Feb. 28, 2016 - Once upon a time there was a family down the street that owned a large yellow cur named Jody.
Rumor had it Jody was a retired Army dog that had been trained to mangle people. And mangle people Jody did.
He was kept in the house, but every now and then one of the kids would open the door and Jody would muscle past them and bolt for the neighborhood.
Jody didn’t attack adults, but children were a different story. Jody sought children to mangle.
My friend Johnny and I were shooting marbles in the gutter one Saturday afternoon when I saw Jody galloping in our direction. I told Johnny we needed to hide. He said no, Jody wasn’t a bad dog. He wanted to pet Jody.
I ran to the closest house, and climbed the highest object I could climb, which happened to be a white 1965 Chevy Impala. Johnny, meanwhile, was calling to Jody, who spotted him and changed direction, heading right for him. At the last moment, Johnny seemed to realize he had made a mistake and turned to run, but it was too late.
That’s when the screaming began.
Johnny was screaming. I was screaming. Jody was snarling.
Johnny’s father was vacuuming his car, about three houses down, when he heard the commotion and came running, a vacuum attachment in his hand. Jody saw him coming and took off. Johnny’s father chased him. Then he came back and took Johnny to the hospital.
The police said there was nothing they could do. But my dad thought there was something he could do. For the next several days he kept a loaded shotgun propped up in the carport while he was outside, just in case something needed doing.
My, how times have not changed. I think that every time I read about another dog mauling. And these days, it’s usually at the hand — or jaws as the case may be — of a pit bull.
Pit bulls are not inherently vicious, according to Petfinder.com and other organizations. Here’s what Petfinder had to say on the subject:
“This is a stereotype that is biased toward generalizing and condemning an entire breed based on the actions of a few bad people. The truth is that each dog should be evaluated by his own merits and not by his breed. A corollary truth is that there truly are no bad dogs, only bad people.”
And here is what Dogsbite.org had to say on the very same subject:
“Of the 88 fatal dog attacks recorded by DogsBite.org, pit bull type dogs were responsible for 59 percent (52). This is equivalent to a pit bull killing a U.S. citizen every 21 days during this three-year period.
“During 1997 and 1998, at least 27 people died of dog bite attacks (18 in 1997 and nine in 1998). At least 25 breeds of dogs were involved in 238 human dog bite related fatalities during the past 20 years. Pit bulls and rottweilers were involved in over half of these fatalities and from 1997 to 1998 were involved in 67 percent.”
So what are we to conclude from these figures? That pit bulls are inherently vicious, or that they suffer from a disproportionate number of irresponsible owners?
At this point I would say it doesn’t matter. We have a dog on our hands that attacks people, and yet we tolerate it. We rationalize and excuse and overlook it, finding ways to blame the owner or circumstances or phases of the moon — whatever. “Oh, Lockjaw would never hurt a fly. He’s so gentle and caring. You should see him around kids.”
I don’t want to see Lockjaw — or any other pit bull — around kids. Whether they’re vicious, or their owners irresponsible, I want them made illegal.
Back to Jody. I had another encounter with that sweet, misunderstood dog. I was walking home one day when suddenly he appeared and headed for me. I had found a large bolt and was taking it home to Dad. I grabbed it out of my pocket and raised my hand to throw it, and when Jody saw that he veered off course and ran down the street.
No kid should be afraid to go outside because of a dog. Or its owner. Whatever.