Monday, November 09, 2009

Human Cruelty

I read something today that just absolutely blew me away.
"...it's true that these breeds love fighting so much that we could discuss about whether dogfighting is -- in the case of these breeds -- mistreatment of the dogs..."
What's truly mind-boggling is that this statement did not come from a professional dogfighter. It's not from a gang lord or a drug dealer to justify using dogfight gambling to make and move money. This is from a professional dog trainer.

How any professional could think that dogfighting -- torn skin, deep punctures, broken bones, and the abusive "training" to prepare and then separate fighting dogs (one method of breaking apart is to hold flame to a dog's genitals) -- is not "mistreatment" is utterly beyond me. The statement that a pit bull sincerely enjoys this justifies the abuse and criminalizes the breed.

I do agree with some of what this person said, that pit bulls should not be given greater latitude in behavior or temperament simply because they are poor, victimized pit bulls. I am not in favor of passing an iffy dog through a temperament test because of breed, whether that dog is a often-abused pit bull type or a can't-be-really-aggressive Golden Retriever. I do agree that people shouldn't choose a pit bull just to make a point or just to coddle one and they should be aware that the breed -- like every single other breed -- has advantages and drawbacks. But I am utterly, wholly, madly against criminalizing a breed and justifying the worst of human cruelty.

There are many, many sites with awful, graphic photos of the results of dogfighting. These should be enough to convince that it is far beyond "mistreatment," but I'm going to include a link to photos taken just this past weekend, of an abandoned fighting dog left to die on the side of a road -- one broken foreleg, one previously-broken and badly healed foreleg, more than fifty punctures "large enough to put a finger in," and more. This dog could not be saved and was euthanized. But tell me -- could you look into this dog's face and say you believed he enjoyed this? Can you look at this dog and say that it's not abuse, not mistreatment, not a terrible human problem creating trouble for our community and our dogs?

EDIT: Indy Pit Crew's flier on Dog Fighting Awareness can be downloaded here! Fight illegal dogfighting!

EDIT #2: I wanted to share the following comment (from someone else, on the dog in the photos) as well --

"Poor, injured, tortured dog, limping toward strangers on its broken forelegs, seeking help. Things like this make me think that the people responsible need to suffer similar treatment. It's just awful... and tragic for the dogs."

I find it amazing that this dog, after all it had been through, was still seeking people. The true human-friendly origin of the breed is still in there, despite all that's been done. We humans need to own up to our actions.

New Suit and a Trial

Saturday morning I took Laev to training and introduced her to a bitesuit jacket. She didn't have much hesitation at all in transitioning from a sleeve to a suit; I was almost suprised at how quickly she moved from an arm bite up to biting on the back and shoulders. She *loved* winning the whole jacket; she took it back to the car with her and wrapped all four legs about it as she held on with her mouth. She did out when requested, but she is clearly into this new game.

We're introducing suitwork because I would like to take Laev to a UKC-SDA dog sport trial, where we can do obedience and protection work without gunfire. We're still having trouble with that; for every bit of progress we make, we then have a setback, as when I was gone over a weekend and target practice began next door, inducing a fresh panic attack. /sigh/ Honestly, sometimes I despair of ever getting past this. It frustrates me so much, because (as I know I've said, sorry for repeating) she did not have this fear as a young dog; it's been wholly learned. And it's preventing us from showing off what we can do.

At least she's having fun with a suit. I have to teach some new exercises for the other venue, but that shouldn't be too hard.

Then I drove up for an APDT trial, Sunday only. (I'd wanted to do Saturday, but I'd never heard back from the secretary who'd told me to just email my entries and pay when I arrived. I'm glad I called a friend at the trial before driving several hours -- she was able to confirm that though the secretary had received my email, I wasn't on the Saturday list!) Shakespeare ran four classes and got four legs, never scoring under 205*, and legitimized his ARCHEX (I'd thought he'd gotten it before, APDT records disagreed, I went back for extra QQs. I probably screwed up my counting!) What most impressive is that I've hardly worked with him at all -- read, once or twice -- since his last trial in March. He is such the reliable Old Man. What a guy.

