Some Scary Statistics

Some dogs don’t let go.

On this, the day before Halloween, I wanted to write something scary. A ghost story. A campfire story that would give all the kiddies a shiver. Fun scary, not scary scary. You get the idea.

But the very moment I had that thought, an article popped up on my computer screen entitled, 2 Children Killed, Mother Hospitalized After Family Pit Bulls Attack Them Outside Tennessee Home. And I realized that this was a topic that is scary/important.

I know this post will ruffle feathers, so I wanted to start off by saying that I love dogs. I really do. I always have. But love brings with it a certain responsibility, and in order to make responsible decisions, one must have information. And all the information I’m providing below can be found if you read all of the links I provide. So here goes.

There are an estimated 90 million pet dogs in America, and they gift us with 4.5 million bites per year. While it’s true that “only” 40-50 Americans die each year from dog attacks, 26% of those fatalities fall in the 0 to 2-year old age range. These children never had a say in what dangers they would be exposed to. And it’s noteworthy that 77% of all maulings come from the family dog or a dog known to the victim.

Between 1982 and 2021, 931 people have been killed by dogs in the U.S. and Canada.

Still, when you consider that we’re talking 90 million dogs in America today, the odds of getting killed by one are startlingly small, almost to the point of insignificance. Unless, of course, you are a victim.

A responsible pet owner makes sure that her/his/their dog, regardless of its temperament, is not put in a position where harming someone is even a possibility. Dogs should be adequately trained, not allowed to roam free, not neglected or abused, and, whenever possible, kept away from situations that might trigger aggression or any type of startle response.

Now, here’s where I get controversial. Let’s delve into pit bulls specifically. I know several people who absolutely love pit bulls, and swear that their dogs are gentle and loving companions that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Yes, the odds are in their favor that this will remain the case. Statistically, it’s true that we humans are 21 times more likely to be killed by a mosquito than we are to be killed by a dog of any breed.

But.

Choosing a pet should be more than just an emotional decision. Yes, I’m willing to concede that pit bull puppies are about as cute as they come. But you are about to allow a creature into your world who, once large enough, is physically capable of killing you or someone you love. (And bear in mind, two 6-month-old pit bull puppies once killed a 7-year-old boy.) Fortunately, most dogs would never make that choice. But it’s something to think about, especially if you have children or other pets.

When choosing a dog, you should consider the disposition of the breed in question. Pit bulls were not bred to be “nanny dogs” as some would have you believe. This article explains the long and complicated history of pit bulls, but the bottom line is that they were originally bred for bull baiting. When that became illegal, they were used in illegal dog fighting. Aggression is what people were seeking when they bred these dogs, and I guarantee that as you read this, pit bulls are fighting in rings all over the world.

A horrific side effect of the history of the aggressive manipulation of this breed is that pit bulls are still the most abused dogs on earth. That certainly doesn’t do anything to improve their disposition, and given that one survey indicates that 41% percent of animal rescue staff would lie about a pit bull’s personal aggressive history in order to find him or her a home, in this instance I would actively discourage dog rescue with regard to pit bulls. There are so many other rescue dogs out there who need your love and attention. I hope you’ll turn your eyes to them.

Pit bulls have a bite force of 235 PSI (pounds of force per square inch). That is similar to a lot of industrial machines that most parents would never let their children play around. There are actually many breeds with a stronger bite force, but pit bulls combine their bite force with an extreme level of tenacity. Some dogs just don’t let go.

Contrary to the persistent myth, a pit bull’s jaws don’t lock. It isn’t that they can’t let go, it’s that they won’t let go once they’re in frenzied attack mode. And to me, that’s even scarier.

When getting a pet, one’s first concern should be public safety, which, of course, includes the safety of you, your loved ones, your friends, and your neighbors. This is why the vast majority of us don’t have lions or tigers or bears curled up on our living room couches. It’s just a bad idea.

So, set aside emotions when making your choice. Look at cold, hard, statistics. They don’t lie. They don’t have an opinion. And below is some pit bull information that I found extremely easy to obtain. I’ll start with the most incontrovertible truth, and the statistic that would be all I’d need to know, personally, in order to give a pit bull a pass:

In the past 16 years, from 2005 to 2020, pit bulls have been responsible for 67%, or 380 dog bite fatalities, in America.

The next most deadly breed is the rottweiler, and they are responsible for 9%, or 51 bite fatalities. All other breeds pale in comparison to those two.

