Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pit Bulls and Barnabas Collins Descendants

Reading the newspaper this morning, only to be hit with the most woo-filled bucket of puke I think I've seen in a while.  I was left, quite literally, laughing out loud.  I'm going to give them a break because it is the Halloween season.  I do have to ask, though--why not in the "arts" section instead of the main story on the local headlines?

Anyway--it was a piece on the "Black Hat Society."  Complete with a picture of a "Shaman Intuitive" (oh, NO!) laying out TAROT CARDS.

A "Shaman Intuitive."  You made that up!  You're a "Shaman Intuitive?"  Okay, and I'm a "Druid Medicine Woman Clairvoyant Empath."  Nice to meetcha.  Ya idjit.

One of the individuals interviewed goes on and on about how HER family is the ORIGINAL Black Hat Society, how HER family "introduced the craft to Salem."

By now, I'm howling with laughter.  But it gets better, you see.  SO much better!

Her family?  Served as the basis for "Dark Shadows!"  That's right, HERS is THE Collins family! From Collinsport, Maine!  You know, the FICTIONAL TOWN of Collinsport?

Okay, I'm going to give this silly-seeming creature the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe she's not as stupid and laughable as she seems.  Maybe she's not a gullible dull-wit pretending to sophistication and believing in a clearly false "pedigree."  Maybe she's actually a brilliant businesswoman who pushes this ridiculous persona as a way to make money.  Of course, there is the pesky fact that people may be BELIEVING it.

And that's not okay.  It's not okay to lie to people, especially for the purpose of making money.

Family Portrait


While on the subject of gullibility and sacred cows, let's talk about pit bulls.  

I know, I know--what's wrong with me, engaging the pit bull crowd when the whole movement is a lot of emotion and zero reason?  Or, to quote my husband, "What are you doing, pissing off the pit bull contingent?  They'll sic their dogs on you!"

"Sic," by the way, comes to us from "seek."  At least according to Webster's dictionary.

This is going to be long.  If you hate long, or you love the sweet little pit bulls, you might want to skip it.

Pit bulls are more dangerous than many other breeds.  This isn't supposition or opinion--it's borne out by the numbers.  It's not that pit bulls are more likely to bite, really.  It's that they're far less likely to deliver single, superficial bites.  The old pit bull rallying cry "Poodles are more likely to bite than pits!" is disingenuous--a poodle may be more likely to give one quick nip, but a pit bull is more likely to disembowel your boxer or hamstring you.  

A common "defense" when it comes to pit bull attacks?  "It's bad owners!"

Okay, a couple of things--one, do you have any idea how many "good owners" find themselves scratching their heads and wondering how on earth their sweet little pitty-dog wound up gutting the neighbor's Irish Setter?  How many of them find themselves completely blindsided when their "sweet as pie/wouldn't hurt a fly" pit bull kills the little old lady next door?  And two, do you have any clue just how meaningless "it's bad owners" is?

Who CARES if it's "bad owners" or "bad dogs?"  Dead is dead, maimed is maimed, and regardless of whether or not the owner was "good" or "bad" (and it seems that, to the pit crowd, all the ones whose dogs don't maul something are "good" and all those whose dogs attack are "bad"), the fact remains THE DOG DID HORRENDOUS DAMAGE TO A HUMAN BEING OR TO ANOTHER DOG.  That's like saying assault rifles are a-okay because it's the shooter who is "bad."

Okay, but it's the GUN that launched the ammo that maimed or killed.  It doesn't matter if the owner is "good" or "bad," because it's the dog that maimed or killed.  Sure, we can get into the philosophical issues surrounding pet ownership later--like maybe after the stitches come out or the funeral is over.  But when it happens, the quality of ownership is beside the point--that torn up victim isn't any less torn up because it was a "bad owner" instead of a "bad dog."

And that brings us to the next, horrendous thing the pit crowd so often does--victim blaming.  I remember a news story a few years back, in which an elderly woman rose from the sofa and stepped over the family's pit, which was sleeping.  The dog woke up, completely freaked out, and tore the woman's face to shreds.  Actually launched itself UP and took her down, then tore her face apart.  And the pit defense bunch actually screamed that SHE must have done something to inspire the dog.  That SHE clearly hurt it or surprised it or otherwise caused the attack.  

Okay, folks?  Back away from the nutso trough, huh?  It doesn't matter what she did--if a dog attacks and injures/maims/mauls/kills a person, that dog is responsible.  I'll bet you poke at rape victims, too, don't you?  Tell them that what they were wearing or where they were walking, blah, blah, blah.

Seriously, blaming the victim for being mauled?  The ONLY way that flies is if the victim is a Michael Vick-type.  And even then, the dog is dangerous and needs to be humanely put down. You can't have a dog that thinks a solution to its problems is attacking people.  

