Monday, June 30, 2008

Pit bull supermix

For kicks, I spent some hard-earned cash and had the Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis test run on Dozer. Byrd and I keep wondering why our "pit bull" has medium-length fur, a pronounced sagittal crest (a bony bump on the top of the skull, not typical for pit bull type dogs), and an obsessive need to put things in his mouth. Naturally, I figured there was some Lab in him. Perhaps the Wisdom Panel could shed some light on his genetic makeup.

Results came back quickly and explained very little. "Dozer's ancestry contains distant traces of American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Bulldog and Dalmatian. There are also faint signals from other breeds which are not strong enough to identify." All of these breeds were noted as "trace amounts," with little stars next to Bulldog and Dalmatian to indicate "trace amount detected at low confidence."

Anybody with a Bull Terrier breed book can read that Dalmatian was a likely add-in to create the BT. And anyone familiar with the history of both the AmStaff and the BT knows that the old-style Bulldog forms the root of both breeds, and the modern Bulldog is a mutated version of that. So, duh, Bulldog and Dalmatian are gonna be in there if AmStaff and BT are.

But the results didn't say "Your dog is a mix of AmStaff and Bull Terrier." It said there were "distant traces" of those breeds.

For all it mattered, the results might have well said "Look, lady, just face it--your dog's a mutt."

Furthermore, it said (which did not inspire any confidence in me at all as to the accuracy of the results):

"Dozer is one of a kind, unlike any other dog in the world. Our analysis has shown that Dozer is an extremely complex mixed breed dog.... Validation testing has resulted in an average accuracy of 84% in first-generation crossbred dogs of known parentage. The breeds in this validation study represent 45% of AKC registrations."

In other words, if it's not an AKC breed, it doesn't count. This means Dozer could easily be part American Bulldog, or American Pit Bull Terrier, or Dogo Argentino, or any of countless other non-AKC breeds. And it sounds like the accuracy of the test drops significantly in cases where the dog is not first-generation crossbred--which is obviously the case with Dozer. So just how accurate is this test?

And finally, all of the breeds mentioned have very short fur and flat skulls. So I still don't know why my dog's fur is so long, or why he has a sagittal crest. These aren't "faint" characteristics at all--they're major aspects of his appearance--so why don't the results explain them?

I'm left musing the deepest irony of all... that despite the fact that my dog is apparently a total mutt, with only "trace amounts" of AmStaff in his genes, he would still be legally considered a pit bull mix in any of the countless jurisdictions with BSL. Not even "trace amounts" of Dalmatian can save him from the darkness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jumping bean

Dozer's allergies are worse than usual this year. I'm not sure why, but it may have to do with the lack of a freeze over the "winter" (if you can call it that), resulting in a lot more biting and bloodsucking creepy-crawlies this summer. I've caught a few fleas on Dozer--probably brought in from outside since he gets a monthly flea pill--but nothing really severe.

Unfortunately, but hilariously, he has become super-sensitive to any sort of itch or tickle or fur movement on his rear end.

The scene: The bedroom. Usually Dozer is laying on the floor quietly, perhaps snoozing. I'm writing or reading or doing something solitary. Byrd is asleep or watching TV. All is quiet and calm.

Suddenly Dozer's eyes snap open as wide as dinner plates, he launches out of his bed, and he flies across the room as if pursued by hornets! Occasionally, this also scares the bejeezus out of me. I then have to convince myself that there's no such thing as ghosts, and that my dog is just a freak.

Then Dozer will stop, look at his rear end with great concern, and glance over at me with a face that would probably be red with embarrassment if it wasn't covered with white fur.

Most of the time, I can only assume that he's reacting to a flea bite or a random tickle, or perhaps a piece of fur being brushed by air.

But once in a while, a few moments after such an incident, everyone in the room suddenly realizes that Dozer has been startled by his own fart as it pops out of his rear. Silent, but deadly.

After one such incident, as we waved away the fumes, my husband mused: "I wonder what it's like to have no concept of what a fart is or why it's coming out of one's butt?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Living With Pit Bulls" reality show: possible, or stupid idea?

I've long been convinced that a reality show featuring responsible pit bull owners and their dogs would be a fantastic way to showcase, well, reality; and we all know, when it comes to pit bulls, we are in desperate need of a reality infusion.

If it were properly and sensitively done, I think it would be an interesting and informative show, certainly more so than the reality garbage that's already on TV. I wouldn't even have a problem with sensational advertising for this show ("See real live people eat and sleep next to vicious pit bull beasts! Will these poor people survive?!? Tune in Wednesday night at 9!") if it would draw in the viewers... and maybe make them feel a little stupid for being so bloodthirsty.

But I see one major problem: The show would be incredibly dull. Horribly, painfully, terrifically boring. How does one sustain the popularity of this sort of premise? I'm not sure it can be done, even if the words "pit bull" are in the title of the show, and the show is full of pit bulls.

It just isn't interesting to watch normal people and dogs do normal, boring, average daily activities. And that is, unfortunately, what responsible pit bull owners do. They do the same stuff every other nice respectable citizen does.

I imagine a film crew at my house, taping an episode of "Living With Pit Bulls."

Me: "So, um, here's my dog Dozer. Please don't throw his ball. Don't even touch it with your foot. In fact, don't even look at it. Because if you do, he'll take you for a sucker and try to convince you to play fetch all day."

Cameraman: "No problem. So just act normal, just do what you always do."

Me: "Sure. Okay. Uh... guess I'll just sit here at the computer and type..."

