Whether on the radio or the TV or perhaps around the water cooler or during a dinner conversation we have all heard in the news about the pit bulls attacking people and the fall out that follows. People ban together! They set up petitions and cry out against the breed. “Ban Pit Bulls in Abbotsford (or whatever town you may live in)!” Politicians show their sentimental side by taking a photo opt with the victim and agree to have a new law to force the breed out of their cities. I have heard from all those who love to voice their opinions, at parties or other social events, yes I have people tell me how this breed should not be allowed. Now don’t get me wrong I am not okay with ANY dog biting, but my first question is always, “Have you ever actually met a Pit Bull?” I don’t mean walk by their yard as they bark at the gate, as then any breed can become a “Pit Bull”, but have you ever actually interacted with the breed? After 20 years I haven’t worked on a Pit Bull I didn’t love.
Eli was my first love. He was a light brown dog with crinkly ears due to multiple hematoma surgeries. His whole body would just start to vibrate when he came into the Fraser Valley Animal Hospital. He would smile, vibrate and drool, as he knew I would reach into the cookie jar for a treat. I am sure Eli is the only dog whose tail speed increased every time I said his name. Eli was a strong and muscular dog. The day I had to say good bye to Eli his owner and I lay on a dog bed with the now old man and cried as I gave Eli his final injection. The entire time Eli’s tail wagged.
Now Boscoe is one pit bull who I will admit I do tend get injured during his exam. He is a young red pit bull who seems to regularly get into something. I am a little grateful that he does get into trouble, as he makes me laugh every time he visits. He is so excited to visit he can hardly contain himself. Crying and slobbering he pulls his owner into the hospital. He knows the routine and promptly goes to the scale, impatiently waits as his weight is registered and then drags his owner into an exam room. In the treatment room I can hear him waiting; the distinct cry and whine that he has. He is like a small impatient child hardly able to contain himself, whining, prancing, pacing and circling just waiting for the other door to open. And I know what is waiting for me. Open the door and wham 90 lbs of muscle there to greet me. The whining gets louder as he circles me whacking me with his tail. And let me tell you pit bulls have strong tails! After a Boscoe exam I am bound to have at least one new bruise.
Despite my love for these dogs I do understand the strength of these dogs and I ask what would I do if a Pit Bull put my child in hospital? How would I react then?
So after Pit Bulls which breed do we go after next? What about Rottweilers? Do you know that I was unable to get house insurance in Abbotsford from a particular company because I own Griffon. He is part Rottweiler and the company did not give home insurance if you owned certain breeds including Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. Have you met my Griffon? Now 13, he was brought into the Fraser Valley Animal Hospital for euthanasia when he was an 8-month-old puppy, as he had a skin infection. Despite my trying to explain to the owner that all this puppy needed were some antibiotics, the owner was resolute! He would not treat. I was resolute! I would not euthanize. So the puppy was surrendered instead. Anyway because of this dog, who is deathly afraid of cats, I was not eligible for house insurance. So do we ban the breed?
Did you know there is a group who thinks we shouldn’t breed brachycephalic dogs. These are all the short nosed dogs such as Pugs and Bulldogs. And though i am partial to these guys, as they do make me laugh, I understand why some want them banned as they truly are genetic disasters. Many suffer from narrow nostrils, narrow trachea (windpipe), and/or elongated soft palate (roof of the mouth) and this can lead to respiratory collapse and death. Luckily I can do surgery to correct some of these respiratory abnormalities and I think if we are going to own short faced dogs it really is only fair to the dog to do everything we can to help them breath, after all who doesn’t like a little oxygen! But we cannot fix everything.
Let me tell you about Millie. Millie was already starting to have issues at the age of one due to her elongated soft palate. This means the roof of her mouth was actually longer than her mouth and would get sucked into her narrow trachea every time she inhaled. This doesn’t lend itself to breathing very well. Though I love these guys I do get a pit in my stomach whenever we put them under anesthetic, and we do it a lot! Anywhere we do surgery a side effect can be swelling. On the toe no biggy; around the trachea well we have an issue! So we have to just take that little bit of extra care to prevent any additional stress on the respiratory system from the anesthetic and even closer monitoring as they wake up. Millie though handled the anesthetic like a champ and the next day we received a call that the owners were having trouble keeping Millie quiet post surgery, guess oxygen is a great thing!
Many of you know Winston, my latest rescue dog, but did you know he has, hip dysphasia, narrow vertebrae in his neck which makes him drag his front feet just ever so slightly, skin allergies and cryptorchid (only one testicle traveled to its final destination, for the second one I had to go find it in his abdomen). Yes he truly is a genetic disaster. But the love that little pug has I would not trade him in despite him being my dog with the highest medical bills! Perhaps the answer lies in selective breeding rather than banning. If we could breed these traits into the dogs can we breed them out?
I don’t pretend to have the answers. I only have questions. Do we blame the breed or the those who created the breed? Do we ban the breed or the owners? Each breed has its fantastic points and its issues, just like us humans. As they say don’t judge another man before you have walked in his shoes, perhaps then my only suggestion is, perhaps before you choose a ban wagon go out and meet the dogs that some want to condemn.