Thursday, 17 May 2012

BAN Bad Owners- Not Dogs!

Lessons From My Rottie

I WAS in my car with my one-year old Doberman Zhar, last week, when I heard the horrid news.

My service canine companion, who accompanies me almost everywhere when I drive, and I were visiting a good friend in Petaling Jaya when I received an urgent SMS.

Yes, it was the one about the dog-mauling incident in Subang Jaya where an elderly jogger sadly lost his life as a result.

At first, the media put the pooch down as a “pit bull”.

Then, the truth came out later.
The breed was apparently a miniature bull terrier cross, they said – a dog listed by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) here in Malaysia as a restricted breed.

What this means in simple English is that the bull terrier is not a dog for anyone and everyone.

Whilst expert overseas sources agree that the breed isn’t for first-time pet owners, they, however, are quick to point out that these special terriers – once used as fighting dogs – possesses many positive characteristics.

Above all things they are said to be highly affectionate and friendly dogs with a wonderful sense of humour and relish company.

Bull terriers also have a physical strength that matches their supreme intelligence. They need to be kept active all the time.

With such enviable traits it is no wonder why bull terriers – together with pit bulls – today are increasingly being used as therapy and service dogs for the handicapped in overseas countries.

So what went wrong in the Subang Jaya incident?

There could be a number of reasons:
1) Unscrupulous breeding such as mating certain aggressive natured or shy (fear-biting) animals with each other.
2) Wrong training and trainer. I am told by experts that only dogs with a good temperament can be trained for guard and protection work; never fierce or unpredictable animals.
3) Irresponsible owner. Dogs should never be allowed outside its owners’ premises unleashed, let alone a “guard-trained” canine. The animal will be forced to make decisions by itself.

The Subang Jaya incident reminds me of the time in 1994 when another elderly person, a woman, was killed by a Rottweiler in Kuala Lumpur.

That incident, like the recent one, drew the same negative reactions.

Suddenly, everyone – including myself – was terrified of Rottweilers and thought of them as nothing but “killer dogs.”

My fear and prejudice was based on my total ignorance of the breed until I ended up with one a few years later.

It was quite by accident when I wheeled into a pet shop looking for a German Shepherd Dog and came out with a Rottweiler pup named Vai, because there was no other dog available.

I recall being terrified over my decision.

Many of my friends were no help either. They told me that Vai would either “have me for supper” or “pull me off my wheelchair” when we went for walks.

But it turned out to be the best “mistake” I had ever done in my life. Vai was the best prescription that any doctor could have given me to help me with my disability.

The so-called “killer dog” refused to see my handicap. He insisted on everything from me – from his meals, bath and going for walks.
So much so I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with life for a Rottie-in-waiting.
And just like the many stereotypes that exist about people with disabilities, Vai helped me break all the myths about so-called “dangerous” and “ferocious” Rottweilers and other breeds when one cares enough to treat dogs right with plenty of time and affection.

Of course, Vai was fiercely loyal in taking care of me.

He would bare his fangs and growl whenever strangers approached me.

But at the same time, within moments, he would be licking them all over the face when he realised they had no intention of harming me.

I used to take advantage of this godsend protection to go wheeling with him in my nearby park at 2am in the morning.

Anyone who uses a wheelchair will know how exhilarating such a “freedom exercise” can be when you are stuck in a wheelchair.
And there were a couple of times when I was confronted by some bullies on the road in my car for keeping to my speed limit as a disabled driver.

I wish you could’ve seen the looks on their faces and how quickly they took off when they suddenly noticed a huge black and rust coloured “bear” emerge from the back seat to have a clearer look at the situation.

Vai died a couple of years ago of cancer at age 13. Now it’s Zhar’s turn to play guardian in my life – something the remarkable Dobie (another target of stereotypes) is managing with flying colours.

And let me say this in parting, that in more than a decade of having my dogs and looking after them solely in my wheelchair, never once have my dogs walked on the streets or neighbourhood without me by their side and keeping them close on a leash.

To the able-bodied pet lovers out there, what’s your excuse?


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