Liz Beavers: We need to remember, dogs will be dogs
I had a lovable little dog when I was growing up – a Chihuahua mix, although I'd say he was more “mix” than Chihuahua based on his size and the shape of his head.
I named him Pepper – not because his color or markings reminded me of the seasoning but because I was learning to read at school at that time and was heavily involved in the ongoing saga of Jimmy, Sue and Pepper.
Pepper was a great dog, and very, very tolerant of my little-girl tendencies to get him involved in my playtime by dressing him up, pulling him around in a wagon, or whatever the play of the day would require him to do.
He was also a very friendly dog and greeted everyone with a happily wagging tail.
Well, everyone, that is, but one particular adult relative of mine. For some reason, Pepper hated this particular person, and whenever James came to visit, we had to put Pepper in another room in order to keep the peace.
Funny thing is, there was probably never any bigger dog lover than my cousin James ... but Pepper just would not make friends with him.
Trying to figure out the personality of a dog is sometimes quite complex. I'll even go so far as to say that predicting what the same dog will do in every case, given every scenario, is near impossible.
My cairn terriers, for example, are all definitely predisposed to the typical cairn traits of stubbornness and tenacity. And yet, each of the three have very distinct personalities.
Blanche is definitely the one who takes charge of the other dogs – sometimes by getting into a pretty serious rumble, or, in the case of our youngest pup, she'll just plop down on top of her and sit or lie there just long enough to get the point across. With humans, however, she is very friendly and outgoing with anyone she comes across.
Sophia is also very friendly with the humans, but get her close to another dog and she'll take it on, regardless of the size. Unfortunately, since she's a smaller cairn, she usually loses the battle and has a chunk out of her ear, and a Christmastime trip to Hi-Rock last year for stitches, to prove it.
And Dorothy the pup is, well, a wimp. Oh, she'll bark at you, but she'll be backing up behind the couch while she does it.
And for reasons such as these, cases like a recent one in my town where a pit bull attacked and killed a little poma-chu are very difficult to sort out. My heart went out to the owner of the poma-chu and her little boy who had to witness the horrible demise of their longtime furry family member, and yet who could not be touched by the photo of the little girl and her best-friend Rock, the pit bull, lying together on the floor?
Both families undoubtedly love their pets and would defend them until the end. I know the feeling. I am, after all, the one who defended my Blanche even after I came home from being stitched up in the emergency room late one night after getting in the middle of one of her little spats with Sophia. Better me than one of them.
The main thing we all need to remember is this: Dogs will be dogs. Whether they are a cairn or a rottweiler, a poma-chu or a pit bull, they can be unpredictable at times and we, as the human part of the relationship, need to always be prepared for anything.
Always make sure your pet's rabies vaccinations are up to date.
Never, ever take your dog's personality for granted, and be aware of the predispositions of the breed.
Always keep your dog on a leash and make sure the person on the other end of the leash can handle the dog.
Keep in mind that many smaller dogs don't have any concept of size and will try to defend their humans just as ferociously as the larger ones.
I'm not such a dreamer as to think for one minute that these “lessons” will stop future attacks, but if we can prevent even one child from losing his or her beloved pet – either from it being killed by another dog or from it being branded too dangerous to keep - then it will be worth it.
Liz Beavers is editor of the News-Tribune in Keyser, W.Va.