Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pit bull safety: 7 attack triggers

It's no secret that dogs can bite. It also shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that pit bull attacks tend to be the most severe of all. The ongoing study of serious and fatal dog attacks conducted by the animal people organization since 1982 indicates that pit bulls, at around 5% of the dog population in the USA, account for more fatal and disfiguring attacks on humans than the other 95% of dogs combined. Several medical studies have shown that the most severe dog bite trauma seen by ER doctors is nearly always inflicted by pit bulls. A 1986 dog attack study showed that pit bulls are 600% more likely to attack their owner than other dogs - and the pit bull attack statistics have been worsening in recent years.

I won't take a side in the debate about who is responsible - bad dogs or bad owners - for the growing number of pit bull victims. That's a topic that has been debated elsewhere and will continue to be debated for the foreseeable future. What I would like to do is help bolster public safety by raising awareness of the sorts of things that can trigger a pit bull attack. A little knowledge can help avoid these scenarios, and make one less likely to suffer a pit bull attack.

Fortunately for this victim the pit bull that attacked her was only 4 months old

Here are 7 deadly triggers to avoid:

1. Attempting to discipline your pit bull. Really.
2. Attempting to intervene when your pit bull attacks another dog.
3. Slipping and falling on the ice while walking your pit bull. Really.
4. Being trapped under a car that falls on you while you're working on it.
5. Handing out peaches to passing children.
6. Going out to feed the horses.
7. Taking a walk on a Sunday afternoon.

This list of 7 triggers is fairly representative, but by no means complete. For a more comprehensive treatment, please consult this list of it bull attack triggers compiled by the fact checkers at

"Are pit bulls different?" - Randall Lockwood, Kate Rindy
"Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs" - Bini et al
Dog attacks, deaths and maimings, US & Canada - Merritt

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sparky's story

I came across this story at Small Paws Rescue a couple of years ago but the original web page has disappeared. I'm collecting such stories out of a personal interest in the subject, which I developed after my first dog died. I've quoted the original article in its entirety here.

A few years ago a friend of ours, a really wonderful lady named Lou, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. At the time of this sad diagnosis, it was too late for the doctors to do much to help Lou. A mutual friend of ours, named Jan, was Lou's very best friend in the whole world. Jan was also a registered nurse and had experienced being with many people, at the end of life.

Over the years, and on many occasions, Jan and I would have "discussions" about whether or not animals would be waiting for us when we die. I always contended that they would be, because the Bible says that there are white horses at the right hand of God, so it always seemed to me that if there were white horses, there would be other animals waiting for us as well. Jan firm stance was that animals did not have souls, therefore they could not go to heaven and they would not be there waiting to greet us. (Her strict religious upbringing was coming through)

As Lou became more and more ill, and grew even closer to death, Jan stayed with her day and night. Lou finally sank into a deep coma and stayed there for three solid weeks. When she died, Jan was there with her, by her side.

Jan called me the next morning to tell me that Lou had passed way the night before. But Jan didn't tell me the rest of the story for several weeks to come. You see, it seems that on the night that Lou died, she awoke suddenly from her coma. Her eyes opened and she said one single, solitary word. Lou exclaimed in a quiet, weakened whisper, "SPARKY!" And then just as suddenly as she had awakened, she died.

None of Lou's family knew who "Sparky" was. Not her husband of 45 years, not her grown children, not Jan, no one. A couple of weeks later, Jan got a call from Lou's family, asking her to please come to their home as soon as possible. It seemed they had something of great importance to show to her. When Jan arrived, Lou's family greeted her with a smile, and then put something in Jan's hand.

It was an old black and white picture of a little girl and a German Shepherd. On the back it was hand written in faded ink:
'Lou, age 10, and Sparky'

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The story of Kuma

Note - I came across this story on Barbara Bouyet's Akita rescue site and felt it was interesting on several levels. As a dog lover, I'm a sucker for stories of loyal dogs and I've long been fascinated by accounts that indicate dogs are aware of more than just the physical world we inhabit.  Ms. Bouyet graciously granted permission to re-post this.

The following true story occurred in 1987. It typifies the Akita's loyalty and explains why Akitas have secured a special place in my heart. Their devotion is unquestionable when the bonding is strong; their intelligence is remarkable, and each of you with an Akita living in your home know they have a marvelous sense of humor and fun. They are sensitive and intuitive to their families, seeming to read one's mind. In other words, this is a singularly unique animal that we, as guardians of the breed, must protect and value for all of their captivating characteristics.

