Pit Stop – Our Pit Bull Problem

I originally wrote this post about 6 months ago, but after a recent trip to a local pet store out in the Pennsylvania area while on vacation, I thought it prudent to post it again, as I witnessed another dog fight right in front of me.  It was two small, mixed dogs, and it ended quickly and without bloodshed, but make no mistake: it was real and very violent.  I ask you to read this article before traveling to any pet store.  

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

― Sherrilyn Kenyon

A pit bull attacked another dog on Wednesday. The incident happened at a PetSmart in Georgia.  Frankly, I’m not surprised that the pit attacked.  Because he’s a pit?  No, don’t be stupid.  Because he’s a dog.

Breaking down the situation, here’s what happened according to Fox 5:

Mitch Philpott, 66, of Newnan, said he had headed down an aisle where the Pit Bull and its owner had been looking at merchandise.  Philpott said he asked the owner if her dog was okay and proceeded to pass her and the dog.  He said the Pitt Bull grabbed his Great Dane by the head and ear and bit him several times.


In a police report FOX 5 obtained, the Pitt Bull owner, Suzanne Peterson, told officers that she gave Philpott a verbal warning that she was not sure how her dog would respond to his dog and to stay away please.  The report quotes her as saying that Philpott continued anyway and said, “it’s okay, their tails are wagging.”  Philpott told Fox Five he never said that to the woman.

So who is wrong in this incident?  Both humans.  I’m not saying that the incident was deserved by anyone (let alone the dogs), but it was brought about by selfish owners.

Let’s take a step back here and dissect the scenario.  No, I really don’t care who said what and who did and did not control their dog.  However, it should be pointed out that this was obviously a fear-based “stay away from me” rather than an attack.  If it were an attack, there would have been actual serious damage, if not death, to either dogs or owners.  But I stand by my accusation that both owners were selfish.  Why?

Take a look at the average pet store where you can bring in your dog.  Narrow aisles for dogs to pass closely by each other.  You may say that the aisles are wider than grocery store aisles, but I can also say that Bill Cosby (who allegedly raped unconscious women he drugged) isn’t quite as bad as Jared Fogle (who allegedly raped conscious children).  It doesn’t matter.  Neither is a good choice for a dinner date.


I think we can all agree that given a choice between the two, Cosby and Fogle, the answer is a resounding neither.  The same goes for aisles that are too narrow, or an aisle that is a little less too narrow.  The answer is neither.

Compound that with extreme stimulation.  Your dog isn’t happily going shopping with you for doggie supplies, as you’ve fooled yourself into selfishly thinking. Your dog is in a confined area with a lot of food and treats that they may resource guard, or have to be on the defensive against other resourcing guarding dogs.  And by the way, that other dog isn’t just another dog.  It’s another dog who is just as overstimulated as every other dog in the place.  Some are resource guarding. Some are desperately trying to guard themselves and their owners (as I believe was the case with the pit).  Others are too goofy to know this is a horrible situation and act all kinds of crazy, thereby increasing the (negative) energy of all the other dogs.

Remember, that idiot jacking his dog up in the car before he even gets into the store will be sharing close quarter aisle space with your dog.  Add to it the fact that the dog is under no semblance of control once they are in the store (the owner is following the dog around at the end of the leash like a moronic cow).

I will not bring my dogs into pet stores for this very reason.  There are many frightened, hyper, out of control bundles of energy in there.  And that’s just the people.  By being selfish and getting that “I Brought My Beloved Pup Into The Store” high that people so desperately want, we are actively ignoring all the warning signs of a dangerous situation, and blithely moving forward.  YOU are the adult human.  YOU are the one with opposable thumbs.  YOU are the one who should be realizing that this is a dangerous situation.  Even if your dog is very chill and well behaved and you Pilot the hell out of them….where is your guarantee that every other person in there is the same way? You don’t have one.  Suck it up. Find other ways to get that rush of “I Spoiled My Dog Today” high that you are so desperately seeking.

“Oh, but Fifi loves it so much!!!”

And I loved cutting class when I was in high school.  Believe me, that was not the answer my parents gave my principal when I was caught: “But she loves cutting class so much!”.

Yeah, I got grounded 6 months with another 6 month probation.

Yeah, I got grounded 6 months with another 6 month probation.

And now I’m grateful for their harsh punishment.  It helped turn me into a functional adult.

Point is, parenting, whether it be a dog or a human, involves tough choices.  Yes, it’s not always fun, and it most definitely involves handing down decisions that you’d rather not, but that’s why you’re the adult. That’s why you have the opposable thumbs.  Because you’re the one who is supposed to use rational thought rather than emotional reactions. So I blame anyone who subjects their dogs to this situation. I don’t care that Rover, a Lab who is 14 years old, loves going and has never bit anyone in his life.  Don’t do it.  The same way I don’t drive my kids around without their seat belts buckled.  ”Well, we’ve never gotten into an accident yet, I’m a careful driver, and my kids are well behaved.”  It’s just as stupid and reckless.  Yes, I can control my kids, my behavior, and perhaps even my car, but I can’t control situations around those things.

Finally, I blame PetSmart, Petco and all those other big box stores that allow pets into their store.  Simply to raise revenue and profit, they cater to the irresponsible people who bring their pets in, thereby putting the animals at risk.  Yes, the owners should know better than to bring them in, but I’ve already established that the owners are not always in the right frame of mind, and (if I’m going to be generous here), misinformed and didn’t know better.  Know who else operates on the same basis as these pet stores?


