Tag Archives: stereotypes

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.

Four Fool-proof Ways to Slay Dragons and Make Friends

In a common occurrence way that can only otherwise be described as widespread foolishness, walks around my neighborhood with my energetic pups are never completely successful until we have a tally of at least one person or group of people giving us dirty looks and sometimes making hurtful comments. I suppose it is these people’s way of conveying the publicly accepted (and expected) condemnation of us committing the ultimate sin: taking our Pit Bulls out of their prison (house) and setting them on an unsuspecting public. Yikes! So, to combat the dirty looks, nasty comments, and just general meanness that can be encountered when deciding to share your own lovable pup (Pit Bull or any other breed) I have developed four fool-proof ways of slaying these pesky “dragons” and possibly turning them into friendly townsfolk. Feel free to mold and use to your own devices.

1. Artic Glaciers Ain’t Got Nothing On Me: Glare. Glare like it’s going out of style. Glare like it’s the only expression your face knows how to twist into. I know it may seem a little mean and as if you are stooping down to the dragon’s level, but sometimes you need a non-confrontational way of letting someone know that their behavior is not appropriate or accepted. Glaring works. Glaring makes me feel better, like I am the bigger person who got the last word in because I didn’t even say one, just used the power of my stare. It’s a powerful thing.

2. Walk On By: Feeling non-confrontational? Simply don’t care how other people react to your beloved pooch? Good for you. You have reached a level of confidence that I find is attainable for myself on some days, others not so much (which is where #1 comes in handy to have in my repertoire). You are able to just walk on by (don’t stop), walk on by (don’t stop), walk on by (don’t stop)—Oldies but goodies am I right? Anyway, if you truly want to feel like the biggest bigger person who has no time for detracting dragons and their superficial stereotypical beliefs and actions then this way of reacting is for you. Walking by without recognition is the ultimate way of showing another that their actions do not matter, that you are taking your dog for a walk so they need to just deal!

3. Make It Snappy, Comeback Style: Since not all of us humans living on this Earth are so well-equipped with high-rise level confidence and unshakeable maturity that #2 might require (points to self) then there is option #3. Speak up! If someone’s dissing your dog or frowning at your fur-ball then say something. I’ll never forget this one incident when a terrible woman kept harassing me and Theresa when we were at a local park with our dogs. Theresa finally put an end to this woman’s bullying by firing back at her. The woman certainly did not seem to expect this and quickly turned tail. (Read the full story here.) The fact is you are an advocate for your dog, Pit Bull or not. If you feel as if someone needs some correcting in their beliefs and behavior then say something. I’m not saying to obnoxiously push your views onto others, but when people are being truly awful to me simply because I am walking my Pit Bull down the street then something needs to be said. And trust me, slaying your dragons with a well-spoken comeback does wonders to boost one’s confidence in a totally healthy and magnanimous way.

4. Model Behavior: Of course, the best way to truly silence the roaring of dragons and end their reign of terror once and for all is to model good behavior. The best revenge is a life well lived. So, when I am out on a walk with Rosee by my side directing her thousand watt grin at those that would cower away, I simply smile along with her, wish them a “Good morning!” and give Rosee a treat for a job well done. You never know, this could be your otherworldly magic casting its spell to transform said dragons into the respectable human beings they are more than capable of being.

You go brave knights!

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.


PITiful Stereotypes: Part Three

Reclaiming My Pit Bull

I hate stereotypes, about anything really. I might find myself turning to them ironically or because “I’m Mexican I can say that,” but for the most part I find stereotypes to be hurtful and mostly generic representations of people based on what others believe them to be rather than what they actually are. This applies to dogs as well, if I hadn’t of already made that clear with Part One and Part Two of this series. However, I have a confession to make. Hanging in my backyard, up on the fence, is a sign that makes a very stereotypical statement about Pit Bulls. My sign reads “I can make it to the fence in 3 seconds. Can you?” and below the white lettering is a picture of a Pit Bull with its short stature and bulky chest. This sign hangs on the back fence, the same section of fence that separates Rosee from her best enemy/friend (besides Simon of course).

IMG_1566So, why this sign? Why something that seems to point out the ferocity and aggressiveness of my dogs? It’s a simple answer really. What the sign says is true. Rosee, and Simon when he’s not distracted by pesky flies, can run out the back door and make it to the fence in seconds. The caveat? She only does this when she hears suspicious noises that she’s never heard before, thereby leaving her territorial nature in charge of all actions, or the neighbor’s dog is at the fence looking for her as well. The fact is this sign is not stereotypical to me. It does not say “Watch out! Vicious dog that can get to fence in 3 seconds.” It does not even have the words Pit Bull anywhere on the sign. For me it is a simple representation of my dogs and their great running abilities. The best part? This sign was not made just for Pit Bulls, but for all dog breeds.

