For those of us who are used to living with dogs as a regular part of our daily routine, I think we often take for granted how lucky we are to have them as a part of our daily routine. At least I can say that I am guilty of it.
After an exhausting day, (or night) at work, my first sight at opening my front door is two blurs of canine shapes wiggling their entire bodies in sheer delight that I am home. One farily quiet and the other crowing at the top of her Pit Bull lungs, they dance around like my repetitive arrival is the most joyous experience. The Min Pin chimes in with the exasperated yipping, (which sounds like "reek "reek") and frolicks about.
My training side says to ignore them, my headache says for the love of dog, stop crowing so loudly, and my tired legs are noodling from the thrashing happy tail syndrome. All I want to do is relax for a few moments and all they want to do is get a few moments of attention from me. It's as if they had been anticipating my home-coming every second of the day and are about to burst.
Sitting on the couch, Boada, my male Pit Bull, can't quite reach my face and in an effort to impress me with his French skills, he steps on my feet with his small, but heavy paws and claws. Not impressed by the tongue technique I jerk up in response and fuss at him for stepping on me. He pouts like a 3 year old. Actually pouts.
Then there is feeding time. I just have to walk by the dog food cabinet and the drool spicket from Ophellia's never-ending faucet of slobber begins. I feed as quickly as possible for minimum clean up. As she inhales every chunk without chewing I ask her what her teeth are even in her head for if she's not going to use them. Then I look at her like I expect an intelligent answer or a different result at the next feeding.
I often go about the dialy routine without stopping to remember my dogs are dogs, not people. I love them like I love people, but often forget that my exhuberant furballs don't understand headaches, or Mommy can't throw the ball because she's late, or your breath smells like the salmon oil I just poured on your food so no, I don't want one in the kisser.
Then the guilt sets in. Often I spend so much more time with other people's dogs that mine get the short end of the stick, when they should come first. Someone once told me that if you don't have time to put your hands on all of your own dogs at least once a day, you aren't giving them the attention that a good owner would.
Being that I know my dogs would put themselves between harms way and my children in a heartbeat, or alert me to dangerous situations, I have a lot to be thankful for in having them. Aside from our safety, they really are just ridiculously pleasant to be around. Who else in your life greets you quite as excitedly as your dog. Who doesn't mind the way you smell when you need a shower, or wants to kiss you even though you haven't brushed your teeth yet. I garuntee your spouse will give you that look if you pass gas in front of them, but not your dog.
We remind ourselves daily to live in the moment. Our canine companions could not be better teachers of that very philosohpy. They are quick to forgive, quick to love and always loyal. The lessons are immeasurable.
So... stressed and tired; out the door with you, and, as much as I hate Salmon, bring on the kisses. Our years together are numbered and I want to enjoy every moment. Maybe not the "you left me at home all day so I chewed up your favorite pair of shoes" moments, but then again...they're just shoes.
I work on fun activities to enrich the lives of my children, now it's time to play tug of war more and get a little muddy to enrich the lives of my dogs as well. Maybe I'll learn a thing or two along the way.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Always and never. Both are very definitive words that are all-encompassing when referencing a situation; no exceptions. Can one truly say that every dog from an entire breed will always act in the same manner or never act in another? A growing number of Home Owners Associations, (HOAs) and property managers seem to think so.
Define “aggressive breed”.
For starters, let’s begin with a simple English lesson and break down the phrase into its two simple components:
Aggressive: tending towards unprovoked, offensive, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing.
Breed: relatively homogenous group of animals within a species developed and maintained by humans. Lineage, stock, strain.
So when making the reference to “aggressive breed” collectively, one is, by definition, labeling an entire group of animals in the species as having the characteristic of tending to attack offensively and unprovoked. Pit Bulls are often the target, (amongst a few other misunderstood breeds) of this derogatory term.
What about the Pit Bulls who currently serve our country as Search and Rescue Dogs? What about the Pit Bulls who are war heroes, service assistance dogs to the handicapped, or therapy certified and help children with literacy challenges learn to be more confident in their reading skills? These are not dogs that are boldly assertive or likely to attack, but in fact the opposite. If there is a breed ban in the neighborhood; these life saving dogs are banned too.
Here is a good question to ask these discriminatory associations: How are they determining which dogs are actually Pit Bulls? Nine times out of ten, (by personal and other research) when asked to identify a Pit Bull out of a group of pure bred dogs, people answer incorrectly. A dog may be a mixed with Pit Bull, be a full-blooded APBT, or be 0% Pit Bull but just have a big head and stout body; according to breed biased apartment managers and HOAs, they are all the same. Pit Bull or not.
The all-encompassing term doesn’t seem so all-encompassing after all. Truth-be-told, the term “aggressive breed” is an ignorant conglomeration of words which only reflects poorly on the user as an inadequate attempt at the English language and a poor example of a quick fix to an issue they don’t have the first clue as to how to solve.
As a parent, would you be content with a Band-Aid over a stab wound? Would you rather raise your children in a neighborhood with no Pit Bulls, so that your child can’t have an accident with a Pit Bull specifically, or would you rather raise your child in a neighborhood where they have the smallest chance of a bite or attack from all breeds? It is not okay for any dog to attack a child.
