For more than a decade, I have apparently been horrifically irresponsible.
Ignore the poop bags that I carry in every coat pocket. Forget for a moment that every animal we have ever had lived to a ripe old age, never having bitten or injured anyone. Do not look upon the fact that I take tremendous pride in training my dogs so they are welcome in the community. Ignore the leash that I use in public areas.
It all means nothing.
H”ear” this. There is one sure way to tell a responsible owner from a gangbanging thug. Thugs own “those” types of dogs. By “those”, they mean Pit Bulls and other vicious breeds of dogs. “Nice” people claim that no responsible or sane person could want such a vicious baby-killing monster with locking jaws and a hair trigger. “Those” type of owners want a gun on legs.
For years, I was unknowingly on the wrong side of responsible. I felt the anger and rage from the nice people. I heard the threats. “If your dog looks at me funny I’ll kill it.” I also heard the veiled blackmail. “I don’t like how you are building that fence. It blocks my view, and does animal control know that you actually own a Pit Bull?”
How does one respond to that? Does “I solemnly swear my dog shall never look upon you,” placate an out of control neighbour? Is it more appropriate to point out that killing my dog pre-emptively is violent and not very nice for a “nice” person?
The blackmail option is the most dangerous. Often with breed specific legislation, it does not matter if you actually own a Pit Bull or not. What matters is if someone arbitrarily decides that your mutt – even a Labrador cross – might kind of…sort of…look a little like a Pit Bull. Owners of Lab crosses beware. You had better have a very large bank account for lawyer and court fees before engaging in a neighbourly dispute. Not a dog owner? It affects you too. Your taxes pay for the municipality’s legal fees.
While the court case drags on for years, the dog withers away in a pound. Days turn into months and the frustrated and scared dog turns into a neurotic, quivering mess. There is a very real possibility that friendly and wrongly accused pets are returned to your community ruined. What an irony that a public safety law has the potential to create aggression and a risk to public safety.
Long story short – Kiki was a shelter rescue. Her litter was born at the Humane Society. We fostered her and nurtured her back to health. We could not bear to part with her. Never once did we choose to adopt based on her appearance. She grew into a 50-pound muscular mixed breed dog. Her ears often pricked when something caught her interest.
That was the day we became “that” type of owner.
People begin to treat you differently. Assumptions run wild. We went from foster family to perceived gang members, our bodies presumably tattooed with satanic script. I am sure they felt our child had one foot in the door of a jail cell.
Years passed, and so did Kiki. We welcomed a new addition named Kip. “Poof!” Like a Christmas miracle, I have become a responsible owner. I know why. It is the ears
Kip has large pointed ears that stand erect. “Those” types of dogs owned by “those” type of people do not have pointed ears. Not that owners can use this to choose a puppy. A dog’s ears don’t stand up until they are older. You just can’t predict a dog’s ears if it’s a mutt.
With one pair of ears, I have been saved by grace of dog from the wayward path of gangs, jail and stolen hogs hidden under tarps in the shed. Hallelujah! I have been redeemed by a dog’s ears.
If that sounds absurd, it should. I have not changed from one dog to the next. The shape of a dog’s ears should not dictate whether I am responsible or irresponsible. Poop bags, leashes, training and socialization – those are the things that make a responsible owner and a safe dog.
On one hand, I am very much enjoying getting out with Kip. People smile and say hello. They laugh at his tricks and enjoy petting him. I am looking forward to the next year as we plan to get out and do some shows where I do not feel afraid that my dog will be seized and killed.
As enjoyable as that might be, bitter feelings come with it. Threatening harm to responsible dog owners is unacceptable. Laws should not incite violence and hatred. If they inadvertently do, they need to be changed.
My dogs are friendly because I make them so. It does not matter if they are black, tan, large, small, spotted or brindle. Friendliness is on the breeder, the trainer, the owner. It does not rest on a pair of ears.
“That” type of owner with “that” type of dog is likely to be a “nice” family that is doing charitable work and falls in love with the sweetest puppy on the planet. If you have a problem with aggressive dogs – deal with aggressive dogs. Judge me on my dog’s behaviour, not on her ears.
If as a dog owner you feel this does not apply to you, remember it takes one small law. Ban the German Shepherd, and mutts with pointed ears become “those” types of dogs. H”ear” this. You will also become “that” type of irresponsible owner. “Poof!” Just like that.
My boyfriend’s parents have three beautiful Dobermans. They are some of the most loving dogs I’ve ever met. It’s frustrating when we all go on vacation together, and we have to be careful of what RV parks we go to because Dobies are “vicious.”
When we take them on walks, only the big black and tan looks like a Dobie. His ears are done, as is his tail. He is just a massive dog (130 pounds of muscle), and as soon as people lay eyes on him, they immediately move to stay as far away as possible. The other two (a red with long ears and a fawn with folded-over ears) are often approached, with people asking if they can pet them. The funny thing is that the big black dog is the kindest and most loving to strangers – yet people avoid him the most.
It’s really disappointing to me because when the big one is bred, we’ll have two. And people will look at us and think that we are “those” people.
People really need to understand that owning a wonderfully behaving, loving, and sweet dog is on ME. It’s not on the breed. I hope one day they’ll really wake up and smell the roses.
That would be so frustrating, having a dog that gets ‘the look’, and the treatment to go along with it. Some of the best-trained, sweetest dogs I’ve met have been ‘ferocious killers owned by gang members and bad people’, if I judge them solely based on society’s perception of them. Very frustrating. I can’t even imagine dealing with neighbours threatening you, or the possibility of losing one’s dog based on a stupid and uncontrolable aspect of their physical appearance.
30+ years ago I had a neighbour who was a musician, and also my sister’s boyfriend. I used to look after his Doberman when he was away at gigs. She was beautiful, a calm, very well trained and socialized dog with a regal bearing. I was amazed at how many people would cross the street to avoid us when I was walking her, and more than once mothers would grab their children and plaster themselves up against a wall as we walked by, with Shiva in a perfect heeling position and on leash. Personally, I knew she was a big wuss, that my cat loved to terrorize. I wanted to say to those people who were so frightened of her based on her appearance “but she’s a lovely dog!” but usually I just kept going, not wanting to escalate the situation further. Years later I was horrified to discover that my own mother supported BSL. She said why would anyone respectable want to own one of “those types” of dogs? I asked her if she remembered Sam’s dog Shiva, and pointed out to her that Shiva was a breed considered one of “those dogs” back in the 70’s and 80’s, before Pit Bull type dogs were common in Ontario. It is a perception based on fear and ignorance and a few bad apples, and heightened by the media who seek and report on only the stories that sensationalize and sell their product. It smacks of racism, and defies all the research and statistics and evidence supplied by qualified professionals, a cheap solution for our politicians to placate the public, without really addressing the more complicated enforcement and education needed to reach the owners of poorly raised, trained and socialized dogs of all breeds. Better education and ownership practices change dog bite statistics, not BSL.