Thursday, June 14, 2012

dysmorphic empaths

empathy, is it possible to have too much? can empathy be pathological?

keep that question in mind as you read about CHEYA, a pit bull/lab mix available for adoption in FABBtown.

Lab/Pit Bull mix. Very possessive. Finally have her so she will not take off after other animals IF they are leashed. But she will take off after any unleashed animal. I have been drug through parking lots, down stairs, into doors and rockeries. I can not trust her enough to walk her without hurting me. So she lives her life in a small basement apartment and it is not fair to her or me. She needs someone with more time to work with her or land where she can roam and keep others out. This animal was dumped on me several years ago now. At one time a previous owner wanted her back but after three weeks, it was obvious the dog was not happy there. Cheya had ate their carpet and urinated on all furniture. I don't have that problem, but if she can get to furniture stuffing, she will pull it out and eat it. I need to leave for an extended time in August and NO one is willing to dog sit her so I really need her gone before then.

seriously. can empathy be a handicap? do you think it is possible to have too much empathy? or maybe distorted empathy? can an individual have so much empathy that it impairs logic and reason? i don't know but i have been thinking about this question a lot lately. the no kill kooks at the lexus project who file petitions for a stay of execution for a dog that KILLS a human is at the root of the puzzle. the axis 2 cluster B personality disorders are well represented among pit nutters. but i have a problem with absolutes. they can't all be empathy challenged cluster Bs. there has to be other explanations. so i am posing the question here. what do you think? can empathy be a bad thing?


Your Quiet Neighbor said...

As much as the animal rights crowd gets in a lather about killing dogs, there are some dogs that are not fit to live in society.

I think this "mix" is one of them. It's like a bomb just waiting to go off.

Come to think it, it this "mix" was a bomb, it would be defused or taken to a safe place and detonated.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

that's funny. but seriously what do you think of these animal rights kooks?

in my haste to publish this, i left out one nutter in particular that really stands out. vegan warrior princess sloane quealy miner. she fights to keep alive dangerous dogs, yet many farm animals will experience horrible suffering to keep vicious mutants alive. this doesn't make sense to me. i can only conclude that she is afflicted from some kind of dysmorphic empathy.

Anonymous said...

behind every out-of-control, deranged pit bull that escapes custody and goes on a killing spree is a dingbat (or the male equivalent) telling said rescue mutant what a sweet blood -smeared wiggle-butt he or she is .

Packhorse said...

I'm an animal rights person, but I don't fight to defend these human-created fighting breeds. Merritt Clifton is of the same view.

S.K.Y. said...

The "save all dogs at all costs" crowd are actually shooting themselves in the foot. I learned this viewpoint from Sue Sternberg's EXCELLENT book "Successful Dog Adoption," which I've read cover to cover at least five times. (Sue is anti-pit, which comes across a bit in the book--good!).

By saving all dogs, and particularly focusing on saving dangerous dogs by adopting them out, the "over empathic" rescuers are giving the adopters a bad experience with adoption. (Such as the dog that was left with the woman quoted in today's post). The adopters friends, relatives and neighbors will also be scared away from adoption, thinking the only dogs available are dogs that have crappy temperaments.

(One observation that Sue made that I initially disagreed with... and now support... is that most of the time, dogs that are abandoned, left in an empty house, chained in the yard and the owners move away... are dogs that didn't have great temperaments. They don't deserve this treatment, of course, but there's usually something there that's unlikeable or even dangerous, that was the reason the owner never bonded with the dog.)

Back to the main point, there is a rescue here in Turkey that ignores the 58,000 healthy but starving street dogs in Istanbul that need homes... and focuses on saving something like: a blind & deaf cat with no jawbone, so sense of smell or taste... who can't find the litterbox and also needs to be tube-fed.

Or a dog with mange, leishmaniasis AND distemper and aggressive towards people... who needs $3000 of medical treatment to pull through.

