Reclaiming My Pit Bull
I hate stereotypes, about anything really. I might find myself turning to them ironically or because “I’m Mexican I can say that,” but for the most part I find stereotypes to be hurtful and mostly generic representations of people based on what others believe them to be rather than what they actually are. This applies to dogs as well, if I hadn’t of already made that clear with Part One and Part Two of this series. However, I have a confession to make. Hanging in my backyard, up on the fence, is a sign that makes a very stereotypical statement about Pit Bulls. My sign reads “I can make it to the fence in 3 seconds. Can you?” and below the white lettering is a picture of a Pit Bull with its short stature and bulky chest. This sign hangs on the back fence, the same section of fence that separates Rosee from her best enemy/friend (besides Simon of course).
So, why this sign? Why something that seems to point out the ferocity and aggressiveness of my dogs? It’s a simple answer really. What the sign says is true. Rosee, and Simon when he’s not distracted by pesky flies, can run out the back door and make it to the fence in seconds. The caveat? She only does this when she hears suspicious noises that she’s never heard before, thereby leaving her territorial nature in charge of all actions, or the neighbor’s dog is at the fence looking for her as well. The fact is this sign is not stereotypical to me. It does not say “Watch out! Vicious dog that can get to fence in 3 seconds.” It does not even have the words Pit Bull anywhere on the sign. For me it is a simple representation of my dogs and their great running abilities. The best part? This sign was not made just for Pit Bulls, but for all dog breeds.
Tucked away into a small, cozy store front on Pier 39 in San Francisco, California lives the awesome pet-themed shop named Le Beastro. With a clever name and not your everyday breed specific items for sale this particular shop is a dog lover’s dream. Le Beastro does not carry common brands of dog food or have a large assortment of dog toys. It has frames, cookie jars, t-shirts, socks, little plaques, metal signs, coffee mugs, and a plethora of specialized dog treats. This shop, though, might be best known for its multitude of breed specific collectible items, and when I say multitude I mean it! Le Beastro has items for pretty much any dog breed you could think of and possibly own, even the lovely breed Pit Bull. And when I say breed specific items I don’t mean muzzles made only for Pit Bulls or anything like that. The store stocks coffee mugs, signs and socks (and so much more) all with the image of different dog breeds. I myself became enamored with an endearing pair of grey socks covered in Pit Bulls.
It was at this store, during a day trip to the city to eat great seafood and window shop, that I stumbled upon a whole section of boxes filled with metal signs which were further categorized by the many dog breeds the store carries. From the Beagle to the Yorkie, Le Beastro’s got it all. Most signs are denoted by the picture of the dog breed front and center, however there are also some that have the actual breed name written on the signs. There are your more usual signs like yellow diamond-shaped signs with the words “Dog Xing” across the front. Then there are the more tongue-in-cheek signs such as the one that now graces my backyard fence.
I did not buy this particular sign because I own a Pit Bull. I bought this sign because it describes my dog, who just happens to be a Pit Bull, in a humorous way. Anytime I look into my backyard and see this sign I smile. It reminds me that my dog, though sweet and preferring to sleep most of the day away (if only Simon’s playful nature didn’t interrupt that preference most of the time) can still be a little rascal that likes to bark at any noise she deems interesting enough. We’re working on it though, I promise! As for Simon, bless his little soul, he can get to the fence just as fast as Rosee if only to turn around and bark in her face instead of at the actual fence. He too is working on his tattle tale ways.
Call it a re-appropriation or reclaiming of an otherwise hurtful stereotype that all Pit Bulls are aggressive and mean, I feel that by owning this sign and proudly hanging it up I am admitting no guilt, supporting no Pit Bull nay-sayers, rather I am appreciating who and what my dogs are. I am recognizing that my dogs are not perfect. They jump on kitchen counters, crowd doors, cruise for food, run through the cat door to the garage, and Simon might as well never learn the command “Leave it.” But they are not imperfect because they are Pit Bulls (or at least honorary ones in Simon’s case because I just don’t know what makes him, well him). Rosee and Simon are imperfect simply because they are dogs, young ones still learning and growing. And I would never want them to be perfect anyway because where’s the fun in that? I adore Rosee’s cuddly yet alert personality and Simon’s crazy goofy nature. I know that my dogs are happy and comfortable in their home, that they get their required amount of energy-draining exercise a day, and never go without good treats. Most of all, I am proud of their breeds, known and unknown. I am proud that they know how to sit, lie down, roll over, shake, high-five, high-ten, crawl, and even bow. So, I embrace my sign and others like it, finding the good humor in its truth and not in its stereotypical-ness (because that’s totally a word).