That, to me, is scary. But I hope it doesn’t scare you off dogs in general. The truth is, you have a 1 in 73 chance of getting bit by a dog in the US, and your odds of dying from a dog bite are 1 in 118,776. That’s not bad at all, actually. But from a logical standpoint, you might want to avoid the possibility of greatly improving your chances of being bitten or killed by avoiding the breed that does most of that biting and killing.

Even the Pitbull Federation of South Africa, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the American Pit Bull Terrier in South Africa, an organization that always wishes to portray the breed in a positive light, is realistic about these dogs. They strongly encourage sterilization, and in a public statement, they stressed that they feel that, unfortunately, “99% of pit bull terrier owners should not own a pit bull and that these dogs are owned not because the breed is loved by their owners but because of the standing owning this breed gives the owners in society.”

If you want to read a very detailed statistical breakdown of North America’s scariest encounters with man’s best friend, which includes 9 pages of horrific descriptions of some of the more unusual encounters, I urge you to download this report. Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to December 31, 2021.

In an effort to give you balanced information on this subject, I spent hours looking at several sources, but I tend to rely more on those that provide actual statistical evidence. One such source, which spells out the rarity of dog bite fatalities, but also makes clear the risk factors involved, is the National Canine Research Association of America. They also put out a simple flyer that spells out the most salient points: 15 Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart – 2005 to 2019

If, after reading all the statistics, you’re still on the fence about pit bulls, then I strongly encourage you to read the many articles listed on a page entitled Voices of pit bull experience. And then, if that isn’t gut-wrenching enough for you, check out this article, entitled Pit bull “nanny dogs” kill three children, two adults, in nine days.

You’re probably wondering if I’m saying you should have your pit bull euthanized if you already own one. I know what it’s like to love a dog. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and my answer would be no, but with a few caveats.

If your dog has displayed worrying signs of aggression, then, sorry, yes, it should be put down. If you have small children, even if your dog has displayed no aggression, your dog should not be allowed around those children unless it is completely under your physical control and supervision. If you are unwilling or unable to provide a pit bull with the continual training and socialization it requires, or if you are not doing everything possible to ensure that your dog isn’t running the streets unsupervised, or if you are neglecting or abusing that dog in any way, then at a bare minimum, your dog should be taken in by someone who is willing to step up to the increased responsibilities that this breed demands.

Keeping your pit bull is potentially a life and death decision. I encourage you to check your emotions at the door and ask yourself if you are doing everything you need to do to ensure the safety of those around you. If you can say yes to that without hesitation, then go for it, but please reassess frequently to make sure you are not becoming complacent.

The biggest takeaway from this post, I suppose, it that, when it comes time to adopt your next dog, I hope you’ll consider all the other breeds out there who need your love and care, and choose one of those. Why throw the potential kill factor into the mix? Pit bulls just aren’t worth the risk.

In the interests of full disclosure, I currently have two dogs. Nelly is a mixed breed old couch potato who leaves the room when anyone approaches. Quagmire, the dachshund, can be aggressive. I discovered that when he bit a neighbor. (And I did the right thing and paid her doctors bills. I also make sure that my pets have all the necessary inoculations to prevent the spread of disease.)

Quagmire has also bitten me and Dear Husband more than once. Usually blood isn’t involved, but not always. I’m not going to lie. It does hurt.

Some people have encouraged me to euthanize Quagmire because of this. Instead, I choose to take the occasional risk, knowing that dachshunds have one of the weakest bite forces of any breed. In addition, Quagmire is an old, 15-pound dog who is missing more than half his teeth, and is therefore not capable of killing us.

However, it’s my responsibility to make sure he can never bite a visitor again. We keep him in our house. We don’t take him to public places. Our back yard is completely and utterly dog-proofed. And if we do have visitors, we have a soft muzzle on hand that we can put on him, which basically causes him to stand still and stare balefully at us.

Quagmire will never kill anyone. And he’ll never hurt anyone who hasn’t volunteered for such treatment (and that’s a short list). I feel we’ve done our due diligence.

In contrast, in the course of my life, I’ve been lunged at by several pit bulls whose owners were walking them on leash on busy urban sidewalks, and I’m sure those owners think that their dogs wouldn’t hurt a fly. That’s not responsible pet ownership.

But one pit bull encounter, in particular, stands out for me. I was in a convenience store, prepaying for gas. There was a van parked right at the front door, and I had to walk past it to get to the pump. I wasn’t paying much attention. I certainly didn’t hear any barking. There was no one in the driver’s seat, and the window was wide open. As I walked past, a pit bull came through that window and lunged at my face. I saw it all in slow motion. I felt his hot breath on my eyelashes. I was able to jump out of the way in time, but it was a near thing. I could have been disfigured for life.

