Pit Bull Informational Pages
by Diane Jessup 

Page 2


Why I Love Dogs
Diane Jessup

I love dogs. In fact, I’m a dog nut. I wear dog t-shirts. I read dog magazines. My car has more dog equipment in it than a PetSmart store.

I’ve made a conscious decision over the years, based on observation of “happily” married folks, that I would just as soon live with a pack of dogs. So I do, but at the cost of husband, children, vacations, parental approval, a place on the couch and a nice house. I kinda hesitate to admit that I have no regrets; it doesn’t always set well with “normal” folks.

When I wake in the morning I can honestly say I don’t miss a husband. How could I? Butchie is laying on his back, front paws folded down over the covers, his head resting on my arm. Since he is upside down, his lips have fallen away from his muzzle, exposing his teeth. He looks ridiculous. The room is freezing cold and we are snuggled together (along with four other dogs) for warmth. Packed up like that in our warm den, it’s a comforting, primal kinda feeling, and it sure is cozy. Do I wish one of the dogs would get up and make the coffee? You bet, but then again, if I was married I’d be wishing the same thing anyway.

Husbands and kids do not greet you with the consistent, unwavering joy that my canine family members greet me. When I stagger into the bathroom, and stagger out two minutes and twenty seconds later, there is Colin, the Patterdale terrier, absolutely hysterical to greet me. Doesn’t matter that he has spent the whole night sleeping curled up on my neck, and that I pushed him out of the bathroom with my foot when I went in. There he is, shouting Hosannas at the sight of me. It’s been two minutes and twenty seconds since he was last able to tell me he loved me. Outside of the first week of marriage, you don’t see affection like that among humans.

Next, there comes what I call “The Gathering of the Pack”. This occurs when I sit down to try and put my socks and shoes on. Ever seen those wildlife shows where the wolves, or Cape hunting dogs, or what have you, are greeting each other before the hunt? Notice how the subordinate pack members gang up to show their submission to the alpha by licking his muzzle? They trip him up and generally drive him mad. My leaning over to try and get my socks and shoes on (tough enough already with two knee replacements plus bad arthritis) is a signal to my “pack” to gather and acknowledge me as their leader. Every morning. Three adult pit bulls and two Patterdales rush to lick my face. The more I shout and cuss, the more they want to appease me. The more I twist and struggle to avoid their tongues, the harder they try to show me how much they love me. After the shoes get on, I spend the next three minutes cleaning my glasses. I guess it’s a small price to pay to know that the “pack” feels comfortable having reaffirmed their hierarchy once again.

Then there is the simple act of opening the back door. It’s a combination of the first minute of the After Thanksgiving Day Sale, a fire station when the alarm goes off and a Three Stooges movie when the boys all fall out of a phone booth. Yeah, I know, you’re supposed to train your dogs to sit when you open the door.
Yeah, right.
At my house it is not quite like that. The three pit bulls are stacked, one on top of each other, all the way up to the door knob, screaming. They’re screaming because the Patterdale terriers have a hold of various parts of their anatomy, and they are screaming too. When I manage to get the door open, they all fall out, splat, on the landing, and then head off on various missions, such as a boomer ball, the springpole, or to surprise a rat up by the chicken pen.

Ahead of me is a day of constant interaction, constant communication and the constant friendship which makes up a day spent in the company of a dog. If you are open to it, a dog will share his perception of the world with you, and what a priceless gift that is. A dog teaches more of love than any of the world’s many religions.

There is magic in a dog. Watch how a dog—by simply being a dog—facilitates two strangers to meet and chat on the street. Good people love dogs—really love them—and can’t help reaching out not only to a dog but also to its owner. It’s fun to share our love of dogs with others who understand.

While I get nauseous at the term “fur baby” or “fur child” I will whole heartedly agree that dogs can be child substitutes. Mine sure are. They are my kids. But they are also dogs. I never forget that, because I think it is unfair to them to do so. I’m a human. They are dogs. But together, we are friends.


Dogs, Cops, Guns and Fear
By: Diane Jessup

Almost everyone remembers the gut wrenching video – a family pulled over (unjustly) by state police are restrained as police ignore their pleas to shut the vehicle doors and keep their dogs from getting out. A goofy pit bull named Patton exits the car, tail wagging, and wiggling with friendly intent, approaches an officer. The man shoots the dog in the head, killing it. The screams and cries of the family, as they are restrained away from their dying friend, haunts anyone who has ever loved a dog.

Dogs, cops and high emotion make a bad mix. In a similar case in California, a sheepdog attacked police responding to a child’s 911 call. One officer shot at the dog, wounding a fellow officer and the child.

Animal control officers deal with aggressive dogs everyday, and most do not carry firearms. Experts agree; the use of guns in dog attack situations often results in unacceptable danger to surrounding humans.

In the Tennessee case, where Patton the pit bull was killed, the Smoak family was pulled over the evening of January 1, 2003 on Interstate 40 in eastern Tennessee by officers responding to a cell phone call from another driver who stated the car looked suspicious. An investigation showed James Smoak had simply left his wallet on the roof of his car at a gas station, and a motorist who saw his money fly off the car as he drove away called police. They thought it must be a “get away car” from a robbery.

What made the Smoak situation so tragic is that they plead with police to shut the car doors to protect the dogs from jumping out and entering traffic. James Smoaks, his wife Pamela and son Brandon were all kneeling, handcuffed, unable to help their dogs. Pamela is seen on the tape looking up at an officer, telling him slowly, "That dog is not mean. He won't hurt you." Her husband says, "I got a dog in the car. I don't want him to jump out."

The police video of the road stop shows Patton exit the car, romping on the side of the road. As the family yell at the dog to get away from the road, it circles back toward the family. Wagging its tail and obviously friendly, it approaches an officer who raises his shotgun and blows the dog’s head off.

For several moments, all that is audible are shrieks as the family reacts to the shooting. The dog was actually shot not by the Tennessee State Patrol, but by a Cookeville Police officer.

Later, James Smoak was shocked to see a Tennessee State Patrol officer walk over to the officer which had shot the dog and grin at him. This, while the Smoak’s seventeen year old son lay weeping over the body of his dead dog.

All too often, police officers find themselves at odds with dogs, especially pit bulls and rottweilers; breeds most often abused by criminals. Officers often fail to place blame for an animal’s becoming a threat to them where it belongs – on the owner. They view the dog (and sometimes the entire breed) as “bad” instead of realizing that the animal is simply a pawn—a victim itself—of criminal and often mentally disturbed owners.

After the death of Patton, the American Humane Association set out to do something about the lack of training in canine behavior for law enforcement officers. Shortly after the shooting, AHA set up animal assessment training for Tennessee Highway Patrol officers and supervisors. AHA calls its training Bark...Stop, Drop, & Roll, stating it provides officers with the tools they need to accurately assess a dog's temperament to diffuse or prevent attacks.

It would be well worth the time and trouble of any dog owner, but especially owners of bull breeds, to make their local law enforcement aware of this training. Agencies should be encouraged to contact the American Humane Association at: www.americanhumane.org.






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