Tuesday, May 19, 2015

craven email: Confessions of a Wolfdog Owner

After reading every word on Craven Desires I feel compelled to share my own menacing dog story.

I grew up in a very rural town in Alaska. When I was about 13 years old, I wanted nothing more in the world than a wolfdog of my very own. This was in the mid-80s, a time before internet, when access to the world's knowledge was limited to what could be found at your local library. The only library to be found in my town was at the elementary school. I did love to read, though, so my head was filled with the heroes of Lad a Dog (in which Lad's wolfy behavior is frequently emphasized), Kavik the Wolfdog, White Fang, Journey of Natty Gann and so forth. Not to mention the similar wild or feral 'friends' found in stories like Gentle Ben or Plague Dogs.

By the time my parents gave in to my incessant whining I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about wolves, dogs and wolfdogs. My wolfdog and I would form a legendary bond and together we would tame the wilds of Alaska, just like Jack London. And so, for a mere $180, I bought myself a wild beast.

Lulu, as she came to be known, was purchased from a local fellow who bred wolfdogs to supplement his income. He had somehow acquired two full-blood wolves from a zoo in Minnesota years before; the rest of his dogs were various breeds of huskies. Lulu was the offspring of the male wolf and a MacKenzie River husky. The huskies all lived on chains, the wolves were in kennels that wouldn't have looked out of place in a zoo. I still remember those wolves, pacing, pacing, pacing, those golden eyes windows into foreign souls that I knew intuitively, even at age 13, I could never truly understand.

But Lulu wasn't like that. She was a curious, blue-eyed little puppy that only wanted to play and explore the world. With the luxury of time that only kids have, I spent every day working and playing with her. In most respects she was great---very obedient, could do every trick in the book and then some, and so on and so forth.

In other ways she was not so great, especially as she got older. By the time she was 6 months old she was extremely neurotic and fearful of anything strange, especially unfamiliar people. She was also impossible to contain; she could climb like a cat and dig like a badger. Her neck ruff was so thick she could easily slip any collar, unless it was tight enough to choke her. As free-ranging dogs weren't unusual around there, I just let her roam.

We had our first physical fight before she was a year old. I bent down to pick up her empty food dish and with a quick snarl she bit my face. It was not a bad bite and it was very fast, but it did leave a scar on the bridge of my nose. Thanks to all my wolfdog book-learnin' I was of the belief that this was a normal attempt to challenge my dominance. I made up some story about running into a tree so my parents wouldn't take Lulu away. We had countless minor 'disputes' like that over the following years.

Not long after the face bite, Lulu killed all my gerbils. Not long after that, she killed one of our chickens. I hid the corpse and began working with her daily to teach her to not attack our chickens, ducks, rabbits, etc. It actually seemed to work, to my knowledge she never attacked our animals again.

Other peoples' animals though... that was a totally different story. I found her outside playing with dead cats a few times; didn't think too much of that because that's what dogs do, right? Certainly wasn't the first time a husky-type dog killed a neighborhood cat, and I didn't much like cats anyway. I always hid the bodies though, fearing the response of adults.

Then one day I found her in the yard playing with a dead dog. This was something I knew would definitely not be okay with anyone. It was a little Jack Russel-looking dog, so ripped to shreds its limbs were barely connected to its body. I buried that dog deep in the woods.

She also regularly brought home wild animals; rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc. One day she had a dead ferret; I still have no explanation for that. Did she snatch out of someone's house?

Bit by bit complaints started coming in from other neighbors about Lulu threatening or attacking their animals in their own yards. I defended Lulu fiercely, lying about her being with me or whatever to try to take blame off her. My parents built a 6-foot high chain link fence to try to contain her, but she climbed it with ease and her murder sprees continued, while I continued to do my best to hide the evidence. I had quite the little pet cemetery going in the woods behind my house.

This wasn't a daily thing; it happened maybe once or twice a month sometimes, other times several months would go by with no problems. She was great when she was with me, would barely even acknowledge other animals were present. She would always come when called, no matter what was going on, and heeled like a champion if asked. The trouble was when she was on her own---and between school, sleep and, as I got older, social activities, that came to be the majority of the time.