And here’s the kicker: the pit bull owner came running out of the store and started yelling at me.

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Rest in Play, Eclipse

She was love and kindness, dog-ified.

The citizens of Seattle are a little bit more sad today, because our beloved, internationally known, solo bus riding dog has passed away. According to this article, she had cancer and died in her sleep. She was only 10 years old.

I never met Eclipse personally, but as I note in my post entitled One More Thing to Love About Seattle, she was one of the many things that made me really happy to call this area home when I first got here. And this article in NPR entitled, Eclipse the dog, known for riding the bus alone to the dog park, has died tells you everything you need to know about how beloved she was. It includes a twitter post with hundreds of comments by those who will mourn her loss, as well as a delightful YouTube video that was made by King Country Metro about her, which I’ll post below.

Eclipse showed us all that some things transcend species, require no language, and will always make the world a better place. Those things are love and kindness. Thank you, Eclipse, for teaching us all. Since you always had your bus pass on your collar, I’m sure there was a bus waiting to take you to the Rainbow Bridge in style.

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An Expert Unpacks FOMO

Fear of missing out is Quagmire’s reason for being.

Hello, my name is Quagmire. I’ve also been called Q the dog, Mr. Meyer, the Dachshund who thinks he’s a Rottweiler, mom’s best friend, Craig Moore (in voice text), and he-who-thinks-he’s-the-center-of-the-universe. Mom is letting me take over the blog today because frankly she’s not in the mood. That, and she knows that I am an expert in the subject in question.

FOMO, or fear of missing out, is basically my reason for being. You hear a lot of trash talk about FOMO, but I believe it can bring out one’s best. I think all you computer lovers out there should look at it as a feature, not a bug.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about the ins and outs of FOMO so that you can navigate it properly.

First and foremost, never, ever ever ever leave someone in the food-making-room unsupervised. Humans can be very messy, and without me cleaning up the floor, the house would be a health hazard. Also, supervision provides an excellent opportunity to get more treats and also to practice looking pathetic. Believe me, you miss out on a lot less when you look pathetic. People tend to take you places they wouldn’t have taken you normally if it weren’t for that look. This picture actually convinced someone to sell her house to mom despite multiple offers.

You should also closely supervise the humans when they are staring at the box with the moving pictures. They will think you’re being cute and cuddly and keeping them warm, but really, it’s a chance to catch up on your sleep while still being on top of things. Literally.

And FOMO can give you the opportunity to express yourself. When the humans aren’t home, or are otherwise occupied, it’s always a good idea to sit in the front window and keep track of your outer territories. It’s mission-critical that you bark at all the passersby, so they know how privileged they are to be given safe passage.

FOMO allows you to exercise your sniffer as well, because when on a walk, you absolutely have to stop at every tree and intersection to pick up the pee mail. That often gives you vital information as to what is happening in your community. After all, it’s important to keep up with current events.

FOMO can be reciprocal, too. When someone is sleeping alone in the bed, you can snuggle with them, keep them warm, and make sure that they’re not missing out on any love that’s available. I also like to cuddle with my sister Nelly, because she tends to be a little shy, and keeps to herself, so I know she’s missing out on more than I am. I kind of view that as my brotherly duty.

FOMO requires constant vigilance. I pretend to be a good listener, when it suits me. I actually don’t understand what’s being said most of the time. I just wag my tail and try to look cute, while staying comfortable and warm. I live in hope that one day my foreign language skills will improve, so I can ask why I’m called so many names, and also allow FOMO to become a distant memory that does nothing more than make my paws twitch in my sleep.

One last pearl of wisdom about FOMO: Never let it interfere with a good nap. (But sleep in the exact center of the bed just in case. You never know what you might miss otherwise.)

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My Favorite You

I could have stayed there for the rest of my life.

We had been binge watching The Crown all evening. I was relaxed in my recliner, with the Christmas lights all around me competing with the glow of the television and the golden flickering fire. I was in my fuzzy jammies, with my dachshund, Quagmire, gently snoring against my hip, covered by a fuzzy blanket. I think I may have nodded off a few times myself. I could have stayed right there for the rest of my life.

But alas, I had to go to work in the morning. So at the end of an episode, I gently raised my seat back to the upright position, eliciting a sleepy moan from Quagmire. I peeked under the blanket, and he burrowed deeper.

“Sorry, buddy. Time to go pee.”

No response.

