I loved my Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood. But it scared some folks.
They saw the boarded up buildings and kids hanging out on the steps smoking blunts and decided quickly it wasn’t their kind of neighborhood.
Looking at a neighborhood
St. Bernard Street (don’t you love that name?) didn’t make a good first impression on everyone. But those who stayed long enough discovered it was a block where people came together. We held regular clean-up days where we’d make sure all the lawns were mowed and the trash picked up. We re-boarded up buildings that had been broken into. We even painted the porch of one derelict place to give it an appealing face lift.
And the block parties–delicious food, games for the kids, visits from the fire department–were the highlight of our summer.
Looking at the dogs
The young men who hung out on our block reminded me of lost souls. Yes, it irritated the hell out of me to step over them lounging on my steps. But they were trying to become men the only way they knew how and every day they showed how much they were still little boys.
The first one to show up with a pibble on a chain leash was Buddha. Buddha was the kid you suspected would find his way someday. He had a strong mother and grandmother in his life. And he always appeared to be a little more grounded than the other boys.
I never once saw him mistreat the dog.
The next pibble to make its appearance spent much of its time sleeping in the other side of our duplex. As with Buddha’s dog, he was there for “protection.” To “train” him, the least confident of the boys would, from a safe distance, toss a basketball at the wall near the dog’s head to provoke a loud reaction.
I lost count of the times I told the kids that if you wanted a dog that would “protect” you, you should treat it really, really well so he preferred you over everyone else in the world. Sometimes I got to deliver this sermonette while scratching a pittie belly.
I remember my husband sitting on the steps one time with the kids when one walked up with his dog. The dog approached Mike for some lovies while the boys were talking about how fierce he was. Pretty soon the dog was humping Mike’s leg. “I guess he’s a lover, not a fighter,” was Mike’s only reply.
Looking at the neighborhood and its dogs
Most of the time we lived on St. Bernard Street, we were the only people who had dogs strictly for companionship. Because “pets” were so uncommon, many of the youngest children were uncertain about Agatha and Christie (or Africa, as she was known on the block; dead British mystery writers weren’t common currency).
Actually, that’s not true. The Latino family down the street had a little puff ball dog. But I don’t think his paws ever touched pavement.
Eventually, our friends Ed and Lisa adopted a pibble of their own. And now there were two families walking companion dogs around the neighborhood.
Other people had a soft heart for dogs. Marie, whose brother Louie inherited the local drug supply business when their brother, Jerome, went to prison, was a harridan with a heart of gold. One minute she was cussing a blue streak in the middle of the night over some perceived sleight. The next she was sneaking food to her brother’s dog.
You’ll never find Marie on an online dog forum promoting positive training techniques. But she shared what kindness she had with those who needed it. And on St. Bernard Street, that included several dogs and not a few cats.
Understanding what is commonly misunderstood
I got frustrated with people unwilling to give my neighborhood a chance. Yes, it had its challenges. But it was a block of people just doing the best they could. And it was home.
People who live with bully dogs get frustrated with people unwilling to give these lovable dogs a chance. Yes, irresponsible owners have involved their bully dogs in violence. But the dogs are just dogs.
Pibbles starting showing up in my Philadelphia neighborhood around the same time crack did. Before that time, German Shepherd mixes were the most common shelter dogs. But in major cities across the country, bully dogs have, for the past twenty years, been the most common mixes in shelters.
I think pibbles have been especially demonized because of their association with black, inner city men. If pitties were the dog of choice of doctors and hedge-fund managers, even the most shocking stories involving bully dogs would not have resulted in breed discriminatory legislation throughout the country. Society works hard to protect itself from what it most fears (whether it is truly a threat or not). And it’s easiest to protect yourself from those who can’t put up much resistance.
Creating a world safe for people and dogs
Today is Pit Bull Awareness Day. The campaign calls attention to the plight of pibbles and the vilification that has put them in danger throughout the country.
But Pit Bull Awareness is not only about bringing attention to breed discrimination. It also promotes responsible care of bully dogs so they can show the good citizenship we expect of all dogs. The campaign can do more to prevent dog bites (by any type of dog–prevention advice is good for everyone to follow) than any amount of legislation.
Check out the Bless the Bully’s website for news about breed discriminatory legislation but also tips on responsible dog ownership and care. And educate everyone you know about responsible dog care so that bites, by any dog, become a distant memory.
I was driving down the road the other day when I realized that I missed recognizing a marketer par excellence on my post about bloggers who promoted good marketing for dog causes. I was so distressed, I ran the car off the road, plunged down a 100 foot embankment and sent my Suburu into the lake. Ok, not really. But I was very upset with myself.
And yet, perhaps my bad memory is a gift from the universe. Because the person I forgot to recognize has done her excellent marketing on behalf of pibbles–Aleksandra (please don’t make me type your last name) of Love and a Six Foot Leash.
Aleksandra uses her blog to highlight the pibbles she fosters. With her charming stories and beautiful photos, Aleksandra could make anyone fall in love.
And today, she’s partnering with the Montgomery County Human Society to find homes for at least four pitties by sponsoring their adoption fees. You see, Aleksandra did such a great job raising money for the medical care for her foster dog, Little Zee, there was enough money left over to help a few other dogs.
Here’s how you can help and grow some marketing chops of your own:
- Visit Aleksandra’s blog to see the gorgeous dogs she’s highlighting for adoption today. I dare you not to fall in love.
- Share her link on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog.
- Send a link to anyone you know living in the DC metro area–especially if they could use a loving companion.
The photos accompanying this post came from the Love and a Six Foot Leash website. I apologize for not getting prior permission to post the pictures but hope Aleksandra will forgive me and allow the use of the images.
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