Friday, June 29, 2012

An Open Letter to My Owner

I'd really like to know why you brought me here. Did you like me when you got me or was I just another toy? You liked me a lot when I was smaller, I think. You cuddled me and told me I was cute. You showed me off to all of your friends. You liked to tell them I was going to be big and tough and strong. I didn't care what you said, really, as long as you loved me.

You got mad when I was smaller and used the bathroom in your house. It's not my fault you weren't watching me. I wanted to go out, but I had to go so bad that I couldn't wait. You made me live outside then. This made me very sad. I could see you in your house, and I knew you needed me to be by your side. That's where I'm supposed to be. I'm supposed to make you happy when you're sad. I'm supposed to protect you and make you feel safe when you're scared, and you're supposed to do the same for me.

When I couldn't see you through the windows, I'd leave the yard looking for you. You would suddenly appear, mad and loud, and drag me roughly back to the yard. I'd wag my tail, just because I was happy to see you. You came home one day with a chain. You attached one end of the chain to my dog house and one to my collar. It was so heavy, I could hardly hold it up. I wagged my tail because you came to see me.

I got bored a lot outside. I got used to the heavy chain, but I couldn't get used to the boredom. I dug holes and chewed on my dog house a lot. I chewed my dog house so much that the water leaks in when it rains. When you would come out to give me food, you'd call me stupid for chewing a hole in my dog house. I wagged my tail because you came to see me.

One day, when I was bigger, you brought people to see me. They liked the size of my head and muscles. They were amazed at the size of my neck. Theirs would be as big as mine if they had to drag this heavy chain. They wanted to have puppies by me. They said I was pretty and big and tough and I'd throw pretty puppies. I wagged my tail because these people liked me.

It wasn't long before the people came back. I didn't like the dog they brought with them. He was cranky and he smelled bad. He was supposed to be my mate, they said. I bit him when he came close. You hit me and told me I was bad. You said this is what I was supposed to do, now sit and take it. I didn't want to be with this dog. I was too young. I wasn't ready. I didn't like him. I growled and I bit and I made a big fuss. The people got mad and went away. You fussed because I cost you money. I cost you time. I knew you were upset, so I tried to lick your hand. You hit my nose and walked away. I wagged my tail slow, because I was sad to see you go.

It wasn't long before more people came with dogs they wanted me to breed with. This time, they didn't give me a chance to react. They left me on my chain and roughly put me in a contraption, a "breeding stand" they called it. I growled and I screamed and I cried. I didn't want to be with that dog. Satisfied, the people left with their dogs. They would be back after the puppies, my puppies, were born.

I guess you liked me better when I was pregnant, when I could make you money. You visited me more often, and you brought me nicer food. I got hungrier as I got bigger, but you didn't always bring me enough food. It wasn't long before I had my puppies, but you weren't there to see it. You had left to go somewhere, and I hadn't seen you in days. The person you told to give me food hadn't come. I was hungry. My puppies were hungry. I had seven. I don't remember how many boys or girls. I couldn't feed them all. I was hungry, and they were hungry. I ate four of them before you came home. You screamed at me and kicked me. You took my puppies away. I barked and howled and tugged as hard as I could at my chain. I could feed three, I thought, I just needed to be with my puppies.

You gave me food, but you didn't let me see my puppies again. I don't know what I did to make you so mad. I didn't wag my tail the last time you came to see me. I ducked my head and turned away.
People came to get my puppies, one by one, including the people with the male dog that fathered my puppies. They came through the yard I was in, and I battled my chain to get close to them. I was mad. I didn't want them taking my puppies, any of them. I didn't trust them. I didn't like the way they smelled. As they left with one of my young puppies, they told you I had game. They laughed at me, at how hard I was fighting my chain. They said I could make him money in a different way.

You came outside one day and took me off my chain. For the first time, I felt a sense of freedom. I was away from my own waste, away from that nasty patch of dirt crawling with fleas. You put me in a cage in your truck and drove away from your house. I should have been afraid, but I was so happy that I was away from that chain. As we got closer to where you wanted us to be, I could smell blood. I was terrified. Where were we? What were we doing there? I smelled blood, sweat, and waste. I saw the people who took my puppies, all of them. I saw them standing in a circle, watching two dogs fighting. The dogs were locked at each other's throats, neither wanting to let go, neither wanting to hold on. Someone said it was a tie, that the two dogs would try again later. They all looked at you, at me. They wanted a new dog in the ring.

You took my leash off. I wasn't sure what to do. I was going to run. I was going to run far away from this place, until they put him in. It wad the first dog they tried to mate with me. I should know it wasn't his fault, but I focus on his horrid scent instead. I hated the way he looked at me. I hated his scarred features and drooping mouth. His hackles were raised, and his ears were flat. I looked to you, but your eyes were hard and shiny. You saw dollar signs when you looked at me. I charged.

