Advocacy As I See It

Advocacy As I See It

I want to talk (write) today about what being a pit bull advocate means to me.  It wasn’t in my plans to write about this today (it’s Easter and I have things to do) but I was accused of being a bad advocate/supporting BSL and it really bothered me.  Somebody I know, and his friends that I don’t know, gleefully wrote some very cruel things about me because I had the temerity to disagree with them.  Normally I can brush off people, but this blatant malice really bothered me.  I was up way too late, and up way too early, just thinking about it.  I almost lashed out in return.  I wanted to tell them exactly what I thought.  But I didn’t, as I’m trying to be more peaceful in my life, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t have changed anything.  So instead I’m going to write a blog about what I think our jobs as pit bull advocates are.

Before I begin, I have a disclaimer.  Shouldn’t be necessary, but apparently it is – I think pit bulls are the best dogs are out there.  For me. I love them.  Period. 

I guess perhaps I should start by defining what dogs I’m talking about.  I’m talking about any dog that looks like it could be a pit bull or pit bull mix.  That’s right, I don’t care if it’s not been DNA tested and found to be 100% APBT or AmStaff.  Nothing divides pit bull people more than the definition of a pit bull.  It’s insane.  Do Lab people argue about whether dogs called Lab mixes really have Lab in them?  Do GSD people get angry when people call a dog a GSD mix?  Not that I’ve heard.  It’s reserved for pit bull people to argue about.

Our number one job is to realistic about these dogs.  Period.  Blowing smoke up people’s behinds to make them sound like magical little bunny-hugging unicorns in a compact, muscular body doesn’t do anybody any good.  Especially the dog.  Pit bulls are strong, athletic dogs that need something to do.  If you don’t provide the stimulation for them, they’ll figure it out on their own and it probably won’t be something you approve of!  Pit bulls weren’t known as “the nanny dog.”  Were pit bulls historically known for being great family dogs?  Absolutely, but they weren’t referred to as the nanny dog.  People need to stop saying that.  These dogs are phenomenal – it’s not necessary to lie about them to make them sound better.  It also may give some people the idea that it is safe leaving children alone with them.  NO dog should be left alone with children, period.

Nothing gets pit bull people more riled up than the talk of dog-dog issues within the breed.  AS WITH EVERYTHING, there are exceptions to the rule.  But pit bulls were bred for how many years to fight other dogs?  Granted, 99% of them are NOT bred for that anymore.  However, just because it isn’t being bred for, doesn’t mean it’s being actively bred against.  So you know, why not err on the side of caution and assume that your pit bull may not love all other dogs?  I firmly believe that pit bulls don’t belong in doggy daycares or dog parks.  No, your dog may never start anything, and that’s awesome!  But your dog may not back down if another dog tries to start something.  And you know what – your dog will be the one ending up in the news.  And it will make it harder for responsible pit bull owners to live in peace with their dogs.

Pit bulls are terriers/bulldogs and thus, they are more likely than the Poodle down the street to aggress at another dog and not back down.  This doesn’t make them bad!  It makes them terriers/bulldogs!

“But Liz, my dogs love each other and snuggle together and have never even looked sideways at each other.”  Rock on!  That is fantastic and I hope it stays that way forever.  I’d still separate them when you’re gone though.  Can’t tell you how many people I know/stories I’ve heard of people whose pit bulls loved each other for years, until the day they didn’t and e-vets were required and crate/rotate had to become a way of life forever after.

Dog aggression doesn’t mean that your dog will hate every dog on sight.  Most pit bulls are selective – they are okay with some dogs, heck, maybe even lots of dogs!  But some other dogs just torque them and get their panties in a bunch.  Sometimes we don’t know which dogs are going to do that, which is why it behooves us to act as if ANY dog could get our dog riled, AKA, err on the side of caution.

