I Just Got a Controversial Pet – A Day in TOHV

stockport greenport trailI’ve always been a major fan of dogs. I actually like them way more than I like humans, which is not to say I dislike humans – they’re great and all – I just like dogs way more.

This can lead to some obnoxious situations. My buddy Peter has introduced me to a friend of his at multiple soirees, but to this day I do not remember her name or what she looks like, because she is always accompanied by her labradoodle, a dog so cute my hippocampus instantly dissolves whenever I see him.

I always remember the dog’s name (Moxie) and nearly push past the attached human female to pet him while giggling like a schoolgirl on nitrous oxide.

My girlfriend Jody and I started looking for a puppy a few months ago. Jody’s primary criterion for a dog was that it not have a sad face. Her fear was the dog would look morose whenever she was trying to go to work, and she would just end up never leaving, eventually getting fired, starving to death for lack of groceries, ect.

About three weeks ago, Jody was scrolling through PetFinder when Luna’s picture popped up. The dog’s goofy smile stretched across her sable mug in such an endearing and non-morose way Jody was smitten.

I drove us to the dog rescue in Saugerties the next weekend to meet her. We pulled up to a puzzling scene. A small, hand-painted sign directed us to a muddy driveway packed with maybe two-dozen vehicles including a school bus and what looked like a police SUV. There were an awful lot of children roaming around, but no visible adults.

The rescue was a small farmhouse that had been converted into a domicile for many, many dogs. The expansive yard was cut into large pens with chain-link fencing, the largest containing a scoutmaster and a few of the children banging together a greenhouse.

pit bulls


There, we met Luna. She was as cute as a gosh-darned button. She was also clearly a pit bull.

I’m aware of the controversy surrounding pit bulls because of an article I wrote while at the Register-Star about a dog biting his owner’s face off. The owner had apparently done something that inadvertently incensed his canine, who just snapped and…bit the guy’s face off. He lost a great deal of blood and had to be medivac’d to Albany.

So I write up this article and file it, and my editor gives it a classic Register-Star title – something like “Pitbull Bites Owner’s Face Off” – and I go home for the day.

I was NOT prepared for the amount of hate mail I got. Overnight, people from as far away as Chicago and Sacramento emailed me calling for blood.

People took issue with the article identifying the dog’s breed in the title. I get it – if the offending canine had been a golden retriever, the headline wouldn’t have read “Golden Retriever Bites Owner’s Face Off.” Referencing a minor piece of information that prominently was meant to inflame, to allow people to place the incident and the canine perpetrator into a pre-existing slot in their minds – ‘Oh – one of THOSE dogs’ – whether their prejudices were accurate or not. It’s kind of the equivalent of titling an article “Black Man Arrested for Drug Possession.”

The emails explained, with condescending rage, that many dog breeds were colloquially called pit bulls, especially when they did bad things. I was reenforcing an inaccurate perception.

I’ve met many other pit bull defenders since then, and I’ve learned the breed was originally bred to be babysitters – caring, family-oriented, child-loving – and protective.

My personal takeaway from all this? – Pit bulls raised in a good environment aren’t any more likely to bite someone than any other dog. The problem is a lot of assholes get pit bulls and either treat them badly or train them to be attack dogs (I imagine there’s a lot of overlap there). A lot of these dogs end up being sent to rescues.

Luna had an especially dodgy upbringing. She was a street dog, roaming southern Louisiana with a pack of other semi-feral canines until she was rescued from flooding during a hurricane. She was put in a shelter, which also flooded during a hurricane, then was shipped northward to Saugerties.

I explained the controversy over pit bulls to Jody, that people either loved them or were frightened by them. We decided to foster Luna for a few days and saw the schism play out on a walk around Rhinebeck. A couple of middle-aged women walking towards us saw Luna and stopped short.

“Look at that cute pitty dog! Hey pit, pit, pit,” one exclaimed to the other, hippocampus rapidly dissolving.

A couple blocks later, I glanced up and saw a woman in her thirties, face pallid, staring with terror at Luna. She tugged her child behind her and stepped back against a storefront so we could pass.

We decided to keep Luna. She is adorable and sweet and might be a tad troubled, but we will give her love and training and she’ll be great. So if you see the three of us strolling down the street, don’t throw shade at us.

Or Luna will bite your face off.

How could you not love that mug?

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