* APDT runs have 200 possible points, plus an optional 10-point bonus exercise.

Laev, on the other hand, was a total ditz. I took her into the building once just to acclimate (I wasn't going to try to crate inside, as it was a small area), and she glanced around and then promptly downed and focused on me, picture-perfect. I was feeling pretty good. We came in for her first run, and she set up nicely just inside the ring gate, cute and focused. Great. We moved forward and I set her up for a recall over a jump, the first exercise. I cued her to "sit" as I prepared to step away (we don't use a "stay" cue) and she popped into an obedience stand.

Laev has a superstitious head movement with her obedience stand, so it's very obvious when she's standing in response to a cue as opposed to standing accidentally or casually. This was a perfect obedience stand.

That's an automatic NQ, but I thought we could at least continue the run as if we hadn't NQ'd on the very first exercise. I asked her to come into heel and then cued sit again. Pop! Perfect obedience stand. And, once more.

I have no idea why "sit" suddenly meant to stand, but it clearly did. More, Laev was clearly getting frustrated at being told to sit and stand repeatedly. After the third mistake, I left her in a stand and went to recall over the jump, which she did. We were rattled, though, and the connection was gone. She was seized by the desire to examine the food bowls in the figure-8 (no eating and she did recall to me, so it wasn't a total disaster) and we made up the rest of our course, ending on a slightly better note. Total ditz.

She needed only one leg to finish her RL3 title, so we still had a chance in the afternoon trial. I took a moment to review "sit" and she seemed to get it. :) When it was her turn for the last run (the trial dragged late), I brought her in and, stupidly, thought I'd get a couple of directed retrieves (this run's bonus) before going in the ring. I set up my focused dog in the emptying crating area and put out her dumbbell.

We were a good fifteen feet from the nearest line of crates, but the trial had been running long and I suppose the crated dogs were sick of it. The crates were uncovered, and as Laev trotted out, a line of dogs lunged at their doors. Laev aborted the retrieve as she whirled to look for the attack, and I called her back to me, feeling angry and stupid. I'd just wanted an open space to warm up, and I'd picked a row of grumpy dogs! Another dog came by us, very close, and Laev jumped and snarked, still hackled defensively. Oh, stink.

And then we were up. I knew Laev wasn't mentally recovered, but what else to do? We went in and faced that same first exercise, a recall over a jump. Laev sat, I cued her to wait, she popped into an obedience stand, wholly distracted. Yep. We flubbed through the course 'til we could end on the backward heeling exercise, which she does very well, and asked to be excused. Whew.

"It's a young dog," the judge told me. "Not THAT young," replied. Seriously, Laev, you're brilliant in many aspects, you can do so many things beyond simple rally exercises -- what's up with this silliness?

Very frustrating, overall. Between the gunfire hangup and this flubbed trial, I'm feeling rather defeated.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dangerous Dobermans & Rabid Rottweiler Make a New Friend :-)

We had a couple of visitors coming in last week, costuming friends (I'll use their industry names, Saeru and Elemental) coming to stay the night and do a photoshoot. I was excited to have them. Then my sister reminded me that Elemental didn't like dogs.

I had totally forgotten this fact, because for the most part Elemental is a fairly neat person and I don't include dislike of dogs in my definition of "neat." But what the heck, we could manage for a day or two, surely. I have a large enough house that no one has to share space if they don't want to.

There was a reason for her dislike, I learned; she'd grown up in a less-than-idyllic neighborhood, where dogs were generally kept for the purpose of keeping other people away. My Dobermans were of a size and coloring which implied danger, and she froze up for a moment upon seeing Inky; it was a Rottweiler which used to break its chain and chase her down the street.

We were wholly disorganized on the day of their arrival, though, and they had more dog exposure than I had initially planned. When we packed up to depart for the photoshoot, Elemental realized she'd forgotten an item and ran back into the house with my husband. Shakespeare ran alongside them, happy and bouncing, and I felt a moment of chagrin. He was no threat, of course, but he was distinctly too close for someone who didn't like such things.

