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Pit Bulls, Our Best Friends!

pit lovePit Bulls, are Our Best Friends, but again I ask, “Are We Theirs? Pit bulls are among the sweetest dogs I personally have known. Over the many years as a dog lover, I’ve noticed dogs more than people, and I usually say hello to more dogs than I say hello to people. And, no I’m not unsociable to my own kind, just a dog lover. Here in Manhattan there is a large population of pitties especially in my neighborhood, and I don’t mean the areas known for drugs and crime. I happen to live in the fashionable Midtown East area, also known as the Upper East Side. And several of my favorite neighbors just happen to be Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixed breeds. There are just on my city block at least half a dozen, with one living in my building! I’m grateful that the breed discrimination against these dogs is minimal here compared to other areas of the country.

Dogs that are referred to as Pit Bulls are the American Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, but most are mixed breeds and are usually categorized according to their appearance. And I’d like to add that the well- known rumor about their jaws locking is FALSE (Scroll down to a link for the full ASPCA article on this).

According to the ASPCA

“Most experts describe them as short coated with a wide skull, powerful jaws, and a muscular sometimes stocky body.”

They go on to state

“There is much variation in their appearance, typically weigh 35-65 pounds, strong and athletic, with impressive stamina and a staunch work ethic”. (1)

Well, I can see by this description why they are the most used in one of the most abusive ways by some of the most abusive inhuman humans. However, my question is, are we always just a product of our physical prowess using it to be violent? Why are dogs different? Solid evolutionary theory, and Charles Darwin’s ideas about what he coined evolutionary continuity in which he recognized that the differences among species in anatomical, physiological, and psychological traits are differences in degree rather than kind.

Thinking back on this, I still smile at the memory of my 6- pound Charlie snapping at one of my neighbor’s huge Pit Bull’s. One of the largest Pittie mix I’ve ever seen, he was just a gentle giant who one day sniffed my little girl maybe just where she didn’t want to be sniffed. Well, she snapped and he jumped back and hid behind the legs of my neighbor. Think this is rare or unusual for a powerful breed? Here are some statistics I found

“According to the American Temperament Test Society, temperament evaluations of American Pit Bull Terriers show that this breed has a very high passing rate of 82.6%. The average passing rate for the other 121 breeds of dogs in the tests: 77%”. (2)
Speaking of temperament, one of my favorite neighbors is Jekell, a Pittie mix who lives a few floors above me. Always a gentle greeter to Sophie and me with a wagging tail, he immediately sits for Sophie so she feels at ease to greet him. Many times he’ll sit with his back to her and while I can’t swear that he does this on purpose, it puts Sophie most at ease as we approach. What I love also about Jekell is the way he looks me in the eyes, and I see and feel a mutual affection.

Jekell didn’t learn to do this because Laura bought him and trained him as a puppy, but rather he was found roaming the streets of NYC. A wonderful couple found him half starved and brought him home, and then to a Vet. Laura who is part of a Pit Bull Rescue Group then adopted him. I met Jekell when Laura brought him home, still all bones even though he had been eating more food for a few weeks. Gentle and sweet, what Laura pointed out and what I noticed was that Jekell was always “on guard” when outside, constantly on the look out. I would guess this is what a dog must do to survive on the streets.

One year later, Jekell still the sweetie, is more trusting as Laura tells me, and while he stills keeps his eyes open, he is much more relaxed. Jekell was once attacked by a smaller dog while at the dog park, but didn’t fight back. Doesn’t seem in his nature, and while I not an animal behaviorist, my understanding is many times during play dogs can become overexcited. Sometimes within a second the play can turn into more. Just like us I’ve seen children do so adults and us humans are responsible for keeping a close eye. P.S. The other dog wasn’t a Pit Bull.

Pit Bulls, and all the dogs that are categorized as these terriers, are indeed strong dogs, but it is humans who have used this physical prowess for the violent purposes that have now brought us to discriminate against them. People from drug dealers, to gang members, to ringleaders of dog fighting to kids who use them as their alter egos, and even to wealthy professional athletes like Michael Vick using unspeakable methods forcing them to fight have given them the reputation that they now have.

Speaking of the above athlete whose name I don’t want to repeat again, here is a link to happy ending story from Best Friends Organization titled “Layla Goes Home.” Layla, one of the severely abused Pit Bull dogs from the fighting ring gets the love she deserves in a new forever home. Given the love and reconditioning, she is now giving only love back.
http://bestfriends.org/News-And-Features/News/Layla%E2%80%99s-love-at-first-sight/?utm_source=BSD&utm_medium=email&utm_content=CTA&utm_campaign=Best%2BFriends%2BNews

Should we have breed discrimination? I say yes, yes against the breed of humans who raise and/or use the wonderful attributes Pit Bulls have against them. Let’s not generalize an entire breed of dog due to what humans have done to them. Let’s make the distinction.
Well got to go, Sophie and I are on our way to meet Laura and Jekell for a walk!

