Bad dogs result of negligent people

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A little over a month ago, a couple of dogs running loose in the neighborhood broke the spine of my neighbor’s Chihuahua, and the little dog died in my arms as I was doing my best to keep her comfortable until we could get help (putting her down). This is, of course, tragic.

Two dogs from down the street — I had seen them many times — had gotten loose and decided to terrorize the neighborhood early that morning. I started hearing the dog fights around 4 a.m. I should have gone out then and done something. However, I kept thinking that someone whose dogs were loose and involved should — would handle it.

My dogs were safe and sound with me. I saw and recognized the dogs who were causing the problems later that morning when I took my own out for their morning exercise, and I told another neighbor (not the one whose Chihuahua was killed) that we needed to get those dogs back to their house “before something bad happens.” He assured me the dogs belonged to the people next to him (even though that is not where I had seen them chained/penned) and they would “take care of it.” Less than five minutes later they attacked — and ultimately killed — the little Chihuahua, right outside my yard. They took out a few neighborhood cats on their rampage that morning, too.

Last week, back in the neighborhood to do some work at my parents’ house (I no longer live there, and neither do my parents), there was another ruckus. This time, two different dogs, right next door, attacked a man who was walking by, and sent him to the hospital. These two dogs were fair newcomers to the neighborhood, and for a while had been tied up, but had eventually worked themselves free, and had become a problem. From what I had seen, the dogs got next to no attention when they were tied up. I had seen them both loose in the past couple of weeks, and one had shown definite signs of aggression.

I love animals, and connect with them. Since I was very young and growing up on the ranch, I have had a soft spot for just about any critter. If I walk into a group of people and there are pets present, the pets always get my attention first. This is hereditary, I think. I recall that Mama usually got the first call when a stray showed up in Datil — usually dumped by some irresponsible person who just decided they no longer wanted their pet. We usually took them in and nursed them back to health.

I think most dogs can be good pets with the proper care and treatment. Every animal is an individual, just as with humans — no two are exactly alike. I’m not one to dismiss an animal based purely on its breed. On the other hand, I am also not convinced that all dog breeds are created equal and that it is solely the actions of the owners that cause dogs to be mean and attack.

Three of the four dogs in these two attacks purportedly have at least “some pit bull” in them. I know there are a lot of pit bull advocates out there — and I support you, to a point. The fourth dog appears to be part German shepherd. I have a German shepherd of my own. She is a very loving, sweet dog, and has never been aggressive toward a human. However, when she turned about a year old, she began — suddenly — being aggressive toward some other dogs. I have never been able to determine exactly what spurs her aggression beyond her protective nature, but I am responsible enough to know that I must be on alert with her at all times, and take certain precautions to prevent dog fights and tragic events. Some dogs are just more aggressive by nature — and breed does often have something to do with it.

Most dogs make great companions – loyal, loving and always there. Dogs can also be good “guards,” just by making noise, and because they can be territorial toward the person or people who care for them.
I do NOT understand someone wanting a dog, but then spending no time with it. Getting a “pet” and leaving them to run the streets is senseless and irresponsible — whether they are a little lap dog or a big “guard” dog. The person whose little Chihuahua died in my arms a month ago was irresponsible to let his little dog run around the neighborhood, just as the person whose two big dogs, one part pit, got out of their yard for the umpteenth time and attacked.

This was apparently not the first time the part-pit had killed a dog in the neighborhood, and one other dog that was victim to the aggression belonged to the same person who had the Chihuahua. Both people are to blame for what happened. However, the little Chihuahua was not just wandering the neighborhood at the time — my neighbor was visiting another of our neighbors, and the dog was with him.

On the part of the dogs, I have to say, the Chihuahua was the innocent one — and the only one of all parties to truly suffer. I watched that poor little dog try to move away, and drag its entire body from the shoulders down, where it’s back had been snapped. It makes me sick to think about it. It should make everyone sick to think about it.

I have not heard a status update on the man who was attacked by the two dogs last week. It didn’t sound as though his wounds were critical, but he will definitely have scars on his arms and legs, at a minimum. Hopefully there was no nerve or other damage. Again, sickening.

It is our responsibility to provide for the animals in our care. That doesn’t just mean that we throw food and water out to them, or stick them in the yard or on the end of a chain and call it good. Dogs need attention; they are social animals. It’s good for them to have “training,” and the training is actually as much for the person as the dog — learning the temperament of the dog, developing patterns and consistency that the dog can trust and respect, and just providing a reason to interact. Those are important steps to having a well-behaved dog. It’s not to say that a dog won’t surprise you and do something seemingly uncharacteristic even if trained; as with my shepherd, sometimes instinct kicks in. This is especially true when a dog breaks free and gets into a pack. Dogs will act completely different in a pack than they act alone in their home environment.

People actually aren’t much different.
The bottom line is this: If you want a dog, or two, or more — be it for the “fun” of having a pet, or for protection, or for whatever reason — you should be responsible, not only for the safety of the animal and of those who encounter the animal, but for the animal’s happiness and well-being. Take time to learn about them — their breed, their individual personality, how they behave around children and other animals.

Spend time with them. If you don’t want them in the house, that’s fine as long as you spend time outside with them. If you’re a “homebody” and aren’t active, or if you aren’t home much and can’t take them with you, don’t have a big, outside dog that is bred to hunt or herd, or otherwise run, but will have no outlet for doing so. Working dogs are best if they are kept busy; actually, all dogs are best if kept busy. And leaving them to run the neighborhood is not what I mean!

It’s one thing if you live out in the country, far from others’ livestock or people, and they are accustomed to staying with the place. There is still a good chance they will roam, but they will usually have plenty to keep them busy there. Living in town is a completely different story. Dogs will adapt, within reason, but they still need attention and activity. If you want a dog, find one that fits your lifestyle, and then don’t neglect it!

Thinking about the two attacks in that one neighborhood, in a month’s time, I realize what a tremendous threat exists in our neighborhoods. There are a LOT of children in that neighborhood. I cringe to think what might happen if those dogs get loose again because even though the dogs were taken away for a little while, the people got them back, and haven’t really changed their behavior. If the kids make the wrong move at the wrong time, it could be much worse. It makes me sick to think about it.