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Blog Action Day: The Poverty Book List

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I've been thinking for several days about what I want to write about poverty for Blog Action Day 2008. I started writing a personal story about poverty at least 10 times, but honestly, that doesn't feel the right thing to do today. I want to actually offer a resource, rather than just talking about myself like I always do. So, being as I've had some success in the past offering lists of recommended books, I thought maybe I'd use my Blog Action Day platform to offer a brief poverty studies book list. Hope it's helpful.

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    No surprise here. A lot of people consider Steinbeck's 1939 novel about the Joad family's journey to California during the Dust Bowl the best book about poverty ever written, and I can't disagree. This is a fantastic book, trite as it may be to say that, and I think it should be required reading.
  2. Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voight
    These are children's novels about four children, the Tillermans, who, led by eldest sister Dicey, make their way across the country to find their grandmother after their mother abandons them. Homecoming gets them to their grandmother's house, Dicey's Song is about them living with her. Both books are, in part, about living in poverty, and even though I read them in elementary school, they've stuck with me. I can still remember the passage in Dicey's Song about Dicey and her grandmother eating at a restaurant and Dicey's concern at the meal's expense. Excellent stuff.
  3. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
    Though this book was widely acclaimed, I know a lot of people who really didn't like it, saying Ehrenreich, even after her experiment, doesn't actually understand the working poor and makes stupid decisions and assumptions in her book and the experiment she writes about. I don't 100% disagree with this assessment, but I still think this is a brave and important book. The fact is that most people who have never themselves been poor have no idea what it's actually like, or why poor people might make the decisions that they do. Ehrenreich gives some explanations. Would I like it better if these explanations could come from someone who has actually lived in this situation and isn't just trying it on as a journalist? Sure. Do I think people would listen as well as they listened to Ehrenreich? No.
  4. The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler
    Shipler's book has much the same task as Ehrenreich's, but instead of building a fictional life in order to have "working poor experiences" himself, Shipler extensively interviews a bunch of working poor families and mixes their first-person stories with an academic analysis of the life of the American working poor. The only really bad thing about this book is that it is outdated (it was published in 2004, but even since then things have changed radically, and the research was done for years before that). I'd like to see an updated version.
  5. Don't Call Us Out of Name: The Untold Lives of Women and Girls in Poor America by Lisa Dodson
    This is another book built much like Shipler's, mixing first person accounts of poverty with academic analysis. What makes it more interesting to me, though, is that it addresses the interplay between poverty and gender. Again, the book's major failing is being out of date, as it was published in 1998.
  6. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
    Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina is one of the most amazing and most difficult novels I've ever read. Poverty is only one of the things its about, but it is in many ways the most salient. Just as Bone's tale of the violence of men is a call to feminism, her tale of the violence of poverty is a call to class activism.
  7. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
    Jeannette Walls' memoir is mostly about her childhood, growing up very poor with negligent and unstable parents. Walls' family was at times homeless, often hungry, and usually without running water or electricity. She recalls middle-of-the-night dashes from collecting landlords and page after page of experiences that make the reader's skin crawl. It's a hard book to read, but a good one. I only wish Walls' discussion of how it feels on the other side of that poverty, as an upper middle class adult with a world of both gratitude and guilt, was more prolonged.
  8. Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks
    bell hooks as written a lot about the intersection of race, class, and gender. This book is a conflation of memoir and social theory, and although it's a bit tough to read, it's completely worth it.
  9. Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood by by Jay MacLeod
    Ain't No Makin' It is one of those books that I read and never forgot. I read it for intro pol sci my first year at Reed, and I've come back to it in my mind often since then. MacLeod wrote it about the kids he encountered while working as a counselor in a program for low-income youth. It focuses a lot on way poverty is spirit-crushing even at a very young age, and on the obstacles the kids have stacked against them. Once again, this book is out of date (and out of print), but it's still a good read if you can get a copy.
  10. Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class edited by Michelle Tea
    The final book on my list is an essay collection written by women who grew up working class. The topics of the pieces range pretty broadly, from discussion of class jumping to explorations of how much worse poor people are treated in day to day life.

