This photo that came across the internets a couple of months ago just makes me laugh. I saved it because I too have one of these feared "dangerous" breed dogs. Mine is a 13 year old foundling that probably has some pit bull, among many other breeds, in his ancestry.
Willie and I joined up on an impulse around Halloween 1996. At the time I definitely did not need another dog. I already had Zack the border collie, Frank the chow mix and Dan the golden. All the dogs were older and none of us were trained. Frank was allowed to be the boss and fully embrace his chowness. Zack was a smart, under-exercised, willful working dog without a job. Dan was a handsome lump of sugar. A friend from work brought in photos of two black and white puppies that she'd found by the Ben Franklin dumpster near her home. She told my friend Sally and me we ought to stop by her place and see how cute they were. . .
So, I promptly did what I would NEVER do now. I threw a milk crate in the car and drove over to "look" at the little foundlings. I brought the little boy home with me and Sally took the little girl. I still can't believe that I would be so casual about adding this little wild card to my pack. I certainly was not the leader of the pack. It was chaotic before Willie came and got worse as time went on. The other dogs tolerated him. They shared the sofa and played with him. When we all needed a break, I put him in this rabbit cage that sat in the living room. I should have studied this photo more closely. You can see from that evil eye he was just biding his time until he could rule the world.
By the time Willie was a year old, he was already methodically asserting his boss dog status. He started with Frank, then Zack and finally Dan. They all bowed to his will, as did I. He choreographed all our movements. Any displays of independence from the other dogs caused horrible fights. I had no idea how to control them. I just tried to read the subtle signs and anticipate and deflect trouble. We lived this way until 2002 when Willie, through old age and ill health on the part of the other dogs, became an only dog. No, he didn't destroy the other dogs, but he certainly made their old age a challenge.
However, it was very wrong of me to impulsively bring Willie in our home when everything was so peaceful among the other dogs.
Willie thrived on all the special attention he got as an only dog. About the time this happened, Louisville was in the middle of a great debate about owning and controlling "dangerous" breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers. I wanted to take Willie out in public and have him behave in a way that contradicts the bad reputation these dogs currently have. So we got to work. I read books on dog behavior and training. Dr. Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash; Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two, the Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs; and Dr. Nicholas Dodman's The Dog Who Loved Too Much, Tales, Treatments and the Psychology of Dogs. Jon Katz's books on living with border collies and labs were also high on my list. I also adopted Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer's principles for living with dogs. Cesar believes that this formula will result in a happy, well-balanced dog: Exercise, Discipline, and Affection. He also is a proponent of using calm, assertive energy in dealing with dogs.
By applying what I've learned about living with dogs in working with Willie, I have gained a companion who gives me a great deal of purpose, pleasure and inspiration on a daily basis. I love being stopped by people when we're walking. They study this "dangerous" dog, see how well he behaves and invariably ask: "What kind of dog is that? Looks like a pit bull?". I always just smile and answer, "You know, I'm not sure. He was a foundling. He's certainly my good old boy though."
Now be sure to pop over to Sayre's place and get the list of other Fun Monday participants so you can see what inspires them every day. I suspect that Willie will not be the only four-legged inspiration.