One day I came home from school to find Lulu on the porch, muzzle covered in blood. Something snapped in me and I was filled with rage; after all my hopes and dreams and work this stupid dog just would not stop. I was tired of burying dead critters in the woods. I grabbed her roughly by the scruff of the neck and tried to drag her inside the house. She twisted her head and slashed my arm from elbow to wrist. So much blood... I was scared shitless and had my parents been home it probably would have been a completely different story. But they weren't home, the bleeding stopped, and I justified Lulu's actions in my head. I wore long sleeve shirts for a few weeks and yet again hid the damage from my parents.

When she bit my best friend on the thigh as he tried to stop her from following us inside his house, I convinced him to hide the injury too.

Finally Lulu was caught 'red handed' killing a dog tied in its owner's fenced yard. The owners put Lulu in their garage until animal control came; my parents said the only way that dog was getting out of the pound was if I found another home for her. So I did... some fellow who lived 40 miles out of town and raised sled dogs agreed to take her. I have no clue what happened to her after that.

Through all this I felt Lulu was the victim; she was just doing what a wild, spirited wolf does. I felt nothing but contempt for the pathetic little pussy dogs she killed. Her threats and attacks on me were even seen positively; she saw me as an equal, not a mean, domineering 'master'. The only fear involved was that someone would take my poor misunderstood wolf away and contain her, where her soul would surely die of captivity. I long resented that tattle-tell neighbor and my parents for making me get rid of her. It was many years before I started to see the whole thing in a different light.

I was a stupid, selfish kid, but I was also a victim to some extent of the whole romancing dangerous dogs thing. I devoured those wolfdog stories and took every word to heart, and at no point did anyone bother to show me a different kind of reality. Standing up for your dog by any means necessary was just what you do, everyone knows that... just like everyone knows you stand by your best (human) friend even if he kills someone. That's the code, at least at 13.

I see so much of my former attitude reflected in pit bull advocates, and quite frankly it scares me more than their dogs. It is so staggeringly immature and unrealistic, but I remember how very real that world was for me. Anyone outside of it was the crazy one, and, being crazy, they had no value and warranted no consideration. They were pussies; I was the one embracing life and adventure and nature red in tooth and claw. The difference is I outgrew it; these people in their 40s and 50s advocating friendly neighborhood pit bulls and other naturally savage dogs have some serious developmental issues going on.

And that is my story. Do with it what you will.

--A former wolfdog fanatic

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Pit Nutter True Confessions: My "Service Dog," Boulder, Tried to Kill My Neighbor's Kid

       I have a confession to make: I read the pit bull forums from time to time.  They are a wealth of information, and let me tell you, it's incredible what these people talk about amongst themselves.  I find the interesting threads by searching for things like "my dog attacked me," "my dog killed another dog," "sued by neighbor," "go to court," "my dog killed my other dog," "afraid of my dog," and "my dog bit me/my child/neighbor." The stories!

           Well, I recently came across one that I felt I had to share.  It deserves, I feel, a greater audience than the pitbull-forum echo chamber.

         Where to begin....?  The frightening, serious, narrowly avoided attack on the neighbor's tiny boy?  The fact that this pit bull was "deliberately chosen" by the owner to be a (fake) "service dog" for her autistic daughter, and presumably passed off as a legitimate service dog in public?  That the owner carefully and deliberately obfuscated the reason her dangerous "service dog" had to be put to sleep, out of a desire to escape the "judgement" of others, and protect the image and reputation of pit bulls?  That several of her nutter friends in the forum chime in to admit that they've had to euthanize their dangerous pit bulls in the past? It goes on and on.  Let's take a look:

          First, meet "jaxcullen," the owner of a pit bull named Boulder.  Jaxcullen begins the thread with her story: her 16-month old "autism service dog" hit puberty and turned on right on schedule, becoming "increasingly aggressive to everything" except the members of her immediate family.  Boulder just scared the shit out of her by going after her neighbor's little boy as he walked beside the fence: 

     "The boy was making NO threatening behavior whatsoever.  He wasn't making noises or in any kind of posture that would say he was a threat.  Wasn't walking too slow or running.  Boulder charged him.  I am so very grateful he was on his lead.  It's the only thing that stopped him from attacking the boy.  He was totally fine one moment, and then he just erupted.  He charged and hit the boards so hard, I thought he broke them..Even after I had him by the collar, he still was acting like the by was the only thing he saw.  He was in a frenzy."

