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the story of two dogs

13 Jan

I’m afraid of dogs. Nearly always have been, although I don’t really know why. We had one when I was a baby, apparently (the neighbors poisoned it, but that’s another story), and I never had a bad experience with one until I was in my 20s when a misunderstanding between myself, a friend’s St. Bernard and an obnoxious neighborhood stray led to a really scary situation that I still have a few small scars from.

But I feel bad about my thing with dogs. It’s not the fault of dogs. Dogs are just doing what they know how to do. And because I’m jumpy around them, I weird them out. In general I don’t think your dog is a bad dog; I just think it’s better for your dog and for me if we don’t have too much contact (an on-leash dogs who follows commands, I can handle and warm up to and can eventually be around in a chill, non-leash way).

Unfortunately, I’ve also been made to feel bad about my thing about dogs in some really toxic ways, and I will probably regret for the rest of my life the moment I did not get out of the car when, after discussing my fear of dogs, the man I was with said to me, “You act like you were raped by a dog.” Uncalled for doesn’t begin to cover it.

But here’s the thing. Dogs seem pretty cool. I kinda wish I could deal with them. They’re smart. They are loyal. They’re warm. They do amazing work as service animals. There are even bed-bug and gluten-detection dogs! Dogs are rad, and people should be nice to them.

Unfortunately, two terrible dog stories have come out of New York City recently, although both stories have also shown human excellence in the end. They’re both about pit bulls, and you’d think that as someone who is scared of dogs, I’d be really, really, not okay with pit bulls.

Actually, I love pit bulls, and I want to take a moment to speak in defense of the breed. My old landlord had a pit named Tyrone. Tyrone was awesome. He used to come to the parties I had at my flat. Once he accidentally lapped beer up off the floor; that was bad. He’d try to play with my cats, who would swipe at him, and then he’d go whimper in the corner. He had a really big skull, and a friend once said he was like a lion. But the best thing about Tyrone was that he knew I was a little scared of him and tried to make it better.

Everyone else Tyrone knew he’d run up to and jump up on in greeting. Me? He’d run up to and then skid to a stop and then look at me meaningfully as he made an exaggerated show of sitting and waiting for me to pet him. Tyrone was a gentleman dog. Totally awesome. Pit bulls are cool and smart.

Which is why I am so sad about two stories of dogs left out in the cold here in the city.

First there was the dog found already dead in a trash bag during a snowstorm. He was nicknamed Frosty by the person who found him and tried to make sure he had some dignity in his passing. Frosty, I salute you.

Then there was the dog someone chained to a bridge and left out to die in the same storm. She, luckily, got rescued. But she needs a home, and re-homing pit bulls because of their image problems is really hard. So, I hope someone out there can help her.

Dogs and me? Not so good. But I’m rooting for them anyway.

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20 Responses to “the story of two dogs”

  1. Saoba January 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    While on walks with my well meaning but boisterous Golden I often tell her “That person doesn’t seem to want a dog right now.” It’s the way I rein her in, remind her to focus on me and signals to the passerby that I am not going to expect them to interact with 75 pounds of unknown animal without express consent.

    The public misperceptions about pit bulls are heartbreaking in their consequences.

    • RM January 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

      That is both adorable and appreciated. I love senior Golden’s because they are MELLOW. The young ones are pretty hyper and hard for me to take. And I’m tiny. 75lbs of dog is about 70% of me. That’s a lot of dog coming at me!

      • Saoba January 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

        Molly is not quite 2. We joke that our last Golden spoiled us by living to be 15, he got old and stately and we got old and forgot what living with a young Golden was like.

        Yeah, she’s a big girl. I tell the trainer at our gym I should get to count walking her as strength training as well as cardio.

  2. Anton January 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    I can’t stop thinking about that dog chained to the bridge. I almost wish we would find out the owner stopped and was kidnapped or murdered, instead of thinking of someone leaving an animal to die in such a cruel way.

    Pits get such a bad rap. I personally think Chows are far more scary and dangerous, based on personal experience and the experience of my dog training/working relatives. I grew up with some enormous, frightening dogs who treated me like their own. I really miss that.

