Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Clear Case of Racial Profiling

For the past three weeks, I've been fostering a dog looking for a home.

Frankie came to stay when his missionary family couldn't take him with them on their latest assignment. I agreed to provide a home until the end of August while his owners' church tries to find him a permanent home.

The friend who called to ask if Frankie could stay with me said he was a three-year-old bulldog, good with children and other pets.

I pictured a short dog with stubby legs, a pushed-in face and an English accent. Instead I got:

I'll admit it. My first reaction was pit bull.

While I was trying to formulate the words to dis-invite him, Frankie turned on the charm. He sat in front of me, wagging his rope of a tail and bumping my thigh with his massive head.

What sealed the deal though was his reaction to Bob-the-Cat. Bob immediately went into ninja mode, waving his claws in the air, dancing around and hissing like a demented serpent.

Frankie chose not to acknowledge Bob. Instead he focussed his red-rimmed eyes on me as though to say, "I've been raised to ignore bad manners."

Over the past seventeen days, Frankie and Bob have achieved detente. Frankie defers to Bob, allowing the cat first access to me and avoiding the temptation of fragrant Fancy Feast catfood. In return, Bob shares our huge backyard and permits Frankie to sleep on the floor next to our bed at night.

I've always had herding dogs--border collies and heelers. People seeing them instinctively reached out to the dogs. Frankie is a whole 'nuther story. He can clear an aisle in Petsmart in record time. Neighbors who have known me for years cross the street when they see us coming.

I've decided it's racial profiling. People assume he's a pit bull and respond accordingly.

The only exception are people who are actually familiar with bulldogs. Those folk invariably say, "Wow, what a handsome bulldog," and approach to pet him.

In almost three weeks, I've only heard Frankie growl once. We'd gone for a walk around midnight. My neighborhood is dark and heavily wooded. Without warning, Frankie began to growl. I stopped and looked to where he was staring. A man stood nearby watching us. I called out a greeting, but he didn't answer. He was standing near trashbags, and I realized he was probably carrying his garbage to the curb for next-day pick-up. I tugged at Frankie's leash. The dog came obediently, but continued looking over his shoulder and growling.

Until Frankie, I have to admit I thought of all dogs as having relatively similar personalities: eager to please, excitable and wanting attention. I could look at Lucy or Molly and know exactly what they were thinking: "I want to eat." "Let's go for a walk." "Throw the ball ... again!"

Frankie isn't like that at all. I have no idea what goes through his mind. He is polite but quiet, agreeable but slightly distant, friendly but not obsequious. He doesn't fetch or chase after frisbees. If I give him a treat, he'll take it, but doesn't wart me for more.

When I leave for work in the morning, he walks me to the gate, but doesn't try to force his way out past me. When I return in the evening, he's waiting at the gate. He remains no more than three inches from my knee when we go on our daily walks. At night, he hops up on my tall bed and lets me pet him for several minutes, but then takes his place on the floor beside me.

Frankie has forced me to do some self-examination. What is it I want in a dog? Certainly it's pleasant to put him in the backyard and not have to listen to him whining for thirty minutes afterward, wanting back inside the house. To be able to leave him in the car for two minutes with the windows open and not be afraid he will jump out. To return home in a business suit and not have to say "Down" to keep him from jumping up on me.

Frankie is a good companion, content to remain at my feet while I'm writing on my laptop or to sit beside me in the car as I run my errands.

But I have to admit ... I kind of miss all the jubilation when I return home, having to throw a ball until my arm is ready to fall off, and having a dog snuggle closer to my feet in bed.

I hope we can find Frankie a forever home. He deserves it.


Aimless Writer said...

You're going to miss him when he goes...

Maria Zannini said...

What a cutie! He's adorable.

Frankie seems to act a lot like Tank. Tank is big but very gentlemanly.

I'm sure you remember Iko, the hugger? He acts like he hasn't seen you in three years even though it's only been ten minutes.

He's grown since you've seen him last. He's now up to 86 pounds.

Tank is 130 pounds. I am SO glad he doesn't jump.

Ref: racial profiling
Sad but true. I get that all the time with the rotties. People have no clue how sweet they are. It's not their fault they can ice the blood of a burglar with a single growl. :)

Maya Reynolds said...

AW: You're probably right. I've been experiencing "dog hunger" for a couple of months. Frankie is like my fix.

Maya Reynolds said...

Maria: Tank and Iko make Frankie look like a chihuahua. Frankie is only 60 pounds.

Kaz Augustin said...

We have exactly the same reaction to our (mini) bull terriers...until people get to know them. Then it's all, "Aw, I didn't realise they're so cute!".

Cookie is the PR dog. Sausage is very protective, a tad overly so; I'm going to have to work on that with her. But you can never judge a dog by its cover. We wouldn't trade our two for another breed. (Sausage is sleeping on the mat behind me as I type this.) They'd say hi to Frankie, if they knew how to via the intertubes!

Maya Reynolds said...

Hey, Kaz: {waving madly}

I ended up researching Frankie's breed on the Internet. He is an American Bulldog, which is a different breed from what is called a pit bull.

The poor guy just has bad public relations.