So I picked him up, and he draped himself over my shoulder like a bag of wet cement. Except he was warm and relaxed and cozy, and miraculously still asleep. I stood there for a moment, giving him cuddles and kisses.

“Of all my favorite you’s, this is my favorite you,” I whispered, as I carried him to the back door.

I set him down on the back porch, and for a moment he seemed like he wasn’t quite sure where he was. But then he trudged groggily down the ramp and did his business, and came back immediately to lean against my calf. I closed the door and picked him up again, and carried him into bed and tucked him in.

After brushing my teeth and making sure all the doors were locked and that the on lights were on and the off lights were off, I came back to the bedroom to find Quagmire still snuggled right where I had left him. I climbed into bed, making sure I didn’t crush him, then arranged him pointy side out. We spooned as I drifted off to sleep, feeling as though all was right with the world.

The next day, I thought about how I don’t say this often enough to the people I love in my life: “Of all my favorite you’s, this is my favorite you,” and then go on to give details. I need to start doing that. People deserve to hear it. Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution. That’s one I think I might actually enjoy keeping.

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“I Bought a Dog Today.”

The milk of human kindness still flows.

Dear reader, take heart. All is not lost. There is still kindness and decency in this world. Despite all our divisiveness and infighting and moral decay, the milk of human kindness still flows. The story below is a true one. The good deed was done by a friend of my husband’s, who gave me permission to share it with you, as long as he remained anonymous. The picture is not of the actual dog in question.

It’s important to share the good news, to remind us that now is not the time to abandon all hope. Love still wins. It’s still here.

For all of you out there who spread goodness in ways big and small, thank you.

I bought a dog today. I was taking the feral kitten we caught to the shelter today and there was an old man there trying to pick up his dog. He explained that he had been in the hospital and that his dog was there. He wanted to take it home. They explained to him that it had been there for a while and it was up for adoption. He said he just wanted to take him home. She said he would have to pay the adoption fee and expenses. She told him the cost and he said he couldn’t afford it. I bought a dog today.

Dog

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A Hilarious Throwback

Trust me to have a wedding night like this one!

On this, the one year anniversary of my marriage, I thought I’d share with you one of my very favorite posts. Trust me to have a wedding night like this one! (Still the best decision I ever made, though.)

For a good laugh, please click on over and read The Great Cupcake Caper.

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Junior, AKA The Culprit.

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Stuckie

Poor, poor Stuckie. What a story.

True confession: I’m equally drawn to, and repulsed by, the macabre. It has always been thus. I think it’s because when the disgusting exists in the world, I want to find out why and how.

Because of this, if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Waycross, Georgia again (please, God, no…) I will have to stop in to see the Southern Forest World Museum. I do love a good Environmental Center, and from the looks of it, this is a good one, indeed. It seems to get universally fantastic reviews, and the images on the website are intriguing.

But I’d go there mainly to see Stuckie. Poor, poor Stuckie. What a story.

Back in 1980, a chestnut oak was chopped down and sawed into logs, and then placed on a lumber truck. That’s when Stuckie was first discovered. He was a hound dog, and he was mummified in the hollow of the tree.

It’s estimated he had been trapped in that tree for at least 20 years when he was found. And he’s still in that tree to this day. He’s on display in the museum. (I first learned of him by reading the amazing book Lab Girl, which I highly recommend.)

We’ll probably never know how Stuckie got in that tree. The most plausible theory is that he chased a racoon and got stuck. I hope he didn’t suffer much. After that, it was perfect conditions, wind that blew away the smell of his dying body, which meant that destructive bugs weren’t attracted to the site, and dry conditions within the stump, that caused Stuckie to arrive at his present state. It sure makes me wonder what is inside the trees that I pass by every day.

I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the 50’s, some poor family lost a beloved member, and never knew why. They probably searched and searched, and maybe even came heartbreakingly close to finding him. That makes me very sad, indeed.

RIP Stuckie, if you can, with so many people staring at you.

Stuckie

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So Glad My Dog Can’t Talk

“INTRUDER ALERT!!!!!!!”

My dog wakes me up every morning around 5 am to go outside and do his business. Who am I to complain? I have to get up at least once myself, most nights. So, on days when I’m not working the day shift, I get up, shuffle to the door, let him out, doze off a little while leaning on the door frame, let him back in, then go back to bed.

His method of rousing me is to either do a little shake and rattle his collar, or he’ll hop down onto the wood floor and do a tap dance. Click, click, click… “All right, already! Jeez…”

Even if I do get back to sleep, he has decided that I cannot, under any circumstances, sleep past 9 o’clock. He’ll hop up on the bed and lick my face. I’ll roll over. He’ll run to the other side and do it again. I’ll cover my head with a blanket. Then he’ll lick my hand. I’ll say uncharitable things to him. He’ll ignore me. By then I’m so annoyed I can’t get back to sleep anyway.