All this "it's not the breed, it's the owners" crap is, at best, a pathological form of denial.   

And I should know.  See, I owned a pit-mix.  Pit bull/German Shepherd, to be precise.  We got him believing he was a yellow lab/German Shepherd cross, because that's what we were told, and he was young and small and it looked like a believable background.

Until he grew up.  He grew up, and that forehead became increasingly spatulate, the chest broader and deeper, the legs more "bandied."  He was our California puppy, and we ignored the tawny eyes and pink nose and other tells because he was sweet.

Bodhi as a baby in the Cucamonga Wilderness

Except when you got too close to his face with yours.  That got him growling.  Even as a small puppy.

When Bodhi hit sexual maturity, he became suddenly and frighteningly unpredictable.  You'd have some warning, sometimes, if you knew him well.  His eyes would widen, pupils would dilate, and his ears and tail would both go back and flatten.  It was as if he, himself, felt it coming on, but was helpless to do anything about it.  And sometimes, like if he was napping, you'd have no warning at all--you'd walk past him or step over him, only to have him explode into snarling wakefulness.

Before you say "ooh, he had a medical problem!" No, he didn't.  This wasn't a slow-creeping tumor or an endocrine disorder.  This was Bodhi, and the vets and trainers we spoke to said he wasn't a rarity.

We tried everything with Bodhi, from training tricks and devices (nothing that caused pain!) to pharmaceutical interventions.  Nothing.  Sometimes he was great (and he'd be great for days and even weeks at a time with US), sometimes he was utterly insane, and, except in a few instances, there was no predicting it.

Those few instances?

Strangers, and dogs he didn't know.  Bodhi was a complete maniac around people he didn't know--it took four months to get him accustomed enough to my sister-in-law that she could come care for the dogs while we were on vacation.  We once tried to board Bodhi with our vet (a man familiar with Bodhi's issues) and they called us before we could even get out of town, told us to come get our dog.  Luckily, we found a kennel across town willing to put all three dogs in the same kennel (to help keep Bodhi calm), and willing to just slide food under the door and otherwise leave them alone.  We were gone for a week, and that dog snarled and freaked every time someone came into the kennel area, no matter how many times he'd seen them before.

Believe me, repair people and delivery folks at the door?  Hell.  And company?  Guests?

Forget about it.

When our boy was born, Bodhi took a pretty instant dislike (which was sad, because he spent my entire pregnancy "protecting" me and sleeping with his head on my baby belly).  And so Bodhi was relegated to the kitchen when our boy was out and about, behind a sturdy gate.  When our boy was old enough to walk, two more gates went up, which meant that he and Bodhi were always at least two gates away from each other.  To prevent a reach through and arm bite--or worse.  Introducing our boy and Bodhi was of no help, because Bodhi was so unpredictable.  Life became a constant job of running interference between Bodhi and people, Bodhi and our boy, Bodhi and ourselves, and, sometimes, Bodhi and the other dogs.

By the time our boy was two-and-a-half, we were having to steer him off the gates pretty regularly. By three, it became clear that he was moments away from sussing those gates and having run of the house.  I approached my husband (this was a tough time in our marriage, and he loved that dog) and said, "We're going to have to put the dog down.  We've been working on this for SEVEN YEARS.  It's not getting any better, it's getting worse, and if he hurts our boy, if he maims him, kills him?"

I was expecting a fight.  I was expecting accusations of who-knows-what, but that's not what I got. My husband, eyes misty, nodded and said that, yeah, he knew.  And then he made the appointment.

We almost talked ourselves out of it, but Bodhi himself made the decision, unbeknownst to him. The night before, hubby and Bodhi were in the kitchen, and hubby was playing with him.  And then it happened--the eyes widened, the ears and tail went flat, and Bodhi LUNGED.  Teeth bared, snarling.  Hubby managed to grab him by the collar and pin him back against the cabinet, but it was a near thing.  And it took nearly a half hour for Bodhi to calm down enough that he could be released.

Next morning, as I got Bodhi ready for the appointment, I took him outside to spend some time. I groomed him (he loved being brushed, except when he didn't), gave him treats, and just loved him. I had almost talked myself out of it, was just about to call hubby out and announce that I couldn't go through with it, when he turned.  Like I said, from zero to crazy in seconds flat.  And there I am, holding him by the collar and harness, calling for my husband to give me a hand.

For the first time since he was nine months old, Bodhi didn't freak out at the vet's office.  As usual, we had him in harness, collar, and muzzle.  Normally, he would lunge, snarl, scream, and skitter all over the tile floor at the vet's, but not that day.  That day, he was good as gold.  Hubby hugged him while they gave him the shots, and stroked his freshly-groomed coat while he died.

