Whole Dog Journal's Blog April 25, 2011

Why are so many abused dogs so forgiving?

Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:23PM - Comments: (19)

I was in my local shelter one day last week when a couple brought in two intact male pit bull-type dogs. Both dogs were white, which made it easy to see how filthy dirty they were – and to see the wounds that each of them had. The larger, overweight dog had what may have started as a sunburn and developed into a dermatological condition. But the younger, smaller dog had truly ghastly wounds on his hind legs; it looked as if he had been tied up (or even hung) by ropes around his hind legs. Something had cut into his flesh all the way around each hind leg – but the wounds were not fresh. The wounds were partly scabbed, partly infected and raw, and the dog’s hair bore the traces of a purple topical wound treatment. The legs were also swollen and the dog was limping on one and then the other leg.

I was discussing another matter with one of the shelter employees, and heard just bits of the conversation between the dogs’ owners and the counter staff. I heard the male owner say, “We were out of town for a day and he got caught in wire; he was caught when we got back.” My blood boiled; those wounds were not caused by a dog caught in wire. I am not a front counter staffer at a shelter for good reason.

Later, after the dogs were admitted to the shelter, I asked the front counter staff about what the story was. She said that a county animal control officer learned about the dogs, investigated, and told the owners if they did not seek immediate veterinary attention, she was going to charge them with animal cruelty and neglect – or they could surrender the dogs. They said they couldn’t afford to treat the dogs, so they were surrendering them.

I borrowed a staffer’s camera so I could take pictures of the dogs. They kept trying to lick me through the cage bars, making it hard to get a good picture. With a kennel worker nearby to help me if need be, I entered the kennel – and both dogs gently bowled me over as they tried getting in my lap for petting and kisses. They were total sweethearts – which made me feel even worse for how poorly they had been treated. Why is it that some of the nicest dogs are so badly treated by people? And how do they manage to stay friendly after such abuse and neglect?

Comments (19)

And Michael Vick was awarded Sportsman of year award by BET and sponsored by Subway. Join us on Facebook, NO WAY Subway, to put pressure on Subway to withdraw thier sponsorship.

Posted by: ANNE C | June 30, 2011 9:34 PM    Report this comment

"why do pit bulls in particular tend to be the target of abuse? "

Because the pit bull image appeals to a certain "breed" of people who are excessively macho, think of animals as disposable units for fighting or violent protection, and so on. When they get bored or the dog disappoints them then they take it out on the dog. These are people who if they were dogs, we would call "unsocialized" and "bad temperament" and "not suitable for breeding".

Posted by: CYNTHIA C | May 7, 2011 6:53 PM    Report this comment

I have 2 rescued pit bulls - my first was thrown off the roof of a building when he was only 4 months old. He suffered a broken hip and none of the shelters in NYC would take him in - they wanted to euthanize him. The Good Samaritan that rescued Indie found a shelter in NJ that took him in, then my good friend and veterinarian operated on his hip. I took him for physical therapy, and worked with him to get over his fear and aggression towards men (no surprise). He is now the sweetest dog in the world, LOVES kids,and all people now. His ability to overcome his circumstances is a daily inspiration to me.

Posted by: Lydia G | April 29, 2011 7:19 AM    Report this comment

Those photos ar so confronting! I am always baffled by Human Nature! Alternatively, truly amazed by Dog Logic! Janine W. VIC/AUST

Posted by: Janine W | April 28, 2011 5:49 PM    Report this comment

....because they exist in a state of grace and were sent to hold up a mirror to human baseness.

These photos broke my heart. I have 3 pit-mixes, Brandy was abandonned pregnant in a parking on a particularly icy January. She was fearful of men and any object in the shape of a stick. Her 7 puppies found good homes and I kept one. She is now a perfect dog. The other pit Gypsy was left on a Halloween night tied to a lamppost wearing a heavy saddle leather metal-studded vest; she had old bite marks and fresh scabs on her neck and face. At the sound of a raised voice, she would submission-urinate and present her backside as if expecting to be beaten. Nine years later, I still can't say "Come here!" to her because she associates this command with pain to follow.

Of all my girls, Gypsy, the most damaged and mistreated is the most loving.

Posted by: Czerny | April 27, 2011 9:46 AM    Report this comment

Dogs believe that every moment is a new opportunity for a better existence.

Posted by: Don W | April 27, 2011 8:04 AM    Report this comment

Just an additional question to ponder: why do pit bulls in particular tend to be the target of abuse? There are so many cases of pit bulls being tortured endlessly.