I love my dog. But he’s the bane of my existence. It could be worse, though. He could talk.

“Ma. Ma. MA! Wake UP! I’ve gotta go! I mean, I really, really, really have to… oh. You’re up. Cool. Come on. Hurry. I’m not kidding. I really have to go.”

“Squirrel! SQUIRREL! Oh. No. That was just a leaf. Sorry. But it looked just like…SQUIRREL!”

“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you!”

“I’m hungry. Starving. Feed me. I want food. Food. Yeah. What you’re having. That would be great. Food. Why won’t you feed me?”

“INTRUDER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!! This is bad! This is really, really, really, really bad. So very bad. Time to panic!”

“Can I come in? Can I come in? Hey! Can I come in? Can I?”

“Pet me. Pay attention. Scratch me right there. Hey. Why are you staring at that screen? I’m right here!”

I love my little Quagmire, but if he could talk, he’d drive me up a wall.

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Tactile

I’m an extremely tactile person.

The sense I use the most to explore the world is touch. I’m an extremely tactile person. Getting the feel of things is how I comprehend them.

I suspect that most people think that I fidget too much. While I’m listening to others, my hands are often in motion. If there’s anything slippery or soft or oddly shaped in my presence, I’m petting it like a pedigree cat. If I’m wearing clothing with complex stitching, I’m tracing its contours, over and over and over again.

I pet my dog so much that I’m amazed he has any fur left on his body. He seems to like it, though. At least, he keeps coming back for more. (I can’t imagine owning a Mexican Hairless, but I’m dying to know what one feels like.)

I don’t mind navigating dark spaces if I’m familiar with them, because my hands and feet tell me where I am. If I were to go blind, I might be upset, but I’d quickly adapt. (I would like to know how touching someone’s face helps a blind person visualize it, but it’s not like I can walk up to people and ask to touch their faces.)

If I’m told not to touch something, it drives me absolutely nuts. I become obsessed. What does that thing feel like? I have to know! Fortunately, my desire to follow the rules is stronger than my desire to inspect. Usually. So the Mona Lisa would be safe with me. Probably.

I absolutely love holding my husband’s hand. I adore sincere hugs. I love baths because they feel like full body hugs. Walking barefoot seems like the ultimate luxury to me.

Am I weird, or is this normal? Does this resonate with you, dear reader? If it does, I’d like to shake your hand.

Touch

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Ever-So-Slightly Askew

Thud. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…
That’s what I heard. On my bed.

Thud. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…

That’s what I heard. On my bed.

I figured it was just the dog, so I didn’t even open my eyes. I settled back in, wrapping my arms around said dog, who was on the opposite side of the bed from the sounds.

That sure made me open my eyes. But slowly. Because I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to like what I saw. And I didn’t.

It was a little black bat, fluttering on the pillow next to mine. For a few seconds, I tried to convince myself that it was a really big moth. I could live with a moth. I could fall in love with a moth, given the alternatives. But no. It was a bat.

Everything happened really quickly after that. I jumped up, screaming. This freaked out the dog, who bolted from the room. (Some watchdog he turned out to be.) It also freaked out the bat, who proceeded to fly around my head. This, of course, made me run from the bedroom as well, slamming the door behind me.

Okay, good. The bat was trapped in the bedroom. I could take a moment to figure out what to do. First, close the hysterical dog in the bathroom, so I could prop open the front door. And then turn on every single light in the house.

Now it was time to turn around and release the bat. Except, I didn’t have to do that. Because the little b*****rd had squeezed himself under the crack of the door and was already flying into the living room to join me.

We had a moment, the bat and I. I was screeching and dancing in my jammies, he was doing an acrobatic pirouette, all around my head. (I bet it looked kind of artistic, from an emotional remove, with the mute button on.) Then he darted out the door, back into the night.

So, yeah, that happened. After I spent more than a grand last year getting the bats out of the attic and replacing all the insulation, then spending days blocking what I thought were their only entrances into my house.

They’re baaaaack!

I’m not having a good day. It’s bad enough when this country already feels askew because of the political shenanigans in the white house. Now I get to wonder if I’m going to have unexpected visitors in my home. Everything suddenly feels out of control. Forget parallel universes. Just stop tilting this one, please. I need my rest.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one sleeping in my car all summer.

Bat Boy

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