What if it was your dog? You’ve just worked a long day, your typical 9-5 with all the typical work crap that goes on. Deadlines, meetings, phone calls, people banging on your door all day, telling you that you need to do this and that and the next thing, hurry hurry, time is money, rush rush, your best is not good enough.
You come home and greet your dog(s), they’re so happy to see you, tails wagging, tongues lolling, faces grinning. They’ve been waiting all day for you to come home just so they could express to you their absolute adoration of everything you emit (good, bad, ugly, even stinky). You play with them, take them out, go to the fridge, crack a beer, put your feet up, turn to something stupid on TV that makes you feel better about your existence. And then the doorbell rings or there’s a knock.
I didn’t order pizza…you go to your door and it’s a cop. You open the door and step onto the porch while your dogs run to the window to find out what’s going on.
The police officer, with his badge, boots and hat, radio blaring, his gun at his side tells you, “We’re here to take your dog.”
Beyond the Myth challenges you to ask this question, not as a “pit bull” owner, but as a dog owner. As a person who lives, loves and learns with dogs, not a breed of dog, but dogs in general, be your dog a lab, rottie, pittie, GSD, spaniel, husky, golden, JRT or mutt. What would you do if that police officer showed up at your door and told you he was taking your dog to the shelter simply because of the way he looked and that you weren’t getting him back? Oh and that he was likely going to be euthanized just because.
Would you refuse? Resist arrest? Go to jail? Flee with your dog? Try to get your dog rehomed? Sell your house, change jobs, move away? Uproot your kids? Hire a lawyer? Try to fight it out in the courts? What could you do to save your dog? How far would you go?
This DVD sparked a lot of debate and commentary in my household. With Panzer cradled in his lap, Joe said that he would be going to jail. No one would take our dogs from us, and he would go down fighting. Joe declared that if given the option, he would pack up the dogs and get the hell out of Dodge and leave me to “sort out the legal shit” (as a disclaimer, I’m a paralegal, not an attorney). He said he wouldn’t be able to attend a town meeting because he’d be kicked out when every third word out of his mouth was an expletive. There was talk of setting fires to town halls, nighttime escapes and constitutionality issues. We talked about the ADA, Section 1983 and irresponsible dog owners. We celebrated when we saw Pennsylvania listed as one of the 12 states that has a law prohibiting breed specific legislation.
The documentary featured difficult scenes of dog fighting, which made the experience more real for us. Dogs who were chained to their dog houses, unable to move more than five feet in a circle. We talked about Panzer and how when his foster family first rescued him, he didn’t comprehend moving forward on a leash but instead just kept running in circles, over and over and over.
We triumphed over Victoria Stilwell’s elegant speech on pit bulls and positive reinforcement training in the bonus features, and I had to pause the video while Joe went on a five minute rant about Cesar Millan (the pit bull champion) and how he did not appear in the video and all the things he wishes he could say to him about his shotty training methods (a proud moment for me, look at how far he’s come!). When it was over, Joe was somewhere between wanting to drive to some of the places featured in the DVD (San Francisco, Denver, Cincinnati, Miami) and start a revolution and drive to the shelter and bring home every pit bull in the place.
But it’s not just about pit bulls and pit bull type dogs. German shepherds made a weighty appearance in the film as well. They were always closely followed by pit bulls in breed specific legislation, second in line for “alleged number of dog bites” and even mentioned by Victoria Stilwell as the “compromised GSD next door”. Every time they came up in the documentary we found ourselves holding our hands out in a stop motion at the TV and saying, “Woah, slow down there. Put down the gun and back away from the shepherds, thank you very much.”
That’s the point though. If breed specific legislation is enacted, where does it end? At the time the film was made, in Italy, 90 dog breeds were banned, which led Joe to ask the question, “What dog can you have there?”
I never really thought I would find myself being such a strong advocate of pit bulls. I mean, I have German shepherds. My love for the breed is deep and pure and strong. I love my GSDs. I love owning a herding breed and pursuing herding with Shelby. I like the way they look and despite their issues, I like the way they act too (for the most part). But since I started volunteering at a shelter, I can’t help but feel this deep sadness and empathy for pit bulls.
Dogs are dogs are dogs, it doesn’t matter what breed they are. Never has to me, never will. I love them all, even the ones that are genuine assholes.
But how can you not be particularly affectionate toward this smile?
I encourage every dog owner and lover, not just pit bull owners, to watch Beyond the Myth and ask yourself – what if it was your dog?