Me and my dog have got a prejudice: we don’t like bull terriers of any variety. In one way it’s quite fair because I freeze up with any type be they English, Staffordshire, American or any mixed up version with a strong bull terrier genetic inheritance. In another it’s a bit irrational and makes life tricky. I’ve tried to unpick where it all started for us, whether it was me, or him, because now it’s definitely both of us.
I’ll be honest, we had an English Bull Terrier at my Dad’s house and it was a cussed sort of beast. It also attacked the goats. This ended up with both the dog and goats being rehomed, which seemed a bit unfair on the goats, but there you go. One day I had to pick up a housebrick and bash the dog on the head with it, to try and release it’s grip on the poor goat’s leg. You get the picture. Now, I come to type this, I am starting to see where it all started. Obvious really. Anyway, those dogs have a very strong jaw and equally thick skull – the brick put him off his stride not hardly.
Since then we’ve had this proliferation of these dogs in urban settings – I can only speak for urban settings because I don’t know about the countryside – and there has been a marked increase in young people having these dogs and I think, it’s fair to say, choosing the breed for the wrong reasons; whether that be street cred, or as a weapon, to make some money breeding, or in some cases as fighting dogs. I suppose the combination of my experience and those factors has made me wary. Enter my own dog, a very timid rescue from Navan, Ireland. He’s taken against them, I think, partly because I’m a bit on edge but also because they have a manner of bowling up to us when off the lead, tail up, looking pretty sure of themselves. It doesn’t mean they are aggressive, but it makes my dog nervous because he likes to check out a new ‘friend’ from a distance – he does not like the other dog going nose-to-nose without the chance for an introduction. So the upshot is, we steer well clear.
If I see a bull terrier (and round here it’s usually a Staffie, or two) we go somewhere else. I don’t let my dog off the lead near them, and if the terrier is off the lead already, we clear the area pronto. I don’t suppose the stories in the press help – sad to say the dogs that often ‘turn’ and injure or even kill people are of this type. There are also the Japanese Akitas but they are seen around less and most of those owners keep them on the lead. Maybe it’s something to do with the cost of the Akita compared to the Staffie, and the size of the breed. When I type that I realise I am making appalling classist assumptions about the types of people I think own Staffies, but in my defence it’s also my personal observation.
Anyway, this is all rather a lengthy preamble to explain what happened yesterday. I walked the dog in the rain, which tends to delight me because there are fewer other dogs out then and that makes the whole thing less stressful. We had our walk and were nearly home, dog on lead, when a man came round the corner with two black staffies, also on leads. We were still some distance apart and the two dogs started to growl and strain at the leads. I made to cross the road, but then the man with the pair did likewise so I stayed put. Unfortunately, he was moving in slow motion (probably because he was out of his box – another observation not straight assumption). Staffies pull like a train, which is why so many wear harnesses, and in split second one had pulled the man over in the road and had come after us, snapping and biting my dog who was trying to retaliate as well as run down the street with me. The dog pursued us into the middle of a T-junction, whereupon I went down like a felled oak, onto my right knee, hip and shoulder.
The aggressor backed off then, looking quite startled and a boy came up on his bike and grabbed the lead and took the dog back to the house down the road where it lives. The man was still sitting in the road with the other dog, saying nothing as if he was stunned. I have always had a temper on me – if it comes to flight or fight – I am naturally set to the latter. I manage myself much better these days, but I roared at the man, the only repeatable bit being that he was lucky I didn’t have the kids with me.
My poor dog has had his feet nipped and was rather sorry for himself in the aftermath, although that may have been more about my angry reaction to the other party. I have a very sore knee and hip which kept me awake a bit. I love having a dog; I have had dogs for nearly twenty years now and walked dogs for other people in London and consider myself fairly ok with managing them. However this incident has reminded me what happens when idiot brains take on the responsibility of a dog, with teeth. Lately, it just seems like that there are too many of them about here for comfort. I have a dog, in part, because getting out for a walk every day is part of how I manage my mood and health. Now, the stress it creates almost offsets the benefit.
Time will pass, my knee will heal, hopefully my own dog will suffer no ill-effects. In the meantime I am just left with the uneasy feeling that I may be getting too old to be a dog owner in the kind of town we seem to have on our hands lately.