While in Ireland, we got to visit the spectacular Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
After rounding a bend and looking at the watchtower, we were suddenly approached by this spunky, sprightly little shepherd mix.
She came running up to us eagerly and had a fragment of a tennis ball in her mouth. We couldn’t resist playing with her for a few minutes.
I’m not sure who her person was; I didn’t see anyone around who seemed to be claiming her. She had a collar on, however, so she clearly belonged somewhere.
But she made us laugh and reminded us so much of Eden. Because this is exactly what Eden would be doing if she were a free-range Irish dog: Stalking around a busy tourist spot, hoping that someone, anyone, would stop to play with her.
I love that personality trait so much in dogs: the endless playfulness and energy. Even if it can drive you crazy sometimes, it is so charming to be near an animal who is so full of drive and joy.
During a recent visit to Barley Cove, a beach in southwest Ireland, I was surprised and dismayed to see this sign posted at the boardwalk to the beach:
I have heard about such blatant breed discrimination before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it myself. As you can see, German shepherds are on the list, along with many breeds that have acquired a negative public perception, thanks to decades of media hype and stereotyping.
Obviously, if you have a people- or dog-aggressive dog, you shouldn’t bring her to a public beach and let her off leash, regardless of breed. Which is why this ruling is so irritating to me. Dogs of ALL breeds can be dangerous. Yes, an aggressive chihuahua is going to do less damage to you than an aggressive akita, but the presumption that particular breeds are, by intrinsic nature, dangerous, could not be further from the truth. Dogs are individuals. A fear-reactive golden retriever could be much more dangerous to the public welfare than a well-socialized pit bull. By passing legislation like this, towns only further reinforce negative stereotypes about certain types of dogs.
To me, the irony of this ruling (breeds on this poster have to be leashed and muzzled) is that a dog who was on a beach like this, watching every other dog run around off leash, would be likely to be more reactive if he was the only dog leashed and muzzled. I know my dogs, who are on this list of banned breeds, would be immensely frustrated and probably act out if an off-leash dog ran up to them while they were constrained by a leash and muzzle.
Also, the crossbreeds addendum (the ruling applies to all dogs on the poster and their crossbreeds) is ludicrous to me. People, myself included, are notoriously bad at guessing breeds. Even shelter workers are just as bad at guessing which dogs are “pit bulls” and which aren’t. You simply can’t conclusively know a dog’s heritage by looking at him, and even if you could, the breed background wouldn’t tell you anything certain about the dog’s temperament. Our dog pal Howie is a great example:
Howie is half-lab, half-German shepherd. His mother was a purebred German shepherd who came into the rescue, but he bears hardly any resemblance to his mother’s breed. This sweet, shy pup would qualify as a “dangerous crossbreed” according to this legislation. But anyone who looked at him would think he was just a slightly leaner, leggier labrador.
Again, dogs are individuals. Our two purebred German shepherds are as different from each other, personality wise, as night and day.
It makes me sad to think we haven’t moved past this in the 21st century, and especially in a country thought to be as progressive as Ireland.