Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Junk Yard Dog

Junk Yard Dog is a shorthand phrase that I use to describe a type of dog that is becoming more and more prevalent--at least in San Diego County. Herewith I will examine the phenomenon of the Junk Yard Dog and its sub-categories.

I'm guessing that one type of Junk Yard Dog has been around since earliest times in areas where law enforcement is uncertain--either because of isolation or pervasive crime. By definition, ordinary citizens cannot look to law enforcement for protection from these unfortunate creatures.

However, another type of Junk Yard Dog is now a part of both city and suburban life, one that is introduced into a community that expects and usually receives the protection of law enforcement. I first saw the beginnings of this about fifteen or twenty years ago. This is what I have seen in my quiet suburban neighborhood. A new family moves in. It is their first house. Everyone greets them and admires the work they do on their landscaping etc. Shortly thereafter, they acquire a puppy--sometimes from a newspaper ad, sometimes from a rescue organization.

Those of us with dogs stop by and admire the new puppy. Some people invite the new puppy over for play dates. Some people suggest dog training classes. The new owners smile and ignore these overtures. The puppy grows. A sign is posted on a gate or fence. Beware of Dog or Guard Dog. The owners of this now adult sized, completely unsocialized puppy/dog consider the sign to be sufficient protection against further liability. Some owners don't even bother with a sign.

Before long, dog walkers and parents with young children in strollers learn to cross the street before passing the house where this dog lives, hurrying by and praying that the gate is closed and the dog has created no hole in the fence.

What I have described is the most benign scenario. Sometimes the new family doesn't bother to socialize with neighbors, just moves in with their neglected, unsocialized dog, and ignores any attempts at neighborly contact.

Sometimes Junk Yard Dogs are restrained with heavy chains which restrict their ability to find shade or shelter from inclement weather. Sometimes they are given the run of the house and yard. One particularly unnerving Junk Yard Dog on the end of my block was "confined" by a shaky wooden fence against which he threw his weight as he barked and growled. As the terrified walker turned the corner in front of this dog's house, the dog would run into the house and throw himself against the front window, barking and growling.

To avoid this, I learned to walk my dogs--now I have just one--between 5 and 5:30am, while this "guard dog"and others like him are evidently resting from their labors.

I am informed that his family has recently moved. Who says that there is no upside to the bursting of the real estate bubble?

With the departure of this JYD, and the euthanizing of the JYD who attacked my husband, Bingley, killed Portia, and three years earlier had attacked my wonderful greyhound, Zephyr, we are left with a mere two JYD's on our block.

But. A new family has just moved in. They have recently acquired their first TWO dogs. One is a tiny Toy Poodle. The second is.....a Mastiff-mix puppy. I don't believe that they intend either of these dogs to be a threat to their neighbors. However, both parents work. The dogs spend long hours moving from garage to back yard in the summer heat. AND, since one dog is "so little" and one dog is "just a puppy", they see no harm in letting these dogs loose while they putter in the front yard.

We are still at the "friendly intervention" stage. One concerned neighbor has convinced them that puppies should not be left alone all night in the garage to bark and whine. We are working on the idea that dogs should not be let loose while owners do gardening. Will a four pound toy poodle survive until its owners learn to confine it? Will the Mastiff mix puppy be sufficiently socialized to be a good neighbor? Stay tuned. If not, the Mastiff mix will probably become one of a third variety of JYD. The JYD by default.

Junk Yard Dogs, either the "guard dog" or default variety, in otherwise law abiding neighborhoods, present unique challenges to law enforcement. Gang members aren't strutting the streets accompanied by obviously vicious dogs. But our streets are not safe for other dogs, people, or, especially, children.

The topic of Junk Yard Dogs is related to the July 11 post about a dog attack in Vista. It is the classic scenario of a JYD attack. And the dog in question was a pit bull, the current epitome of a JYD. As things are now, not every pit bull is a JYD. Not every JYD is a pit bull. The dog who killed Portia was not a pit bull. But he was definitely a JYD. There are courageous people dedicated to turning pit bulls into loving pets and good citizens. However, there are, apparently, many more people just as determined to boltster their shaky egos, intimidating others, by arming themselves with unsocialized pit bulls, whose physical characteristics make them ideal for such purposes.

Junk Yard Dogs are an important part of the current situation making dog walking difficult and risky in San Diego County. But they are not the only part of the problem. Another part of the problem is the dog owner who has probably taken his dog to obedience training and believes that "my dog will always obey me", or "my dog loves everybody". These dog owners are as at risk of loose JYD's as are law abiding dog walkers. And, their dogs, given the precise circumstances, could cause death or injury--in less than 30 seconds.

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