Obviously there are a lot more books about poverty that are worth reading. These ten are just the first best ones I could come up with. Please feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments, and thanks for reading my Blog Action Day 08 post!

4 Comments

I recently reread Homecoming and Darcy's Song and they were just as fantastic as I remembered.

Great list. You've definitely given me some things to add to my library hold list.

Hmm, very cognitive post.
Is this theme good unough for the Digg?

I read this book while in my young teens and LOVED it, although I thought it was called Darcy's Song, or Dalcy's song, recently. I have craved to read this again, and am so happy that NOW i know how to find it! Its so wonderful. Some books you NEVER grow out of!

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Best posts

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I am trying to put together a few of my best blog posts in a "best posts" category, for the benefit of newcomers to my blog who don't want to wade through a lot of crap to get to the few times I write something worth reading. Regular readers, do you have any ideas of things I should include in this category?

Thanks!

4 Comments

"Em Gets Me Thinking" (http://www.noonewatching.com/archives/2005/06/i_know.html) seems to say a lot about you* and your opinion of yourself.

"The Many Faces & Hairstyles of Grace" (http://www.noonewatching.com/archives/2006/05/the_many_faces_and_hairstyles.html)was really fun to read; I remember reading a similar post specifically about body image, too.

"Fat" (http://www.noonewatching.com/archives/2005/03/fat.html) and "Anorectic" ( http://www.noonewatching.com/archives/2005/03/anorectic.html) are two of my favorites, for personal reasons. Both of them present the kind of unique, thought-provoking opinions that I love your blog for.

I thought"I Know" (http://www.noonewatching.com/archives/2005/06/i_know.html) was one of your best posts, too.

I guess this list seems like all the obvious choices, but these are the first 5 posts that came to mind, the ones that had the biggest impact on me when I first read them.

*I don't know you personally, so when I say "you", I mean, "you, as you present yourself here,"

P.S. I've commented before, but I believe I did so under a different handle... I've been reading for a little over a year.

Definitely your "My Thrifting philosophy" post! I'm also a big fan of the honesty and insight in your "I Drink ..." post.

If I had the capacity to remember more than my own name and which days I'm prettiest on, I'd be able to tell you which post I like best.

If I stumble into the part of my brain that has the things people call memories, I'll see if I can't be of some help to you.

The feminist booklist.

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Em gets me thinking

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I just read this post by Em, and it got me thinking in a new direction for the day.

I can relate to a lot of what Emilin writes. Though I don't share her job-fulfillment or her mommyhood, I do get what she's saying about how your politics and how you wear them can change as you age. I'm no less "liberal" than I was at 22. My core personal and political values have remained very steady, and if anything, moving in a more privledged social/economic class has made me more aware of how completely fucked up our class system is. Ben Franklin would likely not be impressed by my brain, because I don't see much chance of my getting conservative before I hit 30.

That being said, I certainly wear it differently now.

Em describes her 22 year-old self as going to protests in steel-toed boots. I wasn't a whole lot different. My hair wasn't naturally colored and was never so long. I wouldn't have been caught dead in the clothes I wear now. I hadn't yet accepted that straight was going to be the identity I got, regardless of how well I did or did not believe it fit me. The thing that Emilin wrote that really resonated with me, though, is "I'm no longer trying to impress people with my anger." That's it exactly. I'm still pissed. Extraordinarily pissed, sometimes. But I no longer define myself by it, or feel the need to share it in quite the same overt manner. And I no longer consider being angry an accomplishment. It may well be my birthright, but it isn't my destiny.

I never would have expected to be where I am now. The office job, the mortgage, the gaggle of pets, the (gasp) SUV. The friends all around me getting married and having babies. It wasn't at all what I envisioned for myself. I expected to be writing professionally, to be in a major city, to finally have achieved hip. And while I'd still love to be writing professionally, those other things are not only not my reality, they are no longer even appealing. I've been to enough major cities now that I know I am not keen on living in one, and hip ceased to be a goal sometime around when I gave up trying to keep the dog hair off me.