Are there pit bulls that love every other dog on the planet?  Sure.  Are there pit bulls that hate every other dog on the planet?  Sure.  Are the majority somewhere in between?  Yep.  So why risk it?  Why set your dog up for failure?  I’m a big fan of better safe than sorry.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Knowledge is power.  Knowing is half the battle.  All those good things.

Fair warning that here comes the other part of my pit bull advocacy that really angers people: Pit bulls aren’t the right dog for everybody. There, I said it.  Let the stoning begin.  But you know what?  Labs aren’t right for everybody.  GSD’s aren’t right for everybody.  Border Collies aren’t right for everybody.  Malinois?  Holy cripes you couldn’t PAY me to have one!  (Had to throw that one in for my Mal-owning friends!)  I can’t think of one breed of dog that IS right for everybody.  So why do some pit bull people feel that they need to convince every Joe Schmoe down the street that they need a pit bull?

Pit bulls require an owner that is going to be willing to invest some time and money.  They need training.  They need owners who won’t set them up to fail.  They don’t need owners who want a dog that they don’t have to interact with.  They aren’t for people who think dogs come fully trained out of the womb.  They aren’t for people who aren’t ready to educate themselves about possible breed tendencies, or who think “oh, I can love them into being good.”  No, you can TRAIN them into being good, but love isn’t everything when it comes to dogs.

This doesn’t mean that you need to keep your dog cloistered in your house behind closed blinds, never to see the light of day.  This means you don’t take your pit bull to dog parks.  You don’t take your pit bull to doggy daycares.  You keep your pit bull on leash when out in public.  You attend training classes with your pit bull.  You make sure your pit bull is an ambassador, out in public meeting people.  You don’t let your pit bull interact with strange dogs – instead, you set up playdates with one or two other dogs at a time that you know your dog is okay with.  And you SUPERVISE those play dates.  You separate your dogs when you’re out.

“But Liz, doesn’t this apply to all dogs?”  It absolutely should.  We should never set our dogs up to fail, especially if a failure on your behalf impacts other owners of that breed.  But I feel that as pit bull owners, we have a higher responsibility to keep our dogs safe from themselves and others.  

Inara, poster child for dog issues, being a breed ambassador.
Inara, poster child for dog issues, being a breed ambassador.
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Preston’s Perch

I just wanted to give a shout out to my friend Jeff who is a new blogger.  Preston’s Perch is as follows:

A “perch” is an elevated area, typically a secure vantage point, that serves a better view. Preston is a rescue American Pit Bull Terrier, who was saved from a drug bust where they used him for fighting. This blog is a way to discuss Preston and the laws that restrict or prohibit dogs like him called Breed Specific Legislation.

Jeff is good people and is making a documentary about BSL.  Please support him and his blog by clicking over there and following him!

History was made tonight!

Cleveland, OH has passed a new BREED-NEUTRAL vicious dog law!  That means Inara is no longer considered vicious!!!  This is such an amazing night for us and it wouldn’t have been possible without a great group of dedicated people.  I’m just beside myself!!!

Inara and I are on the news!

For something good, I swear!  LOL

A Cleveland councilman is trying to get the breed specific language removed from the city’s vicious dog legislation.  It was up before the Public Safety committee today and I, along with several others, showed up to support it and provide testimony.  After the meeting, a reporter who had recorded the whole session approached me and said she really would like some video of a pit bull and would I mind letting her get video of Inara?  I said that would be outstanding and we arranged a time.

A friend brought over her pit mix as well so the reporter could get video of the two dogs playing.  She recorded me playing with Inara; Inara playing with the other dog; us all walking down the sidewalk (trying hard to look super casual!), and then us sitting on the porch.

I thought there would only be that video in the news clip but nope!  Part of my testimony was in there too!  Eek!  And she actually showed a decent amount of video of me & Inara, not the 2 seconds I was expecting.  So it was pretty awesome and exciting.  🙂

Anyway, here is a link to the video (you may have to copy/paste):

http://www.fox8.com/videobeta/92d55d41-dfdc-4f0c-9146-2e1f723a431c/News/Changes-Possible-to-Dog-Ordinance

Who’d’a Thunk It?

