Tag Archives: breed

Muzzle This! An Answer to “Needing Common Sense Dog Laws”

I came across an article recently while perusing Yahoo’s newsfeed. Now, usually I scroll right past this type of story because they’re just plain wrong. The stories either don’t report facts correctly, or just don’t report facts at all. And quite frankly I don’t want my newsfeed to start feeding me a whole bunch of nonsense stories, and then I’d have to find a new homepage. (What a drag!) However, the title of this particular story caught my eye. Entitled “Read on: Maybe we need common-sense dog laws,” I was intrigued. I thought maybe this article would introduce something new, something more than erroneous facts, gross stereotypes, and terrible generalizations. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

You see, I don’t like reading stories about Pit Bull attacks. And no, it’s not to try and ignore or disillusion myself, but it’s because a LARGE MAJORITY of the stories are wrong. The dog is not a Pit Bull, not even some sort of mix, the “attack” wasn’t some senseless act of violence, but provoked, and the story always likes to report made up facts about Pit Bull attacks that just get me angry. I also don’t want to be giving any attention to these types of stories, because it only helps them to gain traction, and that is something I refuse to do. But like I said, this story’s title caught my eye, so against my better judgement I clicked to read.

Was I genuinely surprised and tickled? Nope.

In fact, the author describes a beautiful day with his beautiful dog that is viciously attacked by, you guessed it, a Pit Bull. How does he know it was a Pit Bull, because his son who was actually present during the attack says so. The author himself wasn’t present, but sharing his two cents anyway. Those two cents go on to say that because some other places have enacted terrible discriminatory practices known as Breed Specific Legislation that all places should as well in order to stop terrible attacks that have left his dog unable to leave the house now. In fact, his suggestion is that all Pit Bulls should now have to be leashed whenever outside of their homes, on a short leash, and with muzzles on. All because one dog attacked his precious little pooch.

Well, you know what? I’ve got a suggestion for him too. Let’s muzzle Chihuahuas. How about little white Terriers? Pomeranians? Cats? Because every single one of these types of animals have attacked my two big and bad Pit Bulls, making them bleed, leaving scratches on their legs and faces, leaving us running into the middle of traffic to get away from them while careless owners stood on watching. And we haven’t been attacked once, twice, not even just three times in the four years we’ve had dogs. Nope. We’re lucky if our dogs only get attacked once a week. Once a week! This guy gets attacked once and suddenly he’s fighting to muzzle an entire breed! I can’t EVEN!

And before it gets asked, yes, I’ve had to fight off all these animals from my dogs. I’ve gotten scratched, bruised, bloodied, and pushed down. I’ve yelled at poop-shamers, and I’ve fended off Golden Retrievers and Labradors. I’ve had to fight off terrible people trying their best to get my dogs to attack them just so they can have something to boohoo about. I’ve protected my dogs and made sure the general public is protected every time I bring Simon and Rosee outside of the house.

So . . .

You want to muzzle someone or something? How about the people that think to fix one we have to punish all? How about the people who think their dog is somehow more important than another? How about the people that spew ignorance and hate? Because people who do these things are not helping to fix the actual problem that exists in society, but in fact are only creating new ones that impact people who are not even at fault.

My dogs should not have to walk around with muzzles on because of one set of irresponsible dog owners. My dogs should not be attacked by any other dog because of irresponsible dog owners. My dogs should not be subjected to irresponsible dog owners, period.

And neither should any other dog. An owner and a dog should be able to go on a nice, enjoyable walk in their neighborhood, at a park, or wherever they choose to go, without being subject to irresponsible owners and their untrained dogs. How does this happen? By enforcing leash laws and putting an end to illegal practices like backyard breeding and dog fighting. If leash laws were enforced then dogs wouldn’t be let loose in public places. It is usually the rules in cities and counties that when out in public, even in an owner’s front yard if not fenced in, dogs should be leashed, on a leash no longer than about six feet. Instead of being able to run at unsuspecting things, ALL dogs would be kept under control and their owners would be forced to take responsibility for them if leash laws were actually enforced. A novel idea, right?

Or how about stopping dog fighting rings and backyard breeding? Breeding creates an influx of dogs with not enough people willing to care for them, and more dogs ending up in shelters because of it. Breeding is a big problem for Pit Bulls as they are often the ones subjected to it. Everyone wants a Pit Bull until it comes time to actually caring for one. They are a strong breed of dog, one that needs lots of exercise and attention. Simon and Rosee certainly need their daily walks, playtime, and human interaction. But not everyone can give these things to a dog, much less a Pit Bull. So, after the novelty wears off and the dog is no longer a cute little puppy, the dog either gets abandoned to the streets or left at a kill shelter.

