Monday, February 15, 2010

Family Alert - Oh, Examiner.com

In-depth journalism at its finest over at the Seattle Family and Parenting section of Examiner.com.

Part I: Family alert:How well do you know your pit bull? Rachael Ray's pit involved in attack (Part 1)

Family alert! I'd love to see one of these suckers on a highway sign - Family alert! How well do YOU know your pit bull? flashing neon while I'm cruising up Hwy 80. I'd gaze over at Mina, nestled in her seatbelt, snoring contentedly, pretending we were not in a car driving. She'd crack open an eye and BAM...she'd close it. And then I'd have to really analyze how well I know Mina - was that the look of death? Was that eye-close a portend for things to come? SHOULD I PULL OVER NOW AND FLING HER INTO TRAFFIC?


Anyways, so we have a Family Alert over in Seattle. This is especially important for other pit bull owners because Rachael Ray's pit was involved in an attack. And well, if Rachael Ray's Pit Bull can "attack", ANY PIT BULL CAN!
Most pit bull owners believe their dog would never attack a pet or human, but Rachael Ray...
How do you go from "most x-lovers believe their x would never attack a pet or human, but FAMOUS PERSON's x did, so neener-neener"? Millions of Pit Bull owners/guardians have to be concerned about their dog's behavior because some wealthy television personality cannot control her dog? I once saw a red SUV (driven by someone famous, I'm sure) swerve into oncoming traffic. I am now concerned about all of us who drive red SUV's - we could swerve into incoming traffic at any moment, now that someone famous got the ball rolling. (Probably because I let my dog drive.)

Then the author brings us a quote from grandmother Karen M., who has a grandchild named Olivia and a Pit Bull. This grandma is unconcerned because the dog tolerates a lot from the kid (and her, since she sometimes sticks her hand in the dog's mouth). I think she does trust her dog, perhaps a bit too much. My concerns are, of course, that she is setting her child and dog up for possible failure...but not because the dog is a Pit Bull or her child the spawn of satan. But because dogs do not communicate like people and children are annoying(ly wonderful?).

Isabelle Zehnder, the writer of this piece, later offers up this insight: "Sadly, this kind of trust for a pit bull, or any other dog, for that matter, is what has led to the dismemberment, disfiguration, and lives of children."

Perhaps it is low of me, but I have to ask what she means by that last statement. Something's missing. We have dismemberment and disfiguration (I assume she meant "dismembered children" and "disfigured children") and then tacked on as an afterthought, "and lives of children." Spelling errors happen, and I know there is not a high degree of editing over at Examiner.com, but this is something that should have been caught in a simple proof-read.

But hey, thanks for throwing in "or any other dog", the now obligatory catch-phrase that further emphasizes the otherness of Pit Bulls.

My favorite part is NOW:
Ironically, in December 2009, a grandmother was charged when her 9-month old granddaughter, also named Olivia, was severely bitten by the grandmother's dog. The infant suffered serious injuries which left her hospitalized for nine days with facial wounds and a skull fracture.
Zehnder thinks the fact that 9-mos-old Olivia shares the same name as grand-child of misguided Karen M is ironic. Someone is unfamiliar with irony. Since 2002, Olivia has ranked as the 5-7th most popular girl's name. That two toddlers, born after 2002, would happen to share the name Olivia is hardly shocking and it certainly is NOT ironic.

More interesting are the circumstances surrounding the attack on Olivia Dezearn and how much they differ with anything Karen M offered in her statement.

1) The dog had bitten Olivia D the day before - Karen's Olivia has yet to even be bitten by her family's dog!
2) The dog and child were NOT left alone, the bites occurred in full view of other people - Karen's Olivia has been left alone with her family's dog, it's apparently a miracle she's alive!
3) There are discrepancies about the severity of the attack and I have no clue who to believe: Here's the source Zehnder used and here's the actual news report (with the strange title starting - "DO NOT PUBLISH-BAD...") which indicates the injuries may not have been as serious as implied earlier.

So really, the circumstances aren't similar. And, again, it's not irony.