Posted by: lowen | April 27, 2011 7:15 AM    Report this comment

Animal abuse is one of the utmost displays of evil and ignorance of which humans are capable. Why these animals chose to forgive is a very good question. But when they do trust again, they love you with all that they are and forge an unbreakable bond with those they deem worthy of their forgiveness and love. If you are the recipient of that love and trust, you are indeed a blessed individual. My Bode was one of those animals abused before we even met. It took time for him to trust me after the adoption but once he bloomed, he became a comedian, a snuggler, a trusted friend, a helper, and a brave protector from all who would seek to harm me. I am blessed indeed!

Posted by: KELLI B | April 26, 2011 2:22 PM    Report this comment

I don't know the answer to your first heartbreaking question. But as to the second question, Temple Grandin has a theory that when dogs were first bred form wolves, they became neotenized (they don't fully reach true adulthood). According to her theory, we become parent-substitutes when we adopt a dog, and it's why dogs are so tame and trainable. It occurs to me that the young of any mammal are more forgiving, probably because staying with all but the most abusive parents is still more adaptive than venturing out into nature alone.

I hope those poor dogs find the loving caring home they deserve.

Posted by: LINDA F | April 26, 2011 2:01 PM    Report this comment

There are some people who are so offended that others are involved in care and rescue of animals......based on the prehistoric belief that only people matter. Until we get beyond this, there will be animal abuse and neglect.

Posted by: BRENDA B | April 26, 2011 12:36 PM    Report this comment

I rescued a wolf-hybrid several years ago that was also abused and neglected. Like pits, wolf-hybrids are stereotyped as agressive, but, also like many pits, my Caleb (a name meaning both dog and heart) loved everyone he ever met. He was a bit shy but a 120 pound lamb. Dogs love unconditionally without strings, without thinking whether or not we deserve it. I don't think most of us can begin to fathom the loyalty and forgiveness that comes as naturally to dogs as breathing. That is what makes those who abuse them especially sick in the same way as those who prey on children who trust the adults in their lives to protect them. Stricter animal abuse laws would help curb child abuse, but our society still refuses to see the connection.

Posted by: LINDA H | April 26, 2011 12:13 PM    Report this comment

I know a lot of people are not well informed about Pit Bulls. They believe they are born "mean" I think there are more mean people out there, who chose to make their dogs mean, than there are mean dogs. I've no patience for anyone who mistreats an animal. Its so sad to see this dogs were mistreated in this way.

Posted by: Susan A. A | April 26, 2011 11:42 AM    Report this comment

What I don't understand, is how the people who owned these dogs, don't get charged with animal cruelty. Clearly this is cruelty. There is no justification in what they have said , how they have lied. The laws should drastically change for harmful people doing this damage to innocent (I CAN'T SPEAK FOR MYSELF) animals. This is absolutely unadulterated cruelty and yes the people with this dog should be punished and severely and never ever be able to have an animal again. Lets not get into Michael Vick here ugh!

Posted by: wags | April 26, 2011 11:37 AM    Report this comment

That is heartbreaking and sickening. It's a shame the owners were not charged with animal cruelty. I only hope that their life from here on makes up for their terrible treatment up to this point.

Posted by: VERONICA M | April 26, 2011 11:25 AM    Report this comment

I look at their poor legs and I could just scream. I can't believe the Animal Control person didn't fine them on the spot and take away the dogs. Given the "penalty", I'm surprised this type of person brought the dog to a shelter - they probably had to prove they did or else they would have abandoned the dogs on some highway or killed them. Why do animals still love us after we treat them so poorly - because they are much closer to being Godly then we ever will be. They truely can "turn the other cheek" and give us another chance even when we don't deserve it. Anyone that reads this should really think about adopting from a shelter or supporting a shelter - these abandoned and abused animals ask for so little and give so much. This is why every State should start an Abused Animal list that makes it impossible for these types of heartless individuals from obtaining another animal.

Posted by: keller1312 | April 26, 2011 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Please forgive me for stereotyping, but pit bulls are often bred to be good to people,( and put up with their abuse.) More than many other dogs, they seem to really crave human affection!

Posted by: Seana P | April 26, 2011 11:16 AM    Report this comment

Can you let us know the shelter? I can't adopt these dogs, but I would contact a rescue group in Los Angeles that might be able to help. I would love to go and just take them for a walk and give them some love!

Posted by: Lisa C | April 26, 2011 10:58 AM    Report this comment

It breaks my heart to see these pictures-all they really want to do is pluease us. How can someone do this????

Posted by: jwood | April 26, 2011 10:57 AM    Report this comment

Because they are better creatures than we are.

Posted by: Dana E | April 26, 2011 10:50 AM    Report this comment

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