Friday, April 24, 2009

Pit bulls aren’t sent by Satan

Any time a child is killed — by a dog or any other means — it is a tragedy.
That is not lost on me, but the recent killing of an 11-month-old boy in Eastpointe by the family’s pit bull has again stirred a controversy about the breed that is so close to my heart.
The boy’s uncle told the press that pit bulls are “sent by Satan” and he urged everyone to get rid of them.
Let’s get one thing straight: pit bulls are not sent by Satan.
All dog breeds were developed by humans. If you want to point fingers, point them in the mirror because, in more ways than one, we humans are responsible for the transgressions of both the breed and the individual dogs we bring into our lives.
A Detroit News article reports that there were no previous complaints on this dog, who the family had owned since it was a puppy and said it had never showed signs of aggression.
These are always the type of statements that come out after maulings. It makes you believe that this dog was an angel who suddenly and unexpectedly turned evil.
But the report also says the dog wasn’t licensed. That’s never a good sign.
And, the first night I saw this tragedy reported on a TV news program, a neighbor put herself in front of camera telling the press that this was a scary dog, and she was scared of it.
So what is the case? How did this angel of a family dog who never showed aggression scare the neighbors?
It doesn’t add up.
No one wants to admit they put themselves or their children in a living situation with a dangerous animal. No one wants to say that there were signs the dog had behavioral issues, because then, aren’t they responsible?
The truth is, at least in my mind, we are responsible for our dog’s actions.
And dog owners who take that responsibility seriously start behaving accordingly before they even bring a dog home. They research the breed and make sure it’s a good fit for their home. They research breeders to make sure they’re bringing home a healthy puppy that comes from parents with good temperaments.
For people who decide to own pit bulls, this is such an important step.
You don’t want a pit bull that comes from a shady character who won’t let you visit up close and personal with the dog’s parents. You don’t want a pit bull that comes from someone advertising the puppies for their size and strength and toughness.
My pit bull came from a home where his parents were fully accessible to us. They licked us and wanted our attention, and they lived in a home with children ranging from toddlers to teens.
Pit bulls aren’t for everyone. In fact, they need a special type of owner.
They need someone who will spend time socializing them with other dogs, children, small animals and all the situations they may encounter in life. They need an owner who will give them daily exercise and training to keep them stimulated.
One thing I do want to note is a common problem among pit bull owners. Many times, young men go out and get a pit bull as a sort of status symbol, heralding their own toughness.
They don’t think about things like socializing their status symbol with children.
These young men grow up, meet women, fall in love, get married and years later, have children. Their pit bulls are aging and now, they are suddenly sharing their home with children.
If the pit bull has never been around children before, this can be dangerous. In fact, it can be dangerous for any dog who has not been socialized with children to be around them.
But in the right home, pit bulls can be fantastic family dogs.
I could go on and on about the greatness of pit bulls — how they used to symbolize America, how Helen Keller and different presidents owned them, how they were heralded as great war dogs and great Hollywood actors.
But I won’t.
I would like to add, though, that dogs do not suddenly turn on their owners.
In the 1980s, there was a myth that Dobermans — the “pit bull” of the ‘80s — had brains which at some point in their life would swell larger than their skulls, causing them to suddenly “turn” and kill their owners.
It was a myth, and it is also a myth when people, like in this situation, say pit bulls can’t be trusted because they will do just that — ambushing their owners with sneak attacks because they’re inherently bloodthirsty.
As a culture, if we encouraged people to learn about their dogs rather than expect their dogs to learn about them, we wouldn’t have these sorts of tragedies.
Dogs are dogs, be it a pit bull or a poodle or a mutt.
And my pit bull is proof that the breed can produce great pets who are worthy of being called, “man’s best friend.”
The photo, by the way, is of my pit bull hangin’ with his pal Ruger, a Britney who climbed all over my dog as a puppy. They don't look very Satanic, do they?

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