Meanwhile, a young, safe-tempered, friendly, healthy street puppy fending for himself in this city of 15 million maniac drivers is totally ignored by this group. My guess is that they get more donations by promoting their work with the "extreme cases."

There are a certain number of bleeding hearts who actively seek out and want to adopt dogs that bite, or dogs with debilitating health issues. However, friends & family will think that these must be the only dogs available for adoption and will stay away from shelters, BUYING a pet instead.

The message of Sue's book is that about 1/3 of dogs that come in to shelters have poor temperaments: either human- or dog-aggressive, bullying/domineering, or cold and completely uninterested in people. The other 2/3 are fabulous dogs with great temperaments--the Beagle and Golden Retriever-mix types. In her opinion, the bad 1/3 should be euthanized, and we should work extra hard to find homes for the great 2/3.

This may sound harsh, but well over 1/2 of dogs at shelters are euthanized overall. She thinks by euthanizing the "bad" dogs and adopting out only great ones, families will turn to shelters as a place to get a BETTER dog than buying an unknown quantity puppy from a pet shop. And we'd move up from adopting out 1/2 of dogs to 2/3 of dogs... AND all the dogs adopted out would be safe. (Insofar as we are able to determine that through Sue's VERY good test).

DubV said...

Sternberg seems right on the money, except about her thinking most abandoned dogs were unlikeable. That might be her "finger in the wind" feeling, but I can think of issues with it: 1. were the dogs likeable before being abandoned? 2. people that could abandon a dog, even an unlikeable one, would likely not properly bond with a great dog.

About's tough because you aren't in the rescue angels mind. Is what they are experiencing a genuine feeling of empathy? Is it empathy when they keep a dog alive in a basement when it would be better off dead? Is it empathy when they weight the feelings of a single dangerous dog so highly that it trumps public safety and diverting resources to better animals? That sounds like distorted, selective, and/or dysmorphic empathy or perhaps poor reasoning skills.

It should be obvious to them that you take all your various empathies and values and then put a weight on them and find the decisions that will maximize that weighting. It seems they are either not able to appropriate assigning weightings (dysmorphic or selective empathy) or maybe they have decent values but just can't figure out how it all works to predict what will happen under various scenarios. Maybe it is both. Rescue angels usually come off as idiots.

An interesting case might be the folks down the street with the pit with 2 attacks in a week. Their love or empathy for that dog perhaps is making them incapable of doing what they know is right (put to sleep). Maybe they have proper empathy and reasoning, but just have extremely weak wills.

Then there's where I'm leaning. It isn't about empathy at all, it is about themselves. It is basically an animal version of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. These nuts want to feel good about themselves, get attentions, accolades, and a little bit of cash sometimes too.

DubV said...

Or, continuing with sinister explanations, they simply like having control over helpless things. This would be lion tamer/dominatrix/dominator type thing.

Then there is the whole special knowledge thing. By surrounding themselves with crazy animals that only they can see the gentle soul of, they are morally superior to others in their own sick minds.

I'm just speculating. The nutter mind is a sick, sick and somewhat interesting mind.

DubV said...

There are some subtle differences from Munchausen's by proxy. Perhaps we need a new word or perhaps it has already been coined.

What about someone who has a brain dead family member and they keep them on life support for years just to be able to talk to them, get attention, be paid attention to by doctors, etc? Maybe they aren't even aware of why they are doing things. Is there a word for that other than evil asshole?

I'd say the above model would fit the rescue angel better than someone who actively hurts someone.

The rescue angels also likely have martyr complexes.

Anonymous said...

yea mutants are one thing but whats worse are their creators and their advocates and their protectors. its one thing to be bitten and or mauled or even killed by a dumb fucking dog but its worse almost what the human pitbulls do for afters.

Small Survivors said...

Sharon, I came across an article or blog about Susan a while ago and liked her, but didn't go into studying her. The points you bring up are very interesting. I'm going to look again.

I like DubV's thoughts:
That sounds like distorted, selective, and/or dysmorphic empathy or perhaps poor reasoning skills.

