Monday, November 22, 2010

Hurtful

As I've mentioned before in this blog, our family dog is an American Pitbull Terrier who we adopted from the local shelter when she was a puppy. I was born into a family with a mom who loves dogs so of course there was always a family dog or two in our house. When I was eight I got my first very own dog - a cockapoo - and my responsibility was to take her to obedience training classes. Dogs and horses were my things as a kid and I actually have a lot more experience training and raising dogs than I do caring for horses, although I'm pretty good with horses.

So, when my daughter was two years old and our five year old bichon, Sherman started snarling at her and even nipped at her I deemed him "aggressive toward children" and we found him a good home with my mom's childhood friend, "Grandma Sandy". I didn't want to adopt another dog who we'd have to re-home because of difficulty with children so I researched breeds, their temperaments and which dogs would have the best chance with young toddlers. Many breeds of dogs are high-strung enough their chances with young toddlers are not good, all the herding breeds (which I love) are a bad fit because they will need to be trained not to herd young children, and many other breeds (such as Beagles and Chows) have very strong natural prey drives (bad with our other pets - cats and chickens). With the right dog from any breed we could've made it work with proper training but I wanted to make sure our chances were really high that it would work. (side note: our older dog was a rescued border colllie/German shepherd who I'd rehabilitated after he'd been deemed ten years before "people agressive" - and he was a great family dog so anything was possible)

All my research showed that pitbulls were my best choice. It was a bit of a hard sell for my husband but when he looked at the statistics and temperaments of pitbulls he had to agree. So, we adopted Willow when she was five months old.

She's four years old now and a great family dog. My daughter can sit on her and climb all over her and all she does is submissively wag her tail. I walk her to school with us every day and tie her up outside while I take my daughter inside and she sits quietly until little kids run up to her and then she wags her tail and gently tries to lick them in the face. Kids will run by her and pat her on the head and say "Hi Willow" and parents will stop and say to me, "Is that your dog? We love that dog!"

So, when I read the comments on local news sites like KOMO where uneducated people say "Anyone who even considers owning a pitbull had mental problems" or on another site a while ago someone said that parents who own pitbulls should have their kids taken away by CPS - it is very hurtful! I have a neighbor across the street who won't let her kids play in my yard or at my house because as her daughter told my daughter, "Your dog is vicious and bites."

I know that in the grand scheme of things this is not such a big deal. If I compare it to how a black family in the deep South must've felt fifty years ago I can't even imagine how painful that must have been. Or I think about how my cousins in Saudi Arabia must feel when they come to visit us. That would obviously be much worse.

But even in it's own small way it is very hurtful. And trying to educate people on the reality of pitbulls and dogs in general is often useless. There are a lot of people who would rather listen to sensationalist propaganda used to sell newspapers and gain veiwers. The truth is dogs are animals and they need to be properly trained and cared for no matter what their breed, but especially if it is a large and strong dog. Negligence to do so is not the fault of the dog and especially an entire breed.

Pitbull are a mix of two types of bulldogs. They were historically bred as farm dogs because of their stamina, strength, courage and low pain tolerance. They were quickly swept up into the sport of dog fighting because of those attributes. Even dogs that come from a lineage of fighting are bred to be dog-aggressive, not people-aggressive. There is a big difference between dog-aggression and people-aggression. If another dog attacks Willow, she will probably fight that dog to the death if no one intervenes. That doesn't mean she is going to attack and kill your child. In reality she is less likely to attack your child than most other breeds, even the popular Golden Retriever. If someone trains a pitbull to attack people it does not mean that pitbull would natural do that. And do you even know that was an American Pitbull Terrier that attacked someone? Look at this page and tell me if you know which of all of these photos is the one of the American Pitbull Terrier?

And dogs do not "snap" any more than your average person "snaps". To say my dog is going to eventually snap and kill someone makes about as much sense as saying that someday I'm going to snap and kill someone.

It is just plain hurtful people. I'm not putting you and your family down so stop passing such offensive judgments on my family.

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