Seeing Red – What to do If Your Dog’s in a Fight

Last week I was walking 3 brothers that I walk every day.  As we rounded a corner, 2 large off leash dogs approached (not in a polite manner, I might add) and one started acting aggressively.  It only took about 5 seconds for a serious fight to break out between one of the off leash dogs and one of the dogs I was walking.  With 5 dogs in the mix (3 on leashes held by me!) – things could have escalated to insanity pretty quickly.

It doesn’t really matter the back story…your dog is in a fight with another dog.  What do you do?

Leash Clip Art

Step 1 – Don’t panic (or fake it ’til you make it)

“Panicking” doesn’t necessarily mean running around in circles, screaming like a lunatic, waving your hands above your head.  “Panicking” in this context is any behavior out of the ordinary that your dog will take notice of.  For us gals…this often means raising our voices an octave and getting that squeaky, desperate quality.  It could also mean shifting our weight back and forth or trying to run.  It could really be anything that your dog is going to pick up on and interpret as danger! this other dog means us harm.  

You must stay calm.  Your dog is already “in the red” and is not thinking normally.  If your thoughts start to go all wonky – no one is thinking properly.  And when no one is thinking properly – that’s when the situation will spiral out of control.

(“Fake it ’til you make it” is hard…but not as hard as “Don’t panic”.  It is just a reminder that while on the inside your heart might be racing and you seriously feel like you are about to loose your lunch – the most important this is that you project that calm energy that Cesar Millan is always talking about.  The dogs won’t know the difference!)

Step 2 – Trust no one (no dog)

I know. I know.  This is a really horrible thing to say.  Let me explain – in this situation, your dog is 99% wild animal and 1% sweet creature that you know and love.  Your dog’s brain has undergone a change and your dog is literally not your dog.  (Haven’t we all seen sibling dogs that get along perfectly well snap at each other when worked up?)

DO NOT put any part of your body in-between fighting dogs (unless you are prepared to have that body part sustain a dog bite.)  DO NOT think that your dog will recognize that it is your hand/leg/torso and refrain from biting you.  In this aggravated state – your dog cannot determine friend from foe.  While you still think of your dog as a friend…at this point EVERYONE is the enemy to your dog.  By not trusting your dog in this situation – you will avoid blood and heartache.  (Feelings tend to get hurt when your own dog bites you.)

Step 3 – Give direction (to humans )

The whole reason I am writing this post is because of this step.  Reread the situation I described at the beginning of this post, or here is a recap: a dog fight has erupted between my dog (on leash) and neighbor dog (off leash).  Now, I have broken up many a dog fight – even sustaining a few bites in my day protecting dogs (yeah, I’m kinda a bad ass) – so I will admit I’m a little more trained in the corect way to act in this situation than the average dog lover.  As I was doing everything I could to slow this quickly spiraling-out-of-control situation, I took a half a second to glance up at the owner of the other dogs.  He was standing about 10 feet off.  Watching.  Doing nothing.

Now, when I retold this story to friends and family they all had different reactions.  “Maybe he was scared and didn’t want to put himself in harms way by getting closer to a dog fight?”  “Maybe he was stunned?”  “Maybe he didn’t realize how serious the situation was?”  In the moment, though, all I was thinking is WHY ISN’T THIS GUY HELPING ME?  (Him – large man, standing at a safe distance.  Me – little lady in the middle of 5 dogs (4 big, 1 little…2 free, 3 tethered…3 I know like my own, 2 I don’t know at all.)

In my calmest – but firmest – voice, I instructed the man on what to do.  I am not kidding.  As I’m physically trying to keep our dogs from ripping each other apart, I have to stop to state the obvious to this man (who thankfully did exactly what he was told.) “YOU NEED TO COME GET YOUR DOG!”  “You need to physically come over here and help me separate these two.”  “Now please back up.”  Seriously.

leashHonestly, I think this man (like many who find themselves in this situation) didn’t believe that his dog would ever get in a real fight.  Your dog could be of the “sweet as pie, wouldn’t hurt a fly, gentle around kids, doesn’t mind cats” variety…but certain situations can bring about reactions from your dog that you might never understand.  (Isn’t that the same with humans??)

