Recently a former colleague posted on her personal Facebook page that she was walking with her young son in her local park and observed a man “beating his pit bull type dog with a large empty water bottle.” Her post to Facebook was to share this information, with the simple question, “What should I have done?”
I found myself stunned to read that question, yet my own reaction was little more than a jumble of not completely processed thoughts, few of which would have been mistaken for good ideas or have led to positive outcomes….nonetheless, it was hard to stem the tide of ideas quickly flashing in my mind……yell at the guy; run up and tackle the guy; call the police; video tape him with my cell phone; and the list went on and on….yet, walk away without intervening NEVER entered my thought process. Having taken some time to reflect since reading the initial query, I wonder if the question really speaks to our underlying beliefs and values about animals, what is acceptable, etc. Knowing my former colleague to be a sincere, well meaning and well thought person, I struggled with how difficult she found it to be to select what to her would have been an appropriate action in that situation. Knowing her, I know that while I LOVE dogs, she accepts them, maybe tolerates is a better word. I also know that within the canine community which she tolerates, she tolerates a bit less any of the breeds typically classified as pit bulls. I found myself wondering, if the dog in question had been a ‘cute little poodle,’ would she have reacted differently? Would others? I was truly amazed, and admittedly on some level horrified, to read responses to her question, many of which suggested she do nothing as it ‘was just pit bull’ or another favorite ‘it was only an empty water bottle, the dog could take it.” I wonder how many of us would feel that way if we observed a person beating another person with an empty water bottle?
Nonetheless, I found it difficult to break my train of thought until I came across this article, posted on Yahoo.com, a stay at home mom detailing how her rescued 10 month old pit bull puppy alerted the family to her 4 year old son in medical distress, and is being credited with saving his life!
Rather than try and convince you with a simple blog post that every single pit bull is not the exaggerated mauler many are made out to be in the media, I would simply offer this article as a documented case of what to me is natural pit bull behavior to let you make your own judgement. I attempt to be a responsible advocate for pit bull type breeds by offering up other experiences with them, that seem not to be sensationalized in the media and let you make your own choice. My own experience photographing literally hundreds of dogs, many of them strong bully pit bull type breeds has been amazing. Keep in mind when they meet me, many are in the shelter, perhaps their first time out of the kennel in a week, have no positive previous experience with humans, don’t know what to make of me and that big camera I am pointing right in their faces. Yet without exception, what I get is cooperation, requests for comfort and compassion, and deep eyes that look right into my soul often asking ‘Why is this happening to me?” Some of the most deflating experiences for me occur after a session with an adoptable dog, I often offer them a toy or a healthy treat as a reward, and some don’t know what to do with it, because in their lifetime they’ve never been given their own toy, or a special treat!
Here is our pit bull girl Mattie, rescued at 10 weeks old after nearly being killed by her owners….for no reason. She has been the best part of our lives since our paths merged more than 10 years ago now and has become our inspiration to support all animals in need. We are both a bit more grey, and not quite as spry as we once were but I wouldn’t trade our experiences together for anything. Ultimately, my advice to my former colleague, with young child in tow, was not to directly intervene as she was alone with small child, but to video tape some of the incident with her phone and provide the video to local police. Perhaps not the best response in the world, but hopefully not the worst. Comment below with what you would have done?