I'm not as fulfilled as Em seems to be in her post, mostly due to my job situation (which isn't bad but isn't as great as hers), but also because Em has already made decisions (marriage, baby, where in the country to live permanently) that I haven't made yet. Marriage is pretty well out, but kids are still a maybe, and my feet definitely aren't growing any roots yet. While I am not in a hurry to make those decisions (time still doesn't seem to be moving overly fast to me), I don't think I'll ever have the sense of contentment in Emilin's post until I do. And that's fine. I've been in transition, more or less, for 28 years now, I can transition for a few more.

On one hand, I am amused at how normal I've become with my job and my clothes and my house and my life. And yeah, I'm a little bit disappointed, too. I definitely see people living differently and feel jealous. But I also know something now I didn't use to--that you can have these trappings, live in this class, and still have a spirit and a soul and creativity inside you. I may look like an automaton, but I'm still the same person I have always been in my head. If anything, I am confident enough in that person now that I don't feel like the need to shove her down everybody's throat every five minutes. And I think that might be progress?

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Whenever I meet old friends, I always get the feeling that I'm one of those "living differently" folks to the majority of people. And it's true enough, but as I told my newest coworker the other day, I've gotten to the point where living in Asia is mostly just boring. In that, I still have to pay my bills and run my errands and all that. There are some moments that really shine, but I suspect not any more than would in any other life I could have been living right now.

this is a really excellent, thought-provoking piece of writing.

i wish i could respond in kind, but i find myself a bit tapped at the moment.

i wanted to express my admiration, however.

i fall somewhere in between where you are and where the writer you are referring to is, but i can certainly relate.

thanks!

It's amazing the things you find on the net by following one thread to another and the various searches. This was a magical find for me!!!

It's about the body thing... It really moves me, for many reasons. There's the usual stuff, blah blah blah... Mark loves you and thinks you're beautiful, so what else matters, and it's what's inside that's important.

Like you, I'm tall. 6'3", 330# now that I'm 48. Part of the weight is from my psychotropic drugs (very bi-polar), which keep me mostly sane. All my weight is around my gut and neck. So I guess I carry it well, so to speak.

But the point is, I hear your words when you speak. I don't see them, I don't understand them, I *feel* them.

Then I see photos of you and hear your self descriptions... I wish you could only see in you for 15 minutes what I see in you tonight as I share your blog.

My wife has issues with her self image. To me she's still 5'll and 140, just like the day we met. Sort of like when your grandma thinks of you as the same small child she held all those years ago. I keep trying to tell her to relax, and she does, then she starts all over again.

I know that nothing I tell you here tonight will be much inspiration for you or change how you feel about yourself in the long run, but I felt I had to put in some input. You're incredibly beautiful regardless of what you think! And I'm never wrong... Or at least not about this.

Sorry for posting this outright, but I didn't find an email link. And I also wanted to let everybody else see what I see.

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Thrifting while plus-sized: a primer

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Anybody who has been reading this blog for any time at all knows that I am a voracious thrift shopper (in fact, I have a whole blog archive of thrift-related posts). However, something I may have been less-than-forthcoming with here recently is that I haven't, for the last few years, thrifted much in the way of clothing for myself.

Why? Well, there is a simple reason and it's one I'm not proud of: It just got too hard. Not only did finding clothes in my size in thrift stores take forever once I passed size 14, but sifting through rack after rack of clothes too small for me made me feel bad about myself. And though there was no moment at which I decided to stop trying to find clothes for myself at thrift stores, I slowly did stop trying. I still thrift shopped as much as ever, I just bought other things.

All of this would have been fine, of course, except that it didn't translate into me not buying clothes. It translated, instead, into me buying new clothes. For the last couple of years, most of my clothes (and they are significant) have come from Ross, Target, and New York & Company. I've even ventured to Old Navy and the Gap more often than I'd like to admit.

I have kind of a moral problem with that. I've been buying clothes that were made under bad labor conditions of chemically treated fabrics, then sold for less than they would be worth under a real wage system. And I've been doing it, basically, out of laziness and inability to deal with my own body.