When you find yourself with a dog who has crossed over to the “red zone” the most important thing to do is diffuse the situation as quickly as possible.  If you can remain calm, remember these are animals, and take control by giving others direction – you will be able to walk away as if it was a regular day at the park.  (Surprisingly dogs can do just that….while it might take a few minutes for your heart to stop pounding!)

The Devil’s Own Creation (Or How I Feel About Retractable Leashes)

I would like to state for the record – this post is full of my own personal opinion.  I am not a dog trainer or a veterinarian –  I am simply a woman who spends most of her time in the company of many different dogs.

Retractable leashes….how many of you use them?  If I had to guess…I would say it’s almost an even split between those of us who use a good old-fashioned leash to those of you who go for the retractable variety.

In doing a bit of research for this post (ok…I should say “in looking for articles to reinforce my own viewpoint”), I was surprised to find that even Consumer Reports had taken the time to weigh in on this issue.  While their reporting told of a retractable leash severing a dog owner’s finger (seriously….read about it here), I was actually looking for something far less dramatic to discuss with you guys.  The Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan states “You should never use such a lead [retractable] for just walking your dog” on his website.   (In fact…check out that link for lots of good dog walking and retractable leash tips.)

Retractable Leash

Picture from a great post on the Dogster site

I honestly do not see the allure of retractable leashes.  When I lived in an apartment, I did use one for Buffy.  She was having trouble walking on a leash…and I tried EVERYTHING.  The retractable leash did work: she walked better with it on and it did come in handy when I couldn’t keep up with her running up and down the stairs.  (We lived on the second floor.)  We did not really use it on long walks, though.   Scarily enough, we stopped using it only after it SNAPPED.  (Thankfully, Buffy is well behaved and did not run off.)

Using clients retractable leashes is – most of the time – just plain annoying.  (Try walking 5 dogs on all on retractable leashes and you will know the definition of annoying.)  The dogs seem to use it as an excuse to run out of control and not listen to me. I have received numerous injuries from the darn things…and while most of them were minor, I did receive a bad burn on the back of both of my legs due to a crazy dog running around me and then taking off.  (And when I say burn….I mean BURN.  It was very severe.  And I am not a wimp!)

So, I have my own experiences, Cesar Millan, and about a hundred other articles backing me up in my statement “Retractable leashes are the devil’s own creation.” 

But, we all know that there are two sides to every coin.  Or, as my mom would say “That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla!”

There are 2 instances I can see (and have seen from my own dog walking) where retractable leashes are not as horrible as I have lead you to believe:

Leashes

I got the retractable leash SKILLZ!

***Long walks in wide open spaces.  Not all of us live in tight, cramped cities with traffic whizzing by and 15 other people out walking their dogs at the same time on the same narrow strip of sidewalk.  Maybe you are taking your dog for a hike. Maybe you live in the middle of nowhere and it is nice to let your dog explore without having total freedom.  That kind of activity gets this dog walkers retractable leash approval.

***With calm, relaxed dogs.  Now, I don’t just mean you have a good, well behaved dog.  I mean, you have a good, well behaved, won’t-chase-after-a-squirrel, not-gonna-get-excited-by-a-loud-noise, chilled out, could-probably-be-walked-without-a-leash dog.  They exist.  If you have one…well, stop reading this right now and go over and give her a big kiss because you are LUCKY…but yes, if you have one of these dogs, retractable leash it UP.

So…maybe retractable leashes aren’t REALLY the devil’s creation.  Maybe they do have their own place and time.  I guess what this (self-proclaimed!) dog expert is wondering is, how did they become such a staple in our dog society?  Why do dog lovers feel the need to buy and use them?  These questions, dear readers, are ones that only you can answer.

Looking forward to reading your comments!