Kuma was a large, 4-year-old, brindle male when he first came into ARSA. Unlike most other Akitas, Kuma came to us because of the death of his owner, a man of 36 who died unexpectedly of a heart attack. While Kuma's owner was alive, the man and dog were devoted companions sharing a deep love for each other. The man's free time was spent with Kuma on walks, hikes - all the things a dog enjoys, activities that cement the human/dog bond.

Perhaps if Kuma had been placed in a home immediately or had been allowed to remain in his own home with the man's wife, the dog may have eventually adapted to the loss of his beloved owner. But the man's wife had never wanted a dog and admittedly was jealous of the time her husband spent with Kuma. As an act of revenge or perhaps, simple indifference, she brought Kuma to ARSA as soon as her husband was buried.

From the first day with rescue Kuma was deeply depressed. The confusion and sudden changes in his life must have been unimaginably frightening for him. Adding to his distress, Kuma was now in a kennel surrounded by strangers and other Akitas.

Everyone tried to penetrate through his apathy, but slowly during the next few months Kuma deteriorated. He lost weight but barely touched his food. His coat became dry, brittle, unhealthy looking as his broken heart affected his health. He was unresponsive to affection or attention though he seemed to favor one ARSA volunteer--Stephanie. Stephanie and the other volunteers worked hard to bring Kuma out of his depression, to interest him in a new human relationship, but he continued in a state of unhappiness--he was pining for his owner. Kuma's tail had ceased to wag, his ears never went back in greeting, and he did not solicit attention but accepted it with resignation when he was petted or brushed. We all felt a sense of failure; it was the first time we were actually unable to penetrate the barrier of indifference Akitas can use as a cloak for their feelings.

One day, Kuma went into his kennel house and refused to come out. Any attempt to force him out resulted in growls. Stephanie was called and arrived to take Kuma to the vet to see if there was some miracle medicine to help him through his depression, or perhaps he was suffering from an illness.

Kuma went with Stephanie maintaining a subdued silence during the drive. As she walked him outside the veterinarian's office, he showed no enthusiasm for the walk or his surroundings. He followed Stephanie when she brought him into an examining room. The dog remained quiet while Stephanie discussed his case with the vet. They agreed it would be best to run a complete blood panel to see if his declining condition was physical. The focus of the conversation was to try in some way to stimulate his appetite to keep him alive--Stephanie offered to take him home with her if that would help.

When the vet and two assistants attempted to place Kuma on the examining table, he became extremely hostile. In spite of a muzzle and four people trying to subdue this dog, Kuma fought with incredible strength. Finally, the vet called a halt to forcing Kuma onto the examining table. He was placed back on the floor where his heavy breathing was the only sound in the room.

Stephanie and the vet discussed Kuma's behavior and situation at great length. Looking at Kuma, the vet told Stephanie he felt the dog did not want to live without his loved owner. It was time to be unselfish and truly humane by letting Kuma go.

While Stephanie tried to think it thorough to make the right decision, Kuma quieted down. His eyes on Stephanie, he waited. It was difficult not to feel a sense of failure. It was even more painful to decide to kill a young, otherwise nice Akita simply because he was unhappy. Once again, the vet pointed out that Kuma had already made the decision to die. Stephanie finally agreed to put him to sleep.

As soon as Stephanie voiced her agreement to euthanize Kuma, the dog's tail began wagging! He knew! He absolutely knew! Without any fuss at all, he allowed himself to be lifted onto the table. As Stephanie gently removed his collar, Kuma leaned forward and kissed her face, his tail wagging enthusiastically for the first time. As he was injected, he stared at a spot beyond the vet, his tail wagging furiously, ears flat back in typical Akita adoration. Stephanie could never prove it, no one can, but the big Akita behaved as if his owner had finally arrived to take him home.

They're together now for eternity and we know that at last Kuma is happy. He was one of those Akitas who did not want to live without his special person and rather than prolong his suffering, we led him go. If ever you have a moment of doubt that the dog you loved and lost will be there, wherever "there" is, Kuma proved it's true--there will be a reunion.

That's why, whenever an abandoned Akita dies in a shelter, or when an ARSA dog dies while waiting for a home, I pray for the dog's soul to enter the light. I claim the Akita as one of my own so the dog will have someone to wait for. I believe the Akita waits with Mandy, Kody, Tootsie, Patty, Rocky, Kato, Toshi, and the countless other Akitas abandoned to streets and shelters. Most of you feel as I do, you have never met an Akita you could not love.