So last week we started an Attention At Heel class with Ginger at Fortunate Fido.  We had class again yesterday and Inara just did great!  We only had to go into the bathroom 2 or 3 times, and once was our normal beginning of class sequestering.  That’s the lowest number of sequesterings yet!  And it’s even more impressive because there was a lot of movement in class yesterday and several times we got within probably 15′ of the other dogs while we were all moving.  Inara barely even noticed!  She’s getting so focused while heeling.  We can even do it without treats in my hand, at least for short distances.  That’s quite a feat, at least for us!

Yesterday we worked a lot on turns – left, right, u-turn, about turn and Schutzhund turn (AKA left about turn).  Inara and I got to show the class how to do the Schutzhund turn.  It wasn’t as pretty as she normally does it, but it’s hard to do on leash.  It gave my classmates the basic gist of what to do, though.  We also worked on finding the pace that works best for our dogs.  Ginger says that normally people need to walk a bit faster than normal, but Inara and I have to do a steadier, more even pace.  We try hard to slow down most everything about Inara.  😉

It’s actually kind of amazing me how much fun I’m having learning how to heel and turn.  Heeling always looked kind of staid and boring, but it’s really not!  It’s fun getting this connection with Inara, and seeing her have fun as well.  She looks so pretty when she heels – she’s got her eyes on me, she bounces a bit and her tail is wagging.  I think she’s actually enjoying it, too.  That, or she’s enjoying the plethora of treats she receives!  LOL

We had a great little training session this evening.  She earned most of her dinner by heeling in straight lines, doing Schutzhund turns, and just learning that the heel position is a Very Good Place to be.  We tried something new tonight since she’s having trouble learning that if she’s in front of me (not in a front, just somewhere in front of me) she needs to come back to me when I say “heel.”  If she’s already beside me she’ll stay beside me, but she doesn’t realize she needs to get beside me first!

So I lured her into a heel position, clicked, and then tossed the treat in front of me.  She ran out to get it and I did a 180 so my back was to her.  As she was heading back towards me, I said “heel” and waited for her to naturally get beside me, then clicked and tossed the treat in front of me again.  It actually worked really well!  I got a bit dizzy from constantly doing 180’s, but I was setting Inara up to succeed as she naturally wanted to come back to me for another treat, so by adding the “heel” command in I’m hoping that she will associate the act of getting into that position with the cue.

So yeah, heeling is actually fun!  Our next task tonight is to work a little bit on getting her accustomed to her new iron basket muzzle.  

I figured she should learn to wear one – it will give me more peace of mind when she can start meeting other dogs.  And, technically, she should have it on anytime we’re not in the city of Cleveland.  I won’t use it for that (I’m such a rebel!) but it’s nice knowing I’ve got it now just in case she ever needs it.  But I want to make sure she thinks it’s a Very Good Thing, so I bought some squeeze cheese because the nozzle will fit through the wires more easily than treats will.  So we’ll spend a few minutes working on that and then we’ll be done for the evening.

Happy training to everybody!

Proposed HB 79

Well, seems as though pit bulls finally have an ally in the Ohio House of Representatives.  Barbara Sears (R), has introduced HB 79, a bill to amend section 955.11 of the ORC to remove pit bulls from the definition of “vicious dog” in state law.

Section 955.11 currently reads:

(4)(a)”Vicious dog” means a dog that, without provocation and subject to division (A)(4)(b) of this section, meets any of the following:   

(iii) Belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog. The ownership, keeping, or harboring of such a breed of dog shall be prima-facie evidence of the ownership, keeping, or harboring of a vicious dog.

