2006 – The Year of the Dog

Picture a rundown house with a neglected yard. In the middle of the lawn a car body rests up on blocks; small engine parts are strewn along the walk and a couple rusty bed frames are leaning against the porch; the grass hasn?t been mowed and a formidable stack of beer cases stand between you and the front door. Suddenly, you hear a doggy-type snarl from beneath the rickety porch. What sort of dog are you expecting to appear; Fifi with a little pink bow planted on her head, or Bruiser with a steel studded collar around his neck?

Now picture a mansion. Manicured grounds; big trees; a four car garage. You pick your way up the driveway, careful not to step on the perfectly trimmed lawn. Arriving at the enormous set of solid oak doors, you press the doorbell. As Beethoven?s Fifth Symphony echoes through the cavernous entrance, you hear a dog inside furiously begin barking. What breed of dog will you be expecting the lady of the house to be admonishing when she opens the door? Bruiser or Fifi?

The interesting thing about the above scenario, is that when presented to random readers, 95% assumed Bruiser was a pit bull and belonged to the ramshackle home and Fifi was the poodle of the mansion.

Twenty-seven percent of the respondents owned pit bulls and were outraged by the unfair stereo typing even though a breed was never mentioned; merely monikers.

What can this mean? That no-one has ever named their pit bull Fifi or put a leather steel studded collar on their poodle? And say we were talking about poodles versus pit bulls; wouldn?t it make far more sense for the lady in the mansion to own the pit bull, while the down and outer possessed a poodle? For one, poodles cost less to feed; two, what is the pit bull protecting exactly?

I?ve never understood why Queen Elizabeth favours the Corgi. The woman is the Queen of England. She lives in a palace filled with irreplaceable knick knacks and paddy whacks and her dog of choice is a Corgi?

?Oh my goodness, someone is escaping with the crown jewels. Quick!

Fluffy, Poppy, Pumpkin, Suzy, Precious, Pom Pom, Queenie, Princess, Pharos – sic ?em.?

OK. I made most of those names up. I don?t think the Queen would name any of her nine Corgis, Queenie or Princess. And since Pharos was killed by Princess Anne?s English Bull Terrier, she only has eight.

Still, having eight ankle biters chasing you through Buckingham Palace wouldn?t get the adrenaline pumping quite the way the sight of a single pit bull would.

Not that the rich or famous never own pit bulls. Helen Keller, Michael J. Fox and Fred Astaire all have had a pet pit bull. It should also be noted that owners of pit bulls are constantly in the media insisting their dogs are as intelligent as humans and as gentle as a bunny rabbit.

Not that humans are all that intelligent, or bunnies gentle. It was humans, after all, who first came up with the idea of tossing a bull and a dog into a pit and calling it entertainment. I don?t know what dogs were originally used, but I?m guessing miniature poodles and corgis were never in the running. The unfortunate canine that was bred up to best defend himself against an enraged bull, was cleverly given the name ?pit bull?.

Even so, I?m sure it?s true that pit bulls are no more likely to attack a human than say, a shih-tzu. I have a shih-tzu. One dark and stormy evening I was frying hamburger, when I accidentally flipped a piece of ground round onto the floor. Cosmo dove for the hamburger, just as my slippered foot unintentionally sandwiched the meaty morsel (the hamburger, not Cosmo) against the linoleum.

Things got pretty exciting after that. Sweet little Cosmo turned into a snarling, rabid, wee wolf and clamped her mouth down on my foot.

Why, if I hadn?t been wearing slippers it?s entirely possible she might have broken the skin. I might have required a Band-Aid even.

Take the same dark and stormy night, same scenario, but make Cosmo a pit bull and well, all I?m saying is that things could have turned out differently, that?s all. The same, but different.