It needs to stop.

And now there is another impetus--finances. It's been years since I've thrifted for solely financial reasons--I mostly do it for environmental reasons now, and because I enjoy it. However, yet another thing you know if you've been reading here long is that I am in debt. A not insignificant amount of debt. And I am committed to curbing my spending and paying that debt off in 2008. To do that, I simply can't afford to buy new clothes. In the past, when I've had a hate-on for my wardrobe, I've thought nothing about finding a sale coupon for NY&Co. and going to drop $200 or so there, or doing something similar at Ross. That can't happen now. If I want "new" clothes, they have to be thrifted. Because it's the right thing to do, and because I can't afford anything else.

Betsy Smith, the Resale Queen, who makes her living buying things secondhand and reselling them on Ebay, theorized on one of her podcasts that women who are what she calls "chubby" hang on to their clothes until they are good and worn out, since they are likely to have had trouble finding them to begin with. Because of this, there is a dearth of quality plus-sized women's clothes in thrift stores. Except, she adds, for clothes in "pre-gastric bypass" sizes, or very large sizes. Those you can sometimes find. This has been more or less my experience as well, and was part of why I stopped trying to thrift clothes for myself to begin with. I started feeling like it just wasn't really possible. I found lots of things up to size 12, and a few size 24 or bigger, but not much in between.

Given the memory of this lack of clothing in my size, it was with apprehension that I set out this weekend to try to thrift myself up some new wardrobe pieces. After all, I am actually bigger now than I was when I stopped thrifting for clothes for myself. However, I felt both resigned to doing it and compelled to prove myself wrong and actually find some nice things that fit. So, I laid some ground rules before ever leaving the house:

1. Actually look. Don't just skim the racks; take the time to look through them thoroughly. Rifling through them and pulling out things that look interesting for a few minutes at a time may have worked at a size 10, but it's not going to do the job now.

2. Look only for myself. Do not get distracted by things I could buy for other people (for me, this is really key). No matter how great something is, if it won't fit or work for me, it's not of interest.

3. Giving up and going to buy new stuff isn't an option. If you don't thrift it, you can't have it.

On Saturday, I made my first try. I spent three or more hours at my second-favorite local Goodwill. When this store first opened, I didn't like it at all, but it has grown on me. It's very large, and that helps. When I entered the store, I identified the sections that might have clothes I could use: sweaters, jeans, pants, skirts, dresses, knit shirts. I skipped the sleeveless shirts, capris, shorts, button-down shirts, and jackets, as those are things I don't wear or won't wear this time of year. The rest of the sections I took one by one, methodically making my way through the aisles. My initial goal was just to get as many things I could reasonably try on as possible into my cart.

Let me break here to say a word about what is reasonable to try on. This is, in my opinion, a very delicate balance. You don't want to leave things that might work for you on the rack, but you also don't want to frustrate yourself trying on tens of things that don't fit. For me, what works is to set a size range. In general (and if you know anything about women's sizing you know this is very general) I wear a 14 or an XL on the top and a 16 or an XL on the bottom. When I'm thrifting, I'll try on anything for the top that is 14-18 or XL, as well as big-looking larges. On the bottom, I'll try on 16-20 and XL, as well as the occasional 14 or big looking large. Dresses that aren't cut close I will go down to large or 14. If something just looks like it will fit me, I'll also throw it in the cart, as things can be shrunk or mismarked.

It took me about 3 hours to methodically go through the relevant sections in this large store. Yes, that's a chunk of time. If you don't enjoy thrifting, it's a big chunk. But once you get into it, it can be very meditative, plus you always see occasional funny stuff. After going through each section, my cart was piled high with maybe 30ish things to try on.

Now on to the dressing room. There are rules here as well:

1. Not matter how great a deal something is; if it doesn't fit you, it's not worth it. There is no price small enough to be worth subjecting yourself to having yet another thing in your closet that doesn't it. Same thing if it's just not flattering.

