Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stereotypes can be deceiving...

Which of these dogs is 'dangerous'? Hmmm...think again...

If it's one thing I have learned over the last 6 years, it's that you can't listen to stereotypes. You can't take the media reports as gospel. You can't rely on perceived public opinion to formulate your own opinions. I have learned this lesson through one very special dog.

My little brown dog, Athena, is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As a firm believer in destiny, it didn't take me long to realize that she, quite literally, walked into my life for a reason. Since I was really young, I always had an affinity for dogs and always considered myself a 'dog person'...but after 6 years with Athena, I can confidently say, unless you've come to truly understand the bully breeds, you aren't truly a 'dog person'. Not only has Athena taught me not to trust stereotypes, she's made me an active participant in my community. I have always been involved in animal rescue (and painfully aware of shelter statistics) but owning a bully breed has given me an entirely new sense of civic duty.

While Athena is my 'Angel Terrier' (a term I use when asked what kind of dog she is as it aptly describes her), she unfairly has stigma attached to her. This stigma goes WELL beyond the casual, 'oh those dogs are dangerous' misconceptions which I dutifully debunk on our daily walks. The stigma dictates where I can and can't live, where I can and can't take her, what insurance provider I can have, what type and how much insurance I am required to have, etc. etc. etc.

Because Athena looks the way she does, my rights and decisions I am afforded as a US citizen, let alone a responsible dog owner are severely narrowed. It is for this reason that Athena is accredited with engaging me in local government. I've written numerous letters, attended and spoke at city council meetings, have met amazingly intelligent people of action and have found a new sense of patriotism through grassroots efforts. In a nutshell, Athena has given me a voice and a very important reason to use it.

People are defined by their passions and are driven by 'heart'. All dog people know that every dog in our life teaches us almost every case, dogs teach us things we never knew we were capable of, they redefine us in ways that reach into the depths of our souls. Athena has taught me so much in 6 look beyond the stereotypes, educate myself, form my own opinions, have a voice and use it. This little brown dog has taught me the true meaning of RED, WHITE AND BLUE.

(And. yes, the little white dog - aka "Snapdragon"- is more dangerous. But we love her just the same!)

Want to give dogs a voice in your community? Check out the Canine Legislative Conference 2007!

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