I tasted blood when I sank my teeth deep into his foreleg. I should have bit him in his neck. I didn't want to kill him. I wanted to make him leave me alone. I knew if I didn't act first, I'd be seen as weak. I regretted my decision as his teeth tore into my ear, ripping it down the middle. I howled in pain. I looked to you, but you were cheering. You thought I was doing great.

My heart sank. You weren't going to save me. I wasn't the puppy you loved. I was a way to make money. I was your status symbol, some "rare" color from a "rare" bloodline. You thought I was special, but only in as much as what others saw in me. I looked at you, and I knew I hated you. I released my grip on the male dog's leg. I looked straight at you. You knew what I could do. You knew I could do damage to your tender flesh and bones. You knew I could kill you. With purpose, I wagged my tail. You had failed me. You had made me hate you, but I could never hurt you. I turned back to the circling male. It would end now. I would live or I would die.

As I lie here wounded, I hear your approaching footsteps. There are people with you. They tell you it's too bad you got a weak dog. You can try again. You can get a pup off one of their dogs, the male that beat me if he wants, since he's a champion. You call me names. You kick me and say I'm worthless. You grab fistfuls of my fur and begin dragging me out of the ring. I wag my tail because you're touching me.

You put the gun to my temple. You call me worthless again. I look into your eyes, and they are empty. You pull the trigger. I wag my...

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

This is a fictitious story based on the very sad reality of fighting dogs and dogs that belong to backyard breeders. Dogs want to be part of your family. They want to be with you, not a "big yard" or a chain. If you can't make your dog part of the family, find a home that will. Your dog will thank you.

If you see a dog is tethered, check local animal control ordinances and report it, especially if the dog has no obvious source of water and shelter.

The photo on this blog is of CCAC 121679, an unfortunate dog that was pulled by an unlicensed rescue and later dumped at a shelter with an embedded collar and a leg injury that was severely infected...plus he was emaciated. Horror stories like this can be prevented. Spay/neuter your pets. Have your pets microchipped and keep ID on them. Thoroughly research any rescue you are considering surrendering to, donating to, or adopting from.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Axle Is and From Whence He Came

Axle isn't a pit bull. Sure, that's what his breed is (American Pit Bull Terrier), but that's not what he is. Axle isn't even a dog. In fact, we're pretty sure he's an alien.

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Axle was an afterthought, actually. We had discovered our little Otto was deaf and wanted him to have a "hearing ear" dog - a pup close to his age to hear what he couldn't. Axle came from a breeder. Yes, I know how contradictory that sounds.

Growing up, all of my dogs were older "hand-me-downs" - dogs needing new homes from moving families or the shelter. All I wanted was a puppy, someone I could snuggle and train myself. Getting Otto opened my eyes to backyard breeders and puppy mills, and a lot of other realities.

I'm not opposed to breeders. Healthy, quality dogs have to come from somewhere! What I AM opposed to is backyard breeding, puppy mills, and breeding irresponsibly. I could write a whole series on breeders, but this is about Axle.

Axle wasn't my pick. I had picked a red puppy with little white socks. Apparently, that pup was a popular one because the man's girlfriend sold him out from under us. That left us with Axle.

He was cute, but not as cute as my pick, and not nearly as cute as Otto. He slept in the bed with us that first night ...without a single accident, I might add. He and Otto became the best (and worst) of buds. I think we all know that story.

Axle was like a wet spaghetti noodle. Training time was a pain - all he wanted to do was play. I finally got him to learn...or rather perform...sit and no. He learned verbal and hand signs. If there was something he didn't want to do, he'd flop over and become dead weight. (He still does this.)

He had a nasty habit of jumping up and chomping the air like Pac Man while walking next to me. He had to be crated or he would destroy EVERYTHING.  He could open doors, so we had to lock the doors when we let him out. One day, he got so mad that we did this that he climbed the deck, got on the roof, and tried to come down the chimney. There were many days when I hated "that dang dog."

He would insist on getting under the covers, then jetting out when he "let off some steam," leaving us with a nasty smell and no covers.

He was also a pain to house train. Considering how good his first night went, we had high hopes. Instead of waking us up to go out, he would get off the bed, use the hardwood floor, then get back in bed.

He was also a thief. One day, he stole the bag of dog food, finished it off, then sat by the bag like an innocent angel. He'd steal sandwiches, chips, even grapefruit slices.

I kept working with him, regardless of my oft not-so-kind thoughts toward him. He was doing really good except for jumping and a few other minor things, so off to PetSmart we went.

The PetSmart training worked out great. Axle learned not to jump, and to be calm around approaching strangers. Maybe there was light at the end of the tunnel yet.

At some point in our relationship, Axle and I had our "moment," you know, when you look at something or someone and feel all warm and fuzzy. I thought, "Maybe he's not so bad after all."