A dog was put in a tough situation.  He was uncomfortable. He was nervous, and scared.  And he reacted the way a dog (or human) can be expected to react when pushed beyond their limits.  The real story isn’t about a dog who defended himself from attacked another dog.  This story is not about pits being aggressive, nor is about pits in general.  This is about failure.  Dogs being failed by their owners, and being failed by the very stores who are designed to benefit them.  All to boost their profitability.

End it now. Don’t bring you dog into such a situation.  If you want that “I Spoiled My Dog” rush, spend more time with them. Teach them agility. Teach them a trick.  Pilot them. Give them what the need, and stop trying to buy the wag of your dog’s tail. Earn it.

Keep calm and pilot on


Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

What a Blue Jay Taught Me about Prejudice

“Angry people are not always wise.”
― Jane AustenPride and Prejudice


Yes.  It’s a baby blue jay.  I’ll explain in a bit about this particular little monstrosity, but suffice it to say I hate blue jays.  It all stems from several years ago when I was out back working in my garden.  I heard a commotion of cheeps and chirps from a bunch of sparrows.  I looked over my fence into my neighbor’s yard, and found a blue jay in the midst of pecking to death a small sparrow while the other sparrows attempted to dissuade the vicious beast.  I immediately ran into my neighbors yard to try to save the star-crossed sparrow, but was too late.  Thus started my immediate hatred of blue jays.  I deemed them wretched, murderous and vile creatures.

Yes, this strong opinion was based upon one incident with one jay.  However, the incident was so violent that I was, for a long time, unable to erase it from my mind, and thus painted all jays with the same brush.

Well, today I came home after dropping my kids off to school and heard a commotion in the dining room.  There in the corner were two dogs and a cat of mine, all very interested in something.  I heard squawking.  Yup….somehow a blue jay fledgling had gotten into my house.

I quickly grabbed the agitated and frightened creature and secured its safety from the (not so effective) predators in my house.  A frantic text to a vet friend of mine, combined with some quick internet research led me to the conclusion that the best place for it was outside where (hopefully) the mother would be able to find it. Apparently jays spend about a week on the ground once out of the nest, but before they can fly.  They hop about learning the ropes of life on the outside.

So here I sit in my window seat, with the baby jay placed outside where I can monitor it.  He’s since moved to the safety of one of my flower pots, where he’s been contentedly snoozing for the past 20 minutes or so.  I will continue to monitor him for another hour or so.  I hear his mother looking, but she still hasn’t found him.  I’ll keep him safe until she does.

So what does this have to do with dogs?  Nothing?  Perhaps everything.  Or maybe just one dog.

See, a few days ago a boy was killed by dog, possibly a pit bull (though not confirmed).  I will not defend the actions of this dog. I do not believe this dog should be saved nor should rehabilitation be attempted.  I think it killed a boy.  I think that no mother should ever suffer the trauma of losing a child, especially in such a fashion.  However, this was not a pit bull attack, it was a dog attack.  I think that’s what needs to be focused on.

How can this be prevented in the future?  Banning pit bulls?  Hasn’t worked for most cities.  What about education?  Stringent requirements on spaying and neutering (it greatly decreases the chances of aggression).  Leash laws and swift action for dogs deemed vicious by their action, not by their breed.

So was this dog a pit bull?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  It was a dog.  Dog is a dog is a dog is a dog.  In my estimation, breed doesn’t enter into the discussion. Education does.  Empathy does.  This was a terrible tragedy, a senseless death of a child from a vicious dog.  Yes, details may emerge – perhaps the dog was being baited by the child. Perhaps the dog was abused.  But perhaps doesn’t bring this child back.  And perhaps the dog was a pittie/wasn’t a pittie doesn’t change the fact that this was a vicious attack perpetrated by a single dog, not a breed of dogs.

So I’ll sit here and monitor this baby bird, putting aside my distaste for blue jays (which was based on one incident in my almost 40 years on this planet).  After all, mom had a nest nearby, and never once attacked me.  Perhaps I need to put aside my prejudice and realize that the action of the one doest not dictate the mindset of the many.  Because if mama doesn’t find her baby soon, it looks as if I may have to foster that which I (up until 2 hours ago) hated based solely on an incident from many years ago.  I think Austen put it well when she stated:

“What is right to be done cannot be done too soon.”

I think dissolving prejudices falls into that category nicely.

UPDATE:  I kept an eye on Don Rickles for a few hours while he was outside to see if the momma bird would come back.  Unfortunately, he hung out on a potted plant, refusing to move, and looking like he was falling asleep (which is a bad sign).  Even worse, he didn’t eliminate for a couple hours, meaning momma wasn’t feeding him.  So off we rushed to the Lake Erie Science and Nature Center.  A wildlife rehabilitation center is there, and one of the specialists took a look at Don Rickles.  He noted that poor Don had a puncture on his chest under his wing (probably caused by a cat).  He said in typical situations, the bird would be sent home with me to be left outside so the mom can finish up her job of taking care of him.  However, the nature of the bite necessitated some antibiotics.  So I left the poor little guy there to receive the care he needed.  I was told to call in a week to check in on him if I wished, but I was not expecting good news.

I was pleasantly surprised by this update.

Yup!  That's Don Rickles!

Yup! That’s Don Rickles!

Little man is doing well, and has even made some new friends!  It would appear that he’s on his way to complete rehabilitation!

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio