Friday, June 24, 2005

Dogs and Dog Ownership

Let me start by noting that I really like dogs. Also cats (but we're allergic) and other living things. On the other hand, I am not one of those who would bankrupt the household to get a kidney transplant for my dog (although, years ago, I did pay for surgery for my cat, who was but a kitten of nine months old--he lived for another dozen years, and I considered it money well spent). And if it came down to a choice between a pet and a kid, well, flesh of my flesh and all that.

I have to interject here and say that while I like dogs, I've also been attacked by a dog, and learned significant caution. Our neighbors, when I was a teenager, had a German Shepherd named Heinrich, who knew me, knew my brother, who came over to our house to hang out with my dog--and who, on one memorable occasion when I had gone next door to return some sugar I'd borrowed, went for my throat. Literally. On his hind legs, Heinrich was as tall as I am, and if I hadn't had the presence of mind to shove my elbow into his mouth so that he couldn't bite me elsewhere, I think I would be dead now. I finally got away and outran him (amazing what panic can do) and got sewn up--and for years afterward, whenever I had to walk past that house (which was every day, since I had to get to the school bus down the street) I called to make sure that Heinrich was tied up. Twice he broke his chain and came after me. And all the while our neighbors, who were very nice people in most ways, said that they couldn't understand what was happening with the dog, he was perfectly fine with them. It was six years before they finally decided that he was incorrigible--I was not his only victim--and Heinrich was sent to his maker.

This likely has a little to do with why I'm glad that the San Francisco D.A. had Maureen Faibush arrested on charges of child endangerment. But only a little.

If you're not from around these parts, you might not have heard (lucky you!). Three weeks ago, 12-year-old Nicholas Faibush was mauled to death by his family's pit bulls. He was alone in the house at the time. As a parent, the thought of what my child's last thoughts might have been would be crushing to me. Mrs. Faibush stated that her two pit bulls (one male, one female) were sweet dogs who had never shown any sign of aggression, and she couldn't understand how such a thing could have happened, which seemed a little off to me--if a dog killed my child, I would not be so understanding. And then...a few days later, she told the San Francisco Chronicle that she had left her son in the basement--the family room--with food, TV, a Game Boy, and a shovel up against the handle of the door, to keep him separated from the pit bulls. Somehow the boy had gotten out of the room, gone up stairs, and was attacked by the dogs. She said something to the effect that "I told him to stay in the basement, but he didn't listen. Typical Nicky."

Apparently Faibush let the dogs have the run of the house despite a sense that the male was acting up a little because the female was in heat. And perhaps, if Nicholas had stayed in the basement as ordered he might still be alive. But it just seems to me that you don't isolate your son in deference to your dogs; that you don't leave your child alone with two dogs who are in a touchy frame of mind. If the kid wants to stay home, you lock the dogs up somewhere. If you can't lock the dogs up, take the child with you--and to hell with whether he doesn't want to go. No, it's likely that Faibush didn't foresee the possibility that her son would be killed by her dogs. But if she felt there was enough hazard to warrant locking him into the family room by dint of a shovel against the door knob, she clearly realized there was a danger. Maybe she thought a bite would be acceptable--that it would teach him to listen (typical Nicky). Or just being scared a little. At the very least, her judgment was appalling, and as often happens, someone else paid for it.


Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

That's a woman without any serious connection with reality, for sure. Amazing.

The other day I was walking back from getting Aidan at the bus stop, and had Smokey on the leash. A family was in their front yard and their baby saw Smokey and crawled over to see her. I know that Smokey is good with babies (she's quite fascinated by them), so I let her over to sniff. But I still kept my arm at the ready to yank at the slightest sign of problem, and even then I now think that I should have been right there on my knees with a hand on her.


2:44 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

You're a smart guy.

The other thing that boggles me was the back-and-forth uproar that rose up, first from people who asked why the dogs had not been neutered (which would have lessened the hazard considerably), and then from the people who were shocked that anyone could think of denying a dog its reproductive freedom (really, I heard a woman put it that way). If you're breeding dogs, that's one thing. The Faibushes were not, as far as I can tell, planning to start a kennel and sell the pups.

5:47 PM  
Blogger C. F. Blog said...

"I told him to stay in the basement, but he didn't listen. Typical Nicky." How very sad, sometimes I wish there were classes adults needed to go through to even have children.

My husband and I are about to go through in-vitro which is scary in itself, instead of just having a night of passion and then finding out you received a goody bag. We have to fund the whole Bar Mitzvah before even knowing if you get a prize in the end.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicholas was my friend I knew him well and am very sad for his death. His mother definately should've known better and if you know your pit bull is going to attack you don't give him a shovel to take care of himself you take your kid with you.

8:52 PM  

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