Alright, folks, we are almost to the end of Part 1. I'm sure you are eagerly awaiting Part 2 - I know I am!
One issue with pit-bull type dogs is they often exhibit "bite, hold, and shake" behavior and refuse to release when biting, (1, 2) so some pit bull rescue organizations and advocacy groups recommend owners of pit bull-type dogs carry a "break stick" to lever their dog's jaws open if it bites a person or animal. (3, 4).
STRAIGHT FROM WIKIPEDIA! (You PC users, Ctrl F that sucker and search "bite, hold" and bam! there's your straight-up source for the quote above. Except Zehnder tries to add "foot-notes", but really, she nearly copied verbatim from the wikipedia article on Pit Bulls, then used THEIR supposed "sources" for all that misinformation.

First off, lots of dogs "bite, hold, and shake" and refuse to release when biting. It's like mandatory behavior for a predator. We've certainly devised training techniques and shaped some genetics to create dogs who might have a softer mouth or a restrained bite, but "bite, hold, and shake" is a normal sequence of canine predatory behavior, yo. It ain't a particularly special Pit Bull behavior.

And then the break stick! Oh, how I feel Pit Bull advocates have dug themselves a hole here. The real world applications of a break stick are few. They don't work on most dogs. Their efficacy in real-world situations with your average Pit Bull has not been tested. I can only say I've met a lot of Pit Bulls (most in the high-stress world of a hi-kill shelter) and seen a lot of fights and not once was a break stick a) needed or b) would have been effective. This is not to dismiss break sticks as valuable tools in the rare situations they are required (and hell yes, I'd probably be kicking myself silly if I was in that situation and didn't have one), but I think their promotion as a vital and necessary tool if you want to walk a Pit Bull down the street has been both detrimental and misleading.

That is almost literally how the article ends with a teaser for Part II - A listing of high profile Pit Bull attacks! I know I can't wait. Except I will. You can read Part II for yourself - you can see irresponsible dog ownership, mis-identified breeds and a significant lack of anything resembling reporting (it's literally just a recap of "pit bull" attacks). Dear readers, don't read Part II. It's so cliche and THERE IS ALSO NO IRONY!

The end.

6 comments:

YesBiscuit! said...

Pitbull Alert!: How well do you know your family? They may write for The Examiner!

PoochesForPeace said...

I just skimmed the article...and this is supposedly the
6th 'attack' the dog has been involved in- it sounds like only against other dogs. So if Rachel Ray knows her dog needs some work being around other dogs either A- try to do some positive reinforcement about being around other dogs or walking on a leash around other dogs, or if she didnt want to work with her dog why did she keep taking the dog around other dogs? Or DID she work with her dog? I didnt read the whole thing but these are just some thoughts that came to mind...It just sounds like this couldve been avoided if RR wouldve been more conscious of her dog's needs.

btoellner said...

Well written. However, you may have missed the best part.

The original source for the info that Isaboo is an attack dog info is, wait for it, an "exclusive" article from the National Enquirer.

Every single source on the internet for this, if you follow the source trail, leads to the National Enquirer.

So, while the article has flaws in its own right, the entire premise is based on a story that is more than likely made up to sell a tabloid or two.

Rinalia said...

@YesBiscuit!: Snap! I wish I had thought of that!

@PoochesForPeace: Like Brent pointed out, the basis for all the Rachael Ray articles is a National Enquirer piece. We have no real idea how many times she's been in scuffles with other dogs. I'd say if all the stories are true, Isaboo is leash aggressive or dog reactive and, in a city like New York, needs to be heavily managed. There are a lot of techniques available for us guardians of leash or dog reactive dogs!

@btoellner: Thanks for pointing that out. I love faulty logic based on faulty premises! *eye roll*

Amanda said...

Hilarious take on a ridiculous "alert."

And yes, children are annoying{ly wonderful}. ;) HAHA! Having my own, I can laugh heartily at that well-put statement. Bless these dogs souls, their tolerance of him has cemented just how wonderful I believe them to be. =)

This whole dust-up with Rachael Ray is silliness. Certainly she is not the only celebrity with a poorly behaved dog?! The only quote I've read that really disturbs me though is any concern that Isaboo's misbehavior toward dogs could possibly translate into going after a child or people. What will it ever take for people--even pit bull lovers and enthusiasts--to fully understand that one is not a predictor of the other?! Ugh. =(

Sometimes I try to give folks a reprieve, thinking maybe it is confusing because people displaying violence toward animals often can be a predictor of violence toward other people. But then I think...really, I doubt this is crossing anyone's mind. I think more accurately, people just aren't thinking at all and letting hysteria sweep them away into a land of thoughtless fear mongering. Sad how many people are willingly taking that journey. ;)

PoochesForPeace said...

Well said Amanda