That is if the dogs don’t end up the hands of people who want to use them to fight, which is a whole other issue I am not even ready to get into. Dog fighting is disgusting and should not be inflicted on any type of dog period. It is something that needs to be taken more seriously by society in general and stopped immediately, with harsher sentences to those found responsible (looking at you Michael Vick).

But muzzling one breed? That is clearly not the answer. So please, think before your write.

And for the record, this is not “blowback” as you so kindly put it, author of the original article. This is common sense, just like you asked for.

You’re welcome.

Our Delicate Flower

I know what you’re thinking! (Seriously though I am a mind reader, in case you didn’t know)

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You’re probably thinking: What happened to Rosee?

I get it, I do. I mean, it was only a little over a week ago that Monica posted a story about Rosee having a bad case of hives, and now here’s a picture of Rosee in a cone with a cast on her leg. So, what Happened?!

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It turns out, despite what stereotypes would have most people believe about Pit Bulls, Rosee is no match against the ordinary house cat. You see, last Tuesday evening Rosee decided it would be fun to chase Orion (the cat, who is not an ordinary cat at all, by the way) through the kitchen.  Orion, of course, was too smart for a silly old dog to catch him—cat’s rule, dog’s drool!—and ran away to his bedroom, which is actually my bedroom, but semantics. However, as I went over to get Rosee after checking on Orion I noticed that she began limping. She would not put her back right leg down, and was holding it up whenever she was standing or walking anywhere.

So, in case you’re keeping score its: Cats 1 Dogs 0.

Now, we were concerned about Rosee’s leg because she wouldn’t put it down. We weren’t too worried though because Rosee has strained her leg before and it turned out to be nothing more than just that, a mild strain. According to the vet (when we took her at the time), she just needed about a week of rest and she’d be fine. She was given some anti-inflammatories to help with the pain, but there was nothing more to do than wait for her to heal. Unfortunately, this time was different. The next day Rosee was still not putting her foot down, and something told us we just couldn’t wait. Fortunately, Rosee’s annual check-up was due and so we thought we might as well take her in for her annual vet appointment and get her leg checked at the same time. Two birds with one stone, you know?

Luckily, we were able to get an appointment for that Friday. Of course, at this time I was convinced that the vet was going to think we were terrible pet owners considering that she has strained her leg in the past, just went in to get treated for a bad case of hives the week before, and was now needing to go in for a bum leg. I was seriously doubting my abilities as a pet owner. Either that or Rosee was much more fragile than I ever thought.

Still, I was trying to remain positive and hoped the vet would tell us that she sprained her foot and just needs a week or two of rest like he did before.

The vet did not tell us that.

It turns out Rosee broke one of her toes in her back right foot. The vet was actually surprised that she didn’t react when he was first feeling her leg and foot, and instead just lay on the ground letting him feel and bend her foot. After taking an x-ray of her whole leg and foot he saw that the bone in one of her toes was pretty much broken in two and just hanging in there. So, one cast, a prescription for anti-inflammatories, a prescription for sedatives, and one head cone later Rosee was finally headed home.

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We were given very strict instructions for Rosee. For the next 6-8 weeks (no, you didn’t misread that) Rosee’s foot will be in a cast with weekly visits to the vet to ensure that her cast is working and doesn’t need to be rewrapped. She’s basically on bed rest for the next two months (yikes!) and we have to keep her as quiet as possible, which just seems impossible (especially with Simon around), hence the sedatives.

Then, as if all this wonderful news wasn’t good enough for one day, Rosee somehow ended up getting her entire cast off her foot that afternoon while my family was out running errands. It didn’t matter that she was tethered to her bed, and had her cone on so she couldn’t actually reach her cast with her mouth. She still managed to get her cast off with no issues. Luckily, the vet was able to squeeze us back in later that afternoon to replace her cast.

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What’s the teaching moment here? Rosee may be a Pit Bull, but despite all the stereotypes she’s really just a delicate flower.

 

 

A Horrifying Haunt

“It’s a hard life when you don’t even feel comfortable in your own house.”

Said me.

It was dark and stormy night. No, wait. It was sunny? That’s right. And the middle of the afternoon. A nice lazy, sunny afternoon with temperate weather and the birds, thankfully, being quiet so as not to wake the sleepy pups. (The pups that had finally laid down to sleep after an hour walk that morning and a never-ending wrestling match on the living room floor afterwards. I digress.) Theresa and I were sitting in our front room, doing some work, when all of a sudden we heard it. That slight jingling glint that accompanies my worst nightmares. It was the sound of dog tags that belong on the little black and brown dog that lives just around the corner from us. What causes the nightmare-inducing terror you ask? Well, let me tell you. It is the fact that this dog, when he (or she) gets out of his house he makes a beeline straight for our front door, and I literally mean our Front Door. This dog, whenever he gets loose (which is quite a lot), runs as fast as his little legs can carry him over to our door and proceeds to attack it because he knows Rosee will be on the other side of it. Rosee, who hears him come by now of course, is right at the door barking her head off.

