Stereotypes do exist, but we have to walk through them.
- Forest Whitaker
It’s Halloween! Did you expect a post about Halloween safety for your pet? That’s a bit cliche – here’s the basics: keep them inside, keep them safely contained, and Pilot them as needed. Ta-da! Halloween is handled!
October is Pitbull Awareness month. Halloween marks the end of that month. A month where we try to get people to look past the stereotypes of this breed and see who they’re really about: love, loyalty, and a whole lotta goofiness. Maybe we need to do the same for humans as well.
When I was about 20, I was involved in a car crash. Nobody was injured, but both cars were damaged. My car’s tire was completely blown. As usually happens in an accident, a group of people gathered around immediately. Cops showed up. While I giving my statement to the police, a very “rough” looking man pulled up to the scene on a bike. He had the entire ensemble going: from biker boots to the head-to-toe leather…right down to the red bandana on his head. He calmly walked up to me and asked me for my car keys. Being very shaken up, I automatically gave them to him without thinking. He silently walked over to my car, popped the trunk, and proceeded to remove the damaged tire and put the spare tire on my car. He then handed the keys back to the cop (I was signing documentation) and left. I never got to thank him. Not just for changing my tire, but for changing my perception.
Take a look at the first picture again. The one at the top of this post. That man, what did you think of when you saw him? Gang? Violence? Thugs? Drugs and alcohol? But what about animal advocacy? I’ll bet that didn’t pop up in your head immediately. This is Danny Trejo. You can read a little about him here.
This is a picture from Bikers Against Animal Cruelty, a non-profit dedicated to animal advocacy. Probably not what you expected. Check out their link…it’s a pretty amazing group of people doing a pretty amazing thing. They certainly look different from me, and probably from you as well (if not, well then you’re cooler than I’ll ever be!). But different isn’t good nor bad…it’s just, well, different. Kinda like the message we’re trying to spread about Pitties: judge deeds, not breeds.
Up until I was 20 years old, I might have been inclined to think that “biker-types” were usually involved in violence. Were thugs. In general, just unsavory people. That changed in a moment, when one of these “thugs” helped me out when I really needed some help, with no motive other than to just help. No, I didn’t get to know him, and never saw him again, but I saw in that moment who he was, not what he was. And my opinion completely changed about bikers. When I see one on the highway now, I think of that man all those years ago. Opinions can change for the better. That’s what October is all about: education about a breed that is misunderstood and maligned based upon a culture that thinks if something looks big and bad, it must be big and bad. But we know better. It’s up to us to change opinions. Because it feels wonderful to have your stereotype lifted and to find commonality where you were certain there was none. I can speak from experience.
And so we end October, National Pit Bull Advocacy Month. I truly wish that the gentleman who assisted me on that day 17 years ago is reading this. I would thank him for changing my tire. And I would thank him for changing my mind.