Exploring Both Sides: The Montreal Pit Bull Ban

exploring-both-sidesI just spent the last six days with Bruno while Justin was out of town. He (Bruno) was recovering from bronchitis/kennel cough and had to stay home instead of spending time with his dog friends. I worked from home for two days, and spent my weekend in the house to monitor him and keep him company. At some point during our extended weekend together, I began reading about the pit bull ban in Montreal. The Montreal city council had passed legislation banning the adoption and breeding of “pit bull type” dogs. Those that already have the dogs would be able to keep them, after completing a registration process, sterilization, increased fees, and muzzling the dogs while they are out in public.

The legislation has now been suspended after an outpouring of concern and outrage from several organizations and citizens. Currently, under the suspension, pit bulls can continue to be adopted, and current owners do not have to abide by the added requirements.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am cuddled up with my 16 month old pit bull puppy as I write this. We are on the couch, he has his head resting on my thigh as he snores himself to sleep. He is part of my family, I worry about him when he’s by himself at home or looks like he might be sad or anxious, I get excited when he’s excited, and I plan my life around taking care of him. As hard as I might try, I cannot be completely unbiased on this topic. I love a pit bull, I recognize his facial features and personality in every picture I see of dogs of a similar breed. I even wrote an entire post about my relationship with this pooch. I can’t imagine my sweet, energetic, happy puppy being forced to be muzzled when out in public or, heaven forbid, being euthanized because it would have been illegal for him to be adopted in the first place. Never the less, I am struggling with defining my position as I empathize and understand several aspects of the issue.

The Montreal legislation was initiated after a woman was attacked by a pit bull, ultimately dying from injuries sustained in the incident. At this point it is unclear as to whether or not the dog was actually a pit bull, the claim has been disputed, not that it changes the fact that someone has died due to an attack.

If you read any of the hundreds of articles on the internet regarding the Montreal legislation, and look through the comment threads, you will find the majority of people blaming the owners of dogs. Not in the most respectful way, and most certainly not in the most grammatically correct way. Ever since adopting Bruno I have understood this logic, it has been my gut reaction – to not blame the dog, but the human that did not take the responsibility of owning the dog seriously. From the moment Justin and I decided to adopt Bruno, we were researching his breeds, strategizing on how we could best support his training, and manage his aggressive nature. I was scared. I had never had a dog before and quite frankly, was nervous about living with one. I automatically, before even meeting him, knew it was my responsibility to make sure Bruno could be a contributing member of dog-society. After a year of working with him and learning more about how dogs function, I am certain that any dog, if treated properly and trained to understand his place in the world, can function without falling into the aggressive stigma.

The human aspect of this issue is impossible to ignore though, you can’t deny that whether or not this dog was trained, it attacked someone. I’ve driven down streets that have dogs roaming aimlessly, seen dogs chained up for hours outside, effectively being ignored by their world. I understand that any dog can become aggressive and potentially dangerous given the right circumstances, and what is there for law makers to do to comfort communities of people that have been affected by such a horrific incident?

I’m not sure what the right or wrong answer is. I am not sure of anything other than I love my American Staffordshire Terrier and take full responsibility to make sure that his sweet demeanor stays that way.


Weekend at Bruno’s

Weekend At Bruno'sJustin and Bruno have this special bond. It’s pretty amazing to bear witness to, and only slightly jealousy inducing. With Justin home everyday Bruno has built this expectation of what his day looks like around Justin’s normal routine, he depends on Justin and has established this bond that has become the foundation for his daily life.

Knowing that Justin would soon be visiting friends in Texas, I had started planning my six days with Bruno almost two months ago, blocking off my calendar for days I could work from home, and scheduling his dad for Bruno duty on the days I had to go into the office. Otherwise, our weekend would be spent at home – my usual weekend location anyway.

Now, with one day left of our time in the Emily & Bruno bubble, I know that he is still missing Justin. I can’t wait for Justin to come home and see the excitement on Bruno’s face (and in his tail). Bruno has been such a good boy and we’ve had countless hours to bond and build our relationship with each other, but I know that he’s bored with me. One more day pup, one more day.

Even though our weekend has been a little more relaxed than what Bruno is used to, we’ve done some pretty fun things. We’ve played countless games of tug, taken a nap in the late afternoon everyday, we’ve played fetch in the backyard, ignored countless firework shows, played keep-away running around the house, we’ve relaxed outside, and I took him to my elementary school playground to sniff and walk around.

As much as I enjoyed our relaxed time together, mainly in our backyard on the patio, my favorite part of our time together was our walk to my elementary school, which now sits just down the street from our home. Bruno is still working on his form when walking on leash. He’s so excited to go on a walk that the first half, inevitably, ends up being us stopping every five feet for him to sit and focus, instead of criss crossing in front of me, simultaneously pulling his leash, while rubbing his face on the cement to get his lead off.

On this particular walk, I was so irritated with his inability to just walk, he was so all over the place that it was practically embarrassing, nevermind I had forgotten to bring poop bags and I was terrified he was going to poop in someone’s yard and I’d be THAT person. Our original destination was the track that runs around the park at the end of our street, it would have been an easy two mile walk from the house and back. As we reached the beginning of the grounds I decided that with Bruno’s ADD that he needed a less-structured approach to our outing. I quickly turned into the field behind my elementary school, adjacent to the park, and let his leash go as long as it would. He was in heaven. I just kept walking and let him keep up or go ahead, I didn’t have to pull, he wasn’t pulling, we were just walking together. I would have given anything to be secure enough in both of us to have just let him off his leash and let him run.

As we got closer to the school I found myself smiling, thinking about all of the memories I had as an elementary school kid running these grounds. I hadn’t been to the elementary school in years, it has been easily 10 years since I’ve been this close to the building, and more since I’ve been on the playground. We walked passed the swing set that once seemed to tall and seemed like the boundary of our playground. Deeper, we walked (and sniffed), into the the place I used to know every foot of and I was conflicted, stuck between reminiscing, remembering, and laughing, and feeling sad that, more than twenty years later most of the same equipment still stands as it did when I was running around on my own recess breaks.

We walked on some of the equipment, onto what we onced called the school bus, it was so much smaller than I remembered. I still avoided the twisty slide structure that always had nests of bees and wasps at the top. We walked to the blacktop, I looked for the map of the United States that I remember being new one year, it took me several minutes to find it, mainly because for the most part, it’s faded and gone. Being this close to the school that was once so new and state of the art, it was pretty staggering to be so close and to see what twenty years can do to a building. The school itself seems to be under construction, the grounds were empty but the trailers of equipment and progress were evident that the work has started.

I looked down at Bruno, who at this point was panting from the heat and his exhaustive sniffing session on the playground. We cut through the neighborhood on the other side of the school and headed home. I thought about how much everything has changed on our walk home, passing by houses that at one time belonged to friends of mine. I was happy to have spent some time on the playground, with Bruno, just the two of us. I’m sure I’ll take him back soon so we can do some more sniffing and nosing (pun intended) around the school. This time I’ll be bringing his 50 foot leash so he can do an investigation of his own.

The rest of July will be a busy one for our family, we will be in and out of the house, traveling around Michigan, both together and separately. I’m excited for Justin to come home, to have my partner back so that we can all get back to our routine before the next exciting event: Justin and Bruno do the U.P.