I haven’t had a very good day. My PH is sick with a bad cold and I’ve been worried about him. Shiva and I struggled in this morning’s agility class over a simple exercise that left me incredibly frustrated. She got really vocal and upset as well and it left me really uncertain. I didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as I planned and my living room is still a mess. Then, just a half hour ago, Shiva had a bad reaction with a stranger that upset me deeply.
We had been walking along a residential sidewalk, after dark, minding our own business. When a woman came down her driveway, yelling at me for allowing Shiva to pee on her hostas. Shocked at her tone, I struggled to apologize. I didn’t really know what to say. I never allow Shiva to walk on other people’s property. The plant in question was located along the city-owned boulevard by the side of the road. If she urinated on it, it was no doubt because many dogs had before her. While I appreciated the woman’s concern for her flowers, I didn’t appreciate being spoken to in such a way. It bugged me but I just wanted to get out of there.
So did Shiva. Undoubtedly she sensed my worry and irritation. As the woman walked closer to us in the very dim light of a street lamp, I felt Shiva tense. I told her I would make sure to remember her plants in the future and turned to hightail it. The woman took another step and Shiva lost it. Barking, lunging, the whole nightmare scenario. All I could do was walk away, murmuring apologies. The woman remained unimpressed.
I could tell myself it doesn’t matter what other people think. I’ve been told I worry to much about such things a million times over. But the truth is, in this context, it does matter. It matters a lot. The thoughts of other people affect laws, change lives. The opinions of others decide whether or not certain dogs get to live in apartment buildings, play at parks, or exist at all. When your dog looks like she could be a pit bull, her public actions are not just representative of my skills as a trainer, but they are emblematic of an entire subset of breeds. When Shiva freaks out at a toddler, she isn’t always just a dog who is reactive to children. She is one more vicious pit bull in a long line of many. Depending on who is watching, she is proof of why BSL is necessary.
Today is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. I wasn’t originally going to write anything because I didn’t think I could say anything that hasn’t been said before. Lately I have felt like I am better off banging my head against my desk over and over again. Everyone reading this already knows the story. You know that pit bulls aren’t naturally vicious. Many of you share your homes with dogs like Shiva, who “look like they could be…” You are the ones who get it.
This evening, instead of vacuuming the living room rug, I read some really awesome posts, like the one at Something Wagging This Way Comes . I decided to head out for a walk with my dog to see if any inspiration would come to me. It was while mulling over a few different ideas the incident occured. After shaking off the nerves, I knew I couldn’t let the day pass without saying at least something in the name of thousands of misunderstood dogs.
When I was a kid, my childhood dog was attacked by a pit bull while I was walking her. Thankfully we were both okay and my dog escaped without serious injury. The episode was upsetting, I won’t lie. Oddly, it didn’t give me a fear of pit bull type dogs. Not even with all the rhetoric spewed by the media and my own parents. However, it did leave me terrified of dogs tied up on chains. To this day it makes me nervous and I won’t approach any dog left unattended in a yard. Not even a golden retriever with a wagging tail.
As you all know, dogs are just dogs. Any dog has the potential to be “vicious”, just as any person does. Not every dog in the world is going to want to be my new best friend, just as I am not going to love every human I meet. Expecting otherwise is unfair at best and deadly at worst. Sometimes, some dogs are aggressive. Sometimes, some people are psychotic killers. Just because I’ve had a few altercations with passionate gardners, doesn’t mean they should be banned.
Regardless, as I said above, you all know this already. You are on the same team. How do we get others to switch sides?
I guess all we can do is keep at it. Keep writing blog posts, keep engaging people in conversation, keep showing the world what amazing pets pit bull type dogs can be. It’s not easy work and it’s often thankless. I will do my best to take inspiration from blogs like Love and a Leash and Two Pitties in the City. The writers of these spaces have already changed the minds of many people who were formerly afraid of the bully breeds. No matter how exhausting it is, I can’t give up now. The fight is too important. The dogs are too important.