Tucked away into a small, cozy store front on Pier 39 in San Francisco, California lives the awesome peIMG_1564t-themed shop named Le Beastro. With a clever name and not your everyday breed specific items for sale this particular shop is a dog lover’s dream. Le Beastro does not carry common brands of dog food or have a large assortment of dog toys. It has frames, cookie jars, t-shirts, socks, little plaques, metal signs, coffee mugs, and a plethora of specialized dog treats. This shop, though, might be best known for its multitude of breed specific collectible items, and when I say multitude I mean it! Le Beastro has items for pretty much any dog breed you could think of and possibly own, even the lovely breed Pit Bull. And when I say breed specific items I don’t mean muzzles made only for Pit Bulls or anything like that. The store stocks coffee mugs, signs and socks (and so much more) all with the image of different dog breeds. I myself became enamored with an endearing pair of grey socks covered in Pit Bulls.

It was at this store, during a day trip to the city to eat great seafood and window shop, that I stumbled upon a whole section of boxes filled with metal signs which were further categorized by the many dog breeds the store carries. From the Beagle to the Yorkie, Le Beastro’s got it all. Most signs are denoted by the picture of the dog breed front and center, however there are also some that have the actual breed name written on the signs. There are your more usual signs like yellow diamond-shaped signs with the words “Dog Xing” across the front. Then there are the more tongue-in-cheek signs such as the one that now graces my backyard fence.

IMG_1567I did not buy this particular sign because I own a Pit Bull. I bought this sign because it describes my dog, who just happens to be a Pit Bull, in a humorous way. Anytime I look into my backyard and see this sign I smile. It reminds me that my dog, though sweet and preferring to sleep most of the day away (if only Simon’s playful nature didn’t interrupt that preference most of the time) can still be a little rascal that likes to bark at any noise she deems interesting enough. We’re working on it though, I promise! As for Simon, bless his little soul, he can get to the fence just as fast as Rosee if only to turn around and bark in her face instead of at the actual fence. He too is working on his tattle tale ways.

Call it a re-appropriation or reclaiming of an otherwise hurtful stereotype that all Pit Bulls are aggressive and mean, I feel that by owning this sign and proudly hanging it up I am admitting no guilt, supporting no Pit Bull nay-sayers, rather I am appreciating who and what my dogs are. I am recognizing that my dogs are not perfect. They jump on kitchen counters, crowd doors, cruise for food, run through the cat door to the garage, and Simon might as well never learn the command “Leave it.” But they are not imperfect because they are Pit Bulls (or at least honorary ones in Simon’s case because I just don’t know what makes him, well him). Rosee and Simon are imperfect simply because they are dogs, young ones still learning and growing. And I would never want them to be perfect anyway because where’s the fun in that? I adore Rosee’s cuddly yet alert personality and Simon’s crazy goofy nature. I know that my dogs are happy and comfortable in their home, that they get their required amount of energy-draining exercise a day, and never go without good treats. Most of all, I am proud of their breeds, known and unknown. I am proud that they know how to sit, lie down, roll over, shake, high-five, high-ten, crawl, and even bow. So, I embrace my sign and others like it, finding the good humor in its truth and not in its stereotypical-ness (because that’s totally a word).

She’s quite the nosy neighbor.

Review: “Don’t Dump the Dog” by Randy Grim with Melinda Roth

Reading is a favorite activity here at Play Hard, Bark Often. In fact, for Rosee it ranks right after napping and going on walks. Whenever I have my e-reader or a paperback book out she tries to steal it from me to read it for herself.

Sometimes she enjoys a book so much that she can’t help but take a bite out of it.

I sort of happened upon Don’t Dump the Dog when I was surfing the internet and came across an article on something dog related and a commenter on the article recommended this book. Initially, the title was enough to peak my interest which led me to Amazon and after perusing the sample and finding the first chapter named “ADD Dog”, I knew I had to read it. In case you didn’t know, my mother has always called Simon an ADD dog. Mostly, he earned this nickname from her because he can never seem to focus on one thing. He is always getting distracted, running off to do something else, and can never seem to just sit down and relax. One of the hardest things to teach him has been to relax, and while most days it’s still difficult, if we all remain calm and stay consistent in how we act and what we expect of him, he eventually does settle down. Of course, it also helps if he gets his daily walk and play session. So, when I read “ADD Dog” as the first chapter title I knew that this was a book I needed to read, like yesterday.