Then there's where I'm leaning. It isn't about empathy at all, it is about themselves. It is basically an animal version of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. These nuts want to feel good about themselves, get attentions, accolades, and a little bit of cash sometimes too.

I think there is more than one kind of nutter and some aren't showing empathy at all, but are identifying with the pit bull.

These would be people who feel they've been cast out because they don't fit physical, social, or economic ideals. People who themselves are impulsive, feel they have a good heart, but make many mistakes, have violent outbursts they feel they can't control and maybe regret, are erratic and have alienated a lot of people.

These people have a lot of "victims" themselves.

Dayna said...

My recent experience with a local rescue group... I was talked into fostering a dog by a client who is a member of this rescue, the dog was a greyhound/shepherd mix, very sweet, I only had her a month before she got adopted. What bothered me about the rescue was that though they specialized in hounds, they had a few pit bull mixes. At one of the adoption meet and greets one of the pit mixes got too close to one of the hounds and tore her up, she needed to get stitches. There went a thousand dollars down the drain. These pit mixes don't seem to get adopted, they're all dog aggressive. I see this rescue as doing a good thing with the hounds, but wasting VALUABLE resources and money on these pit mixes that are, in my mind un-adoptable and a liability. Plus, if you want a pit or mix, all the local shelters are PACKED with them, and it's easier to get one through a shelter. I also am a member of a local guinea pig rescue and I was surprised to find myself thinking that the dog people were nuttier than the guinea pig people by FAR!!! Anyways, I decided I will not work with the dog rescue anymore unless they give up the pits/mixes, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

munchausen syndrome by rescue pit? is that weird or what ? good one dub , thanks for the heads-up, it actually makes a lot of sense. couldnt really figure it out before.

DubV said...

Imagine if the decisions around animal rescue and humane orgs were made by people whose main qualification wasn't being a vet tech with interesting piercing and "novel" ideas of the human-animal bond, but were made by local professionals in their spare time that had actual accomplishments related to decision making? (wow what a run on)

You know what would happen? The rescue angels wouldn't understand their decision making and would mutiny and kick them out, and things would slide back into shitsville.

Anonymous said...

Public service. Adopt the dog and have it euthanized.

This idiot is going to be liable for anything this dog does. She can't escape liability by giving the dog away.

Who gave the dog to a fool to live in a basement apartment?

Anonymous said...

"These pit mixes don't seem to get adopted, they're all dog aggressive. I see this rescue as doing a good thing with the hounds, but wasting VALUABLE resources and money on these pit mixes that are, in my mind un-adoptable and a liability. "

Tell them they won't get a dime from you in donations and you won't foster, and you'll encourage others to do the same, if they keep wasting money on fighting breeds and letting the hounds get abused by the pits.

Hit them in their bank accounts.

Of course they are headed for a major lawsuit that will destroy them if they keep adopting out pits and pit mixes anyway. It's rescue suicide. Remind them of that, if they aren't too stupid to listen.

Anonymous said...

"Their love or empathy for that dog perhaps is making them incapable of doing what they know is right (put to sleep)."

Sounds like it is time for others to deal with the problem.

Anonymous said...

amazed at what a cult thing pit rescue is with very similar looking and sounding people. chubby, mostly females , the tattoos and piercings and black hair , goth ish i suppose it is . i guess a killer dog goes naturally with such an self image. correction :former killer dog we are supposed to believe ,i would think. i guess a killer boyfriend is ok too ,as long as hes safely behind bars .lol the pit could come in handy if he ever gets out. lol

S.K.Y. said...

Dayna Hamilton, I hear you about not volunteering in rescue anymore because of the pits.

As a dog trainer with 60 titles on my dogs (12+ sports), M.S. in Animal Behavior, and years of experience in behavior consulting, I'm usually in high demand for volunteering at shelters or with rescues, which I've done most of my adult life.

