An Early Morning Soapbox

This morning, as I was feeding Little Bear, I was scrolling through Facebook as I always do. I came across a picture that I, for some reason, felt compelled to comment on:

My opinion of this picture was basically this; that it made me sad to see such a young puppy with his ears cropped, and also that the adult dog was, frankly, hideous. I think the specific words I used were “an abomination of irresponsible breeding”. Maybe that phrase was a little dramatic but, at that moment, that’s how I felt. A big part of me feels incredibly and intensely sorry that poor dog. He has obviously been bred for the specific reason of looking like that (I say that because how do you even describe that look? Seriously, if he were a human he would be a cast member on the Jersey Shore.), and for no other reason. He may be good at obedience but certainly can’t perform any athletic activities. Truly, if he were even to attempt to run I fear he might pass out before he got more than 5 yards. And what kind of life is that for a dog? He will undoubtably have knee and hip problems from too much weight being put on his joints. I just find it incredibly unfair to breed a dog to look a certain way when you know that it’s going to cause the dog problems and possibly make him be in pain.

Well, clearly my point of view on this photo is not shared by the others that were commenting because there were many negative responses being thrown my way. I was, to my own admission, unaware that this is actually a breed of dog called an “American Bully”, a mix of APBT, Staffie, and Mastiff. And they all look like this. Once I was made aware of that fact I was even more disturbed. Mostly by the fact that I, as well as a lot of other people I know, have been referring to these dogs as a fad by Pit Bull breeders and calling them “Hippo Pits”. But also as a Bully advocate that 1) People are going to automatically associate this dog with Pitties. Because they associate every breed of dog that looks any where close to this with Pitties. So now not only is there another breed of dog for us as advocates to protect, but there’s also another breed of dog for us to try to keep out of shelters. 2) While I’m sure that these dogs have a great temperament (given the types of dogs they are bred from), they all have cropped ears and look like they they’ve been hitting the juice pretty hard. Which will make people think they are aggressive, because people judge dogs on how they look. Which again, as advocates, makes our job that much harder. 3) We already have a HUGE problem of Bullies overcrowding our shelters, and until that gets under control I believe that breeding should be very limited. We just don’t need any more dogs and puppies being sold by backyard breeders when there are thousands of good dogs dying in shelters everyday. RESPONSIBLE breeding, for the betterment of the breed, is one thing, But this is clearly not that! This is breeding a dog for a look and that is all.

The other problem people seemed to have about my comment was the cropping of the puppies ears. I got responses like “Do you know ANYTHING about dogs? You have to chop their ears off before they’re twelve weeks so that they heal properly and they’ll be in less pain.” I was done with being in a “Facebook fight” at that point, because it’s stupid and trivial. But here’s what I said to myself. “Uh yeah, I do know something about dogs, probably a lot more than you do! And what you’re saying is that you have to cut a dogs ears off, and you should do it while they’re young so that they’re in less pain.” Now, I’m one that is against ear cropping. Period. It doesn’t matter what breed of dog it is, Dobie, Dane, or Pittie, there is absolutely no reason other than a cosmetic one to crop a dog’s ears. And why, if you love dogs would you want it to be an ANY pain at all?? And one more point, as far as AmStaff’s go, when it comes to show dogs the AKC prefers natural ears. So there goes your cosmetic argument. It just upsets me. And that’s my personal opinion…which I’m entitled to and don’t need fifteen people calling me stupid or ignorant when I express it.

So there, that was my soapbox for the day.

 

Happy Birthday Rooney!

Mother Nature must have known that Tuesday was a special day. We woke up to the coldest day of the year so far, and the Dutch Dog had an extra spring in his step during our morning walk. Rooney absolutely loves it when the hot, humid, sweltering weather of Summer subsides. I imagine that the crisp bite of the Fall air reminds him of being at home in Holland. Unfortunately for him we live in South Carolina and that cool air never lasts long. So for him to have a walk in the chilly breeze for his birthday was a special treat!

Three years old. Roo is officially an adult dog. Not that he knows it. Three is generally the age when a hyper-active adolescent dog starts to calm down and become a more well behaved member of canine society. Not Rooney. He’s still just as exuberant as ever!

Of course he got presents. First he got treated with a frozen peanut butter Kong, always a favorite, and then it was time to open gifts. We got Roo a toy from Kong (they seem to be the only brand of toys that he doesn’t immediately destroy) that is squeaky and a tug toy…all of his favorite things in one. He loves it! 

No birthday would be complete without a good nap, and Roo and Little Bear had a good one snuggling together. To top the day off he got to spend the evening doing zoomies around my Mom’s backyard and playing with his best doggie pal, Polo.

All in all a great birthday for Mr. Rooney!