As Axle got older, things seemed to magically fall into place - going to the door to let me know he needed out, staying calm for greetings, and walking politely on the leash. He would listen when we told him to sleep in his own bed, though he still loves to sneak back in ours around 2 AM. The next thing I knew, Axle was over a year old and had become a beautiful and wonderful pet.

I can honestly say I love that dog. Axle is so loving, even when I didn't like him. He's incredibly loyal and understanding. I wouldn't trade him for anything.

The experiences I've had with Axle have nothing to do with his breed, and everything to do with his individuality. I don't think he's aware that he's even a dog. He rides in the car with his seatbelt on, sits in chairs like a person, and fully expects to be treated like part of the family when we have company.

The things he does sometimes makes me think he's an alien. He often holds his ears like pigtails, so obviously he has an alternative way of hearing. He uses mind control to make people in stores fall in love with him. He plays referee when the kittens play too rough with each other. He climbs into the attic just to see what's up there. He puts his toys back in the basket. He touches his leash with his nose when he wants a walk. Sometimes, he even hovers in mid air for a split second while jumping from couch to floor in pursuit of the ball.

Yes, Axle is probably an alien, but he's my sweet, smart alien. Looking back now, he's always been a good dog, he just needed a little work to become a great dog. (Or alien.)


Sunday, June 3, 2012

BSL


Breed-specific legislation (BSL) recently reared its ugly head in Georgia. In Gainesville, GA, a woman called for a citywide ban on pit bulls, citing a story in which her son was mauled while running with his cross country team. The dog in question was not a pit bull. The woman has since contacted state Rep. Carl Rogers, who promised to put the issue of “dangerous dogs,” specifically pit bulls, before state legislature. Thankfully, our legislature was sensible enough to steer clear of BSL. Instead, they passed the Dangerous Dog Act, which mentions no breed and places responsibility squarely on the owner's shoulders.

BSL doesn’t work. Dog-bite fatalities are so extremely rare that not even a state could ban enough dogs to insure that they had prevented even ONE. (http://stopbsl.org/2010/10/08/new-study-explains-why-bsl-doesn’t-work/) Breed bans are under-inclusive. For example, in one community that was considering a pit bull ban, pit bulls and pit bull mixes were only responsible for 8% of bites. The breed ban wouldn’t have protected the public from the dogs that caused 92% of the bites. (http://www.animallawcoalition.com/breed-bans/article/556)

Dogs don’t bite or attack because they are a certain breed. Pit bulls are not more aggressive than other dogs, nor do they have locking jaws. Pit bulls were also not bred for fighting – they were bred to take down large game on a hunt and yet remain friendly and trustworthy as a family dog.

Did you know that there are no major animal or health organizations that support BSL? (Except maybe PETA, but they’re insane.) That National Animal Control Association states that “dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behaviors and not because of their breed.”Just because one Labrador bit a kid’s hand doesn’t mean that all Labradors will. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that “there is no evidence any breed of dog is more vicious or dangerous than the others.” Centers for Disease Control observed in a paper that BSL does not address the reasons dogs bite. (http://www.animallawcoalition.com/breed-bans/article/556)

The UK’s Dangerous Dog Act bans several breeds of dogs, including pit bulls. Three months before the breed bans, there were 99 bites, 3% of which were by pit bull types. Two years after the ban was implemented, that number had increased to 5%. The Act did not result in any decline of dog bite incidents, and the Act was declared a failure. (http://www.animallawcoalition.com/breed-bans/article/556)

BSL is also incredibly costly. With the call for a ban on pit bulls, Georgia has a potential disaster on their hands. Remember, pit bull isn’t a breed – it’s a stereotype. That begs the question, “Exactly how much pit is too much pit?” Would mass hysteria erupt like the Salem witch trials, with people running down the street pointing at every other dog, yelling “Pit bull! Pit bull!” I already have a friend who sees pit bull in every dog she looks at, just imagine how many more people like her are in this state.

I have an American Pit Bull Terrier that is an obedience school graduate and lives inside. Will he be safe until I take him to the vet? Or will my vet records be confiscated and animal control be knocking on my door? My dog  have never done anything wrong, never attacked anyone, never bitten anyone…why should they have to die for someone else’s intense fear response? What about all of the pit bull type dogs that are certified therapy dogs?
BSL just doesn’t make sense. What is it with humans and the need to put everything and everyone in a neat little category and label them the same? Every dog is an individual and should be treated as such. The same goes for people/owners. If more restrictions were put on people with dogs running at large, people that don’t vaccinate, etc, that would help cut down on dog bites. The county I live in doesn’t have a leash law. Why can’t we make it a statewide law that dog must remain on your property unless leashed or under strict voice control? Why can’t we encourage education and low cost spay/neuter clinics?


The new and improved GA law is great, but let's still push for stricter leash laws for ALL dogs AND low cost spay/neuter clinics in conjunction with comprehensive education programs. 


Love, Peace, and Pibbles!