Just found out you’re pregnant? Step #1: Get another dog…

…while it might sound crazy, that is exactly what my husband and I did.  Days after that positive pregnancy test, it was off to the Houston SPCA to pick up our four-legged bundle of joy, Amigo.

Sound crazy??  Well, just wait and listen to my logic –

Our first pup Buffy has never been an overly needy pet, but she had been an only child her entire life.  Inevitably, she got use to being the center of attention.  We weren’t constantly entertaining her by any means, but much of our time was spent playing with, talking too, loving on our sweet girl.

What is the first thing all the articles/books/literature tell you to do when you are trying to prepare your pets for a new baby?  Give them less attention.  Get them use to not being the center of your world.  Let them become more independent.  I can tell you right now, folks….this just wasn’t ever going to happen.  (And not just for Buffy’s sake either…I got a dog for selfish reasons.  I need that canine affection!)  So instead of attempting to ween Buffy off play and love….why not find someone else to play and love with her?  GENIUS!

Enter Amigo!  (Now do you see where we got his name?  We adopted him to be Buffy’s friend!)

We hurried to find Buffy’s companion before any drastic baby changes (nursery prep, changes in my schedule, etc) in an attempt to make his adjustmentIMG_1388 our top priority.   (Let me also state here – Pablo and I always knew we would be a multi-dog family.  Getting a second dog was something we had been considering for a long time – and was not a rushed decision.  Getting a pet – whether your first or your fifth – should NEVER be a decision you rush into or take lightly.)  Now, with our Baby Boy’s arrival almost exactly a month away, nothing makes me happier to see Buffy & Amigo off in their own little world.  Open the blinds – and they will sit side by side watching the neighborhood.  Let them out in the backyard – they will bark at birds or play chase until they drop.  Always interested in the same toy (typical siblings!) – they won’t fight over it, but instead will watch the other chew on it…and then switch.  I find such comfort in knowing that if I’m off taking care of Baby Boy in the other room…Buffy will not feel abandoned or neglected.

While Buffy has never been the kind of pup to get jealous (I think a lot of this has to do with me taking her to work with me.  She sees me loving on and playing with other dogs all the time, and never becomes possessive), I think Amigo has also helped her adjust to my husband and I being affectionate towards another living thing.  She has seen that we can introduce a new child to the house…and our love for her will not diminish.  She will still get tummy rubs and treats – she just doesn’t get ALL the tummy rubs and treats!

As I constantly mention in this blog and to my clients – Buffy is so go-with-the-flow, I’m not sure why I ever worried about her adjusting in the first place.

Now I just have to worry about how to prepare myself for the change!

IMG_1423

Amigo is quite taken with my GIANT belly!

Wags & Whiskers Wednesday (#37)

Happy mid-week!

I always felt sorry for families without pets.  Well, let’s be honest – I didn’t just pity them…I wondered what the heck was wrong with them!  I can understand busy parents not wanting to take on a pack of dogs (in addition to a pack of children), but a cat?  A guinea pig??  A mouse???  It seems like such a fundamental part of family life- something that every child should experience.  I always wondered what would become of those kiddos that grew up in a house where everyone walked on two legs.  Could they ever truly become “dog people” or “cat people”?

The answer is YES!  I realized in a recent conversation with my husband that they absolutely, positively can become pet lovers.  I must admit, the fact that my husband lived in…and had always lived in…a pet-less home was a big concern for me.  Could I love a man who did not love a dog?  I have never in my 31 years lived without a pet.  (Except for maybe the first month after I moved to New York City.  Poor and living in a tiny TINY apartment in the Village I lasted about 30 days before I went out and bought myself a pair of mice.  I took them everywhere with me – they even flew home with me for holidays.  Those two little mice…well, they are another story all together!)

My husband now is officially converted, though I will never know if it was by me or by our first (of what is surely too be many) pets, Buffy.  Even he now freely admits he doesn’t understand households without dogs.   I even know one or two friends who, despite a canine-free upbringing, now are what one even might call “crazy dog people.”  It warms my heart to know that – despite your age – you are never too old to be ensnared by the love of a dog.