The answer is proactive, responsible action on the part of not only the HOA, but the entire neighborhood as a whole.
Let’s try a different approach to labeling; how about “responsible owner”.
If an HOA, property manager, or Insurer is truly concerned about safety, then why not take a more tactical approach? Any breed of dog can exhibit an aggressive individual in the group, be they Lhasa Apso, Golden Retriever, or Viszla. Perhaps instead of singling out groups, why not single out irresponsible owners? To do so is not overly time intensive or taxing on HOA or management members.
· Check veterinary references.
· Are there any bite reports or continuous complaints filed with Animal Control?
· Is the dog licensed if required by the county?
· Enforce leash laws.
· Start a responsible dog club within the community and hold Saturday training classes for CGC certification.
· Put out bite free/accident free reports in the neighborhood newsletter or website.
· Recognize a responsible owner of the month.
Another consideration is that discriminating against a specific group of dogs is essentially discriminating against a specific group of owners. When did discrimination of any sort towards another human being become socially or morally acceptable? How is singling out a specific group of people and not allowing them to be housed in the same neighborhood not highly offensive to more than just those affected by the discrimination?
HOAs need to tackle the problem from a positive approach and work on improving the overall responsibility of the owners in the neighborhood; not enforcing Band-Aid approaches while using terribly improper terminology.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I normally look forward to phone calls from reporters; any chance to speak positively about the work I do with the American Pit Bull Foundation is a chance that my words will fall on the right ears and benefit our cause to a safer, more responsible environment for our dogs and our children.
Today my heart sank as I listened to the gentleman on the phone from the Charlotte Observer describe what happened to an innocent 5 year old girl when an irresponsible neighbor’s dogs attacked her in her own yard. This sweet child, just beginning life, only to have it ended so abruptly; preventable and horridly tragic.
This sort of news is crippling, even to those of us who do not know this family. This sort of news will also hurt owners who have wonderful dogs and/or are responsible about the training and environment they provide for their dogs. This sort of news is what fuels the “quick-fix” knee-jerk response of breed bans which do not protect families, but make criminals out of common folk and not a difference to the owners already involved in illegal activities.
This family will never be right again. This family will struggle through birthdays, holidays, and normal every-days because of one owner and a deadly mistake.
Dog owners have a responsibility not only to their dogs, but to their family, and to anyone who comes into contact with their pets. To show no concern for any one of these is not only selfish, but dangerous. Simply put, if you can’t demonstrate responsibility with your dogs and your family, why should you be allotted the luxury, the blessing, or the ability to possess either? As a dog owner, as a parent, you are their safe-keeper, their guardian.
Take this to heart. If you are a dog owner, you should know that these are companion animals who either need to be a part of your everyday family activities, or they need to be a part of someone else’s family if you cannot provide the right environment for them. Dogs are intelligent, social creatures who thrive on being man’s best friend, not chained up in the backyard breeding aggression and becoming the next statistic.
We can contribute to eliminating disastrous scenarios such as this in the future by our efforts today.
· Struggling dog owners who are open to guidance need compassionate education before they too become the cause behind unfortunate headlines.
· Push for stricter action against those who cause this sort of irreversible pain. Examples need to be made of these cases so that owners are reminded of the consequences of irresponsible actions. Talk to your city officials.
· Regulate breeders by licensing them and enforce healthy, environmental circumstances around breeding; if they are a reputable breeder, chances are they will not argue this, for the best interest of their dogs and to preserve the integrity of their breed. This will help weed out those who believe hocking puppies from the back of a trunk at Wal-mart is ideal. It will also help keep back-yard breeders from inline breeding and selecting for aggressive tendencies.
· Continue to educate children on safety around dogs; petting, bite-safety, when a strange dog approaches, learning basic behaviors, etc.
Please join me in a pledge to be a responsible dog owner. Visit: http://www.americanpitbullfoundation.com/Pledge.html and add your name to show your promise to your dogs, your family, and your neighbors.
My heart goes out to the victim’s family tonight. May your conscience allow you to erase this nightmare and one day replace it with nothing but your fondest memories of the time you shared with her.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
It is easy for people to often get wrapped up in the politics of their individual, personal beliefs when it comes to a subject they are passionate about. Passion is the driving force that catapults ideas into fruition, and therefore, a very important catalyst in fueling what rescuers do best; save lives.
The unfortunate side to passion is that often our judgments can be clouded by our emotions, the same way that love can make us, as they say, blind.
The key to seeing the big picture, (what we are all in this together for), is bridling our passion in a positive way and saddling up with partners who are in the good fight for the same reason.
Put down your guns, your politics, your angry words. Humans are unique in the sort that we are all different from one another. Boring and uneventful will be the day that we all share the exact same perspectives. Instead of criticizing the differences amongst each other, harness the reality that mountains are moved by joint efforts, not a pack of chiefs trying to bark operational orders at the same time.
Rescue efforts should resemble non-discriminatory employee handbook policies in the sense that partnerships should not be based on race, color, sex, religion, nationality, nor an “I know better than you” attitude.
Be willing to learn from others and be ever diligent in broadening your horizons, whether you are nineteen, or ninety. Hold your hands out in honor to receive knowledge from others and humbly share yours in gratuitous return.