Next: The Value of Animals.

Sources:
1. http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/the-truth-about-pit-bulls
2. http://defendpitbulls.com/pit-bull-attack-statistics/

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Our Best Friends!

great friends

Our Best Friends always near to us are our dogs and cats in our homes and hearts. Dogs in particular have long been known as ” Man’s Best Friend”, but my question here is “Are We Theirs?”

There are a multitude of scientific studies about how companion animals benefit us, from companionship, improved physical health and mental health, to social benefits (I have made several great friends while walking my Charlie and Teddy).

This is just a start. Military dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, seeing eye dogs, cancer sniffing dogs, rescue mission dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs and on and on and on. Oh, how about bed bug sniffing dogs. Can you think of any other categories in which our best friends are by our side helping us? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of this as long as they benefit too (There are a couple of categories I’ve listed above that I am personally not in favor of).

But how as a society are we protecting them? Since I became aware of the abuses of animals and specieism, I have asked myself why are we not protecting our companion animals more since they do so much for us (I want all animals protected, but for my blog I’m discussing our dogs and cats)? While there are many many wonderful people who are a part of the Animal Protection Movement from organizations to animal Shelters, rescue groups, and all the employees and volunteers who selflessly dedicate themselves to helping animals, abuse continues in many forms. How about legal protection? How are the laws protecting our dogs and cats that we love?

First, here are two reports on the impact of sharing our lives with companion animals

“Although a wide variety of species are kept in our homes and near to us for companionship, the great majority are dogs and cats. And according to an article titled Companion Animals and Human Health, “sharing our environment with animals has a profound effect on the health of the humans concerned. As keeping companion animals is a very widespread activity, about 50% of all households in the Western world have some sort of animal, the effects are far reaching”.

In fact, in another study published in Public Health Reports, the researchers found “a positive correlation in survival rates in heart attack patients 1 year after discharge from hospitalization, meaning a higher survival rate in patients who lived with a companion animal than in patients who did not”.

Yes, most of us will testify how much our best friends mean to us. I’ve already written how mine have changed me and the course of my life. Yet, as a society and according to the law, our dogs and cats are property. If someone were to damage your property, the law would consider the financial worth to us in a lawsuit based upon replacement of the property. Since our companion animals are property, the law basically is stating they as property do not feel pain or suffer and their value is as close as the nearest pet shop to replace. We can also buy and sell them at whim like new or used furniture, discard them and breed them in puppy mills the same way as if they were cars on an assembly line. While things are changing, it still feels like an overwhelming uphill battle to change laws. But….

We can keep spreading the word to adopt of course so we save more lives. Sophie is my first adoption, and I will adopt another friend sometime in the future. I know I never want to contribute to the money the puppy mills, puppy stores, and even some veterinarians make (More on this another time) regardless of the abuse.

But, I’d also like to suggest that we change some of our language that objectifies our best friends. I call myself Sophie’s Guardian and sometimes, furry mom but never owner. I call Sophie my companion animal, little furry best friend, and sometimes my furry child but never again pet. I’d also like to suggest we replace “it”, with her/him, they for instance as we so often do when we refer to our furry friends. Sophie isn’t an “it”, she is a “she”!

I learned in my Animal Studies program that legally, a person is defined as a human of course, but a “corporation” is also legally defined as a person or as having a personhood. Hmm, a corporation is a personhood, but not our best friends? Our dogs and cats are living, breathing, feeling and thinking beings, not property, objects, or an “it”. If a corporation can be defined as a person, why isn’t a living being of another species legally defined as a person? As living beings why are they legally defined as objects? To me, this is even where the term pet comes from, and not just owner.

Language affects our perceptions; actions and eventually it can help to change laws. Perhaps another step to protecting our best friends in our society is to change our language. I will always call myself Sophie’s Guardian and she and any companion animal in my home, my Best Friend. Will you pledge to do this too?

Adopt and save a life!

June

Have questions about protecting your best friend legally? Go to http://aldf.org/

Are you a vegetarian with a great original recipe? And even if you aren’t, but want to cook more plant based meals, The Humane Society is sponsoring a Meatless Monday recipe contest so go here for more details: https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=meatless_monday_contest&s_src

Next: My series on adopting our Best Friends starts with
Laura and Jekell!