The Pits of Despair

I love dogs. I love all kinds of dogs. I love Boxers best because of their personalities and attributes, but I love, love, love dogs. We don’t have any dogs because I am better with theory than practice, but I love dogs. Have I mentioned I love dogs?

I guess I was about three when the neighbor’s dog bit me. This poor, abused Cocker Spaniel belonged to the family next door to us in the military housing where we lived. Ronald was the kid’s name, and I will always remember my parents talking about how rotten he was. Ronald’s dog agreed.

As I recall, and as my mother confirms, I was in the floor, minding my own business, when the dog bit my face. For some reason, I thought the dog was a Poodle, and I’ve been wary of those ever since. I was also terrified of my Granny’s neighbors’ Chihuahua, Tiny. Tiny belonged to Diane (whose nickname was Dinky–isn’t that sad?) and that little dog yapped like a car alarm every time I came near. She never bit me because she barked so much I was too afraid to go near her.

Me holding a puppy in Granny's living room, circa 1975. To not have had pets themselves, my Granny and Grandaddy end up being at the center of a lot of my own dog stories.

My own Shih Tzu, Sweet Sue, bit a nice hole into my lip when I was about nine. She was elderly and going blind, and when I went to pick her up, I startled her and she sank her little staple remover jaws into the nearest thing. That just happened to be my kissy face. Poor pup. After putting up with me playing dress up with her, and pushing her around in a baby stroller, I probably was due a nipping.

Wart was a puppy I found on the side of the road crawling with red ants, nearly starved to death, mangy, and with mangled ears where something had tried to make a meal of him. By the time he was nursed back to health and at his full-grown weight of a whopping 15lbs, he was my greatest fan. Wart loved me without reserve. Wart was also a little off in the head, and he would have episodes. During a couple of his episodes, he tried to bite me.

All dogs have the potential to bite. No, all dogs will bite. Just like all people have a breaking point, at which they will snap and question the legality of your birth, all animals have a breaking point, at which they will do the only thing they can do: Bite. It doesn’t mean the dog is bad. It means the dog is a dog, and you can’t blame a dog for doing doggy things.

However, there are dogs whose breaking points come quicker, come harder, and come with more dire consequences. When Sweet Sue snapped, I dropped her and she scampered off under the bed. My lip bled a while, then we were both fine. When the Pit Bull mauled my friend’s toddler niece, it took off half her face, destroyed her eye and crushed her eye socket, caused skull fractures and brain damage before the police could subdue it. Not because the Pit was a bad dog, but because a Pit’s reaction to a doggie Fight or Flight situation is to fight, whereas a Shih Tzu’s reaction is to flee.

I keep seeing this internet meme about Pit Bulls suggesting that the breed is sweet and gentle, and the problem is the humans, not the Dobermans, the German Shepherds, the Rottweilers, or the Pits, but that’s missing the point. The problem isn’t to do with the animal’s resting nature, anymore than Bruce Banner’s problem is to do with a relaxing day at the beach. The problem is that you wouldn’t like Bruce Banner when he is angry, and you wouldn’t like any dog breed that is prone to going Hulk on you when provoked. And again, not because the dogs are bad, or mean, or ugly, but because these are animals who give their 100% when it comes to winning a perceived fight.

I don’t want to be around Pit Bulls because I can remember the pack of them that were kept by another of my Granny’s neighbors. I can remember how one of them got out and took down the Pastor’s English Sheepdog, and killed it without even trying too hard. I don’t want Thor around Pit Bulls because he’s a kid, and kids don’t have the best decision making ability, and I would hate for him to accidentally agitate a dog that could easily eat him, as I accidentally agitated the Cocker Spaniel that went for my face.

My beloved Boxer, Ella, at six weeks old.

People have very strong opinions regarding dog breeds, and having my own high regard, love and trust for Boxers as a breed, I understand that. It’s a shame that animals are put in positions to fail, and it is a shame that humans (and frequently the most innocent of the humans) bear the brunt of those failures. But I’ll tell you straight up, if it came down to a dog weighed against the potential danger posed to my child or any children in my proximity, it’s those little humans who are going to win. I don’t see that ownership of a particular breed is worth the risk.

Thor, holding Seamus, our ill-fated WestiePoo, who came to us with Parvo and limped off to Doggie Heaven just five months later. We went camping shortly after this picture was taken, and I had both Thor and Seamus in my sleeping bag with me. One vomited into my hair, while the other peed on my legs--simultaneously. It is a testimony to my character that I only sighed and cleaned it all up.


3 thoughts on “The Pits of Despair”

  1. This makes me sad however, completely understandable. When I was a child we had yorkie. A mean old little thing, needless to say, he couldn’t “play”. Then later my father had dobermans and they scared me honestly. I think we went through 3 of them in a short time… then we adopted a little scruff dog, who would try to hump anyone and could not be potty trained. After him, there were no more dogs. I didn’t have a dog again until I was in my late 20’s and then they were the big greys… and then some IG’s… I don’t think I’ll ever not have an IG now.

    After my “situation”, the ex gave away 2 of my IG’s … because his new GF had a PIT. I’m glad he did for their safety even though that’s not why he he gave them away.

  2. I absolutely, totally agree with you. As a fellow dog lover and owner of 3 dogs, 1 foster, and a weekly volunteer for our local animal shelter, I love all dogs except the crazy ones. Since I started working at the shelter I have become less afraid of the pitties, but only because I have met some that were total sweethearts. Would I adopt one? Absolutely not, for the same reasons as you stated. My son was bit by a calm, old lab twice and it was totally my son’s fault, but I still put that lab down. Biting CANNOT be tolerated when kids are involved, and even the sweet pitties are capable of killing. Yorkies and chis can bite as well, but they can’t kill or maim you like a powerful pit can. I respect the breed and I’m glad there are people and rescues out there for them, but I’ll stick with my beagle and cattle dog mixes, thank you very much! 😉

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