I Touch Their Poo: I Walked with a Vicious Killer

August 5, 2010

When you’re walking a pit bull, everybody gets out of your way.

The girls getting off the subway, the dude with the violent stare creeping on them, the out of town couple trying to hail a cab with everything left to live for; the rigid cop with his fingers on the tip of his riot stick as he eyes the twitchy teens at the end of the block.

It throws everybody off their game, except of course, for the lady standing at the end of the block with close to no boundaries and a penis.

Ridley is a pit bull mix with the attitude of a child on Christmas morning and face of a marked breed in Philadelphia.  He charged through the front door and onto the sidewalk; to anyone approaching from either direction, it would have looked like he was escaping after months of rigorous and thorough torture.  Two girls hopped out of the way of his inquisitive nostrils before they saw he was on a leash.  We all had a polite chuckle at their reactions as Ridley wagged his tail and peed on a newspaper, unaware that these people had just assumed he was here to rip their throats out.

Ridley, super pissed.

But, this city has been at war with the pit bulls since I got here.

This past February, so residents of Whitehall Commons saw a stray dog playing with a garbage bag.  Only later was it the severed arm of a 10-year-old boy.  Two pit bulls had turned on each other, and then the kid, in the end becoming the third pet pit bull attack, in Philadelphia, within a three day period (A woman had almost had here wrist bitten off and another woman was mauled to death).

In June, a one-year-old female pit bull mix was found hanging from a swingset at 8th and Duncannon.  ”"This dog suffered quite a bit,” a PSPCA representative said.  This occurred not long after a pit bull attacked a horse in Old City.

Given the tense history with these creatures, I can see why anybody would be a little nervous.  But the fearmongering and unbackable claims about their ferocity polluted Philadelphia media, and like shark attacks, when one happens again, it will be spread once more that pit bulls are vicious maniacs, with the most “gameness” of any animal, who won’t stop until you and your family and all your very nice things have been destroyed.

As nice as it is to have everybody get out of my way, the only thing that’s plowing the road is the stigma that comes with having Ridley at the end of this rope.  But nobody sees the relaxed fellow who’s most intent focus is reserved for his toy skunk when we’re cruising down South Street, they see blood soaked headlines, radically opinionated “facts,” and NFL quarterbacks setting terrific examples.  A pit bull can be bred to be a friendly, loyal companion–unlike a shark–just as well as it can be dragged in the direction of the fighting rings.

Which are alive and well in Philly, don’t worry.

“You trying to sell that thing?” a kid asked as I passed, oddly hopeful.

I sort of snorted.  Do people still hand over living creatures on the street for money?  I haven’t done that since the Oregon Trail.  And that was only because I had to buy more bullets or the mountain goat population would explode out of control.

Come on, damn it! I only have 449 meats.

“No,” I replied.

The fear of the breed has inadvertently kinged him.  As he ambles through this land, his subjects do their best to surrender the best bits of the sidewalk, clearing a path so that he can make his merry way unhindered… as if there are important things he has to get to.

I have twice been attacked by ducks in my life, and I almost positive that they not were even trained to do so. Ridley’s no fighter, but just because he could be doesn’t warrant him a wide berth.

Though I am happy we’re learning to get the hell out of each other’s way.

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