throat. It was designed to turn kids against each other and target the weakest child – that was often me. Girls were mean to each other – they had to be. It was fight or flight, but flight was not an option. Kids would be crying, but we couldn’t comfort each other – no hugging allowed. 

My last placement was in Utah. It was the worst of them all. I still have bad dreams. My sleep was monitored. I wound up banished to the basement, alone for days. They listened in on my phone calls, read my mail. I was told the sexual abuse I had lived through was my fault. It was around this time that I was finally diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disorder that had been left untreated for a long time. I am disabled today because of this. The meds they put me on threw my moods all over the place. I wanted to kill myself. I feel lucky I made it out alive. 

I never left foster care — I aged out at 18. Needless to say I exited the system in worse shape than when I entered. I went off the meds cold turkey. I had a lot of catching up to do. I had never been attached to anyone. I didn’t have time to be attached. I went to Animal Behavioral College and became a certified dog trainer – and in the process started to learn about myself. Working with dogs was my therapy.

Today I am 24 years old. I live with my boyfriend, 7 dogs and 2 cats in San Antonio. We own our own home. I am taking college courses, but it is slow because of my disability. I have continued to do my dog training (it’s really human training) during COVID through email and on Zoom. My specialty are Pit Bulls. I relate to them. To being stigmatized and misunderstood. My goal is to save their lives and get them adopted. 

This is a border town that has seen so much heartache as immigrant children have been separated from their families. I was orphaned at a young age. I suffer from PTSD, depression and a disabling disease. But I have learned how to do life my way. I take good care of myself. I’m in a poetry group. I live and breathe and love my life.

I remember knowing that something was very wrong. I was 9 and my sister probably 11. We were waiting outside of school in Brownsville, Texas for my mom to pick us up. This was a rare treat instead of taking the bus. The bus came and went and we kept waiting. When the police came and I saw they had mom’s purse, I knew. I said “mom died”. 

My mom had been a person with a disability, and things weren’t easy. We grew up fast. But she was great at managing my care. I had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. She made sure I had the right medication. I had cognizant issues but I was also in the gifted and talented program. 

After the car accident that took my mother’s life, everything changed. I hardly knew my dad, but somehow very quickly he worked the courts to get us. We had no choice. One day he just picked us up at school. It was bad from the beginning. There were square tiles on the floor, and I had to stand still on them and not move. I was rambunctious. If he told me what to do, I did the opposite. The punishment was quick, Mexican-style. He hit me with cords and I couldn’t sit down at school. The physical abuse became sexual. I felt powerless.

The thing that finally broke me was when my dad killed our dog for pooping on the floor. It was so cruel to do that. I was scared but so overwhelmed. I told my counselor. A few days later we were walking on the beach and a cop pulled up, read dad his Miranda rights and took him away. We eventually went to be with our grandparents. But I was not good. I got caught self-mutilating. I was both suppressing my feelings over what had happened, and being aggressive. My grandparents couldn’t cope, so my journey in foster care began. 

I was sent to my first treatment center in Texas when I was 12. By the time I aged out I had been in three more placements in two other states, all owned by private companies making money off the backs of kids like me. In each of them the people seemed more interested in treating me as a problem to be passed around from facility to facility, rather than a child in need of real help. They all had names that sounded like resorts. They were anything but. 

I remember being stripped bare and told to squat and cough like a criminal – I didn’t even know what that meant. They never told me why I was there. I was given no therapy. They called me ‘the little Mexican’ and put me in a kitchen where I did dishes all day. They had this youth group that was just cut throat. It was designed to turn kids against each other and target the weakest child – that was often me. Girls were mean to each other – they had to be. It was fight or flight, but flight was not an option. Kids would be crying, but we couldn’t comfort each other – no hugging allowed. 

My last placement was in Utah. It was the worst of them all. I still have bad dreams. My sleep was monitored. I wound up banished to the basement, alone for days. They listened in on my phone calls, read my mail. I was told the sexual abuse I had lived through was my fault. It was around this time that I was finally diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disorder that had been left untreated for a long time. I am disabled today because of this. The meds they put me on threw my moods all over the place. I wanted to kill myself. I feel lucky I made it out alive. 

I never left foster care — I aged out at 18. Needless to say I exited the system in worse shape than when I entered. I went off the meds cold turkey. I had a lot of catching up to do. I had never been attached to anyone. I didn’t have time to be attached. I went to Animal Behavioral College and became a certified dog trainer – and in the process started to learn about myself. Working with dogs was my therapy.

Today I am 24 years old. I live with my boyfriend, 7 dogs and 2 cats in San Antonio. We own our own home. I am taking college courses, but it is slow because of my disability. I have continued to do my dog training (it’s really human training) during COVID through email and on Zoom. My specialty are Pit Bulls. I relate to them. To being stigmatized and misunderstood. My goal is to save their lives and get them adopted. 

This is a border town that has seen so much heartache as immigrant children have been separated from their families. I was orphaned at a young age. I suffer from PTSD, depression and a disabling disease. But I have learned how to do life my way. I take good care of myself. I’m in a poetry group. I live and breathe and love my life.

Kayla with her boyfriend Logan Martinez and dog
Kayla with her boyfriend and dog Apawllo

Kayla is speaking out and advocating for the thousands of children who too often go unheard:

Visit our Tales of Strength & Love page for more stories like Kayla’s.

Thousands of children are trapped in systems they do not understand. These systems fail to understand that children need time and space to be children and develop the foundations that allow them to be who they truly are.

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