Not so hard to believe if you look at these faces…

 

photo 1 (14)

photo 2 (13)

photo (31)

5 Dog Specific New Year’s Resolutions You Should Make (don’t worry…they are realistic!)

2013 is here!

Usually, I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions.  (Let’s be realistic…who sticks to those anyways!)  Call it maturity – or insanity – but this year I decided to outline a few areas of my life that I might improve upon.  I didn’t write them down….I didn’t tell anyone…but I am going to keep them in the back of my mind as I travel through 2013.

Then I realized it might not be such a bad idea to make new year’s resolutions – just for my pups.   My dogs are my constant companions…but when things get crazy, their wants and needs seem to be the first things to slip my mind.  So, here is my list of 5 Dog Specific New Year’s Resolutions.  Consider them suggestions, loyal readers; let’s see if we can take a few minutes out of each day and brighten our dogs’ lives.

1.) Hang out – OUTSIDE!  Amigo Outside

Imagine being stuck in your house for 23.5 hours a day.  (Ok, so the first day would be glorious if you didn’t have to go out to work/run errands/be productive…but EVERY day?)  Now imagine you are genetically hard-wired to roam around in the sunshine, but you are literally imprisoned in a house.  (As humans, we really can’t even imagine what this is like!)  This is the life of your dog.  Dogs are animals first…and animals spend all their life outside.  Do I want you to walk your dog?  Of course I do!  Walking is great bonding and is an awesome way for you both to exercise!  Do I want you to take your dog to the dog park?  Of course I do!  What fun for your dog to get to make friends and socialize!  Do I think it is realistic to tell you to routinely spend hours of your life doing these things with your dog?  Of course I don’t!  What can you do?  You can spend time with your dog in your own backyard.  You can take your dog with you when you visit your mom…go to the drive-up teller at the bank…go pick up fast food.  Get them out of the house – when it’s convenient for you.  Your pups will rearrange their schedules!

2.) Challenge their minds!

Some people (not you, of course!) think that dogs lack intelligence.  This could not be further from the truth.  Let me tell you – when you were a kiddo, you weren’t that smart.  Your mom and dad had to spend hours teaching you how to talk, how to walk, how to read.  They devoted their whole lives to it!  Dogs, like humans, WANT to learn…and (unlike you in your childhood) they WANT to please their parents.  So teach them!  What can you do? As I have blogged before, I think you would be surprised at how quickly dogs pick up vocabulary.  This could be as easy as saying “bone” every time you hand them a bone, or “Kong” every time they bring you their Kong for a peanut butter refill.  Before too long, you can create a game – say the word, and as soon as your pooch brings the item to you…give her a treat.  (You won’t need the treats for long – pups love this.)   You can even sit on your lazy behind for this one!  You can do it on commercial breaks, for goodness sake!  It give your dog something to do, and they will love you for it.  (There are also lots of puzzle toys you can get to entertain your dog while you are busy/away.)

3.) Keep them healthy!

Of course you take good care of your dog!  You keep them hydrated and nourished.  You give them treats and blankets and (if they are lucky) let them sleep in your bed.  Some things, though, might slip your mind.  What can you do?  Every dog, every month, should be given heartworm medication.  (I am especially bad about forgetting this.  I feel horrible!  I have the medicine, but just can’t seem to remember to give it to them monthly!)  There are also little things you can do to keep your pups in tip-top shape.  Cleaning out their ears every 2 weeks, trimming their nails, bathing them…all things we can do in our own homes that take a matter of minutes, yet sometimes these things slip our minds!  Picking up poop is another thing we often forget.  It’s our yard, why should we have to worry?  It’s in the back, no one will see it.  Dogs are low to the ground.  They aren’t careful to avoid their waste, and they trample right through it.  Then, their paws itch and they lick them.  Not hygienic!  (Oh – and they come right inside and jump on your furniture, pillows, bed, carpet…you see where I’m going with this.)

Dog reading4.) Educate yourself!