  3. Layna January 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Oh, this is heartbreaking – it kills me when people mistreat dogs, who can be such reliable providers of love.

    Calvin and I often meet pits at the dog park, and they’ve always been well-behaved toward him, too – actually the only dog who’s ever been mean to him was a Pomeranian who obviously got up on the wrong side of the dog bed!

  4. Lori S. January 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Aw. I am also scared of dogs from a young age, though I’ve worked on things to the point where I’m pretty cool with all well-behaved dogs who are visibly and explicitly with their people. And I also have a huge soft spot for pits.

  5. naath January 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Oh, that’s terrible. Poor doggies 😦

    My Mum is terrified of dogs. A glance of even the smallest dog will have her huddling behind people she knows. Most dog owners are reasonable people who call their dogs away when someone is visibly frightened, a small subset seem to think it’s their bounden duty to Convert her to the Way Of The Dog, which, er, no (also pls to be keeping dog on leash in field full of sheep). I think most dogs are cute… obviously this fear is not inherited 🙂

    • Layna January 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

      That’s the WORST way of getting someone not to be afraid of dogs! I’ve had parents with small children who are shy of dogs approach us, to show their kids a non-threatening dog. Calvin tunes down his puggish boisterousness and stands completely still for petting, ear pulling, anything!

  6. Miss Smilla January 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    FYI, for anyone who hasn’t looked yet — beware reading the comments on the first link: there is some vile if all-too-familiar racism and ignorance on display there. :/

  7. merrycaepa January 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    I’m hilariously allergic to dogs, and how badly I react is directly correlated without bad the fibro is flaring, and I am so, so sick of having to explain to people that I don’t have anything against them or their canines, I’d just prefer to keep breathing. And then they accuse me of using hyperbole, and never quite seem to believe me when I tell them that it’s not an exaggeration. I yelled at a guy in a park to keep his dog in a leash (there are signs by the parking lot proclaiming the area to be an on-leash area) and he called me a fascist, which was fun…

    And it’s kind of heartbreaking because I think I’d be a dog person, if I could be. But I was never around dogs when I was a kid – if my parents and I were at a park when I was a toddler and an off-leash dog (scourge of my existence) came bounding over to lick me to death, I was instantly hoisted to safety. I’ve climbed trees and (in one instance) a mail box to get away, with the result being that I instinctively panic when confronted by dogs (which of course just makes the dog freak out, too). And I hate that. I hate being afraid and I hate having to be afraid, because dogs in general just seem pretty damn awesome.

  8. Gwydion January 14, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    I’m not a dog Person. For me, it’s an issue of not likeing barking or that thing were they jump up and claw my legs. I think this is really a dog owner problem. My great aunts had trained show dogs. huge compared to my toddler self animals, but i got on fine with them as their barking was the “Someone’s at the door” alert woof and not uncontrollable barking and they were not allowed to jump on me. They were gentle with my toddler self, protective, even. I’ve had friends with small, none jumping on the legs dogs, or large trained dogs. No problem. Mostly though? I don’t like being around them. They are large and smelly and prone to knocking me over. This is no where near what you describe, but trust me I sympathize.

    I think big dogs and pit bulls in particular get a bad wrap, again because of an owner problem, not a dog problem. Some of the sweetest dogs I’m known were big dogs: Great Danes, Afghan hounds, German shepherds, standard poodles, and yes, pit bulls. A long ago lover of mine had pit bulls as their family dogs. I have photos of one of these pit bulls, herding the family rabbits in the yard. There’s this huge dog, carefully nudging baby rabbits back towards the mother when they wandered too far from the mother rabbit to the pit bull’s way of thinking. He’d never hurt a rabbit, let alone a human. just saying.

    It’s not a pit bull problem; it’s a pit bull owner problem and it makes me furious, even though i don’t particularly like being around dogs.