[Dozer spends the next three hours trying to get the cameraman to play fetch.]

Me: "Well, now I'll just eat some lunch. PB&J. Dozer, wanna go out?"

[Dozer runs outside, pees, and falls asleep in the grass.]

Me: "Okay, Dozer, back inside. And I'm going back to the computer."

[Dozer relocates to the office and falls asleep for the next five hours.]

Me: "Well, Byrd should be home soon; I better start dinner."

[Dozer relocates to the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room and falls asleep while I cook.]

Me: "Oh, Dozer, Daddy's home!"

[Dozer jumps up and goes to greet Byrd at the front door, making Chewbacca noises.]

Me: "Honey, go play with Dozer until dinner is ready."

Byrd: "Yeah, yeah."

[Byrd and Dozer go outside and play fetch for 20 minutes or until Dozer stops bringing the ball back, whichever comes first.]

Me: "Time to eat."

[Dozer, now hot and exhausted, gasps and wheezes in front of a fan on the kitchen floor, while we eat.]

Me: "Dozer, you want foodies?"

[Dozer jumps up and drools everywhere, eats dinner.]

Me: "Dozer, go potty."

[Dozer goes outside, does some business, comes back in.]

Me: "Okay, time for bed."

[Dozer lies down on his bed and falls asleep.]

Me: "What happened to the cameraman?"

[I find cameraman's body on the floor in my office; autopsy reveals he was literally bored to death.]

Autopsy technician: "Well, that's a first. I've never thought that could really happen."

Politician: "Can we still count it as a pit bull-related death?"

Well, if you made it all the way through that episode, maybe there's some hope for this series after all. :)

In all seriousness, I think it could be spiced up by finding some more interesting owners (involved in rescue, affected by BSL, etc.) and dogs (involved in canine sports, therapy, police work, etc.).

Again, however, the show has to be carefully crafted to present a correct and appropriate image, and to avoid making statements that are common, but in fact untrue or stereotypical (i.e. "pit bulls have to be trained to be vicious," "pit bulls are stronger than any other type of dog"). My main concern would be that a bunch of Hollywood-types with ratings on the brain, and/or producers who are unfamiliar with pit bull issues (especially social issues like BSL and proper application of rhetoric, or "how to say the right things in the right way at the right time for the right effect") will screw the whole thing up.

Anyway, that's my .02 for now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Are all politicians alike?

I was reading the news about the crane collapses in New York with curiosity when I came across this article:

In particular, the following quotes caught my eye:
"Construction of buildings is out of control in this city," City Councilman
Tony Avella said. "How many people have to die before the mayor decides enough
is enough?"
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who represented the neighborhood affected
by the March collapse, said: "People shouldn't live in fear walking near a
construction site -- and certainly shouldn't feel fear sitting in their living

Do politicians work off a template for fear-mongering? This sounds just like the sort of stuff politicians say about "evil" pit bulls. "How many people have to die before we ban pit bulls?" "People shouldn't live in fear of pit bulls."

It's the same regurgitated rhetoric applied to a similar-yet-different circumstance. Terrible mishap? Yes. But is it the crane's fault that the collapse occurred? Is it in the crane's "nature" to crush people? Are they now going to consider banning cranes--or new construction--from New York? Or... could it be that mismanagement and human irresponsibility are the root causes of this deadly event? Alas, our society prefers to destroy the tool rather than pursue the human who abused it--and the politicians pander to society's whims.

As for me, I know where I stand. I'll never vote for a politician that uses any of these phrases: "how many more people have to die?," "people shouldn't have to live in fear of (insert subject here)," or "next time it could be a child." In essence, people who use those phrases are threatening their audience: "Follow me, or else... DOOM!"

Sorry, but I'm an independent, educated, critical, fearless individual. I'm not so gullible as to fall for those ridiculous scare tactics--and it's downright insulting when some politician or media outlet throws this kind of junk at us and expects us to eat it up. And for the people who do buy into the fear-mongering: please, grow a brain... if not for yourself, then for the good of society.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A ride to Rent Equip

We rented a little dump trailer to haul some dirt, and when we went to return it, we brought Dozer along in the crew cab.

Earlier in the day, Dozer had had to endure two visitors (my mom and her husband) who both played fetch with him just enough to get him excited. Then he had to watch out the dining room window as we came and went with loads of dirt and shovels and rocks. Every time I walked in the front door to get some water or keys or other item, he came running madly.

For hours, he anticipated some sort of extended, hardcore entertainment, and for hours, he was let down. The excitement and frustration built in him until I worried his overstimulated heart would explode.

So when my husband brought him along on our brief jaunt, the D was shaking like... like a ninety pound Chihuahua, basically.

He had his nose out the window until we got to about 40 mph; then he pulled it in and I rolled the window up (we don't let him put his head out the window at any speed higher than 40). Then he leaned with his face pressed against the window, looking incredibly pathetic and trembling with anxiety or joy, I'm not sure which.

We let him jump up front, in between the two of us on the bench seat, and he promptly sat sideways with his face in my face, panting and shaking and leaning heavily on my shoulder. At a red light, Dozer stared through the window at some guy standing at the bus stop. At Rent Equip, he stared straight back at the guys unhooking the dump trailer. All the way home, he leaned and trembled and panted.

When we finally got home, poor D collapsed onto his bed and went straight to sleep. Only thirty minutes in the truck, doing nothing but sitting in the A/C and looking out the window--but he was totally spent.

Byrd and I, meanwhile, went back outside in the heat to move a 400 pound rock into its designated position in our landscape. I really envy my dog sometimes.