2. Unless you are a person who both can sew and actively does, do not buy things that need adjustments or alterations. You'll just end up with things that don't fit. There are a few exceptions to this, as in pieces that are really high enough quality to take to a tailor, but generally, thrift clothes should be wearable as-is.

3. If you don't like something, it doesn't matter how cheap it is, how great of shape its in, or what brand it is. There is no profit in having clothes you don't like. And you don't have to justify why you don't like it--just not liking it is enough.

4. Even if the first 20 things you try on don't fit you, the 21st might. You can't stop trying things on until you've given everything in the cart a chance.

5. Yes, thrifted clothes can be overpriced. Just because something fits you doesn't make it not stained/worn out/faded. The object here is to buy things you'll actually feel good about wearing, so skip the crap.

Using these rules, it took me about 20 minutes to try on everything I found. At the end of the marathon in the dressing room, I came out with a great pair of Seven7 jeans (size 14--good thing I tried them on!), a heavy green cotton Gap turtleneck sweater, and a black and white print vintage-style dress (size large--once again, I am thankful for the breadth of my size range). Maybe 10% of what I tried on. But all great wardrobe pieces, and at a total cost of about $20.

On Sunday, I made my second attempt, this time at my very favorite Goodwill. I went in with the same rules, but discovered that I could cut my rack-surfing time down some by skipping past things I know I won't want regardless of size, like faded jeans and very light colored pants or skirts (I just don't do light colors on the bottom). It took me only about two hours to get through the relevant racks, and my cart was loaded with at least 30 items when I hit the dressing room.

This try-on session was slightly less productive, if only because nothing I put on the bottom fit worth a damn. However, I came home with five new shirts (two long-sleeved tee shirts, two tunic tops, and a sweater) and a dress, for about $30, so I consider the trip a success.

Over the course of the weekend, I developed a few more tips to would-be plus-sized second-hand shoppers:

1. Do not rely on the plus-sized section. If your store(s) are anything like mine, the selection here will be spotty and weird, and most of the good stuff will be scattered throughout the rest of the store. To make matters worse, my local stores have started to mix plus-sized and maternity clothes together, as if they are the same thing. Drives me bonkers, and I have written to them to complain about it.

2. Expect it to be difficult and time-consuming. There is just no way around it. If you are above a size 12, and especially if you are above a 14, the percentage of the stuff in the store that might fit you is probably as low as 2-3%, and it's going to take a while to seek that out. Give yourself plenty of time. If being in a store that long irritates you, maybe try wearing headphones and listening to music or an audio book while you browse.

3. Be willing to try things on. This is maybe the most important thing. You have to be willing to try a wide range of things on to find the perfect piece or perfect few pieces.

Basically, like all thrifting, thrifting while plus-sized comes down to patience. It just requires a lot more patience than thrifting-while-size-8. For me, because of my current financial constraints, and because of how strongly I feel against mass produced clothing, it's worth it. I am re-dedicating myself to building my wardrobe this way (with a few caveats, like shoes, which really are impossible to find in my size). But that doesn't mean it's going to be in any way easy, and I forsee coming home empty-handed as often as not.

So, one of the things I am going to be doing in my daily clothing reports is noting where I got the things I am wearing. My hope is that the percentage of my wardrobe that was not purchased new will increase, and reporting on it publicly will help keep me honest.

Happy thrifting!

2 Comments

If I might add a few:

1. Wear a skirt and layers to the store--not every store has a dressing room, or there may be a huge wait, or there may be a small number of items you can take in.

2. Buffalo Exchange is pretty good for thrifting plus, also, usually most cities have a "consignment" store for plus sized thrifting. They was a great one in Portland. I have yet to find a perfect one here.

3. Check the men's section! A lot of plus sized collared shirts get put in there because of size, and jeans too. I usually just go through and look for patterns/colors I like and they often end up being women's plus.

4. Vintage sizes mean nothing....I have several dresses and skirts that have meaningless sizes (i.e. "6" or "32" yet fit me). If it looks like it might fit, just try it on.

Those are all definitely good suggestions, esp. the one re: the men's section. I totally should have mentioned that.