When Elemental returned to the van, she turned to face me and said sharply, "Your dogs break all the rules!"

Oh, no, I thought. Here it comes, I'm being a bad hostess and friend--

"They wag their tails and they're happy to see people and they're friendly! Dogs of that color scheme aren't supposed to be friendly! You're messing with my head!"

Well, there were worse things that could happen. :)

That was Saturday, when Elemental first met the dogs and learned how to invite them for petting or send them away neutrally. Sunday night, she was reclining on the couch, with Shakespeare in her lap, Inky leaning on her shoulder, and Laev upside down on the floor at her feet.

Monday it was decided that Saeru would move on without Elemental, rejoining at the convention where we'd all meet again that weekend. So Elemental stayed in the House of Dogs a bit longer.

Wednesday morning, Elemental watched a shaping session with Laev and then trained Shakespeare herself, teaching him to place his right front paw in a bucket on the cue "kumquat." (Hey, it was a random word not used for another cue!) She was pretty good at it, too! catching on faster than most. Her timing was very good for a novice, too; probably because she's a both a video gamer and a professional photographer.

I was very proud of my dogs and of my friend Elemental, both. And that, dear readers, is how we fight and overcome BSL -- by presenting good canine ambassadors and by being open-minded enough to see past appearances. Trapped in my house, Elemental amused herself by discussing philosophy and worldview with me. We spent a good deal of time on racism, I recall, and yet I never thought at the time how it was directly related to "breed-ism" in that judgment was made based solely on appearance. But that's what we had, and what we demolished, this weekend.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Snake! Snake! Oh, it's a Snake!

I heard Laev barking outside. This wasn't a normal bark of "Hey, I hear something," or "Hey, squirrel, come back down here!" -- there was a defensive note to it.

As this was the day after my parents' horses were stolen just a half-mile away, I took my phone and went to investigate.

I found Laev circling a spot on the ground and immediately recognized that she'd encountered a snake, probably basking for a last bit of solar energy before going to hibernation. It was now coiled upon itself and was striking at her as she darted at it. This explained the frantic note in her barking; she's not used to prey that fights back!

We don't have a real risk of venomous snakes in our area, so Laev wasn't in much danger, but I like our snakes and I don't want them harmed, either. I walked up to the deadlocked pair and frowned. I knew Laev wouldn't want to turn her back on what she clearly considered a threat, so a recall wasn't likely to happen -- plus, if she turned away and was bitten, it wouldn't do my recall cue much good, either! I decided to simply walk up and take her collar. But Laev could circle the snake much faster than I could....

It's terrible that I have to admit that I needed a moment to realize I could simply cue the dog to stay where she was. /facepalm/

I called "down!" as Laev ran around the snake, and she responded beautifully, dropping instantly a couple of feet back. The snake froze as well, and I stepped up and knelt beside Laev, taking her collar for safety. I didn't want to immediately take her from the snake, which I knew she would interpret as a punishment for her quick down, so my plan was to praise her, stroke her quietly, and then lead her away when she had come down from her fevered high. It was a good plan.

Laev, however, was pretty sure that she was going to be rewarded for her instant down with a chance at the snake. After all, when I call her into position from the bad guy, she often gets to go for him, right? So she remained pretty keyed, tense in her sphinx down and thrashing her long tail fiercely. When it became apparent after a moment that I was not releasing her to the snake, she began displacing energy a bit, sniffing at the ground and glancing from side to side.

She glanced to the left and saw a long black shape whip through the tall grass. SNAKE! She tensed and started to lunge--

Oh. That's just my own tail.

Laev gave me an embarrassed look -- "did you see me almost do that?" -- and then relaxed. After a moment, I stood and she walked nicely with me away from the unmoved snake. We had a good laugh about it later.

* For those who don't understand the title reference, click here. No, I can't explain it either. Such is the internet.

** Yes! The stolen horses were recovered. Thanks again to all who helped spread the word; I credit social networking and the power of the internet for their return.