The whole episode is

terribly,

frightfully,

scarily . . . annoying!

It’s annoying.

This dog used to just try to pee on our lawn (which he still does, and the poop is a nice—meaning not—new addition). He then graduated to barking at our front window at which Rosee would perch and bark at him. He quickly promoted himself to actually running into our flowerbed in front of said window in order to try and get to Rosee through it. Finally, he has reached where he is now, which is coming right up to the screen door itself and attempt to break his way through in order to get to Rosee. (And I say Rosee because Simon is not as territorially minded as she is, and honestly he just doesn’t really care much about other dogs in front of the house.)

It’s annoying. (Feeling a theme yet?)

What’s worse is that the offending dog’s owners don’t seem to really care about his neighborhood exploits. We’ve even had some of the dog’s human family members (kids as well as adults) come around the corner looking and calling for their dog, and yet all they do when they see them running amuck in our front yard is to stand there and watch. It isn’t until either our mother or Theresa (in a state of anger), after pushing Rosee back, goes out front to tell them to get their dog away from our yard that the dog is then finally captured and taken home.

What’s worse than worse? This afternoon’s incident is about the tenth time it’s happened. The tenth you say? Preposterous you exclaim? Outlandish you yell? Outrageous you shout?

I say, yes, it’s true. The tenth time.

It’s annoying.

The people are always slightly apologetic to our faces, but I’ve started to doubt their sincerity after the third time it happened. It was after this tenth time though that Theresa had really had enough. She marched out our front door and told the two kids that had run up to get (i.e. watch) the dog that they needed to keep their dog off of our front yard and away from our house because he attacks our front door and pees all over the yard. The kids agreed and quickly left. However, it was about five minutes later that some of the adults apparently piled in their car and came to do a slow drive-by of our house. The nerve! All I wanted to shout at them is that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and that they all need to start taking more responsibility for their animal. Theresa swore that the next time this all happens (because let’s face it there will be a next time) she is going to call animal control. Fact is, in our city any dogs that are found to be running loose and acting vicious and aggressive can be reported, and this particular dog is doing just that. Of course, it’s not an easy decision deciding to make a report to animal control, the department certainly isn’t known for leniency, but it’s necessary.

And I am not going to try and be shamed for having my house and dog attacked again, and my sister telling off the kids that are responsible for said attacker. I’m not going to be shamed for expecting better of my neighbors (and of their children). I’m not going to be shamed for hoping for a little more respect and consideration from others for my dogs.

Breed matters not here.

My dogs don’t pee on their lawns (or poop for that matter). My dogs don’t get loose and run all over the neighborhood. My dogs don’t attack other people’s front doors. (And the world would see their breed banned and destroyed!) I think it’s only fair that I expect my neighbors to offer me and mine the same courtesy that we show them.

So, ‘til next time.

Defining Raising

If you were unaware, a couple weeks ago at the Huffington Post it was Huff Post Pit Bull Week. Basically, for the entire week advocates, trainers, behaviorists, and just plain Pit Bull lovers wrote and shared stories combating misconceptions about the breed. Many stories were beautiful, funny, and really moving. I enjoyed these authors sharing their wonderful pictures of their own dogs and such personal stories. As much as I loved and appreciated these authors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I agreed with everything they had to say (or write).

One of the main sticking points that many authors touched upon was the idea of “it’s all how they are raised.” Many authors brought up the example of the Michael Vick dogs. Stating that obviously those dogs were “raised” to be fighting dogs, authors argued against using the popular euphemism because it was clearly untrue. Those specific Pit Bulls have been able to go on to live wonderful, happy lives and many of them are good-natured and friendly. So, evidently it is not the way that Pit Bulls, and dogs in general, are “raised” that makes them good dogs or not because dogs have a greater capacity to be good, despite people’s past actions unto them.

I get it. I understand the point being made. Dogs are born good. It is what people do to them that has the potential to mold them into something not quite so great, and many times regardless of humans’ actions dogs are still good. Breed matters not here.

And still, I find myself having to say it. . .
I disagree.

I truly do believe that it is how a dog (Pit Bull, Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, Yorkie, and any other breed that exists in this world) is raised that makes all the difference. Regardless of whether or not a dog is born good, “raising” him or her will always have a big impact on how that goodness shines through.