We did the right thing.  If you're sitting out there shaking your fist and snuffling snot while you curse us for our cruelty, bugger off.  We did the right thing--he almost certainly would have harmed our child (or someone else) eventually.  We allowed our entire existence to be molded by that dog and his behavior.  Our social life, our vacations, our every move was tailored to keep people safe from him.  Handing him over to someone else wasn't an option, for two reasons--one, it took MONTHS for him to acclimate to a new person, and two, no WAY we were handing him off to someone who might not keep him secured in such a way that he didn't pose a threat to others.  Can you imagine, handing him off to someone whose child was then mauled or worse? Even the vet sent us a handwritten note, expressing his condolences and letting us know that we had done the right thing.

We weren't "bad" owners.  We didn't hit him, torture him, teach him to fight, terrorize him, starve him, or otherwise abuse him.  We used established non-aggressive training methods (no aversive/punishing techniques), we had him examined by vets and consulted with trainers.  And they all said the same thing:  Pit Bulls are unpredictable and can be dangerous regardless of the owner's behavior.  Not ALL pit bulls, and not ALL the time.  See, that's the biggest problem--some, like Bodhi, are sweet and dear and then, suddenly, their teeth are in your flesh.

Believe it or not, I'm not arguing for a ban on pit bull ownership.  However, I'd love to see the stupid, feel-good, hokey-denial BS stop.  I'd like to see pit bull owners pull their heads out of the sand and stop pretending it's not the breed.  It's the BREED, come on!  Different breeds have different traits, we ALL know that.  That's why herders get Border Collies and Shelties, that's why hunters get Spaniels, Labs, and Setters.  It's why Cairns have to be kept on leash in open areas (they chase everything), Mastiffs make great guard dogs, and German Shepherds are especially suited to police work.  Specific breeds have specific traits, and to argue that all dogs are the same (yes, I've heard the pit bull folks argue exactly that) is, at best, ignorant.  At worst?


If you have a pit bull, you have an animal that is uniquely prone to doing excessive damage in an attack.  Not necessarily MORE LIKELY to attack, but more likely to be spectacularly dangerous in an attack.  Kind of like driving an old Pinto--you're not more likely to get into an accident, but if you ARE in an accident, you're FAR more likely to BLOW UP.

If you have a pit, you have a dog that is prone to engaging in pack attacks, and you need to take special care to be sure your dog doesn't go on walkabout.

I won't say that your dog, specifically, shouldn't be alone with children, because NO dog should be alone with children.  However, your dog is more likely to kill any child it attacks.  Don't let that happen.

Alter your animals.  If you have pit bulls, get them spayed and neutered.  Do it early, preferably before sexual maturity.  Put your dog in training early, and make it something that doesn't rely on "e-collars" (we called those SHOCK collars when I was a kid), PRONG collars, and other painful, punishing methods.  There are plenty of GOOD trainers out there--don't hook up with some Cesar Millan wannabe (or worse, one of his books).

But most of all (or the culmination of all)?  Be responsible.  And yes, there are those out there who would shriek, "That's all we've been saying--blame the deed, not the breed/Owners not dogs!" but that's not what I'm saying.  I'm saying this--YOU have chosen to own a breed known to pose a greater threat to people and other pets than most breeds.  YOU have chosen to have a dog that is known to do far greater damage in an attack than most breeds.  Therefore, it's on YOU to make sure your choice doesn't cost MY kid his arm.  Or face.

Or life.

How do I feel about breed-specific legislation or insurance companies dropping folks who own pits? I can see why it would be frustrating or angering to the person who does keep his pit under control, who does keep it restrained and protects those around.  Same way a firearm ban might piss off a person who isn't shooting up elementary schools.  But fact is, we clearly can't force pit bull owners to be responsible across the board, so it becomes a question of how much idiocy and danger do we tolerate before we decide that there are just too many folks out there who can't be trusted?  For every "responsible, thoughtful" pit bull owner, there are five or ten scumbag backyard breeders churning out these dogs in crappy environments and selling them to crappy people who think that having a "bad-ass" dog is somehow cool.  How do we deal with that?  How do we deal with the ass at the vaccination clinic whose prong-collar wearing, lunging, snarling, unaltered pit bull is clearly a status symbol?

Personally, I think additional licensing requirements might be a good idea.  Perhaps an annual examination of the dog and a test of temperament, with jail time and a loss of all dog owning privileges for folks who fail to comply.  I don't know.  But the idea that a breed of dog has more "rights" than a group of neighbors who fear for their kids?

Utter BS.

That's Bodhi on the far left

Bodhi near Vernon, Utah

Bodhi in the Wasatch Mountains


And enough of that.  I came across a bunch more crazy Utah names.  I come across dozens, but these are this week's winners:


None of those are typos.  