          Jaxcullen sounds sincerely confused in this post, wondering why on earth Boulder would do such a thing:  "Boulder's seen him a million times.  He's my son's size, so why that didn't transfer to him that this size human is not a threat, I'll never know."   I am not an expert in pit bull psychology, lady, but the answer seems completely self-evident to me: Boulder didn't see that kid as a threat in any way.  Even a pit bull is not STUPID enough to find a familiar, helpless 5-year-old human minding his own business THREATENING.  Boulder saw the kid as easy, tasty, obvious prey.  Yum yum, Jaxcullen.

          To her credit, Jaxcullen knows immediately what she has to do: Boulder must be put down as quickly as possible.  She doesn't try to weasel out of this painful decision, or minimize Boulder's lethal potential.  Boulder's gotta die.  She says she would have shot him on the spot, but since the man of the house, Frank, is on probation (gosh, what a shocker! A felon with a pit bull!  Never seen that one before!), there are no longer guns in the household.  Frank had to surrender them.  So, Jaxcullen immediately books Boulder a date with the vet for the needle.

     Jaxcullen spends a restless night tortured by questions about why Boulder turned out the way that he did, and what, if anything, she could have done about it.  My favorite: "Once the hindsight vision set in last night and we discussed his traits now that he's matured, I was able to really accept this is a dog that was bred to be a very dangerous dog.  If I lived alone in a place no one ever visited, he and I would live out our years blissfully together.  For me...for my kids who he adores...he's the most wonderful dog in the world.  For all others, he is a significant threat, and I can't stand the idea of having this knowledge now, having the thoughts today of what he would've done had the lead not stopped him. DA, I can handle/manage...even HA to an extent...an unprovoking child that isn't a stranger to him?  No way."  
           What I want to know is, how does Jaxcullen keep her head from exploding from cognitive dissonance? All three of these thoughts somehow occupy the same space in her brain: "Boulder was bred to be a very dangerous dog," "Boulder would never hurt me or my children" "This very dangerous dog is an excellent candidate for service dog to an autistic child."  I think I broke my fucking brain just typing that.  
            The reason Jaxcullen can think these things is because she's drunk the nutter kool-aid.  Jaxcullen here is the definition of an ideologue.  

       Here, Jaxcullen says that the first vet she called refused to put Boulder to sleep because he was healthy.  Jaxcullen has to call another one.  Again, to her credit, she knows that he must die and not be surrendered to some "idiot advocacy agency that thinks they can rehabilitate him."  

           Here, Jaxcullen spends Boulder's last day on earth with him and tries to make it a good one.  Final photos, special treats, she is very sad.  I would be touched if I did not believe that Boulder would eventually maim or kill this woman or a member of her household if she kept him alive. 

           But already, in the back of her mind, she is preparing herself for the judgement of others, and what they would think and say about Boulder and why he must be put to sleep:  "I can already see the judgement that will come my way from the unknowing, as if crating is bad or caused this or as if I didn't work with him enough.  That part kind of sucks....".   I guess that's what she calls people who just won't understand the circumstances of her predicament, or something: "the unknowing."  

         This is when the thread takes a shocking, grotesque turn: her nutter forum buddies start chiming in, offering moral support and personal stories of having had similar experiences with their own pit bulls!

           This guy "still cries" about having to dirt nap his pit, Baloo: "This situation is sucky and I wish it didn't have to happen, but it does.  No matter what others say, it had to happen."

         This crazy asshole admits that he has "been through this same situation...more than once, in fact."  Incredibly, he goes on to assert that "any APBT with a correct temperament for the breed" would be as loving and patient with the autistic daughter as Boulder is.

        Jaxcullen responds with more jaw-dropping nutter speak: "Quite true, and the reason I sought out the breed in the first place for her service dog...this experience hasn't deterred us, and both Frank and I agree, we'll only ever have bull breeds in our home, even still."

        How emotionally entrenched in pit bull advocacy and its myths do you have to be to not see this terrifying near-mauling experience as a wake-up call?  