(c) 1987 Barbara Bouyet

Article source URL
Akita image courtesy of Professor Pemzini at Deviant Art

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts on "canine racism"

Apparently it's quite unfashionable these days to take any notice of breed specific behavior characteristics, especially when it pertains to pit bulls. Genetics has a profound influence on canine behavior - border collies and other herding breeds herd, pointers point, retrievers retrieve - and fighting breeds fight. This blog entry further discusses some of the genetic factors.

But even in the face of these indisputable facts, if anyone should let it slip that they would rather not be around a pit bull, or states the obvious about the dangerous, violent and unpredictable behavior of pit bulls, that person is derided and condemned by members of a shrill, strident pit bull lobby. The idea that a breed specifically created to rip apart animals in the pit, and is still being selectively bred by dog fighters for maximum violence, could be dangerous by default seems to be beyond the reasoning capabilities of some of these pit bull advocates, who slap a "canine racism" label on any negative opinions of pit bulls.

Introducing that magic buzzword - racism - is meant to instantly silence all debate and muzzle any dissenting voices - but should it? Let's think about this for a moment, shall we? On the face of it, it sounds to me like the goal is to paralyze any critical thinking and decision making - to keep everything vague and fuzzy, and repeat memorized buzz words and catch phrases, rather than engage in any substantive discussion about the issues at hand.

When a pit bull apologist utters the word "racism" in response to any discussion of facts which reflects negatively on pit bulls, they fail on two counts. First of all, they fail to explain how thinking and speaking clearly about the facts of a matter equates to racism, and secondly, they fail to explain how thinking and speaking clearly about the facts of a matter is a bad thing.

Personally, I think that speaking of "canine racism" demeans and trivializes the suffering of people who have actually been victims of real racism. A dog has no concept of racism, and wouldn't be the least bit aware of racism even if surrounded by it. That's fairly basic, common sense.

More troubling to me is the anti-intellectual tone of this mindset, of which the rallying cry seems to be "turn off your brains, don't seek information, don't analyze, don't compare, don't discriminate, don't think, just accept that dogs are dogs and it's all in how you raise them."

If the concept of racism is to be universally applied in the way the pit bull advocates seem to be saying it should, then it would be wrong to discriminate in any matter. Although the word "discrimination" has negative overtones because of it's association with human rights issues, the actual word connotes a choice based on facts, and in fact discrimination is not evil, but absolutely necessary for survival.

If I understand the pit bull apologists correctly, it would be wrong to reject the notion of a service alligator because that would be racism. After all, reptiles are reptiles. It would be wrong not to allow a python to sleep with the baby,  because that is blatant anti-python racism. Most of all, it would be be very very wrong to avoid eating poison mushrooms, because that, after all, would be botanical racism!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great Moments in pit bull history - March 2009

Part of the problem with pit bulls is that the breed is frequently defended by a cacophony of strident voices claiming that pit bulls are just harmless, misunderstood little wiggle-butts; that they'd have to be mistreated or abused to make them even think about attacking anyone.

It's one thing to opine about pit bulls when you have no skin in the game, but here we look at an event which shows just how far pit bull advocates will go to cover up the danger of the breed and the violence regularly inflicted by these animals - even when they've been mauled by their very own "family pit bull".

A Pullayup, Washington couple who have so far gone unnamed in news reports were hospitalized after being mauled by what they claimed was a mountain lion. Wildlife agent Bruce Richards visited the hospital to record the testimony of the victims as part of his investigation of the attack. Richards then took a tracking dog, Mishka, to the couple's home in an effort to locate the mountain lion, but no trace of a mountain lion could be found. Instead, Mishka led Richards back to the house. They encountered a white pit bull, with the dried blood of the victims on its coat, lurking there.

The agents credited their tracking dog, Mishka, with preventing the department from spending hundreds of search hours, thousands of dollars in resources and saving the public a lot of turmoil for a mountain lion that didn’t exist. The wildlife agents would not say why the couple said they were attacked by a mountain lion.

After reading this, I have to ask myself, what is wrong with these people? Why did they go to such lengths to mislead authorities about the attack by their pit bull? Now ask yourself, when people like this tell you that pit bulls are sweet, loyal, safe, dependable family pets, can you believe them?

Links to original story - - "Major Mauling" on Two People
Kiro TV - Couple blames cougar for attack