Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Bliss Here

I ride the city bus to work. On Friday's we start work early and so I take a bus that comes an hour earlier. Once in awhile there is a man who walks his dog past the bus stop. The first few times I saw them, she had one of those cones around her head. Considering that I wear my love for dogs plainly on my sleeve, anyone I see walking a dog who will allow me, I pet them. This gentleman is no different-his dog is named Chili, and she is so gregariously friendly that the first time I met her she left some scratches on my wrist because she was so eager for pets. Chili is a pit bull. It turns out that Chili and her dad live in the same apartment complex that I do. Sometimes when I take Abigail out very early, I don't bother with a leash because I know there won't be anyone around. Last week I was mistaken-Chili and her dad were also out. Chili didn't have her cone on, but she was wearing a t-shirt. I wanted to ask my neighbor how she was doing, but I was a little concerned about Abigail, who doesn't mind playing with other dogs, but like to assert her dominance first. I wasn't worried about Chili, just that Abigail's barking might wake someone up early. I was right-Chili was on leash, and Abigail did a little sniffing, and then started barking, teeth bared. I had her sit, and Chili just started wagging. Abigail barked some more, and Chili just continued to wag, let me pet her, and look confused that Abigail was being mean. If any stereotype of pit bulls was true, Abigail should have been breakfast for Chili.

Another neighbor of ours has a beautiful mixed breed dog named Shingu. I'm not sure if I'm spelling that correctly; it is Korean for "friend." Shingu's mom worked in Korea for awhile as a teacher. All they really know about her is that she is part Lab. She is a beautiful rust and black brindle, with a long muzzle, sort of like a German Shepard Dog. Shingu does not live up to her name-she is very aggressive, especially with other female dogs like Abigail. Not long ago the couple that owns Shingu had a stray adopt them. They named him "Chance." Chance is a beautiful white pit bull, and he and Shingu seem to play very well together. Our complex has a dog run, and one night recently they were in the run when Abigail and I were having our evening walk. I took her into the run to play some, and Shingu immediately began to make her unwelcome. Shingu's mom put the leash on her, and Chance and Abigail just sniffed and ran around like normal dogs. Shingu kept barking her disapproval of Abigail's presence, even while being held back with the leash by her mom. Abigail didn't have a problem at all until I reached down to pet Chance, who just looked at me sweetly and wagged his tail.

The truth is, I've never, ever met a mean pit bull. I've seen them at the local dog park, I've seen them out walking in the neighborhoods and park trails. I've heard the lies about them being "time bombs," "unpredictable," and "dangerous." I've also watched some of the "dog police" programs on Animal Planet, and seen the type of places that those type pit bulls are raised, and I don't go to those places, nor, and this is the most important part, do I travel in circles with people who mistreat dogs to make them mean enough for dog fighting. I have been horrified when I see how the females are bred, how the dogs are treated and then disposed of like so much trash. I've seen the bodies of pit bulls that have been tortured and burned and shot, and it breaks my heart because I have personally observed that a pit bull, like any other dog, raised in a loving environment, becomes a loving dog. I've also heard many, many stories recently about pits being shot by police, or imprisoned and euthanized simply because they are pit bulls-with the explanation that they were not a clear and present danger, but because of the "potential" risk they posed. On July 19, Bradley Ralko wrote in The Daily Beast about police raids in which dogs are killed. He wrote of a raid on a wrong house that turned out to be the house of the town mayor, and the mayor's two Labs were both shot, one as he ran away from the chaos of the police kicking in the door. There are also daily stories posted on Facebook of police shooting the pit bull pets of neighbors of the homes the police are going to. The article in Daily Beast told of other breeds that have been shot-all the way down to a Chihuahua who weighed only five pounds. Please remember two things-these are police officers who are armed to the teeth, wearing vests and long sleeves and boots. The idea that the family pet posed any real threat other than a possible distraction from the job at hand, is a tad unbelievable. But also remember that humans domesticated the wolf that became the dog we now know in part because they could "guard the camp." In return, the dogs got fed, and had a safer place to raise their young-it was an evolutionary win-win. They have been our 'best friends' ever since-until now. We have made them in the image we wished, and then turned and blamed them for being so compliant. The media bear some blame in all of this-and hyper-reactive people and local legislators who freak out when a story is presented of a dog that hurts someone. The fact is that it is rare for a dog to bite for no reason, and it is also true that pit bulls are not the number one in dog bite statistics in this country. Yes, when they do attack, they can do great harm. But those attacks are almost never the dog's fault, they are typically caused by something that is done by the human who is bitten. I'm sorry-I am broken hearted when a child is harmed by a dog, but I can almost always see where the parent of the child or the owner of the dog was really at fault, not the dog. Children can be taught how to approach a dog without making the dog feel threatened.  If a child is not taught properly, then the child is in danger when in the company of ANY DOG. Any dog will bite if it feels threatened, particularly in it's own territory-WHICH HUMANS BRED THEM TO DO. And it is small dogs that are more likely to bite. Remember, every bite is potentially a crime, or a threat, but not every bite is reported, nor does every bite require medical treatment. When a Chihuahua bites, people are more likely to blow it off and put a band aid on it. People may think it is "cute" and say that "he thinks he's a Rottweiler." Whenever a patient comes to a medical professional with a dog bite, just like a gun shot wound, it must be reported. And that is where the statistics come from. According to the article in the Daily Beast, there are a couple of thousand dogs killed by police every year. This is not near as many as die from being raised in horrible conditions in puppy mills and dog fighting rings, but all are the result of either ignorance or a deep lack of respect and understanding of the special relationship that humans and dogs have had for thousands of years. Not to mention the human misunderstanding of what our place atop the evolutionary food chain really means. It doesn't mean we count more than other animals-it means we have a greater responsibility to respect and care for animals which may lack our ability to self-actualize, and approach life in a rational, honest way. If we were honest about dogs, and what we have done to them, how we have harmed them, and what they have given us, then the bliss-less ignorance that leads to the cruelty I would love to eradicate might disappear from human behavior. Because, always remember, ignorance is a choice. Parents, remember that children are born ignorant and it is your job to teach them about life. How to be safe and unafraid is a huge part of that teaching. Do your job, and your child can avoid being bitten by a strange dog. Teach them when young never to try to pet a dog without asking the owner if it is okay. Teach them not to come at a dog too fast, and not to come at a dog's face when attempting to pet them. These two actions alone will help prevent a child being growled at, nipped at, and potentially bitten. I wish I could run a training class for law enforcement that would stop the unnecessary killing of dogs that do not present a threat. I can't help wondering when the rule that allows killing a living creature for the potential threat it poses moves up to humans. We could all be killed under such a rule, because any one of us could be pushed to kill if we felt threatened enough.

1. Dogs in a Deadly Crossfire, The Daily Bradley Ralko, July 19, 2012

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters

the top three breeds known to bite are dachshunds, chihuahuas and jack russell terriers ...

"Seems the smallest dogs ranked the highest when it came to human aggression. The top three biters, in order, were the Dachshund, the Chihuahua, and the Jack Russell Terrier.

This is the findings recently published by the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science from a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania."

3. Victoria Stilwell Shares Tips to Stop Dogs From Biting

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, hosted by the AVMA to help stop the nearly 5 million dog bites that happen every year in the United States. Last week we spoke about dog bite prevention with former AVMA president Dr. Bonnie Beaver, focusing more on the human behaviors that might trigger, or prevent, dog bites. This week, we want to focus on canine behavior, and what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting. In this podcast, Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer and host of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” shares training tips to help prevent dog bites.

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