Why I Don’t Go To The Dog Park

Before I had Little Bear and became a SAHM I had been working with dogs for about five years. I worked at doggie day cares and, when I found out I was pregnant, was in the process of starting my own dog walking business (which has been put on hold, hopefully not indefinitely). I spent 90% of my time in the company of large groups of dogs. Not to mention controlling large groups of dogs. This experience, I think, makes me better inclined to understand the nuances of dog “language” and behavior than your average pet owner.

A lot of people think that the dog park and doggie day care are basically the same environment: lots of dogs running around and playing in an enclosed space. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth as there’s one BIG difference between day care and a dog park. Day care is a CONTROLLED environment! Whereas the dog park is basically a free for all.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that dogs are like kids, their “parents” generally think they can do no wrong. And it’s these puppy parents that make going to the dog park an absolute nightmare for others.

I recognize that Rooney needs a spot of training and is generally as rambunctious as a bull in a china shop. He’s also a bit of an, ahem, hump magnet. Contrary to popular belief this has nothing to do with sex. It’s a dominance thing. And as evidenced by the fact that Rooney is bossed around by twelve pound Polo he is NOT a dominant creature. Which all the other dogs at the park immediately recognize and so feel the need to assert their…ummm…dominance over him. In the form of humping. Sometimes two at a time. It’s not a pretty picture. Eventually Rooney will get tired of this less than polite behavior and do something about it. He’ll generally warn whatever dog is currently expressing it’s dominance over him by turning around and snapping. Read: warn. Snapping doesn’t mean he’s going to bite. It is his way of telling another dog that he has HAD ENOUGH and they need to stop…now.

Unfortunately, because he’s a Pit Bull, uneducated owners wrongly assume that he’s going to attack their sweet, precious, wouldn’t hurt a fly Golden Retriever; even though it’s the Golden (Or whatever other dog has decided to see that Rooney knows who’s boss.) that is exhibiting the bad behavior. He’s come home with scratch marks on his belly from another dog’s dew claws and once someone even bit him on his, uh, manhood.

But the dog discrimination doesn’t stop there. We’ve had incidents of Rooney and another dog innocently playing and the other dog’s owner will begin to freak out that our dog is attacking their dog! Seriously? Do you not know the difference between play and aggression? Sure it gets a little loud and boisterous, and I’ll even give you that Rooney is very vocal when he’s playing. But don’t you think that if your dog was in any danger from my BIG SCARY PIT BULL that I would try to stop it?!? Apparently not.

Once the owner of another dog actually kicked Rooney. To say this didn’t go over well is an understatement. Don’t kick my dog. You’re going to see repercussions. Period. Would you kick my child? No? Well you just did.

After the the kicking incident there has been a ban on the dog park in our house. It’s just too much drama. Every time we go something crazy happens and we have to leave early. If only dog owners would admit that their dogs have faults, be aware of what triggers their pets, and, you know, have some control over them! Then the park would be a much happier…and safer…place for all! Until that happens we’ll be sticking to supervised play dates with dogs we know!

The Cone of Shame

South Carolina is HOT! This Summer’s heat has been unbearable for almost everyone, but for a dog from The Netherlands it’s downright torture. Roo’s skin simply can’t handle the heat, humidity, and mosquitos that are a pre-requisite accompaniment to it all. Last summer wasn’t too bad…a few hot spots here and there, easily taken care of by a few sprays of Betagen. This summer is a whole different story. He is literally eating himself alive. And so, he is forced to wear the cone of shame…

He is so miserable, but then again, chewing himself until he bleeds can’t exactly be a good time.

Rooney has allergies year round, these include shellfish, duck, grains, and mosquitos. If he comes into contact with any of these things his entire body breaks out into some of the worst hives you’ve ever seen. Come Summertime you can add grass to that list, and even if we are painstakingly diligent about making sure he avoids all allergens (except grass…that’s pretty much impossible) the heat alone is enough for him to break out into a few dozen welts.

I was hoping that after last summer his skin would adjust to living in the South. After all, he’s now been here just as long as he lived in Holland. Unfortunately that just didn’t happen; and it seems like it never will. The vet and I have had many conversations on the state of his skin and she seems to think that it’s just something we’re going to have to try to manage from here on out.

Management, unfortunately, is not an easy task. We’ve gone through countless brands of food, at least three different sprays, several rounds of steroids, added a few oils just to get his skin “under control”. His coat still doesn’t look the way it did when we lived in Amsterdam, and I’m sad to say I don’t think it ever will…unless we make an unforeseen move up North. After much experimentation our current concoction for less itchy skin is as follows:

2 Oatmeal & Aloe baths per week                                                                                    A complete body spray down of “fast relief hot spot spray” three times a day                A spray down of organic mosquito repellent every time he goes outside                          1 tsp of Olive Oil mixed into his food twice a day                                                             1 anti histamine a day                                                                                                       A diet of grain free red meat/vegetable dry food

Whew! Poor thing, I know he’s miserable. It must be a kin to having the chicken pox for three months out of the year….all you want to do is scratch but your parents won’t let you! Hopefully this new regiment will make him feel (and look) at least a little better!

