Monday, November 15, 2010

American Dog - A Reflection on Dogs and the Media

Dogs are the best friends of men? A boy and his dog? We take them as pets, we love them, feed them, give them shelter. Their lives are in our hands.

As a dog owner, I get weepy when I see those darned ASPCA commercials. You know the ones I mean. Labs stuffed into overrunning cages, poodles half starved and covered with mange. Those commercials are emotional. It's horrible what we do to our charges.

Speaking of television, let's think about another little something you may have possibly seen. Flashing ambulance lights and hysteric people. Little Jimmy Doe from two towns over was attacked by two dogs.

When you see the news next, it's reported that Jimmy is now in stable condition and the two snarling pit bulls have been picked up by the local humane society or dog pound.

Now let me paint you a picture that you don't see on the news or any television special.

Big man doesn't just want any dog, he wants one he knows people fear on sight. So he goes to this guy whose name he heard through the grapevine or read in the local trading journal. Big man takes a look at what's offered, but of course he only wants the biggest of the litter. Money is exchanged, sometimes authenticity of breed papers, and Big man goes home with a sweet, cuddly little puppy. But puppy is raised in one lone room of the house, shouted at for approaching outsiders other than those it shares the house with; praised when it snarls or growls at strangers.

Yes, dog is a man's best friend, but that doesn't mean it should only have one friend.

Here's another picture you won't see on the news.

Little man's been raising dogs for years. The new round of pups is going into training, over thirty in all. They're given growth hormone shots, fed massive amounts of dog food daily, weights attached to their legs as they run, tires (one, sometimes two and three and four) tied to their chains when they are outside. Then one day they are left hungry, and the next day... and the next. Then, in a small area out back, little man throws two of the pups together with a piece of meat. They fight, not until death but just until one eats. Both are praised, given treats. This becomes part of their weekly training. Eventually fighting another dog becomes natural to them.

That doesn't mean it is their nature.

My friend and fellow horror writer, Damien Walter Grintalis, has recently posted this Quiet Plea to Writers on Behalf of Her Dogs, and I echo that plea. For far too long has the media (and that means all media... news, music, art) portrayed the American Pit Bull Terrier as some ferocious and uncontrollable beast that preys on mankind whenever given a chance. Most of these dogs you see are not the standard of the breed. It was indeed not even two decades ago that Spudz McKenzie was the most well known pit bull in the country. And well loved. The Budweiser dog was t-shirt famous.

I own pit bulls... I rescue pits when I can manage to. Damien is a pit bull owner and if I'm not mistaken, both her pits are rescues as well. We know that these dogs are gentle and loving and loyal pets. We know they can live alongside other dogs in happiness with nothing more than the general dog squabble that happens with any breed of dog if there are more than one in residence.

I'm asking that we change the standard. What these dogs get from the general public is fear. They don't ask for it... it's their standard. And they don't fucking deserve it.

One final note: Read Damien's post. Read this one. Know that you're hearing from better experts than Suzie Day on Channel 9. We own these dogs. I own these dogs still, even after my daughter was attacked by a dog of the very same breed two years ago on Halloween. Because I know that anything with teeth will bite. Our children do, but we raise them to know that they shouldn't bite. Why shouldn't we raise our dogs the same? Teach them better, they will be better.

I'm asking for those who know and write to write about this. If you own pits and know they aren't what the media makes them, write about it. If you are afraid of them because of what you've seen, please read with an open heart. If you're one of those that perpetrate this awful outlook on pit bulls, consider what you're doing. You're making them monsters... and they're just dogs. We're responsible for our children.. and for our dogs. Teach them better, and let them be pets.

We raise our kids... and we raise our dogs. Think about it.