I'm moving from Istanbul to the USA in a few days and had looked forward to volunteering at the same open-admission shelter I had when I lived there 15 years ago. However, they now fancy themselves an "almost no-kill" shelter with a big pit bull adoption program, special classes for pit bull adopters, etc. Ugh! No thanks!

I was happy volunteering in the last city, where 99% of pit bulls were euthanized on arrival (maybe 2 a year had such stellar temperaments that shelter employees adopted them). No fan of euthanasia, but even less a fan of franken-maulers being pushed to innocent families and allowed to continue their mauling careers on people and other pets.

Miss Margo said...

I have to tell you, Dawn: I'm stumped on this one. I have no idea what is going on it someone like Cheya's owner's head.

I mean, from the way the dog is described, the owner is getting NO fun out of her. The animal has zero redeeming qualities. The relationship is absolutely one-sided. If the dog was a human, it would be called abusive. This person is expending time, effort, money, and caring on an animal that does not seem to give a shit about them.

Why would you want something like that in your house?

One is tempted to say: "Well, this person is a moron." Something is definitely wrong with them, but they don't seem to be low-IQ. It's something emotional.

I don't know, Dawn. I can't explain it. It's a head-scratcher.

Oh, I went to the website and looked at Cheya. Dog is ugly, to boot. And I like the full-body harness.

Branwyne Finch said...

To Sharon and Dayna, you are both dead on. I see more and more suburban families buying puppies over the internet from puppy mills, because no one trusts "rescue dogs", or they go to their local shelter and there are just rows and rows of pit bulls.

The majority of rescue dogs in my neighborhood all had aggression problems, from dog aggression to extreme resource guarding. The only solid rescue dog in my neighborhood came from Westie rescue; she was a wonderful dog, a neighborhood favorite for 15 years.

If people involved in dog rescue were willing to make the tough calls and euthanize dogs with dangerous temperaments, they would double the rate of adoption. Rescue would becoome the BEST place to get a family dog....if you kept meeting wonderful friendly dogs, and families who were happy with their experience from a certain shelter, wouldn't you go to that shelter for your next pet?

DubV said...

One thing I'd add, at least Cheya's owner seems honest.

Also, it seems she envisions a perfect owner/living scenario for Cheya, and wants that for her; and likely feels guilty she can't attain it herself.

Still, the dog is a safety risk.

Branwyne Finch said...

This is a very interesting topic...why would any normal person want a dog like Cheya? This post reminded me of something I saw on TV last week. I happened across a new celebrity dog trainer show, "Dogs in the City", where a Johnny Depp wannabe dog trainer helps New Yorkers with their dogs.

One client was a woman who had four rescue dogs in a tiny house; three were pit bulls. The pit bulls were attacking each other, and one was so aggressive (toward humans and dogs) she had to be crated all the time. Here is a short clip;

Later in the show, the woman shows the trainer that her arms were scarred from being bitten multiple times by this pit bull. She thinks this is OK, and does not want to give up this dog. She is getting divorced, big surprise.

What is clear to me about all these "rescue angels" is they cannot maintain healthy adult relationships with other humans. Lets be honest...all of you reading this, if you have ever had a successful adult relationship...would your partner have lived with a dog like this? The answer, I am guessing, is no. No normal, emotionally healthy person would want to live with a very dangerous dog. Even setting aside the obvious legal liability, most people have a moral compass that would make them fearful that the dog would hurt someone. The constant stress of living with an unpredictable, violent animal would be too much for most people. I am not talking about expert dog trainers, who may be able to manage a difficult dog with herculean effort. I am talking about someone looking for a "pet". These types of dogs are not "pets", in the normal sense of the word.

Many of these women don't understand what a noraml human relationship is like, and they don't understand what a normal "pet" relationship is like. I would no more tolerate a dog that bites me than I would a husband that hits me. Unfortunately, the world of dog rescue seems to attract these types of personalities, and we all...dogs and humans....suffer for it.

Your Quiet Neighbor said...

Miss Margo pointed out the full body harness on this "rescue" dog. There's a reason for such harnesses. They're used for weight training.

