Friday, July 08, 2005

Zoe The Wonderdog


Pit bulls have had their fair share of bad press lately.

And I would be lying if I said that living in a small house with two small kids and a pit bull didn't give me a moment's pause, because as a mother and a pit bull owner, how could it not? But I have to hand it to Zoe, she has always been nothing but a sweet, tolerant, if a little overprotective, family pet. That is not to say that because she has always been sweet and tolerant, I live under the assumption that she always WILL be. Quite the contrary. In the wake of recent said press, we have contracted a dog trainer through the folks at B.A.D.R.A.P. to work with us on evaluating Zoe's personality/behavior, and to help us with her training, which we've really let lapse these last couple of kid-centered years (as anyone who's ever been bumrushed by Zoe at our front door can attest to). It will be good for her to have a little more discipline in her life, and good for us to treat her a little more like a pet, and a little less like a person.

It must be hard for Zoe to live in a house full of shrieking little girls. I'm sure she remembers a time not so long ago, when she was spoiled rotten, in relative peace and quiet. Hour long walks in the morning and evening, grooming at least once a month, dog treats galore and best of all, unlimited cuddling on the couch and in our bed. Now? Well, like many of the luxaries of pre-kid life, they have gone the way of the dodo. The walks are now 30-45 mintues in the evening only, and she's lucky if she gets groomed every three months (although she does get a weekly shower with Mike, and who wouldn't love that?). The dog treats are still around, but as I've tried to intigrate Hazel into Zoe's evening feeding routine, they are adminstered only after Hazel has run all over the house with them in an effort to get Zoe to play chase with her. The cuddling is the one pre-kid luxary of Zoe's life that still remains. She continues to think of our king sized bed as her own, and relishes the moment that Mike and I crawl into it with her every night, her tail thumping with joy even when she's asleep. She likes to cuddle with Mike best, as he's the top dog in her eyes, and I've woken up on many occasions to find the two of them under the covers, her head on his pillow.

Pit bulls are notoriously aggressive with other dogs - it's just in their nature. But to counterbalancing that is the part that compells them to work hard at pleasing their owners. Pits have an innate and intense desire to be part of a family, and succeed at doing whatever it is that that family wants them to do. This trait, combined with their natural dog-aggressive tendancies, has been exploited for many years by pit owners who are/were fond of dogfighting. But in most cases, and certainly in Zoe's case, this trait is what makes them such excellent family pets. Zoe's desire to love and be loved by her humans is palpable, and it's all too evident when she's walking down the street with all four of us, a huge smile on her face. Mike and I have made it very clear to Zoe that we expect her to handle Hazel and Violet with care - and she does. From the day we brought each of our babies home from the hospital, Zoe has loved and protected them. She loves all of their friends, too, and though she gets a little TOO excited when they first walk in the door (part of why we're reinstituting the training), by the time they've been here 20 minutes, Zoe has retired to a corner to keep an eye on all of them.

I am aware of the dangers of having a dog of any breed around small children. But I truly believe that dogs don't "just snap", and attack at random, for no reason, even pit bulls, and that ALL dogs around small kids should be watched closely for signs of anxiety or aggression. And if Zoe ever gave us any reason to be concerned about having her around, neither Mike nor I would hesitate to find a new home for her. It would break our hearts, but we would do it without reservation. But you know what? In the four years we've had the privelege of knowing Zoe, she has been a loving, goofy, sweet little clown. She has her faults (pulling on the leash, hogging the bed, barking at the mailman, eating the eyes off Hazel's stuffed animals), but she also has the softest little pancake ears in the world. She has bad breath, but she has an adorable smile. She's lazy as all get out, but never too tired to pass up a game of "grrr" with Hazel or go for a walk with her family. She's our shrimp, our Hosie, our little sweetheart. She's our goofynuts, our Coze Machine, our blockhead, and we're a happier family for having her around.

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