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One day he’ll teach us all his secrets.

You want to know why?

Because even when my dogs are ten years old, closing in on their twilight years, and slowing down just a little bit I will still be raising them.

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She thinks if she steals it then it might magically refill itself.

I do not believe that “raising” a dog ever really ends. I am firmly living in the camp that raising something, whether it be a dog, a child, or even a goldfish, never stops. The “thing” always has something to learn and be taught, as there are always new lessons to live by. To me “raising” is defined as the ways in which something, an animal or little human, is educated throughout its entire lifetime, not just during a very specific and narrow time frame.

Can you teach old dogs new tricks? It seems that these authors would have me believe that they can’t if they truly believe that “raising” a dog ends after year one. Throughout their stories many authors implied that they adopted their lovable pooches after they were a year old and so, the time for “raising” had obviously passed. However, I can tell you from my own experience that “raising” my two rascals has not ended with year one. Simon (who is working past year three) has just recently learned to consistently Drop It, and Rosee (who is just closing in on year three) is still working to curb her kleptomaniac ways. So, I am still effectively “raising” them and will continue to do so until they leave this earth. My job will not end just because they reach a certain age or because they have learned a specific number of commands. My job will end when there is no more Simon and Rosee, and I hope that that time does not happen upon me for many (many) more years.

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He’s going to let go any minute now. Any minute.

If someone were to say to me “It’s all how they are raised” I would say “Yes, it is.” Because if someone is saying this to me, they are saying it in regards to my dogs whom I have raised. And no, I was not a part of Simon or Rosee’s lives in the beginning, you know during that crucial first year. Honestly, my mother adopted Simon when I was going off to graduate school. While I was home for the summer, the rest of the year and the next I lived six hours away. Sure, I came home on holidays, but I was not raising Simon during this time. It’s a similar story for Rosee. My family adopted her during my second year of school, so again I missed the end of that first year for her (and she was initially raised by a shelter anyway). But I have raised my dogs because since I have been home, finished with school and moving on with my life, I have been one (of the ones) to train, care for, and love Simon and Rosee. I have raised my dogs, and when people tell me “It’s all how they are raised” I can agree because in that moment when it is said it is being said about my dogs as are they are in that specific point in time.

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Look! A trained potato.

People we pass daily on our walks have said similar things. In fact, one woman we pass by all the time has mentioned each time that the dogs keep getting better. (And she should know. We used to have to walk across the street from her. Now, we only need a foot in between.) Every time we are out in the world Simon and Rosee are a direct reflection of me as an owner. Their triumphs are my triumphs. Their failures are my failures. If someone is to judge their behavior out on a walk, they are judging my raising skills, not the ones of Simon and Rosee’s past. No one else knows that Rosee lived in a shelter for eight months, or that Simon was taken from his mother too early and lacked early socialization. All anybody else knows is that in that particular moment they look like (hopefully) good, trained dogs. Whereas the authors of these other stories use this reason as to why you can’t say “It’s all how they are raised,” I say this is why you can say it. By saying this people are judging the way the dog is now, and as of now said dog is not being “raised” in some terrible way. (Or else the raisers wouldn’t be advocates, trainers, behaviorists, or lovers would they?)

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Her Beach Motto: Leave no stick un-turned.

My beliefs are also not breed specific. This does not only apply to Pit Bulls (and their owners), they just tend to be the ones held under the most intense scrutiny. When I see an unruly Chihuahua and an owner not paying it any mind I can safely assume that it was “raised” without boundaries or limitations. When I see a very excited Boxer with its owner firmly telling it to “Leave it” I can also safely assume that they’re working on it and I applaud their hard work and determination. Each dog is a firm reflection of their owner (sometimes quite literally) and each owner should take pride in that. I know I do.

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I like to think that he gets his “serious face” from me.

Feel free to disagree with me, or even think something completely different than either opinion shared here. Having an opinion is, in fact, one of the great aspects of the human condition. Just please don’t feel the need to ask me to stop happily accepting “It’s all how they are raised” because it means something deeply personal to me. For my dogs Simon and Rosee it is how they have been raised that makes them good dogs. It’s how I and my sister and mother and stepdad have been and will continue to raise them that make them good dogs. It is an acknowledgment of all of the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into making sure Simon and Rosee are happy, healthy, and content dogs, not just the undeniable fact that they were born good, but that they in fact are and will continue to be good. It’s a euphemism that recognizes both the canine’s inherent goodness and the human impact that builds upon such greatness. So. . .

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Happy girl!

Thanks for the compliment.

Another Pit Bull Attack(ed)

It was ugly.

