Friday, March 20, 2009

Mama Bear vs. Pit Bull

I will admit it... when Sarah Palin first told her "hockey mom/pit bull" joke last summer, I laughed. After I'd heard it a few dozen times, though, I would just roll my eyes and make some comment about her needing new material.

Prior to that, I'd never given pit bulls much thought. Then, in September, we got new neighbors. For 8 1/2 years, we'd had a sweet, old lady living next door to us. The 4 ft. high, chain-link fence that separated our properties was the common meeting ground, the sharing of news, flowers, little "gifts" from the kids. As the years went on, she got sicker, and we saw her less. Last spring, she was moved to a nursing home, and an investor bought the house as a rental unit. He spent the summer fixing it up, and the tenants moved in last September. They are a nice couple, with a son just a little younger than BigBro. The boys were fast friends.

The only problem is: they own a pit bull. Last fall, the dog barked and growled every time the kids or I were in the backyard. We talked to the neighbors and the landlord, and everyone agreed that the dog would not be in the yard without one of the adult owners present. Then winter hit, we were in the yard a lot less, and they got lazy about sending the dog out to the yard without an adult escort.

Well, spring is here, and the kids are in the yard again. Over the winter, the neighbors got a pit bull puppy as well. The moderately aggressive pit bull from last fall has become extremely aggressive now, as her mothering instinct kicks in with the puppy present. The barking and growling from across the yard has turned into standing on hind legs, front paws on the top of the 4 ft. fence, head over the fence, teeth bared... even when my kids are all the way on the other side of our yard, and several adults are present in our yard.

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the house, tending to LilBro. Niece, BigBro and Princess were outside in the yard. Our friend (over 6' tall, former Army Ranger) was also present in the yard, doing some work for DH's basement project. The barking was incessant and aggressive. I was trying to help LilBro, but found myself getting more and more keyed up. The aggression in the dog's voice was getting to me on a really primal level. As soon as LilBro was set, I ran outside.

My kids were across the yard, as far from the dog as they could be. Our friend was in the middle of the yard. The dog was standing on hind legs, head over the fence, alternately growling and barking. The Mama Bear in me came out full force. I got in her face, and shouted her down, letting the adrenaline I felt overpower the fear I had inside me.

I looked around my neighbor's yard and saw no one. I glanced at their porch, and saw a man (not my neighbor) standing on the porch, watching the dog bark. He was doing nothing at all to control or call off the dog. He was just watching. I told him this was unacceptable. He was not to have the dog in the yard unattended. He needed to get the dog inside now, because my kids were out playing. He turned and started to walk into the house. I yelled to him, this time, the anger really rising in my voice. He called the dog in, and went inside.

I called the landlord. I called DH. I prayed a bit. I was still keyed up. I couldn't seem to shake the adrenaline. An hour later, DH came home, and spoke with neighbor (who had just received a call from his landlord about the dog). They will be replacing the chain-link fence with a 6' tall privacy fence. DH and I talked for a bit, and then he hugged me. Finally, I felt myself start to relax, the adrenaline faded, and the tension in my neck and shoulders started to release.

After dinner, I went upstairs to pray quietly for a bit. The force of my reaction to that dog's aggression overwhelmed me. It was instinctual. I understand that about the dog, too. She is responding on the same instinctual level... she is just trying to protect that puppy from what she perceives to be a threat.

I am going to be extra-vigilant about outside time until that fence is up. I just hope and pray they get it up quickly.

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