Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Waiting For the Dogs to "Turn"... Still

From my pit bull website I get nice emails from nice people and nasty emails from nasty people. When it comes to the nasty emails, I'm frequently surprised to get them, since they usually come from some person who has clearly done no research or critical thinking whatsoever, yet this person nevertheless takes it upon themselves to write an elaborate email to an absolute stranger (me), the contents of which are generally a combination of threats, myths, stereotypes, personal experiences, and so forth. Now, I'm not one to back down from a worthy opponent, but I prefer to match wits with someone who is at least equally knowledgeable and has something to contribute to a genuine conversation - not Joe Schmoe who's getting his "facts" from his beer buddies and the newspaper. So I try very hard to ignore or discard the really nasty emails, and occasionally I'll try to correct the misinformation someone tries to pass off as fact if I think it might do some good. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

One of the most common and frequent threats I receive tends to be the "I can't wait until your 'sweet' pit bulls turn on you!" Usually this precedes or follows some suggestion that one day my dogs are going to maul the entire neighborhood or some nonsense like that. Never mind that Felanie has already had eight whole years, and Dozer six, with ample opportunities to "turn" on me and countless other people.

When I first got Felanie, I totally bought into the any-minute-now-ticking-time-bomb theory. I was incredibly nervous around her for months. "Today could be the day that she flips out," I would think. In the back of my head (and I still remember it clearly to this day) I recalled a video I had seen on television. In the video, a reporter was chatting amiably while sitting next to a police dog. Seconds later, bam! Out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, the dog lunged at the reporter's face. I thought, "That could be Fel. One minute everything's fine, and the next, my face gets torn off by a bloodthirsty beast."

But day after day, month after month, and year after year went by. Nothing happened, except that I got a lot smarter. My fear drove me. I did a ton of research about dog behavior and dog attacks. And finally I understood what all the behaviorists and trainers kept telling me. "If you just learn how to read dog," they'd say, "then you'd never have this silly fear. There are always warning signs, there is always a reason." Years later I saw the same video clip of the police dog and the reporter. And as I watched it, I could see all the signs, and I knew the reporter was going to be bitten. Now that I could read dog, it was oh-so-obvious.

Meanwhile, as I got smarter, Felanie got older. She's been through dozens of baths and nail clippings without so much as a whimper. She's been through surgery and misery at the vet's office. She's watched me vacuum the house hundreds of times. Byrd and I have had our fair share of loud, furious arguments. We've had thunderstorms and massive remodeling projects. We've had a number of family get-togethers and total strangers come into our house. There have been, in sum, literally thousands of opportunities for Felanie to bite me for a perfectly justifiable reason (like fear of the nail clippers), and, similarly, infinite opportunities for her to bite me or maul me for no reason whatsoever, for her to "turn" on me. But it hasn't happened. Felanie's chin is now cinder-gray and her aging hip joints are more tender than ever. I catch her sleeping in the sunshine in our living room like a big kitty. She's eight years old and has become a very graceful, mellow, quiet old lady. I can't help but wonder how anyone could possibly think that this dainty old lady could "turn" on anyone... her best opportunities passed by years ago, and all she wants now is to sleep the days away.

Not to exclude dear Dozer, he is six years old, but he hasn't aged as quickly as Felanie. He's still a playful, rowdy, and clumsy fellow, and when playing he can be dangerous simply because of his sheer size; he requires more management in general due to the fact that he is both larger and more active than Fel. But like Felanie, he's endured so many trials of temperament that I have no fear of him ever "turning" on me either. I know his likes, his dislikes, and his limits. I can read him very well; he is quite the dramatist and likes to make his feelings known to everyone in a grand style. He's had six solid years to maul us all (and has even had some opportunities to chew up some little kids) and has simply failed to do so.

The simple fact is that very, very few dogs ever really "turn" on people. There's always a reason, always a warning. Millions of pit bulls (and millions of non-pit bulls for that matter) have lived to a ripe old age without "turning" on anyone at all. I expect my dogs will cross that rainbow bridge in the sky one day as really, really old dogs, after having lived a full life as beloved, faithful family members. Alas, a lot of nasty emailers will be sorely disappointed when my pit bulls pass on without biting anyone. I suppose it's good for those nasty people that, assuming my dogs have an average life span, I won't be able to say "I told you so" for many happy years to come.


Anonymous said...

While it's a true delight to see someone have such happiness with their "pit bulls" , it's people such as myself that have lost their one and only child because of such animal , that makes reading such blogs and what not very hard to do and hard not to make a comment towards it. My family once thought the same as you ! They even had pits for years and they were nothing but lovable and happy dogs. Then guess what, yep , you guessed it , while my son was playing with "Adrian" one day in their backyard, the dog decided it was going to attack . This happened as we were all in the backyard having a nice meal and conversation with our family . The child done nothing wrong , was even on the other side of the yard, however, the dog came tearing towards our son and would not let go !
I am not asking you to publish this , as that would be nuts. The only thing I would like for you to do is read it . As I said, they had this dog for years ( six years) , even took the dog to classes and such , then it just snapped!
I guess you don't have children so you probably wouldn't understand but please, just set back and think .