Hair flying everywhere. Snarls and growls emitting from all around. Sharp claws swinging wildly, trying to hit anything they could. And the blood. It was like a red river running down the sidewalks and across the street. It was warm and sticky, and free-flowing. I remember the screaming the most, the way its high-pitched sounds left little else to be heard. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Time stretched on forever, no beginning or ending, just a middle full of blood, sweat, and tears. Then, quiet.

No birds chirping. No dogs howling. No cars whizzing by. Just quiet.

The only color I could see was red. Red scratches running down my arms. Red marks marring my hands from the tight grip I had to maintain on the leash. The deepest red however, was littered all over the street, the sidewalks, and my own legs, leaving an ominous trail from where we had been to where we were.

Suddenly harsh panting broke through my fog and I could see. I could see Rosee sitting on the concrete, staring at me. Her eyes were wide, her breathing irregular, her throat emitting strange little strangled whines. On shaky legs I kneeled down in front of her, using trembling fingers to try to assess the damage done.

Eyes glassy, but unscathed.

Chest pink from exertion, but unscratched.

Front legs unsteady, but untouched.

Then. . .

Her ears had nail marks in them with blood dripping off the tips.

Her muzzle though. Her muzzle got the worst of it. Her nose and upper lip were smeared red, it just falling down her mouth like a torrent. At that moment all I could do for her was press the tissue from my pocket to her mouth to help stem the bleeding and continue my mantra of “It’s okay, Rosee, it’s okay.”

The day had started out deceptively normal. Wake up, eat breakfast, take dogs out for daily walk. See? Normal. The weather was warm, but not too hot. Both Rosee and Simon were behaving themselves nicely. All in all it was a good start to the day.

Working our way down a street lined with slightly older homes, made mysterious with their large front yards surrounded with shrubbery and short picket fences, we were suddenly put on the defensive. Our attacker came out of nowhere. Lithe and speedy it went immediately for Rosee’s face, not even giving her (or me) a chance to realize what was going on before it was too late. Going straight for the face, moving forward with wild abandon, all I could do was pull Rosee between my legs and plant my knees on the ground in an attempt to hold all of her 75 lbs. back from further attack. Once I gained a better grip on Rosee’s collar I successfully worked at pulling her across the street to safety with her attacker following. It wasn’t until we hit the middle of road that the attacker finally trailed off going back to hide like the little coward that it was.

What happened? Why was my dog’s muzzle spouting blood? How did I get covered in scrapes, bruises, and blood?

The answer: a cat.

Yeah, that’s right. We got attacked by an extremely forward cat. We were ambushed as we walked down the street by a cat stealthily hidden in nearby shrubs who thought we got a little too close to it. Jumping through the plants it had used as camouflage this huge cat (seriously, it must have been a Maine Coon or something) launched itself at Rosee. This cat screeched and screamed, digging its sharp claws into Rosee’s muzzle, at one point I was worried they were actually stuck! Rosee freaked out, unsure whether to go forward or backward, so she settled for just jumping up. Never once did she bark, whine, snarl, bare teeth, or snap at this cat. She just was. I pulled and pulled, and eventually got her away from the assault, but the damage was done. The cat had left her torn up and bloody.

A thirty minutes’ walk from home, I could barely contain myself to move let alone pull a stunned dog along with me. Theresa, who had been holding Simon back from the attack, quickly called our mother who was able to immediately come and pick us up. In an effort to right herself while we waited for our ride Rosee would shake her head and red droplets would just go flying. My hand, arms, and legs were covered in her blood and mine. Dabbing Rosee’s dripping face I could only tremble and stumble until we walked through our front door.

Once home Rosee’s face finally stopped bleeding, but she still had terrible scratches running across the length of her upper lip and nose. She was still breathing harshly and didn’t know whether to sit or stand. It’s like she was no longer comfortable in her own skin, and frankly, I knew the feeling. What should have been a comfortable morning routine was inexplicably boiled down to a terror-filled few minutes that would stay with all four of us for a long time. For weeks afterwards every time Rosee or Simon saw a stray cat wandering the street they would go crazy, pulling and whining after it. Every time we passed “The Spot” Rosee would dive for the fence where the cat had emerged. Suffice to say, the next few weeks of walks were spent trying to undo the damage this attack had taken on poor Rosee’s otherwise burgeoning relaxation she was finally starting to associate with walking.

As for me, I carried a paranoid air around me for a while. If this was what one wayward cat could do to Rosee, what would a dog do? Besides that, big or small or anything in between it is truly a terrible thing to see your beloved animal bleeding due to no fault of its own.

