Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Punish the deed, not the breed...or maybe we should focus on the correct species?

So...something a little crazy happened on Monday. After work and my evening workout with my workout buddy, I took Aspen for a bike ride to help her let off a lot of pent up energy (we were gone all weekend, so she and Koda were home by themselves. P-Dub stayed with some friends of ours, and Layla went with us to see her foster grandpa, which meant even more excitement when we returned home with both dogs on Sunday). After a good mile of riding/Aspen running, when we were almost home and Aspen was barely able to keep trotting she was so tired (my little chubby, old girl can’t quite move like she used to), a gigantic chocolate Lab came barreling down the front yard of a corner lot and charged right at us. I honestly couldn't tell if the dog was coming after me, the bike, my dog, or the whole package - but it was actually a little frightening (thankfully I was wearing a helmet to protect my noggin!) Aspen immediately reacted. Both dogs blood or anything too crazy, but it definitely wasn't a civil introduction. I’m sure it was only a few seconds, but it sure felt like longer as I was trying to avoid getting my legs taken out from under me by the bike that I was no longer riding but was still attached to my dog. Finally, the dog's female owner came running after him/her and we quickly got the dogs separated, and she started walking her dog back up to her home by the collar. 
I stood there, bent over in the middle of the street, trying to catch my breath when the woman made some crude remark and told me to "get my dog out of there" (again...I was standing in the middle of a public street…). I simply replied with, "Ma'am, it was your dog that was unrestrained and came charging at me." 
Her husband didn't like that much, so he responded to me with a few select words that no man should ever direct at a woman, especially considering there were two young boys playing catch in the front yard just across the street. He included a crude remark and comment that sounded something like, “Oh right, my chocolate lab versus your pit bull?!” 
Pure ignorance. I told him he had no reason or right to talk to me like that, and that I would be on my way as soon as I caught my breath. He again used vulgar language to basically tell me I had no right to stand in a public street. I told him again to not talk to me like that. 
His response? “Well, I just did! Twice!” 
Cool. Grown man. That can count. Impressive. 
After that, he then cussed his wife out because, by golly, it was her fault the dog got out! He F-ing told her the F-ing dog wasn’t supposed to be in the yard! Again, I’m appalled that he is yelling at her like that, (even though I didn’t much care for her demands to get my dog out of the public intersection after her dog just charged me, my dog reacted protectively, and I could barely breathe). 
Then, as the woman is leading the dog back into the garage by the collar, the man rears back and kicks the dog as hard as he can… 
I nearly lost it. 
First, he cusses me out, with two children in easy hearing range. Then he cusses his own wife out. Then he kicks his dog right in front of me? No…just no. 
I just screamed, “Are you kidding me? What is wrong with you?!” 
He continued with his vulgar language, ignorant comments and loud, beating-his-chest type comments. 
I really don’t care how you treat me. I might be unimpressed and lose a little hope for humanity, but ultimately, your words mean nothing to me. As much as it frustrates me, your ignorant comments about my dog have little effect on my life either – I will go right on loving my furbabies, advocating for Pit Bull breeds every chance I get, and doing my part to counteract the negative image that so many have of the breed I have come to adore. 
But to kick an innocent animal just because YOU lost control of him? I just can’t handle that. 
I have no ill regard toward the dog. Yes, he charged us. Yes, he fought with my dog. Yes, it was scary. But Aspen and I both walked away from the situation unscathed. Dogs will be dogs. Sometimes, things trigger them, and we lose control of them. I would never blame a dog that went off his instincts and reacted poorly. 
I honestly would not have held any ill regard towards the dog’s owners simply for their dog getting out and coming after us. I know that my dogs aren’t perfect and have their issues, and I will be the first to admit that most of their negative characteristics are largely MY FAULT. And I’m definitely not perfect at fixing their issues and helping them to overcome them. I LOVE my dogs – adore them! – and still can’t always find the perfect way to handle them. In reality, my dog fought back too. I don’t like that she gets territorial with certain dogs (not all, but she does have her moments…but heck, I can’t blame her there. I don’t like everyone I meet either). I don’t like that she doesn’t always listen to me when I tell her to back off. She went right into “protect mom” mode. 
I can honestly say I feel that she acted, not out of aggression, but out of a duty to protect me. She didn’t go for the dog’s face, or even neck. She grabbed some skin over his shoulder and literally PUSHED him away from me, putting as much distance between me and that dog as she could still attached to my bike leash. Now please don’t get me wrong…I don’t condone fighting or aggressive behavior from my dogs. But in her defense – I was scared! I didn’t act as calmly as I should have, and she fed off of my tense energy! She reacted! Not to the huge dog running toward us, but to MY fear. She didn’t attack because she is a pit bull, she fought back because she is a loyal dog that was trying to protect her human. 
I did not maintain control of her like I wish I could have in that moment. I don’t expect anyone else to be perfect either. But to abuse an innocent animal because you lost control, are angry – at yourself, and the woman standing in the street with her bicycle and her dog, and simply because you just have a horrible temper and attitude in general…I draw the line. 
Animals cannot speak for themselves. We must speak for them. PLEASE take the time to make a phone call to your local police department or animal control if you see someone abusing their pets. It’s just not okay. Sometimes, the worst thing we can do is be silent. And we certainly can’t hold our pets responsible for our missteps in raising them and training them properly, or for simply responding to the negative energy we transferred to them. We have to look in the mirror at the real monster. 
Take home message: Your dogs are what you teach them to be – not always with your words or even your actions, but with the messages you send them in unspoken ways. PLEASE report animal cruelty! They cannot speak for themselves! And always wear a helmet when riding your bike, especially when it’s attached to a 50 lb. critter. 
P.S. I am thankful for that 50 lb. critter. In all honesty, I’m not sure what would have happened between me and that dog if she wasn't there to help me out. I sure do love her.