Daisy said...

Great site. I would like to put up a link to you on my site at: http://www.daisy-the-dog.blogspot.com/ is that ok?

happypitbull said...

To anonymous: Of course I sympathize with your situation, and I realize that sometimes these things do happen. However, in the grand scheme of things, such occurances are extremely rare. Children are far more likely to be killed in a car wreck or by their own parents' hands than by a dog, much less a pit bull. There are literally millions of pit bulls out there that have never hurt anyone and ultimately never will. Karen Delise comments on the rarity of "unprovoked" and "unpredictable" attacks in her book "Fatal Dog Attacks." Often, upon investigation, the attack turns out to be a lot less surprising than one would expect.

I'm not telling anyone that it's okay to be unsafe and irresponsible with their dogs. But I challenge those people who insist that every single pit bull is a "ticking time bomb of death." If that really was true, we should see hundreds or thousands of deaths by "pit bulls" a year, not the scant handful that actually occur. I also wonder what it is about "death by pit bull" that makes the incident so much more horrible, the death so much less deserved, the breed so much more abhorrent, than "death by (insert another breed here)." Labrador Retrievers bite and maim and kill too... yet I wonder how many Lab owners are confronted by complete strangers and given an ominous warning about impending disaster.

Again, I sympathize with you. There's nothing else I can say or offer, having no firsthand knowledge of your particular situation. (And I really am bothered by the ridiculous idea that if you're not a parent, you somehow don't "understand" children, or don't care about children, or are unable to deal with insert-your-child-related-issue-here. Give me a break.)

To Daisy: By all means, link away. I'll see if I can't do the same.

Anonymous said...

I'm so thankful I found this site. My dearly beloved German Shepherd who has been gone for five long years now left a huge hole in my heart. Her name was Lacy, she was full blooded and weighed about 75 pounds as an adult. I got her for my 8 year old son when she was 6 weeks old and they were glued at hip for the next nine years.

To her, she had one job and only one job that she did with complete heart. That job was to love my son and I, and she did it splendidly.

I'm ready for another large dog and loved the Shepherd, but wanted something different for I've had three Shepherds. I think the Doberman is a beautiful dog but all those 'stories' I had heard made me fearful. Would the dog turn on me?

I've been searching online for about 2 weeks now and actually ended up doing research on 3 of our large working dogs. The German Shepherd, the Rottweiler, and the Pit Bull.

My neighbor has ruined his Pit who is now 8 years old. NO ONE was ever allowed in the back yard, so of course the dog is not socialized. The owner wanted him mean, and thus he is. The owner takes great pride that his Pit has killed several dogs that made it over the fence. It is this attitude and this alone that has made the Pit what it is to most people; a horrifying killer.

The more I read about the Pit the more my heart broke. Never would I believe that me of all people could come to understand why someone would want "a dog like that"

That's how I felt about the Doberman also. Imagine my SHOCK when I found out that the German Shepherd attacks and kills many more people than the Dobie ever did.

My German Shepherds were wonderful dogs, they were loved, taken to the vet, had plenty of exercise, were praised/ Heck, my shepherd was bringing in one of my momma cats kittens in from the front yard, a boy coming to see my son said, "that dog is killing that kitten" I said, "no she's not. She's upset that it has wandered to far from home and she's taking it back". I had watched her many times with the small critters in our house, pet rats, baby birds, hamsters. If one roamed to far she would go up to it and try 2-3 positions with her mouth before she was comfortable picking the stray cat, rat, bird, whatever and bringing it back to its 'nest'

The Pit is the most abused animal in the USA. Dog fighting is rampant and these dogs are often burned alive or worse if they 'lose the fight'

The Pit has been used for search and rescue, trail and tracking, police work, and more. Helen Keller owned a Pit, in fact, as you said, millions have owned what I call our "power dogs" without so much as a snap at a child. My Shepherd never once bit anyone, most Dobermans don't bite just anyone, and the same goes for your Pit Bulls.

It's a shame that our large working "power dogs" that have died in battle, died in search and rescue, and literally saved hundreds of thousands of lives are now up for slaughter.

When my house catches on fire, or if I'm drowning, trust me, I'd rather have my German Shepherd by my side then my beloved and cherised Chihuahua. In emergencies, I'd be trying to get the chihuahua out of the house, while one of the power dogs would be trying to get ME out of the house.

People get these large breeds without bothering to see what it takes to make them healthy and happy. Our large breeds were bred to WORK, they weren't bred to fight each other so onlookers could gape and stare. How disgusting.

More than likely I will check into getting the "devil dog" after all, if Doberman's look that scary in the movies just think what they would look like riding beside you in your car.

My German Shepherd loved going anywhere we could take her, and so will my hope to have soon Doberman.

God bless you and your Pit Bulls. Tis true, a child is more likely to die at the hands of a parent before a dog would kill them. That's the TRUTH the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

God Bless our working dogs. For people are on a witch hunt.