  9. Frederich January 14, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    It’s a good thing that pugs are gremlins and not dogs…

  10. C.A. Young January 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    This is good information for me if you’re ever near where I live. My dogs are lovely, but excited when new visitors arrive, and Gwen in particular can be A LOT OF DOG, personality wise. She wants to meet people face to face and touch them a lot at first.

    Which probably means I have two lovely but ill-behaved dogs. Er.

    • RM January 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

      Yup, I always sort of give people my dog briefing before I visit. If a dog can refrain from jumping on me at some juncture, I can be good hanging out with it off-leash once that no jumping as been established. But happy friendly jumping dogs freak me out and then that in turn tends to confuse the dog, which is why this all gets sad.

      We’re like star-crossed friends because of my cats and your dogs. WE CAN NEVER VISIT EXCEPT FOR CONS.

  11. aliasbagoas January 15, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    My family has only ever had pound dogs, and consequently my idea of a family pet is a pit-cross. None of them have lacked in character. One of ours is agoraphobic, and only travels outside the house with my mother. He is particularly fond of driving, and at the first sound of car keys and the front door opening will make a beeline for it. His predecessor had been used as a bait-dog (she was white all over – when we lived in New York we used to get offers from chaps on the street to breed her), and as a result liked neither strange men nor dogs larger than her, which made life in a dog-rich apartment building amusing at times. On the other hand, she was excellent with children and small dogs.
    The only absolutely savage dog we ever wound up with was a rescue Corgi. All of the other dogs we had looked the part of savage killers, but the only one who ever trapped a member of the family in a bathroom was the Corgi. It’s something I always wish to point out when people start mouthing off about pit bulls.
    I’m sorry to hear about your fear of dogs (but delighted that pit bulls get a good rap in your book) – I’m afraid I’ve got that dog-owner’s tendency to be slightly suspicious of people who don’t like dogs – which is a wholly irrational impulse, and one I suppress whenever it rears its unkind head. And thank you for linking to both city stories – I’d missed them, and while I cannot say that either much gladdens my heart, I’d rather know than not.

  12. redshoeson January 18, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Pitties are awesome, but they get a bad rap, primarily due to the overwhelming stereotype of pitties as fighting dogs. Both stories you shared are heart-breaking, but at least the bridge dog was rescued. That gives me some hope. Would you be willing to share your other experiences with dogs?

    • RM January 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

      Sure, but they just aren’t that specific. They always made me edgy and then one day I thought a St. Bernard was going to take my hand off (I really, really did) and there’s this place in my brain where that meets “if you’re not afraid they won’t hurt you” which gets me all superstitious and makes me think I can’t think the right thoughts for dogs not to hurt me. So it’s a bit of a crap cycle at this point. I mean, obviously, the St. Bernard didn’t take my hand off, but that’s the sorta thing that stays with you (also, after, friend locked him in the basement for the rest of the night and he would go all cujo at the door every time I walked by it and that was unsettling; she and the dog later moved to Finland though). The whole thing was a big mess.

      Honestly it’s the jumping on me thing with dogs. A small dog who jumps up a lot (like Jack Russells) will freak me out far more than a big dog that just wants to sit and watch TV or whatever. I also think I am too used to cats, who are less interested in people and can retract their claws.

  13. Sorcy January 29, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    Dogs, like babies, are a thing I really really like other people owning. Means I can visit every once in a while, and play with them and have fun, but don’t have to be responsible for them.

    I like your attitude about dogs. Since I started reading dogblog, I’ve found I’ve started taking pictures and saying hello to dogs who are tied up outside stores (not in a snowstorm!)

    (Dogblog is a dude in San Francisco who takes pictures of dogs and posts them with cute little captiony things. Occasionally a little bit faily, but the pictures are excellent and he’s usually quite funny. I’m especially fond of this and this.

    It is currently the only thing on the internet I use to get my cute-animal-fix. Having it update in my RSS feed once or twice a week is just about my tolerance for such.)

    ~Sor

    • RM January 29, 2011 at 2:28 am #

      I think I’m in love with dogblog.

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  1. Yummy yummy trash day goodies « Letters from Titan - January 14, 2011

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