Ridiculous, right?  Ohio is the only state to have state-wide BSL.  But Representative Sears, along with co-sponsors Representatives Skindell, Stebelton, Wachtmann are trying to strike (4)(a)(iii) out of the law entirely.  This is a big opportunity for Ohio pit bull owners to speak up and make a stand.  It’s time for people to stop taking the “well, somebody else will write a letter” approach.  If you live in Ohio and feel pit bulls should not be automatically declared vicious, I STRONGLY  encourage you, BEG YOU, to write letters to your local Representatives.  Not sure who your local State Rep is?  Click here and enter your zip code.  

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is that we all band together and do our part to get this bill passed.  If you don’t live in Ohio but have friends and/or family that do, encourage them to write letters.  Your letters should be free of emotion and quote statistics from websites such as the American Temperament Testing Society and other professional organizations.  Need ideas/assistance on what to write?  Check the American Dog Owner Association’s website.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.  But please, PLEASE do something.

 

I'm not vicious - I'm a Therapy Dog.
I'm not vicious - I'm a Therapy Dog.

I’m exhausted…

I had quite the un-relaxing weekend.  On Friday, around 10pm, J calls me to tell me her 5 year old pit/rott Echo is throwing up (like, 6 times in 90 minutes), lethargic, and just not herself.  So off to the emergency vet she goes, and I meet her there for moral support.  Fortunately the vet there is fantastic and immediately flops onto the floor with Echo while he talks to J.  He didn’t feel anything in her abdomen and Echo wasn’t showing any signs of pain as he palpated, so he recommended bloodwork and an x-ray.  To the tune of $400.  J says of course, do what you need to do.  

They bring Echo back out and a little bit later the vet calls us back into the room for the results of the testing.  Pancreatitis.  Fortunately a mild case, caught early.  Normally he would recommend a hospital stay with IV fluids but he sensed that Echo would not tolerate an IV.  So he gave her 3 shots and then pumped her full of sub-q fluids before sending her home with strict care/feeding instructions.  J and I had a fantastic laugh over Echo’s “back boobs,” though the fluid rapidly slid down and became “shoulder boobs.” Still great fun.  So, at about 1:30am we left the vet and went our separate ways.  I got to bed about 2:30.

Saturday – I wake up bright and early even though I’m able to sleep in.  Not cool.  At 1 I pick up a lady, L, who had posted an ad on Craigslist begging for a ride to check out some local shelters as her dog had run away.  The first shelter we went to was the local City Kennel.  I’d never been in there, and I will never go back.  It was dark and dingy, and the dogs had a choice of lying on a concrete floor or a stainless steel shelf.  The worst part though was all the pit bulls.  Every size, shape and color, in their own aisle. And all of them are going to be euthanized.  The City Kennel doesn’t adopt out pit bulls (pits are vicious here in Ohio, in case you didn’t know *rolling eyes*) so they hold them for the mandatory 3 days and then euth them.  I almost started crying right there in the kennel.  It was horrible.

Unfortunately L was unable to find her dog at any of the shelters, so she was heart-broken.  I was exhausted.  I went home and napped for three hours.

Sunday morning we had dog school.  I love dog school, but I still had to get up early for it and it’s tiring.  But Inara did so fantastically well!!! That was definitely the bright point of the weekend.  She was walking in between two rows of dogs, maybe 3 feet on either side of her and she kept her eyes on my face the whole time.  It was really exciting.

Sunday afternoon J took me to lunch as a thank you for accompanying her to the e-vet. I tried to explain to her that it didn’t make sense for her to spend money on me after she’d just spent a large chunk at the e-vet, especially since she would have done the same for me.  She didn’t listen, and we had a great lunch.

So that was my weekend.  I was whipped.  Inara was annoyed at having to spend more time than usual in her crate.  And now I’m already ready for the weekend again.  *sigh* No rest for the wicked, I suppose.

Here’s an old (May ’07) pic of Inara and Echo playing.  Rest assured that Echo is no longer a heifer.  J worked hard to get her svelte now, but I don’t have any updated pics of her.  Please excuse the crappy quality – it was with my old digital camera.

 

Inara being eaten alive by Echo
Inara being eaten alive by Echo