Friday, April 13, 2012


I can't seem to get my brain to quit running in circles tonight, and the best way for me to get it to at least slow down is to write about what is troubling me, take a look at it, and see if I should throw it away or share. Since these thoughts involve "dogs", I'm putting them down in my Brutus Blog.

Something happened that has left me feeling just awful. I'm sure it's a story that has been repeated over and over again, and I don't know what the right answer to this problem would have been. There are so many scenarios, and no winners. As most of you out there that have followed my blog for a while now know, I have such a soft spot for animals, and not so much for (adult) humans. When you look at the "chosen" relationship between humans and animals, humans have the control. We have the choice to be kind or cruel. I don't see a lot of grey area there.

So, the story, keeping in mind that this is a very abbreviated version:

My friend went to one of his friend's homes for dinner. His friends have an American Bull Dog that they are very comfortable with, but my friend who went there for dinner is not. When my friend was greeting the hostess and giving her a hug, the dog let out a growl. Shortly after that my friend was bent over doing something with his shoe, and the dog went for his face, biting his cheek, leaving a puncture wound and a very sore cheek. The host, I'm sure being mortified and embarrassed, beat the crap out of the dog as punishment. Before you start to panic, the friend and dog are currently both fine. I'm sure both are somewhat emotionally scarred from being a part of that experience though. Dog bites are incredibly scary, and being beaten up isn't much better. (I know, I know, I'm putting human feelings in the animal, but c'mon).

So here are my thoughts. First, the couple is aware that the friend is fearful of the dog, so the dog should have been put in her kennel. If not, when it was obvious that the dog was being protective of her owner from this person, the hug should have been stopped immediately, the dog should have been introduced to said friend.....and then kenneled.

My friend did nothing wrong. Yes, dogs can feel a person's fear, there is no doubt in my mind. She may have felt his fear and feared for her owner, but I also feel like her people failed her in this situation. I feel like everybody lost, and the whole thing just has me feeling so sad.

When we first got Brutus, he had no training, had been hurt and was very protective of his toys. Don's brother tested him a little too far, and Brutus broke skin on his hand. I had warned him to stop, so honestly, I didn't feel too bad for the human in that situation, other than the fact that he was hurt, and it was my dog's teeth that hurt him (as he was trying to take the stuffed duck out of his mouth). Feel that mama bear defensiveness there? As humans, we have the ability to look ahead as to what might happen in certain situations. Not all, but some. In Don's brother's defense, he felt bad too. I thought he should have had antibiotics, and I absolutely would have covered all expenses to see that he got them, but he wouldn't do it. I think he may have after he left our house. He came back the next summer for a visit at the lake, and he and Brutus were new friends.

Brutus's teeth also broke skin on Andrew's hand during the first couple months we had him. Andrew came over the top of a box in the living room and it startled Brutus. It wasn't a hard "bite", but I'm sure it didn't feel good either. We didn't scold Brutus either time. We calmed him down and assured him everything was OK. That was our job. He was new to our home, scared, and didn't have a clue what life held for him after coming from a terrible situation. My hands would never land on that dog. There isn't a vicious bone in his body, and now that he is comfortable in his surroundings and feels safe, as long as you don't tease him or try to kill me, I'm pretty sure you'll be fine. He and Andrew are great friends now, thank goodness.

So what's the answer? I don't see a clear one. I don't think that this dog has a biting history. It may have been completely out of the blue and unexpected. I know and adore the man who owns the dog, and he is a dog lover. He does have a different view of dog training than I do and tends to use more physical force, but he also raises dogs that have reputations for being vicious. I have absolutely no animal expertise other than my gut, a few books I read on "Positive Reinforcement" training (Brutes' is obviously chicken treats...just ask me how many times the vet has mentioned that he's just a few pounds overweight) and a heart that can't bare to mistreat an animal, which includes the need to train them. If we don't train them, how can we make them responsible for not having acceptable behavior. With that said, how do you train to "not bite". If I was afraid that Brutus would actually go after someone, I'm not sure what choice I would make. The liability would be too high to let him live the life that he does now, but I wouldn't put him in a shelter. The death he would suffer in a shelter as a dog with a biting history could be cruel and cold, and I took on the responsibility to be his caretaker. Would the humane thing to do be to euthanize him? I'm trying to not even go there, but it's hard.

So yeah, those are the things that have been zooming around in my mind. Like I said, I'm sure that people have to face those decisions every day.

I have no answers. I'm just sad, and needed to write.

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