 

 

 

We Are Lennox

This is Lennox. A beloved family dog seized and destroyed for a crime he couldn’t help. Yesterday, at 7am GMT, the Belfast City Council had Lennox put to sleep because he looked like a Pit Bull.  And sadly, Lennox’s story is not unique. Northern Ireland (as well as the rest of Great Britain) passed a Dangerous Dog Act in 1991 which banned all “pit bull type” dogs (except Staffordshire Terriers and Bull Terriers) from residing in their country. If these dogs are found they are taken from their families and put to sleep…period. No evaluations no nothing.

Lennox had a family. A little girl he lovingly played with and watched over. But he was taken from them, jailed for two years and ultimately executed.

This is BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) and this is what it does…cause pain. Pain to the dog who is confused as to why he is being taken away and put into a cold, hard kennel. Pain to the families who love these dogs that are members of their family. All because someone decided that all Pit Bulls are dangerous and a threat; and that even dogs that look like a Pit Bull must be dangerous as well. If governments were treating people in this manner it would be called racial genocide. But these aren’t people; they are dogs who rely on the people who love them to give them a voice and to stand up and say that this is wrong.

BSL is a worldwide problem. Holland only repealed their Dangerous Dog Act in 2008. Many counties in the US have similar legislation in tact. Denver is notoriously *in*famous for its anti-pit bull stance and Dade county in Florida will soon be voting wether they should repeal their BSL.

The silver lining to the tragedy of Lennox is that he has given a face to what BSL can do and how wrong it really is. Hopefully now the governments that have these unjust laws in place will take a look at Lennox’s story and see that it is wrong to judge a dog solely based on breed and looks…every dog deserves a chance at a happy life with a loving family.

As the proud mommy of an AmStaff (The purebred version of a Pittie; most dogs labeled Pit Bulls are actually mixed breeds but usually have some AmStaff in them.) I’ve seen my dog subject to discrimination all the time.  It was near impossible to find an airline to fly Rooney from The Netherlands to The US when we moved home, and not a week goes by that someone doesn’t throw him a sideways glance or go out of their way to move out of his reach. Little do those people know that he is a *for the most part* well behaved dog who loves nothing more than to meet new people. If my dog was dangerous I certainly wouldn’t allow him around my three month old, who he loves to snuggle with, or take him over to my Mom’s house where she has a 12 pound Westie, that likes to beat up on Rooney and show him who’s boss.

My favorite Pro Pittie website, Stubby Dog, has made a touching video tribute to Lennox. Take a minute to watch…and try not to cry. 

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/45592924″>For Lennox</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user11859114″>StubbyDog</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Roo’s Day at the Park

I’ve been a bad mommy. A bad doggie mommy. Since Mason has come into our lives poor Rooney has been seriously neglected. I’m sure this is a very common occurrence in families whose first “child” is a dog (or cat, I guess, I’m not a cat person…); a two legged baby comes along and the four legged one takes the natural step down on the totem pole. To his credit Roo has taken on his new role of big brother absolutely beautifully. He and Little Bear are always sleeping and cuddling on the couch together (with constant supervision of course), and he has takes his job of spit up cleaner upper very seriously! Despite this, he is definitely not getting near the amount of attention, and exercise, he needs. So last Saturday when Hubby and I took both the kids for lunch and an outing at the park you could say he was well, ecstatic!

Out to Lunch

First we had lunch

Then went for a little swim

Chased a lizard up a tree

Barked at some geese

It was basically the best day ever if you’re a dog! He was asleep within ten minutes of getting back in the car, but even in his sleep he couldn’t wipe the big ol’ pibble smile off his face! I think we might make this a weekly outing.

Rawhide Reminder

As a new mom it’s hard to keep an eye on the million other things going on in my house on a daily basis. And unfortunately, that sometimes includes what Rooney is doing. I just haven’t quite mastered the “mom skill” of multi tasking, but hopefully it will come with time and practice…well, it better because my house is a mess!

Among the many things I needed to get done yesterday was write my monthly pet product review. This month’s product was a Bully Braid and boy was Rooney excited to participate in this one. He smelled that thing through the packaging and has been hanging out next to the mail table it’s been sitting on ever since it came on Tuesday.