      More nutters chime in to commiserate about having to put their dangerous, aggressive pit bulls to sleep.  Apparently, none of them think there is anything shockingly wrong with the big picture, here.  None of them seem to think this is very weird, much less unacceptable and abnormal canine behavior, or a bizarre dog-owning experience.  

          Some rescue nutter: "It never gets easier for us we are crushed everthing (sic) a trip to the vet becomes clear with one of our guys.  But to truly save the breeds we love....we know that there is no other choice."

          Another nutter, Nala Barone: "I too had to do the unthinkable to our 2 yr old pit mix was DA and we managed this as best we could, however...our Luca became HA.  I couldn't imagine him ever hurting or biting anyone-but he did bite my neighbor.  We..tried for awhile to seclude him/manage him and couldn't imagine him ever hurting one of us but something snapped in him and he could not recover."  I wonder what Luca finally did after he "snapped" that scared this nutter badly enough to change his mind?

         Yet ANOTHER nutter: "Been there once and it wasn't an easy decision, but I made the right one."  All of these jerks have been through this, and they all still choose to own pit bulls!

      Jaxcullen thanks everyone for their support during this difficult time.  Then she shares the statement she intends to make to the "general public" about why Boulder is put to sleep:  "Boulder had a genetic condition that had begun to present over the past several months, had a significant increase over these past few weeks, and would've only progressed worse as time went on."  

        No fucking mention of the fact that Boulder tried to eat the little boy.  No mention of danger or aggression, even though she had previously admitted to herself that he was "bred to be a very dangerous dog."  None of that.  Just this great big obfuscation, this lie by omission.  Why?  So that it "keeps his memory focused on all the beautiful things he was for us instead of the storm that began inside him over these past few months."  
          In other words: to respect his memory (why?) and to protect the reputation and public image of pit bulls, and to avoid facing the scrutiny and questions of others, "the unknowing," who might question her about her parenting decision to make a  lethal animal a "service dog" for her disabled child.  Jaxcullen has egg on her face, and she doesn't want anyone to focus on it for long. 

      And last, but certainly not least, we have the final entry to this kicker of a forum thread.  It's a shocking ending right out of a horror movie: the scene when everyone discovers how close they actually came to death: the wife pops the hood and discovers that her now-incarcerated husband cut the break lines on her car...or, the church congregation finds a massive unexploded bomb hidden beneath the church organ, and the only reason it had failed to explode is because the alarm clock being used as a timer ran out of battery juice....

          Jaxcullen tells the forum that she just found out that the cable tie-out that she used to keep her dangerous child-hunting fucking abomination of a dog Boulder  contained in the yard was flimsy and Boulder could have snapped it at any time.  Since they dirt-napped their mutant, they used the cable for their other dog (presumably also a mutant) who is considerably smaller and weaker than Boulder was.  This dog snapped the cable.  

           Jaxcullen has an inkling of what this means, and this is the lesson she takes away from it: "We'll never put another bull breed dog on a cable again.  Fortunately, no tragedy occurred, but we were so close....There's a reason responsible owners use chains, and in hindsight, simply 'there by the grace of God go I' that we didn't have a news story on our hands.  The cable was a poor poor choice, and we sit with a solemn understanding of that today." 

            So that's the lesson she derives from all this: the cable was a poor, poor choice.  

            If I was her neighbor and I read this, I think I'd have a heart attack.  

            I wasn't terribly angry at Jaxcullen when I read this thread.  Mostly, I was just shocked at her nuttery and her very strange and bad (to my mind) parenting decisions.  Stunned at how blind her ideology had made her.  But this?  This final entry really pissed me off.  Fuck you, Jaxcullen, for putting your neighbors and other members of your community at risk because of your stupid, selfish decision to have your ugly dangerous dogs.  And you really should get a job in PR if you're not in the industry now--look at how well you evade dealing directly with the PROBLEM here, the ugly, awful truth: "Fortunately, no tragedy occurred" instead of "Fortunately, my dangerous-as-hell violent homicidal dog, which I selfishly decided to own, did not break from his containment, which I stupidly and incompetently chose for him, and go on to slaughter, in painful and nightmarish fashion, one of my blameless neighbors."

CLICK HERE TO READ THE THREAD IN ITS ENTIREITY AT PITBULL-CHAT (at least until it's pulled and sent down the memory-hole)