Lately we’ve gotten a lot of questions from blog readers and facebook fans — how do you handle it when your grocery checker is breeding his dog? What do you do if your friend’s boyfriend thinks all pit bulls are vicious? Do you butt in when your car mechanic is talking to a coworker about how he slaps his dog around to make him meaner?
Obviously, there are a lot of approaches to choose from. As hard as it is to refrain from leaping on the person’s back sometimes, we have come around to a more restrained approach — we try to meet people where they are, and look for common ground.
At Love-A-Bull’s 2011 Texas-Sized Pittie Pride event for National Pit Bull Awareness Day, a man showed up trying to sell eight pit bull puppies. The group’s first thought: How dare he! The audacity! But after some deep breaths and a little coaching from some wise friends, the team came up with a kinder approach than shaming him and running him off. Love-A-Bull reps talked to him about his dog and the puppies. Made him feel welcome. And before the event was over, he had agreed to have all eight puppies fixed, and the mama, too. Love-A-Bull kept in touch with the gentleman, and a couple of months later, he offered proof that every last one had been spayed/neutered and placed in a loving home. We’re not omniscient, but it’s not too likely that this would have happened if Love-A-Bull had just shooed the guy away.
People have all different approaches to dog-rearing. As responsible advocates, it’s our duty to check our judgement at the door and encourage everyone to feel pride in their dogs, and invite all dog guardians to join our positive, supportive, healthy communities. We’re often guilty of only preaching to the choir and shunning anybody who isn’t in the choir. If we continue to only pat each other on the back for our oh-so-enlightened views, then what progress are we making?
If a neighbor or grocer or banker is wary of pit bull dogs or hasn’t bothered to spay or microchip his animals, we tend to turn a cold shoulder than to look for that common ground, swallow our judgement, and build the trust necessary to slowly try to introduce him to the resources out there that will help him build a stronger bond. When we surround ourselves with people who are deeply involved in the rescue community and are plugged in and knowledgeable about the big picture, it’s easy to assume that anybody who doesn’t share our views is a lesser dog-lover than we. But those assumptions are dangerous and faulty, and by making them, we are missing a great opportunity.
For it’s in those cross-town, cross-cultural, cross-background, cross-viewpoint relationships that we truly make progress. If we can bring our love of our animals back down to its most basic level, we can build bridges from this purest of places.
Years ago, I had a good friend who was convinced that all pit bull type dogs were Satan’s flesh and blood. This friend refused to even meet my Chick, for fear that Chick would swallow her whole. If this friend showed up at the dog park and there were pit bull type dogs playing, she would turn around and go home. Not worth the risk, she figured.
After months of chipping away, I made some progress by telling anecdotes about my own Chick, and sharing how my own viewpoint on pit bull dogs had changed. Over time, she agreed to meet him, and by the end of the evening he was dozing in her lap. Did we change this friend’s mind and make her a diehard pit bull advocate? No. But she turned into a loyal fan of our Chick’s and became willing to admit that every dog is different. It’s not everything, but it’s a damn fine start.