Oh, and speaking of Utah?  I came across a photo the other day from an Ogden photographer.  A photo of 25th Street, facing west toward the Union Station.  Mr. Picture-taker had digitally enhanced the shades to something you almost never see in Utah (and you certainly never see on 25th Street).  He'd clearly combined shots, because the quality of light was absolutely early morning or late evening, but the shadows?  Were totally wrong--more like 3 pm than 7 pm, and more like January than October.  And the crowning glory?  That ugly, barren, filthy railyard behind the Union Station?  Magically gone, filled with tall, majestic trees in full fall color.  

Hey, I love Photoshop as much as the next person, and this was a brilliantly lovely shot, a tribute to his editing skills, but there's a reason I left Ogden, Utah--it's ugly.  It's grey and yellow and brown and depressed.  It's got one fartsy little street that screams of gentrification, with higher-priced sushi joints and pretentious little art galleries.  And that's pretty much it.  The Egyptian Theater around the block, but that's part of the fanciness.  Now, that fartsy little street (25th Street) is picturesque enough that some movie folks like to stick it in here and there, but it's an artificial oasis in a desert of low wages, depressed job markets, Walmarts, and chain fast food joints.  The mountains are certainly nice enough, if you like dry, if high desert is your thing.  The snow in the winter isn't what is used to be, but it's still good enough to get some better-than-average skiing in.  

Of course, winter is when the air, which is always eh, becomes lethal.  Like some of the worst in the nation-type lethal.

I don't know whose picture this is, it's all over the web, but this is an accurate depiction--do a search if you don't believe it.

The Wasatch Front is home to some of the biggest polluters in the nation.  Utah is also one of the most pro-corporate/right wing states in our country.  So we shouldn't be surprised that the two come together in that giant basin to create this vicious, lung-thrashing, asthma-inducing, cancer-causing soup.  They call it a "temperature inversion," and it's what happens when the air up high is warmer than the air down in the mountain-formed basin.  That warmer air acts as a lid, trapping all the toxins, the pollutants, the particulates down below, leaving the valley floor colder and dirtier than the higher air.

Anyway, back to my point--I like a good Photoshopping session as much as the next person, but I find myself getting upset when I see someone faking photos to make that place seem like more than it is.  Like they're somehow negating my experience.  I know, I shouldn't take it personally, but I lived in that dive for 40 years, and faking a downtown shot so it looks like 25th Street is atop a mountain in Vermont?

Pisses me off.  What can I say?

1 comment:

  1. You're right about pitbulls. Most of the crazy, unpredictable dogs that I've met have been pitbull mixes, not pure bred, and they didn't have bad owners. When I was 10, my German Shepherd was attacked by a pack of them, but they were from a very bad owner who'd been training them to attack dead animals in his back yard. They completely ignored the kids playing outside, and went for my dog. She survived but needed surgery and a lot of stitches.
    My defense of pitbulls, is that most of them are not crazy, and they can be very sweet. I think if you've had one for years and it's never turned on you or anyone else, you can trust him. Not, "let him babysit the toddler" trust, but you probably don't have to lock him up when friends come over.
    My brother was mauled by a dog when he was little, the dog was an Afghan, and it mauled two other kids and bit some adult neighbors before he was finally put down. Also, my friend's dog was attacked by a pack of dogs - Jack Russell terriers, that did almost as much damage as that pack of bullies that got my dog. So, there are other breeds or just other dogs in general that you have to watch out for, but different breeds do have different traits, They are bred for their personalities as much as their physical characteristics, and pit bulls are bred for fighting, physically and mentally. If you get one that is crazy, he's not going to get better, he's going to get worse. Sad, but true.
    I think I heard a woman call her son "Radisson" while I was at the store yesterday. Yeah.
    I know the photographer you speak of, he does make beautifully fake pictures. Not just of Ogden, he seems to travel, but I don't trust his photos of other cities, either. That said, I like Ogden more than you do. I've lived other places, and Ogden isn't the best, but it ain't the worst, either. The winter air is ridiculous though, and I'm sick of the locals blaming it on the mountains and the inversion and never admitting that we allow polluters to foul up what ought to be a pleasant place to live.
    Oh, and witchcraft? Bullshit, utter, complete bullshit. The history behind it is all made up to suit their stories. Druids never wrote anything down, so it's impossible that you're carrying on their traditions. Salem didn't have any witches, it had some asshole teenagers and some religious prudes that combined lethally for a few unliked women, and one man. Gypsies use "magic" to fleece, and yes, "gyp" gullible folks out of their money. It's all bullshit. If you want to do it for fun, admit that it's for fun and don't ever call it "fact" because there are NO facts behind any of it.