How many books on dogs are there?  We surely will never know, but it seems a new one comes out weekly.  There are books on dog training, breeds, behavior, history, evolution…science has finally gotten around to studying the animals that live closest too us.  There is a seemingly endless fountain of knowledge when it comes to our four-legged loves!  What can you do?  READ!  Pick up any dog book that looks interesting to you, and read it.  (I am a big fan of the library…so don’t even give me the excuse you don’t want to shell out the dough.)  Even if you don’t pick up the most highly regarded one, it will get you thinking.  Maybe you won’t agree with what that nut job author tells you to do, and you’ll start a conversation with your coworker about his dog.  Maybe you won’t believe that a dog’s brain works like that, and a Google search will lead you to a site that will confirm the unbelievable and get you asking more questions.  In any case, you will get a better understanding of what your dog is thinking or feeling…and why they are thinking or feeling that in the first place.

5.)  Give them undivided attention!

Ok, so this last one is a broad statement.  I’m not going to suggest where you do it, when you do it, or how you do it.  I’m not going to say how often you should or how long it should last.  I’m just going to suggest you spending some quality time with your furry best friend.  What can you do?  Put down your cell phone (I’m not even going to tell you to turn it off, because we are staying realistic here, people!)  Turn off the TV.  Shut down the iPad.  Just BE with your dog.   Talk to him.  Pet him.  Kiss him.   Love him.  Does he want you to throw the ball?  Do it!  Does he want you to lay down and nap beside him?  Do it!  All he ever wanted was to have your attention and to make you happy.  (And treats…he wants treats!)  Remember why you got this little guy in the first place!  It wasn’t to bark every time your doorbell rang or to track mud in from the yard.  You got him to be your companion and to make you happy.  Let him do his job!

Pablo and Buffy

Getting your pooch an “Amigo” – What to Consider BEFORE You Add a Second Dog to Your Family

Last Wags & Whiskers Wednesday, you were all introduced to the newest member of my family, Amigo.  As I mentioned in that post (and as his name suggests), we got him primarily as a companion for Buffy.  Adding an additional dog to your “pack” can be a wonderful experience for your entire family – or a horrible disaster that can cause seemingly endless days of drama and stress.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed some of these catastrophes first hand…so let’s learn from other people’s mistakes!  Here is a list of things to discuss with your family (and most importantly with yourself!) BEFORE you start looking for your new furry child.

Know your dog. – You would be surprised at how many people don’t know their dog.  I am serious.  This was the most shocking thing I learned from working with clients and their pets independently.  People are simply unrealistic about who their dogs really are.  Some dogs were meant to be only children.  Some dogs need to be the boss of the house.  It’s ok – there is nothing wrong with that!  If you are not honest with yourself about your dog’s personality, you WILL have problem when you bring a four-legged sibling into the picture.

Be realistic about what a second dog will do. – A second dog will not change your dog’s personality. I have seen this mistake made over and over.  People that have dogs with anxieties get a second dog that is extremely calm.  People that have a dog that doesn’t like to participate in outdoorsy activities get a breed that is known for their love of hiking and swimming.  Unless you are Cesar Millan, this will never work.  You don’t want to hang out with people who don’t have similar interests – your dog doesn’t want to either!  You should always get a second dog that matches your current dog’s energy level.  

Don’t rush. – I am always amazed when people say things like “I’m going to the S.P.C.A. tomorrow to get a new dog!”  How could you possibly know that the perfect dog for you will be waiting there tomorrow?  To me, that would be like announcing “I’m going to meet my husband tonight!” before you even walk into the bar.  I know this can be especially hard when children are involved.  They want a dog NOW!  (Who am I kidding?  We grown-ups can be like that too!)  Visit a shelter, attend rescue group adoption events, send out emails inquiring about dogs you see on Petfinder, ask around to friends and family.  Dogs are like soul mates – if you were meant to be together, you will be.  Don’t force something just because you want instant gratification.

