Friday, April 30, 2010

Dog Bite Embroidery

According to the laws where I'm from, an animal bite is defined as anything that breaks the skin, including a scratch. And when a dog bite is reported, it's pretty much a death sentence for the dog. When a dog is impounded into a shelter following a bite, chances are it isn't leaving alive. If rabies shots haven't been given or documented, the dog's head has to be tested for rabies. That means that some poor shelter worker has to cut off the dog's head, pack it in ice, and ship it to the State lab. This really happens, all the time. Even to the very nice lab who inadvertently scratches an elderly person with paper-thin skin. Even to the old pekingese who snaps at the child who crawls into his food bowl. And of course, to the chained pit bull who tries to defend herself from a beating.

I know this is a hard topic for some people who have been the victims of dog attacks. I also realize that public safety is important. I'm not suggesting you don't call the law, of course, but I do want people to understand that the minute the law is involved, the dog is dead. Public Safety Officials do not screw around when it comes to bites and rabies control.

Even *if* a "bite dog" is owned and gets through quarantine, most owners won't claim him or her because of stigma, fear, and the boarding fees for the quarantine period. The shelters won't adopt them out for "liability reasons." They are the first to be euth'd to free up shelter space.

I've been bitten by dogs, and it hurts like hell. It scares the shit out of me and it's easy to react from a place of anger. But the circumstances around a dog biting a human are usually complex. Many people have no clue about dog behavior. It's almost never clear whether the dog was provoked, and whether the dog is in fact "vicious" (especially since the definitions under most laws are murky at best). And what if they bite another animal rather than a human? Lots of breeds have been created for that, and now we kill them for it.

A bite is a most basic form of communication. I mean, dogs don't have hands, or English. What are they trying to say? I've seen dogs bite out of love. Extreme love, and the desire to be close, and to play. My dog bite embroidery is a series of linens that have been "altered" by Kaya, the artist, and then embroidered with phrases that I think she might be feeling while she's shredding my linens. The words are a reminder that dogs want family, a lifelong commitment; they are not bodies to be dumped when mistakes have been made, fear sets in and anger shows its teeth.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

on being over it.

i want to talk about some of things that i am OVER.

i am OVER people coming into the shelter, adopting beautiful, amazing dogs, and then returning them days or weeks later because they "look too much like a pit bull." this is followed up, like it was yesterday, by innane, unsupported nonsense based on bigotry and prejudice disguised as "education" or "information."

yesterday, for instance, a woman who had brought her child down to meet an adorable 7 week old puppy returned him because, in her words, "she could not, in good conscience, have a pit bull around her 3 year old child." it's a scientific fact that pit bulls comprise 100% of all bites and attacks, so that's a completely valid argument. gotcha.

or the older, clearly affluent woman who recoiled when i told her the sweet brindle boy wagging, frolicking, and kissing her grandchildren was a pit bull. it was almost cartoonishly comical how fast she snatched them up and away from the dog who was loving them.

or the man who came into my office, saw all the pictures of my babies and ones i've helped place or rescue, and commented that "the problem with adopting an older pit bull is that you never know what you're gonna know, you hear all these stories about them biting people...."
i did my best to look at him evenly, and with a blank facial expression i hoped belied my disgust, before i explained to him that that was the case with any and every stray dog--regardless of the breed. he didn't seem to make the connection that any dog has a history, any dog could have been abused and every single dog on the planet earth can bite.

i am also over shelters.

the shelter environment is viciously unforgiving. dogs are bored, lonely, needy, confused, sad, upset, and so on and so forth. they are caged together, packed into runs like sardines, and then they have their most basic needs denied. they need human attention. they need affection. they need physical and mental stimulation. this lack is even more apparent and glaring for pit bulls. many kennel staff people refer to them as kennel trash. these dogs, in particular, actively pine for human affection, yet many people don't want to adopt them because of what they have seen or heard about the breed in the media.

kennel staff often resist getting close because they know the heartbreak that will come when they are murdered. conversely, kennel staff often resent the work that some dog-aggressive pits require (e.g., a run to themselves, coordinated dog breaks where dog contact is minimized or eliminated to avoid run-ins with other dogs, etc). this is something i want to address in future blogs--the social and economic conditions that facilitate this apathy and hatred, and which function to minimize the kinds of real care or concern that could conceivably be used to make real change in shelters. but that is a future topic.

for now, i simply wanted to complain about some of things which irritate me and discuss the real implications and consequences for the vast amount of skewed, inaccurate information people received about the breed. i want to do this because it feels good to get it out, and because it is much easier to acknowledge and sit with one's irritation or anger than it is to deal with one's infinite sadness. in a shelter, particularly a large urban one where dogs--many, if not most, of whom are pits and pit mixes--are seen as expendable, there is limitless heartbreak.

i can understand people's reservations about adopting older dogs. i can even understand the concern over older adopting older pitbulls. i adopted my boy when he was estimated to be 10-12 months old, and i had concerns when i got him. and while i believe had he been younger that i could have helped socialize him more effectively to make him more dog social, i i thank my lucky stars for him daily. i am fortunate enough to love and be loved by that beefy rednose goofball who wants to be so close to me, he practically tries to sleep in my anal cavity every night. he is very much like his mother--oftentimes misunderstood, perceived as completely tough, yet so tender and sensitive on the inside. he is my best friend, my mirror, and my love. and in this world and this life, i will take all those things any way i can get them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chaos Reigns

Hi there pit bull patriarchs,

I've been sorry to hear that some people are upset about my pit bull stitching because they say it glorifies dogfighting. Although it is hard for me to take that critique seriously, I certainly do not want it to be read it that way. For me, embroidering pit bulls does the work of mourning. It's a lot of stitching and I think about each dog and how they may have lived and died. It takes much longer to embroider a dog than it does to euthanize one. And as we know, they are being euth'd by the truckload in the US daily.

You don't have to like it, but see it for what it is. Thread on cloth. Old lace, love, and lots of time. There may be blood or tears, but definitely no beer.

As you might have noticed, even though I had such high hopes for this blog, I ran out of steam. I'm so tired of all the maddening controversy around pit bulls. I hope that red velvet femme will continue her awesome writing when she has time, and I may step up the rants again in the future. I always appreciate our supportive readers and the really insightful comments that are left here.

I'm leaving you with my most favorite freaky film clip, from a recent and highly controversial work of art, Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. I'm going to embroider the fox very soon.