Yesterday, Love and a Six-Foot Leash posted a new blog about advocating for pit bulls, and it struck home. I didn't always love pit bulls. I was raised to fear them and expect them to be unpredictable and turn on me. A big ol' sloppy kissing, tail-wagging black and white American Pit Bull Terrier named Fino changed all of that for me. I was hooked. Four years later and Axle came home with me.
When I got Axle, I had to accept strange looks, mean comments and general recoil...and that's when he was a little puppy. I started reading everything I could about American Pit Bull Terriers and pit bulls. I was so upset that people continued to discriminate against a group of breeds based on ill-gotten information. You could even say I got hot with righteous anger. I started following pages and groups like BAD RAP, The Unexpected Pit Bull and Pinups for Pit Bulls. I read about dog fighting and poor dog ownership in general. I started looking at everyone with a "pit bull" and wondering if they were really taking care of him/her. I started to look at EVERY dog owner this way.
I began to feel that the world was covered with horrible dog owners. Everywhere I turned, someone was trying to get rid of an "accidental" litter of puppies, trying to find another dog to breed their dog with, asking for veterinary advice (for potentially serious things) instead of going to the vet, and so on. People referred to their dog as "guard dog," "yard dog," and sometimes, just "dog." It was really getting me down. Why would they treat their dogs this way?
The blog post put that all into perspective. Just because someone isn't treating their dog like they should doesn't make them a dog hater. On the contrary, a lot of those people love those animals...they are simply ignorant.
I wrote a post not too long back about someone that had put a tattoo on their dog. It really disgusted me, but they saw no problem with it. Why? They would do the same for their human kid. Does that make it right? No, but it puts it into perspective. Will telling that person just what I think about putting a tattoo on a dog help? No, it will turn their ears away and close their minds. How can I make it better? I could talk to them about it, let them know my concerns that doing that could lead to a trend, and not everyone would take their dog to a vet (however shady that vet may be) and have a tattoo put on their dog. What about poisoning and infections? I wouldn't be making them feel bad about what they did, but maybe I could bring up a point that would encourage them to tell others not to do it. I can also lead by example, which speaks louder than any words.
A three-legged intact Bassett mix crossed out of my yard and into the road, where he was nearly squashed flat by a huge truck. I called him out of the road. He didn't have a collar, no one had reported him missing, and, when I took him to the vet, he didn't have a microchip. His rear end was nearly bare of hair and the skin was scaly. His tail was chewed up and raw, and I'm pretty sure I saw a flea or two. Animal control picked him up from my house, and, somehow, the owner was located. He's apparently an older man that feels his dog is a "yard dog" and has a right to wander. The dog lost his left hind leg due to a prior run-in with a car. Somehow, a note from the man made its way onto my front door. It read, "Looking for 3 colas beago dog His missing Left Leg ReaR From Pine Park area Please caLL _____________ at ____________ Thank You!" The man had told animal control that he had lived at his current residence for several years and had never had any problems with letting his dog(s) roam free. I haven't called the man, but I will today. From his poorly written note and the condition of the dog, I believe he is ignorant to how to treat a dog. Do I think he beats the dog? No. Do I think he loves the dog? Probably as much as he knows how.
We're not immune to ignorance. There are many subjects I'm ignorant about, and pit bulls used to be one of them. What does that mean? Everyone can LEARN, just as we all have. We are not a select few with a special knowledge and understanding that is unique; we are a select few here to educate the many with kindness and leadership, so that the few can become the many.
I was raised in church (another story for another day), and I do remember one particular verse from the Bible that a "soft word turneth away wrath, but a harsh word is quick to anger," or something like that. If we run at people with judgment, we won't make any progress. Jesus, as a teacher, sat down with the poor, the "sinners," the prostitutes, the dirty, to teach them his message. Do you think Gandhi or Mother Teresa would turn her nose up at these people? No, they would try to talk to them on their level and show them a better way. Sometimes, even kindness can get turned away, but don't give up!
You already have something in common with most other dog owners - a love for animals. I know we all want to see immediate change, see the dog off of the tie-out and in the house, see the Ol' Roy replaced with decent dog food, see the dirty dog washed clean again...but real change, change that sticks, takes time to cultivate. If you want people to change, you have to show them that they WANT to change. Maybe it's as simple as showing them the bond you have with your own dogs, or maybe showing how their dog responds to new and better things.
As a firm dislike-r of PETA, I can't believe I was beginning to think so much like them. I was so wrapped up in wanting to do good that I was losing sight of how to do it. Treat other dog owners with love and respect, and you'll be much more likely to get your point across and make a difference. I know, the guy down the road with the dog on a chain pisses you off. I know, the family across the road that breeds their dogs pisses you off. BUT - putting hostility in their faces about their actions won't help the dogs, and it won't change anything.
Let's all make a promise to ourselves (and our furbabies) that we will do better. We will educate the public through being an example, with gentle persuasion and genuine interest in their relationships with their animals.
Love, peace and pibbles. <3