Timing is everything. – Do you remember what it was like going from a “no dog house” to a “dog house”?  (If your first dog was a puppy, you no doubt remember this transition!)  Adding a second dog will be no easier.  Even if you are getting an adult dog, there will be late nights, accidents on the carpet, chewed shoes…are you sure you’re ready for that.  No, REALLY…are you SURE?!?  Are you planning a wedding?  Heading into busy season at work??  Did you just move?  Let’s face it – even if it’s something that isn’t going to be physically taking up more of your time (example – you just broke up with your boyfriend), mentally draining things will literally suck all the patience out of you.  And we all know you need endless patience whether you are dealing with one dog or twenty.

Get everyone on board. – Just like with the dog you already have, it is imperative that everyone in your household is on the same page when it comes to pup #2.  If your wife still isn’t too happy about pup #1…a second dog will only increase tension.  If I were you, I would take it even one step further.  I would make sure you have non-in-house family (or friends) on board as well.  “It takes a village” they say…well, maybe they weren’t talking about dogs, but it sure helps if your mom is willing to come check on your new pooch when you have an unexpected long day or your bro will swing by if the doctor keeps you waiting.

I am happy to report that due to my awesome dog skills, Buffy and Amigo got along from day one.  Sure, they have argued over toys and sometimes they play a bit too rough, but that sounds like every brother and sister I know.  My husband and I were realistic when it came to Buffy and what she needed in a friend.  As much as we would have loved to get another “big” dog, we knew Buffy would still want to be the boss and therefore a smaller dog was best.  We knew she needed a pup with lots of energy, but he or she would also need to know the value of a good nap.  Above all, though, we knew that (even though we had fallen  in love with Amigo) the final decision would lay with Buffy.  We would never force a relationship.

Thankfully, we didn’t have too.

Lazy Sunday = Home School (Vocabulary Lesson)

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about dogs, you know my #1 advice for a happy pup: WALK.

But sometimes, you can’t go for a walk (weather!)  And sometimes, if we are being totally honest, it’s Sunday and your just being lazy.  This is the situation that I found myself in today.  Me – not wanting to go outside due to a hot, humid Houston day.  Buffy – bored.

Step 1 – Make sure your dog has proper eye glasses.

If you’ve ever been in this situation, let me offer a piece of advice: Teach your dog a new word.  Dogs need mental stimulation as much as they need physical stimulation.  It’s a win/win: your pooch will be happy that you bust their boredom AND they will actually be physically tired once you’ve finished playing teacher.  The word you choose does not need to be a command (example: sit, down, etc) or it could be an object…or a location…or a person.  Get creative!  (And think how impressive your pup will be at your next party.)

I guarantee (yes, GUARANTEE!) that this process will be easier than you think.  (Warning – Your first session will be PAINFULLY slow, but hang in there!)  Remember, ALL breeds of dogs will enjoy this easy exercise.  Vocabulary lessons aren’t just for labs.

Follow these 5 SUPER EASY steps to school your pooch:

(1) Choose your new vocab word carefully – Make sure the new word doesn’t sound like any commands your pup already knows.  If you are working on objects that can be retrieved, make sure your dog is comfortable with the object, and it won’t be painful to carry in his or her mouth.  Keep the words short and easy to understand. (ex. ball, rope, pen)

(2) Listen to your own voiceThe number one mistake of people training their dog is to repeat the word/command until the dog complies (which could make the word sound like a longer, more complicated, completely different word!)  Say the word once, and say it the same each time.  By changing our tone and inflection, we humans can easily confuse dogs without even realizing it.  “Give me FIVE!” “GIVE me five.” and “GIVE ME FIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” all sound like different commands.  Say it once, and then wait (even if it’s a full minute) until your dog obeys and you can praise him.

(3) Remember past lessons – Dogs speak no English…. seriously, it’s easy to forget.  If your dog doesn’t know “come”, he or she might not even show up to class!  If your pooch doesn’t know “sit”, that should be lesson #1.  In fact, I start each of my sessions with a few “sits” and “downs” – commands that I know my dog knows like the back of her paw.  This gets her from crazy co-ed to studious pupil.

