Learning As I Go

July 19, 2012

by   ⁄  Make A Comment  ⁄  Filed under The Bullytin

Before I started volunteering at Pet Project, I’m not sure I’d ever met a pit bull. But I had an opinion on them. And it wasn’t a good one.

I can remember an instance when a friend of a friend adopted a pittie mix. I remember all of us passing judgment on this new family member, questioning their decision to get “that” dog, when they had a new baby. What were they thinking?

In 2009, my youngest nephew was bitten by a pit bull while visiting a new friend’s house for the first time. At the time, it reinforced my prejudice. Now, I realize it wasn’t fair to blame the incident on the fact that it was a “pit bull”. What I see now is that he was bitten by a dog…an unsupervised, poorly-trained dog…who just happened to be a pit bull.

Last year, I became involved with PPI. And I finally met a pit bull face to face. In fact, I’ve met lots of pit bulls. And guess what? They’re dogs. Just…dogs.

ALL dogs regardless of breed have the potential to hurt someone. ALL dogs must be properly supervised by their guardians. Some can do more damage than others and that is where the problems arise – but it is not the dog’s fault. My friend adopted a mixed-breed puppy when her two daughters were very little. She carefully supervised the girls when they played with Molly and taught them how (and how not) to treat her. She was especially vigilant when other kids came over to play. It never mattered that Molly is a big, lovable sweetheart of a mutt. She’s still a dog, still an animal, still unpredictable.

When I was a kid, I remember Dobermans were the ones with the bad rap. Later, it was Rottweilers. Now, it’s pit bulls. In each case, I’d hear people saying terrible things about the breeds…and generally none of these people were speaking from personal experience. They were merely spreading the hype. We humans have a tendency to stereotype. And it’s the dogs paying the price.

It’s amusing to me now when I remember hearing those terrible things about Dobermans and the fear that existed. You know who the toughest dog in my neighborhood was when I was growing up? The dachshund that lived in the house behind ours. My best friend (Molly’s mom) lived kitty corner behind us, and we would cut through the yards to get to each other’s homes. That dog was like the gatekeeper. One time, my little animal-loving self tried to approach him, only to be warned off by the old man who owned him. Why were we so scared of Dobermans when true 12 pound menaces were lurking about?

I don’t expect writing this to automatically change anyone’s mind. I do hope though that it opens a few. Please, if you are looking to adopt, don’t turn away from a dog just because of its breed. Don’t assume that pit bulls are violent. Don’t assume that a Jack Russell will be hyper. Don’t assume that a Chihuahua will yip incessantly. Please, meet the dog. Then make up your mind.

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