And so much for all those “Vicious Pit Bull Attack” storylines. This experience has certainly made me wonder how many of those “vicious pit bulls” were simply moved to defend themselves, because that is what normal dogs, animals, and even people do when they feel threatened—they get defensive. I feel as if I have been given a glimpse of clarity and understanding. How does that saying go again? Oh yeah, don’t judge a book by its cover. More aptly stated perhaps, don’t judge a dog by its breed.

Because seriously, a cat!

Living In a Whole Other Dog Park

When my family adopted Pit Bull mixes I guess I was a little naïve. I expected to feed, train, and care for two great dogs. I expected to be happy, frustrated, hurt, cuddled, kissed, splashed, stepped on, and so many other wonderful things. I expected to love and be loved so unconditionally that little else could ever compare. I was and still am right, of course. Owning a dog is an extra-ordinary experience that is full of ups and downs, leaving little to the imagination. Seriously, having to sort through dog doo-doo and not hyperventilating does wonders to your self-confidence. However, as great as having dogs has been, I have to admit having Pit Bulls has been an eye-opening experience; one that my naivety (lessened over the years by mean girls and meaner teachers) could not have adequately prepared me for.

You see, owning a dog is one thing, but owning a Pit Bull lives in a whole other dog park. You get stares and scared faces and even nasty comments. Veterinarians refuse to do exams and regular people cower as you walk by, on the other side of the street.

That face will undoubtedly haunt my dreams!
That face will undoubtedly haunt my dreams!

One incident, many months ago, was one of the nastiest I have ever encountered. While out at a local park one morning Theresa and I had stepped into a small grove of trees because Simon wanted to poop there. As Theresa made Rosee sit and wait, and I had Simon and his leash wrapped around my legs while I attempted to pick up his waste we were suddenly bombarded by a woman. Without warning this woman walked through the small grove we were in, loudly exclaiming that she just loved to walk in the shade! Um. . . except that the little shade was currently occupied by two people and two dogs that took up said space, leaving no room for her. To make matters worse this woman just pushed herself in between Theresa and myself, waving her elbows around. To say she scared not only the dogs, but us humans is to put it lightly. Rosee immediately jumped up in hopes of jumping back to put space between herself and this woman, but in such a small space to begin with there was nothing Theresa (who was holding her) could do other than to lean into the bushes with Rosee. Simon, thankfully, had wrapped his entire leash around my legs and so was forced to stand right next to me, as I with a bag full of poop in my hands scrambled to step back and out of this woman’s way. The entire episode lasted maybe twenty seconds, but is something that I will always remember with the utmost clarity, and unfortunately it did not end there.

Theresa was pretty traumatized by this woman’s actions and having to quickly shield Rosee from getting upset, so we switched dogs (I was now walking Rosee with Theresa leading Simon) and headed towards our car. However, I needed a minute to go through the many stages of anger, so we decided to sit on the grass next to our car. Next thing you know this woman starts walking towards us yelling at us that we needed to put a muzzle on our dog, spewing nothing but hatred and misconceptions at us. Rosee for her part sat on the grass with me and simply barked at the crazy woman yelling at us. Theresa, over her trauma, took Simon and walked after the woman telling her that she should be more considerate and not just ambush strangers’ dogs. This woman quickly proceeded to walk away. Needless to say, we have not been back to this particular park, not because our dogs did anything wrong, but because neither of us knows how to just let go of the bad taste this experience left in our mouths.

The water has successfully been liquefied.
The water has successfully been liquefied.

But parks are not the only places full of intolerance and misguided fear. A veterinarian we took Rosee to last year took one look at her, became frightened and refused to perform her physical exam, even after I put a muzzle on her. I called their bluff when they tried to make me pay for the exam, they protested that without it they couldn’t prescribe her any heartworm medication. I reminded them that it was the veterinarian that refused to touch Rosee, not Rosee’s own refusal to be touched. I got the heartworm medication.

Certainly, I make no excuses for my dogs’ behavior. I have explanations. I can tell you why Rosee gets nervous around people and dogs, and that we are diligently working on it and she is getting better. I can explain that Simon loves people, but hasn’t learned all his manners yet (he still jumps) and again, we work on it as much as possible. I can tell people that my sister Theresa and I always make sure to have complete control of our dogs when we take them out into the world, and our evidence is the fact that they have never hurt anyone or anything. They are good dogs, just like the million other good dogs (Pit Bulls or not) that exist in the world. They are not perfect. They are not terrible. They are good. Simon and Rosee don’t deserve for misguided people to heap upon their shoulders stereotypes and singular stories about dog attacks and dog fights. Simon and Rosee and all the other good Pit Bulls in the world don’t deserve to be labeled for offenses they did not commit.

It's the monster of W. . . oh wait, it's just Simon.
It’s the monster of W. . . oh wait, it’s just Simon.