(4) Get in the mood – Cesar Milan calls it a “calm submissive state.”  Whatever you call it, be aware of your dog’s mood before you begin your lesson.  If your dog is all worked up because the mailman just passed, it is not a good idea to try to use a vocabulary lesson as a distraction.  Also be aware that your mood matters too.  If you just remembered you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning you HAD to have for tomorrow and are stressing about it, your dog will pick up on your anxiety.  (Oh, and plus, you are much more likely to get frustrated with your poor pooch.)

(5) Be Patient – This is definitely the most important advice.  I know, I know…you are thinking “Duh!  I know I have to be patient.”  Think about however much patience you think you need.  Now multiple it by 10.  That’s really how much you need.  When I get frustrated, I try to put myself in their paws.  What if I went to China and someone was trying to teach me Chinese?  How quickly could I  hope to recognize, understand, and remember a handful of words?

If you can follow these 5 easy (I mean, really, they are SUPER easy) pointers, your pup’s IQ will raise in no time.  With short sessions on a (fairly) regular basis, my own dog knows everything from “kiss” to “bring me the remote.”

…and we didn’t even leave the house!

Houston Chronicle Pit Bull Hatred UPDATE

Many of you will remember the post Why Does the Houston Chronicle Want Me to Hate Pit Bulls? from a few months back.  It definitely got a lot of people talking.  Every single one of my family, friends, and faithful blog readers (strongly!) agreed – it was a ridiculous article and should have never found its way to the front page of a major news publication.

Houston Chronicle

Me

Despite my disagreement with the Houston Chronicle’s views on pit bulls, I still subscribe to the paper.  (Reading the paper first thing in the morning over a cup of coffee is one of my absolute favorite things to do.)  And this past Tuesday, on Page 3 of the City & State section, on the very bottom of the page in the “Around the State” section a heading caught my eye: “Dad accused of negligence in mauling death.”

Turns out, the 4 year old boy who was mauled to death (the one that I mentioned in my earlier post) was missing for SEVERAL HOURS before his dad decided to contact authorities.  It was not until the NEXT DAY that the little boy’s body was discovered in the neighbor’s yard.  (The boy’s father, Michael Cole Johnson, was detailing his truck when the boy wandered off.)

While this story – when it was the grizzly tale of pit bull brutality –  was considered the #1 story on the day the paper gets the most reads; it was an 8 sentence blip in the City & State section on a Tuesday – when it was simply the story of just another idiot father.  The last sentence being: “The dog was euthanized.”

I was livid when I read this story. How could the Houston Chronicle print a story with the title “Man’s Best Friend?  Beware” on the front page…and then not find the time or the space to recant their bias reporting?  Obviously, I understand everything is a business…and if “sex sells” in advertising, “fear sells” the news…but we aren’t talking about a hurricane or terrorism.  Pit Bulls are something that we as a society encounter in our day-to-day lives.  Instilling meaningless fear in the subconsciousness of the masses will only perpetuate the problem!  

But should I be so upset?  At least the paper printed something!  While the small article doesn’t even mention that the poor, euthanized Pit Bull was originally blamed for the boy’s death, it does say that Michael Cole Johnson was indicted on charges of negligent homicide, injury to a child and child abandonment in the “mauling death.”

So, what do you think?  “Ridiculously too little” or “At least they tried“?

Military Working Dogs need your HELP!

I have such a respect for the men and women who serve in our country’s armed forces.  Not only can I not imagine what life is like once deployed to far away places – I CANNOT imagine making the sacrifice voluntarily.  They truly are heroes.

Military working dogs (MWD) serve their country as well…except they were never given a choice.  They undergo insane amounts of training, they get shipped off to foreign places, and they see things that most of us cannot even fathom.  Yet somehow the U.S. Department of Defense officially classifies them as “equipment.”  Yes, equipment.

