On showing grace to other dog owners

An early pit bull/boxer with his strange raccoon/koala friend. But I'm withholding judgment! And it's pretty cute. Source: ywgrossman.com

I have a natural tendency to be judgmental. It’s a terrible personality trait but one that I am well aware of.

After these months of casual research, I now somehow feel qualified to project my judgment onto other dog people.

For instance, there is a macho man who I often see walking around town with his pack of three huge, intact male pit bulls. My first instinct when I saw him was to cringe and to fear for the well-being of those dogs. The area in which he lived, the breed of dog, and the manner in which he carried himself all made me instantly anxious. I thought this for a while and mentioned this man and his ferocious-looking pack to my friend Liz (Bo’s mama). Liz is wise and gracious and she said, instead: “But he’s out walking them. And that’s more than most dog owners do.”

I was humbled and I realized this was true. At least these dogs are not chained to a tree somewhere. He seems very devoted to walking them around town. And even though this might be because they contribute to his manly, somewhat scary image, he’s just a man out walking his dogs.

And then there is the homeless man who begs on the downtown mall in my city. He keeps an American bulldog/pit mix on a big rope while he asks for money from passersby. I was anxious about the man and felt that it was irresponsible for him to keep a dog when it was evident that he wasn’t able to keep himself very well. But this dog always appears very healthy, alert, and calm–despite what must be a stressful life on the streets. He has a human with him, and so he’s happy.

And then there are the people who swear that Cesar Millan is the greatest dog trainer alive. Those people I also try not to judge.

Because at the end of the day, what’s the point? Casting stones never really helped anyone. We’re all just trying to do the best we can by our dogs.

“And all day long we talked about mercy…” — Joanna Newsom

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4 thoughts on “On showing grace to other dog owners

  1. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and people do this all the time. It’s easy to do, and very judgemental. It takes time for someone to stop and get to know a person, and most people won’t ever do that. Just like the homeless man you mentioned in your article, has anyone ever stopped just to talk to him? We adopted our puppy and gave it a second chance on life and finding a good home. We pamper her every day, feed her well, and make sure she has everything she needs. One day, she got off her harness and we thought that we would never get her back, we did, thank God. At least that guy was walking his dogs, taking responsibility for their health, and although he was someone you would not want to meet in a dark place, take the time to say hello to him next time. You may be surprised! I love reading your blog, keep up the great work! The bottom line is, our pets need to be happy and it’s all up to us!

  2. Isn’t it amazing – We learn and grow so much from watching and experiencing dogs. Even when it is totally not about the dog they can still manage to teach us just by simply ‘being’.
    Thanks for your post! Love your blog 🙂

  3. I once wrote a similar post about how we’re all doing the best we can. It’s an easy lesson to share but a hard one to put into practice every day.

    I used to live in an inner city neighborhood where a pit bull on a leash was part of the gangsta attitude. Not only were the dogs far gentler than you’d ever expect, but I believe the young men who kept them benefited from the love of a dog. Of course, they’d rather die than admit it.

    If you want to explore different attitudes about dog care and how it plays out in real life, you should watch the documentary, “Mine.” It’s about dogs that were rescued after hurricane Katrina and the struggles many New Orleans residents had getting them back after they were adopted to other families.

    It’s touching and very thought provoking.

  4. I would suggest the next time you see the guy walking his three pits, you go up and ask if you can pet them. I do this all the time. I’m a 30s white woman and I walked up to a big black guy standing in front of his tricked out car, who had a beautiful pure bred staffie with her spiked collar and asked if I could pet his doggie. He gave me a look, but nodded. The dog gave me head butts and kisses.
    In Ireland, I walked up to some skinheads and said “I’m missing my dogs from home, can I pet yours?” It was a giant pit mix, complete with muzzle and spiked collar. Again, I got looks from the owners and head butts and tail wags from the dog.

    As for homeless people with pets- that’s a struggle for me, but what I keep coming back to is this- I have lost everything possession I have and now you want me to give up the one creature that loves me unconditionally, regardless of whether I have a mansion or a park bench? Most of the homeless people I have met who have pets take better care of the animals then they do themselves. They share any food they have, they share blankets, etc. I’ve had homeless people say (when I’ve offered them help)- we feed feral cats, can you buy us a bag of cat food.
    I have said this over and over, but one of my goals is to start my own charity dedicated to helping the homeless care for their pets. Because I want to see the pets cared for, but I don’t want to see them separated from the person they love best who loves them.

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