We’d reviewed this particular product before so I knew it was going to be a hit. The only difference between then and now is that last time I was able to keep an eye on him while he ate it. He’s got those super strong Bully jaws and so most “long lasting” treats and bones only last about twenty minutes tops at our house.

As you can see he was happy to do his “job” yesterday:

Thankfully I wasn’t too distracted with Mason to notice that after about ten minutes of enthusiastic chewing Rooney was making gagging noises. I looked over and surprise surprise the bully braid was completely gone and Roo was wandering around the room throwing up brown foam. Long story short I ended up having to stick my hand down his throat and pulling out a six inch piece of rawhide that was stuck in there. Thankfully he hadn’t been able to swallow it or we would have been making a trip to the vet, or worse I would have just assumed he’d finished it as quickly as he is usually able to and he would have ended up with an obstructed bowel and would have had to have surgery.

Lesson: (And this goes for all dogs, no matter their size or how long it takes them to eat the rawhide) Always watch your dog when he’s chewing on a rawhide. They’re great treats but they also pose a big obstruction risk. And ALWAYS choose a natural product. Processed rawhide (the ones at the supermarket that are all bleached out and in layers) does not digest as well as the natural ones and can especially pose a risk to your pup.

The Skies are Friendly Once Again

Update on United Airlines policy on dangerous dogs:

We did it! Thanks to everyone who signed the petition to get United Airlines to repeal their “Dangerous Dog” pet policy. As of a few days ago they have officially dropped the discriminatory policy and the skies are once again friendly to Bully breeds.

It goes to show that if enough people band together for something that they believe in we can make a change and a difference. Changing the public’s mind about Pit Bulls and other Bully breeds is a challenge, but slowly but surely we can alter the public’s perception and show them the true nature of these great dogs.

There are always opportunities to be an advocate for Bullies, and if you own one of these awesome canines there is so much you can do to make your own dog an ambassador. StubbyDog.org recently wrote a great article on the most productive ways to advocate for Bullies. Please read “The 5 “A’s” of Advocacy”, and take a stand for the most misunderstood pups of the doggie world!

“Dangerous” Dogs in the Sky

 Does this look like the face of a dangerous dog to you?  If you said yes, you can leave now, thanks.

As you all know, Hubby and I adopted Roo while we were living in Holland, and I’ll be honest; when we agreed to adopt a 65lb hyperactive AmStaff I wasn’t really thinking about what it would be like trying to get him home with us when the time came to return to SC. So when that time did come it was a seriously rude awakening to just how discriminating some people and companies can be when it comes to “pit bull type” dogs.

I’ve been a frequent flier with Continental for years and had always had a really positive experience when it came to flying with them.  Imagine my shock when I called to make our flight reservations home and they told me I couldn’t bring my dog with me because their company considered him to be a dangerous dog. What? Dangerous?  The dog sleeping on my feet who loves to lick the sticky faces of children and has never met a person he didn’t want to be BEST FRIENDS with, is dangerous???  You’ve got to be kidding me…

I was pissed off.  And sad.  And all the other emotions that rise up when someone talks bad about your kid (He may be furry and adopted, but he will always be our first child!). Could they justify why they felt the need to use such harsh language when describing certain breeds of dogs?  Could they justify discriminating against several breeds of dogs, including not just Pitties and AmStaffs but Mastiffs as well (The people making these policies have clearly never spent any time around the dogs they are so quick to judge.), without ever meeting the dogs?  Isn’t that called racism when it happens to people?

So flying Continental was out of the question.  And with none of the European airlines offering direct flights to the US or ones that didn’t connect in England…where AmStaffs and Pitties aren’t even allowed to enter the country…our options were quickly dwindling.  And then I found the pet policy at United, and finally I could breathe again.  Roo could come home with us!  

At the airport Roo became somewhat of a celebrity with the United employees. Everyone from the ticket counter to his personal escort to the plane was gushing about how sweet and friendly of a dog he was. There were even a few mentions of how misunderstood these breeds of dog were.

But now, all that has changed.  United has merged with Continental and adopted their “Dangerous Dog” policy. Not that I would ever put Roo on a plane again, it was just too stressful…mostly, I think, for me.  But if it hadn’t been for the understanding people at United we may never have been able to bring him home with us. Not only is it upsetting to hear that the dog you love as a member of your family is dangerous, but it’s also just plain wrong!  These dogs get the worst kind of reputation, and companies like Continental and now United are only further perpetrating the stereotype that I and countless others work so hard to discredit.

It’s always an uphill battle standing up for what you believe in, especially when what you believe goes against the opinions of the general population.  But if you’ve ever spent time with one of these amazing dogs you know what they are truly like…and dangerous is NOT in that description.

Please sign this petition at Change.org to get United to get rid of their Dangerous Dog policy and change the pet policy back to what it should be…non discriminatory!