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Monday, January 28, 2008

The victims who are not the vanquished

This is not a piece about jewelry.

As you may have surmised by the presence of H.R.H. Zelda on my blog here, I love dogs. Zelda gets top billing between my two canine cuddlers, although Boris, her "brother," who doesn't really mind playing second fiddle to the Princess, is the sweetest little male Chihuahua this side of the Pecos (and the more obedient of the two).(Above: Boris as a child.)

As a person who will not raise a hand to a dog even when it's being really bad (it's never necessary - you know that if you've half a brain - it mostly shows what an imbecile you are), I was one of many aghast at the discovery of Michael Vick's dog fighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels. I'll not go into a tirade about what major league (or even college-level) sports does to athletes (I'm not fully convinced that competition causes aggression - it may be the other way around). But something had to have happened (or perhaps didn't happen) to someone who would treat other sentient beings in such a manner.

I can't abide cruelty to those who can't defend themselves. That includes children, the elderly, the disabled and animals. So I was ecstatic when Vick was caught, convicted and sentenced (he's serving his prison sentence near here in Leavenworth Penitentiary).

Then today, while watching CNN, I caught a segment about Bad Rap (www.badrap.org) in Oakland, CA and a site called Dogtime (www.dogtime.com). I was happy to hear that 49 of the 50 dogs confiscated from Vick's dogfighting compound in rural Virginia were rescued by different organizations around the country. The one poor dog that was euthanized had been so scarred, so overbred and so alienated from human kindness that she could not be rescued.

Bad Rap (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit bulls - it's a stretch to create the acronym, but I'm glad they're there) has taken, evaluated and fostered 10 of these dogs. They've rehabilitated them all, and some needed more than others, but they found that these scarred, neglected and abused Pit Bulls are mostly just lovable and good dogs wanting to be happy house pets. Check out Hector:

Some of the dogs are still frightened of humans. Some are terribly torn and have been repaired (on the outside - the inside may still need work). But instead of being killed for being A) considered hopeless, and B) pit bulls, they're living in loving and supportive homes and have proven to be great companions. All thanks to people who believe that dogs are dogs, and are not born evil just by nature of their breed.

I know about the Pit Bull stigma and I just don't buy it. Some dogs are born bad (like some people), and some are taught to be bad (uh, like some people), but most dogs (like people!) want to be good, happy, loving and loved. Pit Bulls are no different. They used to be the common house dog in the early part of the last century. Everyone had one; they were family pets, considered no more dangerous than your average lovable black Lab of today.

If you're considering a pet adoption, consider a Pit Bull (as long as they're not illegal in your area). You may be skittish because of the way they've been portrayed, and that's a shame. But there are also many other kinds of dogs out there who'd love to live in your home and be a part of your family. I recommend Petfinder.com, Dogtime.com, and a visit to your local animal shelter. It's an excellent idea to find out what size, energy level, fur factor and age of dog you're best suited to, and Dogtime has an entire questionnaire to narrow that down for you.

Consider the Chihuahua: also a stigmatized breed, but no more vicious or "bitey" than any other dog who hasn't been properly socialized and cared for. They're considered "yappy." I can assure you, they bark no more than any other dog, because, well, that's what they are. They're dogs. They are protective of their humans, acting as the alarm system in the house. They are protectors, predators, scavengers, playful and curious, and very house-trainable, as all domestic dogs are. Pit Bulls are no different, regardless what the prejudice against them is. It's the human behind the dog 99.9% of the time that deserves the congratulations or the blame for a dog's behavior.

My 77-year-old mother and I found her Chihuahua, Daisy, through a rescue group (LL Dog Rescue) here in Kansas City that we located through Petfinder. Mom and Daisy have been together now for 7 years and couldn't be a better match.

So please give to the animal rescue organization of your choice, whether it be your local shelter, SPCA (click that link and you'll find a short video about how the SPCA is working to bring soldiers' dogs home from Iraq), Dogtime, Bad Rap, Out of the Pits (another Pit Bull rescue organization), your local Humane Society (click here to see a HS report about the 12 dogs rescued from Vick's compound that were not Pit Bulls), or other dog rescue site. If you don't want to donate money, then give your old towels, dog food, blankets, dog toys, bleach or anything else a shelter might use for cleaning, feeding or otherwise caring for unwanted animals. It's tax deductible, you know.

It never ceases to amaze me that people can be as cruel as they are to dogs. All they want is to be loved, and they deserve it.

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