If you are anything like me –  when reading that last sentence, your emotions took over.  You probably wondered how living animals could every be categorized with inanimate objects….how classifying these dogs (who risk their lives) as equipment trivialize their important role in our military.  While all this is true, we (we being those “crazy dog people”) have to think about this practically.  You do not transport dogs the same way as equipment is transported.  It costs more money to get a dog overseas than a pair of boots.  Legislation MUST be passed in our government to protect these dogs and make sure that – once they have loyally served our country – they can get back home easily and safely…and live out the rest of their days enjoying civilian life.

The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act will change MWD classification from “equipment” to “canine members of the armed forces.”  Federal funds will not be used to cover any additional costs this may incur.

As you can probably imagine, this is not at the top of most of our senator’s to-cosponsor list.  (A big shout out to Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut for sponsoring the legislation!) The ASPCA has made it super easy to show your senators you support U.S. S. 2134 – Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act.  Click here for quick and simple instructions.

Literally one minute of your time will vastly increase the quality of life for thousands of military dogs.

(If you needed another reason to email your senator…look at these pictures of military dogs in action.)

Why does the Houston Chronicle want me to hate Pit Bulls?

I’m old enough to know by now not to believe everything I read.  I also know that all media is slightly bias in some way or another, but what I read in the Houston Chronicle a few weeks ago was simply ridiculous.  (I expect more from a newspaper!)  On the front page of the Sunday paper was an article:

Man’s best friend?  Beware

Another picture of the same "vicious" pit bull featured on the front page of the paper.

Below that was a picture of a pit bull (of course!) with his front paws resting on the bars of his crate.  I think he was suppose to look mean, but he actually just looked like there was an unfamiliar man in front of his cage (which there was!) holding a foreign object in his face (a camera!)

The first sentence of the article (in big print) read: 70% of 12,000 bites by animals here were unprovoked, with kids most often targeted.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  So right there, I knew that this article was going to throw a bunch of random statistics at me that no one can back up.  I would like to know who decides which bites are “unprovoked.”  As we dog lovers know, 99% of the human population doesn’t know the first thing about what messages our body language is saying to members of the canine persuasion.

Yang Wang, what the heck were you thinking when you wrote this?!?  I’m thinking that she must have been traumatized by a dog when he was a child, because the article feels like it’s trying to create fear with little facts to back it up.  For instance: the 12,000 bites the article is referring to happened over the span of 5 years and all the statics cited are based not on any animal affiliated organization, but on “a Houston Chronicle analysis of data.”  And those bites include cats….and skunks….and beetles?  Wow, even monkeys.  Then why are there pictures of pit bulls throughout the article??  After explaining about the “dangerous dog” list that Houston has (and you BETTER be careful, because there are lots of pit bulls on that list!)…there are only 5 dogs in the entire Houston area that have been declared “dangerous”.

Oh, but wait….it gets better.

“Just Monday, a missing 4 year old boy was found dead….the prelimiary autopsy report indicated the cause of death was canine mauling.”  OH MY GOSH!  I’m thinking.  That is horrible!  Reading further into the paragraph, the child had been “left unsupervised” and “wandered away from his home” into a “FENCED-IN yard filled with pit bulls.”  Then the real hard-hitting reporting starts.  An animal control supervisor gives us some valuable information – “Kids should never be left alone with dogs.”  I thought kids were never supposed to be left alone, period.

If you cannot tell, this article really rubbed me the wrong way.  I feel like the media is trying to get everyone all worked up over something that is a non-issue.  I’m sorry, but if you go up and get up in any dogs face (be it cocker spaniel, a chihuahua, or a pit bull) you are asking to get bit.  I would also like to know how the Houston Chronicle can be so confident in the fact that the bites were “unprovoked” when apparently a majority of them happened to children who were left unattended.  Shame on the Chronicle and shame on Yang Wang.

There is a little humor in all of this, though.  The article was printed with some “Dog saftey tips.”  Would you like to hear some?  They will make you chuckle:

**DO NOT chase dogs
**DO NOT leave a child alone with a dog
**DO NOT challenge a stray dog
**DO NOT break up a fight with your hands

You can email Yang Wang at yang.wang@chron.com to let her know what you think about her bias story.