You can get weights that look like those strap-on wrist and ankle weights that human exercisers sometimes use. Attach the doggie equivalents to the harness, and you can bulk your dog up big and strong.

Think of how game he'll be in the fighting pit!

Animal Uncontrol said...

Branwyne, excellent comment. It IS interesting who would chose a pet like that. Its one thing to own a pit bull that (so far) has behaved peacefully. You wonder, though, what is the psychological driver(s) that motivate people to take on a dog that's a known hazard?

Are they compulsive risk takers/adrenaline junkies? Did they grow up with dangerous animals and the current pet is somehow in that "comfort zone"? Does focusing on the dog's problems give them an opportunity to avoid facing their own? It isn't healthy, thats for sure.

Branwyne Finch said...

Animal Uncontrol, exactly. Think of all the totally friendly, peaceful recue dogs this woman could have saved...why choose a violent, dangerous animal as a "pet"? The woman goes on to say she will be moving to a small one bedroom apartment with no yard, but will somehow "make it work" with these four dogs...she is totally delusional.

These people really frighten me...much more so than the dog fighters and gang members using the dogs as guard dogs. I can easily avoid entering high crime, dangerous neighborhoods and thus avoid putting myself in a dangerous situation. But women like these, supported by dog rescue groups, are bringing these violent, dangerous animals into previously safe, peaceful neighborhoods. These women suffer from some sort of personality disorder that makes them unable to empathize with other people and animals they may be putting in danger. Its all about them and their dangerous dogs.

I watched the entire show, and all I could think of, this woman is every parents nightmare. This woman's dog will kill a child someday, and she simply doesn't care. The dog has attackled her multiple times, and she "loves it". We have to stop letting people like this, who are controlling a lot of animal welfare organizatuions dictate public policy.

Chase K9 Services said...

Sue Sternberg is a dog hating nutbag that has no business in the field she is in. She is single handedly responsible for the death of thousands of dogs every year because of her twisted tests that shelters have embraced.

Have you seen her videos of the tests? they are despicable! If you smack the kennel and the dog lunges at you...PTS. If you walk up the the kennel and the dog jumps up on the kennel...PTS. She uses fake plastic hands and dolls to simulate human hands and babies. Dogs use smell first and can tell the difference....that alone invalidates her resource guarding tests. But either shove a fake hand in front of a dog while he is eating and if his lip curls...PTS. If you are petting him and he jumps up on you....PTS. It is UN REAL!

It doesn't however surprise me one bit you lunatics agree with her....

Animal Uncontrol said...

I just got a chance to watch the CBS video. That situation is clearly a public health and safety disaster. And, thats BEFORE the inevitable human mauling. A few thoughts.

- Is she picking up the poop from all 4? Yeah, right.

- The dog owner never should have been allowed to house that many dogs in the first place. She clearly lacks the means to care for and control them all.

- The days of the non-pit dog (the only one BEHAVING!) is numbered. The pits are going to rip it to pieces.

- The 3 pits are barking, jumping around and generally creating a nuisance. This is going to be a disaster for her apartment dwelling neighbors. Would YOU want to share walls/floors/ceilings with THAT? The noise pollution ALONE is going to negatively impact many others.

- Sob story aside, we KNOW that caged dog is going to attack somebody. Its going to kill the non-pit dog and send a kid to the hospital (or worse).

- If this woman had an ounce of common sense she would get rid of the 3 pits and MAYBE try to make it work with the non-pit.

She never should have been allowed to adopt all those dogs in the first place. NYC taxes and regulates the shit out of everything, but they give irresponsible dog owners a pass on everything? Its totally ridiculous!

Chase K9 Services said...

someone give this guy a tissue...

DubV said...

"- The days of the non-pit dog (the only one BEHAVING!) is numbered. The pits are going to rip it to pieces."

True and sad for that mild-mannered dog.

DubV said...

"someone give this guy a tissue..."

Pull it out of the stuffing in the front of your tighty whities, Pit Nutter.