I was naïve in thinking that my dogs were just dogs. They are Pit Bulls. Rosee’s face gives her away quite easily, and most people look at Simon and call him a Staffordshire Terrier, which is just a more eloquent name for Pit Bull. They get treated like Pit Bulls, sometimes for the better, most times for the worse. You know something’s wrong with the world when your dog (Pit Bull) gets attacked by another dog, yet that dog’s owners are afraid of you and yours.

In fact just two mornings ago the four of us were out on our daily walk. We stopped at a crosswalk, looked both ways, crossed the street, and were promptly greeted with a mean, snarling, barking little black dog that had just escaped from its backyard’s broken fence. This dog went for the face, biting and lunging. I pulled Rosee (who had frozen in shock) back, grabbed her collar, and pulled her through the opening between two parked cars to the other side of the street. Theresa, who had Simon, pulled him back, but with the attacking dog still pushing forward into Simon’s face space she too had to drag him across the street. Finally, did the owner come out and grab his dog. Fortunately, no one got hurt. Simon and Rosee did not get bit and a car didn’t hit us on our haste to get away. Unfortunately, we didn’t even get a sorry. No admission that his dog did something wrong. Nope. Nada. Zilch. Goose egg. Nothing. All we were left with was upheaval, fear, and anger.

Now, as you may know (whether from personal experience or other stories from me) these experiences and their following feelings are nothing new. I didn’t scream at the world. I didn’t cry at the injustice. I didn’t stomp my foot. I gathered my wits, my dogs, my sister, and moved on. But I have to tell you, I’m tired. I’m tired of dealing with other people’s stereotypical beliefs, of not being told “sorry” after attacks, of simply not having my dogs treated like dogs. Let’s face it, I’m tired of writing stories headlined “Guess who attacked us this month?”! The world can be a wonderful place, full of happy people and nice dogs. I’d rather write stories about that, but I have Pit Bulls. I bring my Pit Bulls out into the world. I walk them, I take them to parks, and I bring them around people. Doing such activities brings the stereotypes, misconceptions, scared stares, and nasty words.

Take that pesky bugs!
Take that pesky bugs!

Bright side? When the dog attacked us that morning Rosee and Simon did nothing. They just stood there. They let Theresa and I pull them away. They continued with their walk. In that one moment of time they were perfect. That moment, whether anyone else saw it or not, is enough to let me know that every mean word, every bad rap about Pit Bulls simply isn’t true.

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Good Fences Make Best Friends

Rosee has a best friend. No, it’s not Simon. He’s more her partner in crime, her devoted little follower, her antagonist at times even. Rosee’s best friend, on the other hand, is our neighbor’s dog, a Pit Bull that shall henceforth be known as Sunny. Now, Sunny is sort of an enigma of a dog. She’s been around for about the past eight years, adopted when she was just a puppy. She’s also had the run of the backyard for that same number of years, being the only dog in the neighborhood of backyards that includes four landlocked together. However, it was just over three years ago that Simon launched an invasion on the backyards when he became a part of my family. Simon’s entrance was soon followed by other neighboring dogs, a Pit Bull and an older Great Dane . It was around this same time that Rosee became a permanent fixture in my backyard as well, firmly taking control of guarding her fence (for better or worse). All of a sudden, Sunny was bombarded on all sides with dogs, dogs, and more dogs. No longer was she alone to wallow in her backyard, but she was surrounded with new best friends.

Or not.

It became clear when Simon was a puppy that poor Sunny did not get much socialization with other dogs. When she found Simon outside Sunny would immediately rush the fence and start huffing and running. While never outwardly mean, her behavior was slightly aggressive, though to be fair Simon thought it was all in good fun and would run back and forth along the fence practically smiling as he did it. Overall, Sunny’s reaction to Simon was never that worrisome because Simon didn’t know any better and Sunny’s owners always made sure to call her back to them when she became too much. However, it became clear as more dogs joined the “Backyard Crew” that Sunny’s reaction to other dogs had the potential to be quite dangerous. IMG_1595It turns out that most dogs do not react to slightly aggressive dogs like Simon does. In fact other dogs, including Rosee, and the two other neighbor dogs, get rather upset when another dog acts the way Sunny does, thereby reciprocating with similar gestures. It all starts with some huffing and running to catch glimpses of each other through the fence. Then a staring contest to see who will break first. An ear-piercing war cry is launched (seriously I never knew Pit Bulls could be so high-pitched until getting one of my own and getting to know the neighbors’) and finally comes the jumping at the fence and barking. The fence shakes and the whole episode sounds vicious. The first time it happened I actually thought that Rosee and Sunny had gotten a hold of each other, but fortunately the decade-old fence held up. IMG_1304Simply put, Sunny was not a fan of the new dogs encroaching on her territory. Also clear, as much as Sunny liked to tussle with all four neighbor dogs, Rosee was her favorite. In the beginning Sunny and Rosee would fight at the fence up to three times a day. It was summer and both dogs would go inside and outside as they pleased, which meant more often than not they ended up outside in their respective backyards at the same time, spelling loud, loud trouble for the rest of us. Rosee and Sunny were perfectly matched. The same size, same height, same build, both females, and both terribly territorial. It was this sameness though, this commonality that ended up sparking the fights at the fence between Rosee and Sunny because, come to find out, they were (and still are in some ways) both anxious and nervous dogs that had no real socialization with other dogs during that crucial time growing up. That’s it. They weren’t inherently aggressive dogs. They weren’t stereotypical Pit Bulls. They were just un-socialized.

Such a simple concept really, socialization. The process of learning how to behave with others by participating in social situations. The shaping of behavior to fit social norms. Socialization. Easy, not so much.

Dogs usually get practice at socializing as puppies, interacting with their mothers and siblings. After that, socialization can come in many forms, including meeting other dogs, people, animals, being trained, and just basically being introduced to the world in interactive ways. Now, Simon’s socialization was easier to help because we adopted him as a puppy. Unfortunately, before we adopted Rosee she basically spent the first nine months of her life in a kennel and the few times she was around other dogs she ended up getting bit. It wasn’t until my family brought Rosee home that we saw exactly what the lack of socialization early on in life meant for a dog. Rosee hated dogs walking past the front door and window. She couldn’t stand anyone making any sort of eye contact with her. She would bark incessantly if she heard the neighbors’ voices when she was out in the backyard. Any time she saw a dog while out on a walk she would just go nuts by barking, whining, and jumping up. It wasn’t until consulting a trainer that my family realized she wasn’t doing these behaviors because she’s aggressive. She’s doing it because she’s scared, anxious, and nervous. Talk about mind blown. Even more out of this world was recognizing these nervous and anxious behaviors in Sunny. IMG_1380So, how did recognizing Rosee and Sunny’s actual problems come to be useful to diffusing the numerous fence fights? Well, by knowing the reasons behind Rosee’s actions Theresa and I were able to tailor training so that Rosee began associating good thoughts with the fence. For the past year and a half Rosee has been subjected to an obscene amount of treats for any good behavior she displayed while at the fence. When she didn’t bark just because she heard the neighbors’ voices she got a treat. When Sunny was in the backyard, but Rosee didn’t notice she got a treat. When Rosee wandered to the fence, but then turned away she got a treat. Basically, anytime Rosee did not concern herself with what the neighbors (the human and the canine variety) were doing she got treats. Lo and behold, it actually worked!

The tussles at the fence have gone down dramatically, and not just in number, but also in intensity. Now, Sunny and Rosee spend more time staring at each other rather than jumping at the fence. Instead of seconds lasting between the staring and the war cry, there are minutes stretching between the two. When I do hear Rosee at the fence with Sunny I can just walk outside and call her away, and she responds! The fact is Rosee has learned, and still is learning, that she doesn’t need to guard the backyard fence, that the neighbors’ dogs don’t need to be barked at (same goes with their humans), and that she can actually be friends with Sunny. IMG_1499This everlasting experience of dealing with non-socialized dogs, both directly and indirectly, made me realize that barking dogs do not always equal aggressive. Jumping dogs do not always equal aggressive. Howling dogs do not always equal aggressive. Yes, if teeth are being bared, jaws snapped, legs running up and attacking, those are pretty clear signs of aggression. However, barking at the fence, jumping up and down, and war cries may have deeper meanings. Both Rosee and Sunny were simply dogs that did not get enough socialization as youngsters, and it had big implications for their behavior towards each other. And this isn’t just a call for ensuring people socialize their dogs, but also a spotlight on why it’s important to listen to dogs when they talk. Sometimes they are just saying hello, other times to stay away, and once in a while they are letting other people and animals know that they just don’t know how to interact with them. In Sunny and Rosee’s case they had to learn to be okay around each other, which also meant learning to be okay with others as well. It may have been a long, frustrating year and a half, but I have to say I am definitely looking forward to summer this year. Want to know why?

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Replaced fence boards. Still without a scratch.

I came home this past Friday afternoon only to have my mother tell me that earlier when she was out in the backyard with Simon and Rosee, the two found each other at the fence, stared, sniffed, and moved on. Rosee walked away to go lay in the sun on the grass and Sunny did the same in her own backyard as well. Now, that is a delightful best friend moment.