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Who Let the Dogs Out?

Someone's goin' to the kennel, someone's going to the morgue

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 07, 2007.

Years ago, I was in line at a pizza place on University Hill for a slice at a location with several Fast Food outlets that shared a common entrance and eating area. A customer in line had his dog. You can’t bring dogs into restaurants unless they are necessary and registered as such for handicapped people. Then, we know they have papers, they’ve had their shots, they’re healthy, and they’re cared for. Most dogs aren’t, we know. To my shock, when low key managers came over to ask this guy, quite politely, to remove the dog, he threatened to turn the dog on them. Said the dog was harmless……for the moment.

This customer I knew because he’d stayed at the Hostel where I then worked. We still had his registration and ID info. I felt like announcing, loudly, that he’d just threatened someone with a weapon, his dog, and he could be held in some legal jeopardy and be risking the dog’s life over a damned pizza. Normally, in fact, I probably would have, but I was then in legal jeopardy myself, being on probation, and had no desire to call attention to myself with authority that be. Well, that, and I didn’t know if that was actually true, and still don’t, but it should be. That this dog, a Labrador mix, was as placid as they come I knew first hand. But the customer, a big six and a half footer, and someone not particularly assertive, was just bullying because he could, and because he wanted pizza and it would be over quick and people who objected should just get bent. That’s always riled me, like people who bring their shedding dogs into laundromats.

I left with my greasy myocardial infarction on a napkin and never knew the upshot. Anno 2001.

Anno 2007, I read in today’s paper that a pit bull in the process of attacking another dog down in Denver, was shot twice in the head and didn’t slow down. The media chooses to frame this coyly. It doesn’t come out and say the entire breed is vicious and unstable and but nips around the edges. Predictably, on the other side of the coin, animal rights activists point out that pit bulls are just cute puppies with certain physical attributes that are trained, not born, to be vicious, and it isn’t the dog’s fault, or the breed’s characteristic, but the owner’s. We don’t, after all, know what the other dog said that prompted the attack. Fighting words, which excuse some fights between people in Boulder, might prove to have legal turgor in the animal world as well. Might not.

But, as usual, the media isn’t interested in the real issues and settles on accepted templates, interprets the First Amendment as a right to other people’s feelings about events, and concludes time will tell, apparently at a trial of some sort.

Any truthful coverage of this particular story would relate how pit bulls and other highly bred guard dogs are used not just by psychopaths who want to establish their virility by having tough dogs, preferably the dog that beats up if not kills everyone else’s in fights organized and not, but are used by drug dealers among other charmers to protect their pads when they themselves aren’t around, and they keep the dogs hungry and mean to keep people away. Their dogs are weapons, clearly, used as such and should be viewed as such. It’s cruel but true. Such dogs can rarely if ever be recovered from that environment and training. They have to be put down.

Having a vicious dog, or even an amiable but untrained dog in public or near the public is about as responsible as getting drunk and firing a derringer from your porch while spinning around. Statistically, there is very, very small chance of hitting anyone or doing much damage. But the damage would be severe even if the victim lives, if not physical, than emotional, and you would deserve every year in prison accorded for your selfish and idiotic action.

Substituting a combative dog for the pistol doesn’t excuse you. That the dog hasn’t been socialized to like people and children and other animals and sees them as either threats or play toys is your fault, either for instilling those characteristics or condoning them. This is also true even if your dog doesn’t attack anything but knocks over the elderly breaking their hip and steps on a child while chasing a ball or squirrel. A hundred pound dog sitting on an infant can do serious damage, for example. That’s your fault, not the dog’s, for not training him. And you should be held accountable as if you’d done it yourself. Because, by bringing the dog there, you did.

At one time on the WEB, there was a video of a huge Neapolitan Mastiff, which can grow to 250 pounds in their short life, rushing to an infant on a blanket, seemingly consuming the child – the dog’s head was bigger than the kid – and then lying down. The dog’s head rises and smiles as dogs surely do, and the kid is there laughing hysterically, surrounded by the huge dewlaps of this ferocious looking but generally amiable breed. It’s heartwarming and terrifying at the same time. Because we know it can go either way if the dog hadn’t been raised well. Or, frankly, if the dog was bred exclusively to be vicious and large to the exclusion of other considerations for twenty or a thousand generations.

So with people, so with dogs. It’s not everything, or maybe not even the major part of how we turn out, but it’s there, and you have to acknowledge it.