Miss Margo said...


Packhorse said...

You mean the "Dogs in the City" "trainer" ALLOWED all of those pits to stay together in the apartment?

Anonymous said...

I know this conversation is kind of old, but I gotta throw my two cents in here.

First, I'll answer the direct question in the OP. "Is there such a thing as two much empathy?"

Yes. I think "too much empathy" is what initially keeps some women in relationships with abusive men. They make excuses for them, or they buy their excuses. "Troubled childhood", "bad day at work", "fight with father\brother\co-worker\mother\etc.", "financial difficulties", "doing the best he can"... I'm sure we've all heard them, usually ending with "he's really a good man".

Then there are the women who fall in love with and even MARRY the criminals in prison, sometimes for life, some even with death sentences. A few tablespoons too much empathy added to a few pounds of delusion.

The question does, however, remind me of an ancient piece of art I've seen. It was an illustration of a bodhisattva (pre-Buddha) throwing himself off a cliff to sacrifice himself to feed a tigress' starving cubs. Too much empathy? Depends on your perspective.

Are some of the pit bull apologists feeling too much empathy (for the dog/breed)? Probably. Not the dogfighters, for sure. Not the people whose dogs have bitten others multiple times, that's not empathy, not really they have no empathy for the person bitten. Maybe the people who just have pit and the dog has always been good. This is important, because the bulk of the pit bull owning population probably has dogs that have never been bad. Can those of you who want better control of these dogs figure out better ways of addressing this population?

Next question, what's with that person with Cujo in the basement? Too much empathy? Crazy? Abusive?

IMHO, that person deserves a medal.

Why? Because she's *never dropped the leash.*

Not only has she never dropped the leash, but she's experience bodily harm to *protect the lives of others*.

She's also smart enough to realize that she'd better keep Cujo in the basement from here on out because she's going to get damaged and maybe, eventually, *drop the leash*. The implication is she's cleaning up Cujo's' shit from the basement a couple of times a day.

This is what I hear when I read the ad:

I have a animal aggressive dog.

It's difficult to handle, impossible for me to handle on my own.

It's also destructive and has demonstrated other behavioral issues.

I know it's unlikely anyone would want it (no one will even pet sit the beast), but I've had enough. I felt obligated to keep this thing when it was first dumped on me, but the owners couldn't even handle it when they took it back.

I really don't want to kill it, as I've actually made SOME progress with it, so if there's any miracle worker out there who wants to try to save this dog, have at it.

Must be gone by August.

Oh, another reason for the medal. She's HONEST.

So maybe she's just a crappy dog trainer (see the harness?), or perhaps she's an 80 lbs octogenarian, and maybe by some miracle someone who needs a junkyard dog is looking for just this animal. Not likely, but it doesn't sound like she's deceiving herself anymore than she's trying to deceive others. She's even given the dog a deadline.

If she were delusional, or had "too much empathy" for the dog, the ad (on CJ) would read more like this:

High energy enthusiastic dog needs someone to spend more time with. Leaving in August and I can't take her with me. Needs room to roam in a home with no other pets.

DubV said...

" Maybe the people who just have pit and the dog has always been good. This is important, because the bulk of the pit bull owning population probably has dogs that have never been bad. Can those of you who want better control of these dogs figure out better ways of addressing this population?"

Seeing how a defining trait of pits is aggression toward other dogs, if a pit hasn't been "bad" yet, it will often be due to extremely good handling or luck. What would I say to those people? You're still a fool, and putting others at risk. I personally have no illusions of "bridge building" with pit nutters. I'd like to marginalize their ideas and their dogs, making both very rare in public.

Anonymous said...

"You're still a fool, and putting others at risk."

"marginalize their ideas and their dogs, making both very rare in public"

If that's effective, teach me how to do it.

safer midwifery utah said...

I don't know that this is empathy at all. It seems much more like projecting human desires onto an animal.

It seems cruel to keep animals alive who will always suffer severe emotional problems.