|Oakland Press photo of Aiden, the pit bull who attacked|
As a human being, I feel terribly for the little girl. Beside her physical injuries, dog attacks are an emotional trauma too — one that, unlike her physical injuries, will take much longer to heal. She will likely never forget those terrifying moments and may never get to enjoy the companionship of a dog of any breed because of the fear she is likely to carry with her.
As a proud pit bull owner, it is also always saddening to hear of such reports.
And as someone who has studied dog behavior for many years now, it angers me too.
The blame game: where do we begin?
It is not certain from any of the media reports I read whether this was indeed her family's dog. In all media reports, however, it's stated that the dog was recently rescued.
Shame on the rescue agency, first of all, for allowing this dog to go into a home with small children, if that was indeed the case.
But that's not even what makes me angry, because the truth of the matter is, if all rescue dogs had to wait to be evaluated by someone who was actually qualified to do such evaluations, there would be no rescue agencies — not the way we know them. And that means there'd be a lot more dead dogs.
What makes me angry is that we, our society, our culture, calls the dog man's best friend without really knowing the first thing about them. We don't deserve to call dogs "man's best friend." And if we do, it is a joke. A complete joke. We make awful friends and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
Video of the pit bull that attacked the Rochester Hills' girl
Pit bulls: Do you have what it takes to own one?
Reports like this are what motivates me to write this blog. Not because I want to tout pit bulls as the best doggone dogs around — I may own a pit bull, and love a pit bull, but I'm no idiot. Pit bulls aren't the dog for everyone and frankly, it scares me half to death to think of the powerful breeds, labs included, owned by the masses who don't know the first thing about dog behavior.
Most people just get lucky. The right circumstances for an attack never add up. But for damn near every dog, there is a threshold. There is something — some set of unique circumstances — a dog wasn't socialized to, prepared for or ready to cope with that could happen, but it may be a very narrow set of circumstances that just never occurs.
But for many dogs, the circumstances do occur. Many people have been bitten by dogs of all varieties and often, those bites never add up to anything. The dog was small, or the bite was half-hearted and motivated by fear; not serious enough to inflict grave injuries and hit the news.
Pit bulls need an owner who holds him or herself to a higher standard of responsibility and understanding of the breed they've chosen to make their best friend.
Most people don't have what it takes.
Most people hardly have what it takes, in my book, to be a responsible owner of any breed of dog.
And that is why I write this blog.
My contribution to our cultural deficit with dogs
I had a environmental science teacher in college who talked about global warming. Regardless of your political opinions, and without stating my own (though I will note, isn't it ridiculous that I have to reference global warming as a political issue?), the lasting impact she left on me had to do with our discussions relative to global warming.
She gave us statistics — frightening statistics — and she knew it was scary. She told us it scared her. And she realized it would scare her students too.
So she left us with this:
"Don't freak out," I remember her saying. "The point is, what has happened has happened. All we can do is contribute in any little way we can. The world is what it is; we need our cars and we can't change that. We cannot fix a problem this big on our own, and we cannot burden ourselves with the fear of believing we need to. But we can do little things, in little ways that fit our lives, that contribute to helping."
This blog is my little way of contributing to the dog problem, of trying to impart some knowledge of dog behavior to those who care to read it.
I cannot singlehandedly change the way our culture perceives and treats dogs, but maybe I can help a few people understand dogs a little bit better.
That will just have to be good enough for me.
Start learning about dog behavior
Want to be a better dog owner? So glad I could motivate you! I have two great books to set you down a path that will become an incredibly rewarding journey.
Check out my reviews of, and find links to purchase, Jean Donaldson's Culture Clash and Andrea Horowitz's Inside of a Dog.