Steve showed up in 2008, after I vowed to never get another dog. He was everything I wasn't looking for in a dog: small and yappy, primarily. But dogs are amazing creatures, and despite my vow, despite my disdain for his variety, he wormed his way into my heart. He's got a great personality, and is full of energy, and our house and yard are just large enough that he gets plenty of exercise defending the perimeter. But I miss walking. Now that Matthew is older, it's easier to do. But I'm reluctant. It's because of the pit bulls.
I've learned it's easy enough to fall in love with an individual dog who doesn't fit into my short list of preferred varieties, but I've never had a relationship with a pit bull; they don't appeal to me, but I'm not a hater. I've just seen too many idiots around my neighborhood with unleashed pit bulls, and they're usually not sterilized, too. It's a mentality I don't understand. I recently had one of those, "fuck it, it's MY neighborhood, too" moments, and I took both Steve and Matthew out, without any problems. But the next day, I heard some noises in my shrubs. I looked out and saw a teenager who lives down the street and an unleashed pit bull; he was encouraging her to root through my gardens, in search of cats.
I have an unfortunate tendency toward apathy when it comes to many issues — not all, just some — but the pit bull-in-the-hedges issue is not one of them. I was upstairs with Matthew at the time, and I could see the kid and the pit from the window; I ran down the stairs, flew out of the door, and walked over to him, so he knew he was the reason I was outside. I didn't want him to think I was standing on my stoop for a breath of fresh air. My heart was pounding, and I hadn't expected to be there at that moment, but I managed a simple, "Hi. What's going on?"
His dog was clawing at my gate. "I'm teaching her to kill cats."
I tried not to look shocked. I realized an old white lady from the suburbs has a different life view than the black city kid with his pants belted below the curve of his ass cheeks, with a loose pit bull clawing at my gate. Not everyone likes cats, and that's okay. Right now, I hate them, too, especially my cat, Platooski. But it is illegal to kill them for sport; I'm not sure my young neighbor was aware of this, or even cared enough about the law. And I was pretty sure that was a conversation I didn't need to have with him.
"These are my cats," I lied. Or half lied. Or, maybe it's not a lie at all. I don't know anymore. They're strays and ferals who hang out around my house because I am stupid enough to feed them, and occasionally catch them and get them sterilized.
The dog trampled a clump of lilies I recently transplanted from my mother's garden, and I shot the kid a look, and I'm glad I didn't have to say anything about that. He grabbed the dog's collar and made her stay on the sidewalk.
"Oh. I didn't know they your cats. Most dogs WILL chase cats," he told me.
"Not all of them," I started; I was about to say something pompous about proper training, so it's just as well he cut me off.
"Not yours, I guess, because you have a little chihuahua," he assumed.
I decided it wasn't worth correcting him: Steve is a terrier mix, and he spends his entire life chasing cats; it never grows old for him. He's also strong enough to hurt them, but because he's received just enough training, he's smart enough to know that if he pushes his luck, he's going to have to answer to me. So, he only goes so far.
"I do have a little dog," I said. "And a little boy. I don't want them to get hurt. I don't want my son to watch a pit bull kill one of his kitties, you know?"
"Yes ma'am," the kid said.
"Your dog is very pretty. She has nice eyes," I said, trying to keep the boy from feeling vindictive.
"Thank you. I'm not training her to fight. I don't fight her. I'm just teaching her to go after cats."
His voice trailed off, and I'm hoping that was some kind of realization on his part that perhaps teaching his dog to kill cats might create very big problems down the line.
But, I don't know if he had that epiphany or not. I said, "I just want to feel safe in my yard. I don't want your dog killing any cats near here."
He nodded his head, and took his dog home.
But, the next day, he was riding around on a bike, with his dog, unleashed, alongside him, taking detours through plenty of private property along the way.
The weather isn't too bad today. It's hot and humid, but it's going to be way worse tomorrow. Matty has become a bit of a couch potato — a wild, jumping, thrashing couch potato. I bring him into the yard, and let him romp in the pool; I show him ant hills and beetles and kittens and all sorts of things boys should like, and he does indeed love those things, but he always wants to go "ee-side" after a short spell. I encourage him to play with his cars and trains downstairs; and I try to read to him. But he always heads back upstairs to the TV. I feel terrible about this, because it's supposed to wreck his little brain and such, but screaming in the pool, throwing cars and trains (he's got a good arm, too!), and tearing at books isn't terribly healthy either.
I kind of feel like we're in a rut. So, today, I decided we would walk up to the playground in Villa Park, and I wanted to take Steve, but the kid with the loose pit bull was too fresh in my mind. I read that inspirational story about the Bordentown woman who saved her dog from a pit bull attack a couple of weeks ago, and I thought maybe I could defend Steve against a pit bull*, too. But I know that it is just way too risky with a 22-month-old kid in tow, too.
Steve cried as I closed the door behind us. I heard him howling as we walked down the street. I told myself that I was doing reconnaissance to see if I saw any loose dogs at this time of the day, and if not, maybe I'd bring Steve with us the next time we walk around. I felt optimistic all the way to the park (though there were some shady looking people milling about, and evidence that someone may have spent last night on one of the park benches). The only dog I noticed was watching us from a second story window, and he was very well-behaved: he just watched us, and didn't bark.
But after Matty was done running around, and we were about a block from home, we encountered an incredibly large male pit bull, loose, with his owner many paces behind him. Maybe the dog is super well-behaved, but maybe he was only well-behaved because I didn't have Steve with me. It is not like me to be so fatalistic, to feel that a dog attack is imminent, but sheesh, why do people have to walk their dogs without a leash? Why?
* I mention pit bulls in my dog attack scenario, even though it could be any sort of dog. When Lacey was young, there was a Husky mix who lived across Division Street from me; that dog was able to push the door open, and she attacked Lacey on several occasions. In the owner's defense, he happened to be right near the door on those instances, and was able to grab his dog before things got too hairy. Once she was grabbed by a large German Shepherd, and another time, a Rottweiler. Both of those attacks happened in the suburbs. But pit bulls are just so prevalent here to the point I almost never see any other breed of dog, certainly not leashless.