What I enjoyed about reading this book was that it was not necessarily a book about training your dog, although Grim did impart pieces of dog training wisdom at the end of each chapter. Rather, it was more focused on why your dog may engage in a certain unwanted behavior. It was a book to help pet parents understand their dogs better. Each chapter focuses on a particular issue, and he opens the chapters with a letter he has received from a dog owner who complain about said issue with their dog. Most of the issues are common ones including, but not limited to, energetic and/or excitable dogs, separation anxiety, dogs that don’t get along with other dogs, excessive barking, dogs that go in the house (you get my drift here), and fearful dogs. Grim does his best to explain the reasons behind why a dog may exhibit various behaviors, and offers advice on how to deal with them. It’s pretty straight forward, and Grim is extremely blunt in his own remarks in answer to the letters he presents. Although, I have to say, it wasn’t easy reading about people wanting to give up their dogs so easily. I know rescue dogs often have some issues, some great and some small, but the idea that dogs could be so easily disposed of was sort of disheartening. I know some dogs’ have issues that require a lot of attention and patience, but that wasn’t necessarily the case in this book. Grim focused on the more everyday problems dogs and their owners may experience. In the end, reading this book was interesting because it really made me look at my dogs and try and understand the reasoning behind some of their actions.

My favorite chapters were “Chapter Two: Escape Artists,” “Chapter Six: Cujo in the Dog Park,” and “Chapter Nine: Bullies with an Attitude.” Chapter Two was a much loved chapter because it taught me to reject the “rejection of the herd”  if it means giving up such a significant friend (aka: the dog). Chapter Six was a favorite chapter of mine because it reminded me to acknowledge the small victories I have with my dogs. Instead of only seeing what my dogs are not really good at yet, I need to start seeing what they are accomplishing and realize that we’re getting there. Lastly, Chapter Nine was an interesting chapter because Grim explained this whole “dominance theory” and basically how the pervading popular theory is really not correct. Showing dominance over your dog is not about overpowering them and proving who’s tougher and stronger, but it relies more on one’s ability to command respect from them.

The main reason I really loved this book was that it got me. It really, really got me, and more importantly, it got my dogs. All the feelings I’ve had while dealing with Simon’s endless bounds of energy or with Rosee’s anxiety and fear issues, which pretty much left me feeling like a complete failure as a dog owner, were understood. The fear I’ve had of my dogs never being considered “normal”, the utter despair I’ve felt over Rosee being thought of as aggressive (and all the negative stereotypes that follow) due to her anxiety and fear of other dogs, and my own anxiety over not doing enough to let my dogs know that they could trust me to protect and take care of them (this is mostly coming from learning to deal with Rosee’s issues) were understood. I felt validated, and more importantly I realized that my dogs are pretty awesome. Instead of fretting over my dogs not being considered what others may deem as “normal” (rejecting the herd here) I should strive for them to be good dogs. Maybe Simon has a jumping problem that we’re still working on, but when I can tell him from across a room to lie down and he obeys I feel pretty darn proud of him. The point I’m trying to make is just because your dog may not be great at one thing doesn’t mean he/she won’t be amazing at others. Training is a continuous process that takes time and effort. Reading this book simply reminded me not to give up on my dogs because as long as I don’t they’ll learn what they need to.

And what is “normal” anyway? (Not exactly a new question I know, but humor me.) It’s a notion we strive for, and yet it’s hardly definable. However, after reading Grim’s book I decided that I would never want my dogs defined as normal because then they would lose the things that make them distinctly Simon and distinctly Rosee. Simon’s 23-hour energy and all around exuberance for life encourages me to stay active, to live in the moment, and to find joy in the little things (i.e. a squeaky toy being thrown around in the backyard over and over). This doesn’t mean that Simon can’t be a well-trained and behaved dog; it just means that he needs a few extra play sessions a day to deplete his over-abundance of energy. Whereas Rosee’s journey to overcome her anxiety and fear encourages me to overcome my own fears in life, be more patient with others, and understand that anything is possible as long as I have the support of the people who love me. So, I’ll take Grim’s advice and mark it as a victory when I walk with Rosee through a park where other dogs are running around and she doesn’t freak out, but walks beside me.

In conclusion, if you’re a pet parent and need some encouragement when it comes to dealing with your unruly dog or if you just want an interesting read about dogs I would absolutely recommend this book, and so would Rosee. Even if your dog is well-behaved 99.9% of the time I would say read this book because it helps us all appreciate the small things that dogs do for us. It’s not just the licks or other obvious gestures of affection that we should appreciate from our dogs, but it’s the little, unnoticeable things, like how they follow you from room to room just so they can stay close, that we should appreciate as well.