Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Pain of Bully Ownership

Since shortly after moving in with my now wife, we have had one or more dogs. Due to my wife's allergic sensitivities to longer-haired dog breeds, all of our dogs have been bull mixes: our first pair were an American Bulldog/Boxer-mix and an American Bulldog/Bull Terrier-mix; our current pair are an American Staffordshire Terrier and a American Pitbull Terrier. All four have been great dogs. They've been friendly, happy, people-oriented dogs.

We frequently take our current pair for walks around the neighborhood. Most days, our walks are uneventful. We walk anywhere from a half to a mile-and-a-half around the neighborhood.

Late yesterday afternoon, we took our dogs for a walk. My wife wanted some stuff at the local convenience store, so, we leashed up the dogs and walked over. We decided that, rather than walk the short way around our block and back to the house, we would go home by the long way around our block. 

I'd had my head down, grinding documentation for work, all day. I had no real grasp on what time it was. It turns out, our walk back to the house coincided with when the local middle school was letting out. As we were comeing to the end of our block, the school bus left off a mob of kids. Several of them caugh sight of our dogs and came ambling over. They did the usual thing of asking "are they friendly" and, upon giving our affirmation, began to fawn over the dogs. We stood around and chatted while the dogs happily soaked up the attention. A couple minutes into this, one of the kids said, "wow, she's really pretty (referring to our blue-eyed dog, Lady): what kind of dog is she?" I replied, "she's a pitbull". All but one of the kids tensed-up and stepped back. Fortunately, the one most engaged in fawning over Lady kept right on going. She pointed out to her friends that "there's nothing to worry about - they're friendly dogs". They relaxed but didn't return to fussing over the dogs (though the one continued her attention). 

This strikes me as really sad. I mean, here they were, happily interacting with the dogs while they were unaware of their breeds. However, upon hearing the word "pitbull", immediately changed how they saw the two dogs. I get that pitbulls have had a lot of bad press over the years. And, if I were going just by that, I'd be wary about approaching them - moreso than, say, a Shi-Tzu. But, to have been interacting with demonstrably friendly dogs and then going cold at the mention of a breed? It just doesn't make sense: act based on what you see before you, not what you see re-hashed in the fear-mongering press.


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