What do you think of, when you see Sinead's thick jaw and spiked ears? Does looking at her 8-pound body make you wonder about her fighting ability, and whether or not she'd be able to make you a lot of money in the ring? Do you wonder if she could kill other dogs?
Of course not.
Chances are, you don't think about anything like that, because she's a very tiny Boston terrier. We think of these dogs as lap dogs. But they have a very different history. And their histories should inform the way we treat an entirely different type of dog.
On Wednesday, the ASPCA held a national Dog Fighting Awareness Day. The idea was to push dog lovers to petition for stricter rules against pit fighting. The big dogs we call "pit bull terriers" would be the largest beneficiaries of these sorts of rule changes. These are the sorts of dogs that are bred for size, for strength and for valor. They fight to the death in hidden rings all across the country.
I've heard countless people tell me that, while they're against pit fighting, they're also against pit bulls as a whole. They claim these dogs are just destined to be killers. That they're made for it. That their bodies are designed to be killing machines. Way back when, I believed them (I even wrote a misguided blog entry to that effect).
As Boston terrier owners, we should know better.
Back in the day, our little dogs were also made for life in the pit. If you'd seen a Boston zipping around 100 years ago, you'd probably think of violence and death. You'd probably be just a touch afraid.
But we aren't afraid now, and Bostons haven't changed much.
Some Bostons (like mine) are smaller. But there are some that cross the 30-pound threshold. When I chit-chat with people who have these bigger dudes, they tell me their dogs are gentle and kind. They also tell me their dogs are kid magnets, and they sometimes have to keep wee ones from grabbing at their pets so they can finish walks, get to the vet on time, etc.
The dogs haven't changed.
As Boston terrier owners, we should be at the forefront of the #GetTough movement. We know that human perception determines how dogs are valued and treated. And we know that human perception can change.
The official awareness day may be over, but you can still get involved. Click here for ideas. Let's make sure we get our voices heard.