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More on the Willard Suitcase Exhibition

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I can't get the Willard Suitcase Exhibition out of my head. I even dreamed about it last night. So this post will contain "spoilers," as it were, and I highly recommend you click the link and take a look for yourself before you read it.

I have a great big family, and, as is often the case, it comes with lots of family lore. Stories about the time Uncle X said that and Grandma Y did this and all that. I have an inordinate fondness for these stories, both because of their personal connection to my family and because I love me some history, especially oral history. One story has always really bothered me, though. My maternal grandfather's eldest sister, Edna, gave birth to twins, I think in the 40s, and "lost her mind." I don't know what exactly "lost her mind" means in this case--could have been post-partum depression, could have been something else. Edna was institutionalized and eventually given a lobotomy. As far as I know, she died in the state mental hospital. She never got to mother her babies. She never got to make her own decisions. She lost her freedom, and then she lost part of her brain.

I thought about her a lot while I was looking through the Willard suitcase pictures. What might her suitcase have contained? Pictures of her kids (she had older children as well as the twins)? Of her siblings (there were eight)? Her parents (already dead by this time)? Who spoke for her? When she was first committed, did she have any idea that she was never going to have the opportunity to return to her old life?

And did she really need to be committed at all? Was what she suffered from what we now know as post-partum depression, which, Tom Cruise's rantings aside, is a fairly common medical condition in women who have recently given birth and has several possible courses of treatment, none of which involve locking someone up and cutting out part of their brain? Even if she had something more rare--schitzophrenia, say--was she a danger to herself or anyone else? And even if she was, how much of a danger do you need to be before it's a legitimate choice to lock you up and throw away the key? Or give you a lobotomy?

The written about the people who owned the suitcases found in the attic of Willard Psychiatric Center portray people who had similar stories to my great-aunt Edna's, though none of them were given lobotomies. None of them sound all that "crazy," yet all of them spent decades, usually more than half of their lives, in locked mental wards without recourse. Some of them were "odd" their whole lives, others had reactions to tragedies that were considered inappropriate. Many of them were immigrants, and there were clear language barriers. Everything was taken from these people, from the suitcases that laid untouched in an attic for half a century or more to the very basic human right of free will. Very few of them were treated, and those who were were given electroshock "therapy" and high doses of drugs that did things to their brains that were not dissimilar to what a knife did to Edna's. In many cases, it seemed as if treatment was a ruse at best--they were being punished, in a way so severe that even at the time prisoners got better treatment. And punished for what? Very few of them were violent. Punished for thinking differently?

I don't think it's a coincidence that of the nine people portrayed in the online suitcase exhibition, six were immigrants to New York at the time of their admission to Willard and another was African-American. Nor do I think it's chance that seven of them came from working-class backgrounds. I am surprised only four of them are women. What we choose to define as "mentally ill" both in the first half of the last century, when the suitcase owners came to Willard, and now, is heavily influenced by race, class, and gender. We live in a society that wants to regulate the thoughts of people whom we do not trust to think "right" for themselves. In the commentary for the online museum, it says. "In the medical records, one finds no indication that any of [the suitcase owners] thought that their confinement at Willard was warranted, or that they benefited from being there." Most people came to Willard via a court order, and more than half of them left in a casket, after a stay averaging over 30 years. And what about my aunt Edna? Did she think her confinement was warranted? Did she want them to cut out part of her brain to make her more compliant? Somehow I doubt it.

I find this infuriating, but also, as I said yesterday, really frightening on a personal level. The instances that precipitated the suitcase owners' commitment to Willard seem so...common. Unemployment, death of a loved one, things that can do happen to anybody. And were their reactions all different than mine would have been, or will be, in similar circumstances? How am I to know that having a child wouldn't cause me to "lose my mind" just like Aunt Edna did? And if I did, would I be allowed to speak for myself? Would anyone speak for me? What would be in my suitcase?

2 Comments

Thanks for posting the link to that...I spent a long time looking at it yesterday. Did you check out the audio clips? I guess some of the patients there (but not the ones whose suitcases were displayed) WERE lobotomized, and one of the former nurses talks about that. There are also bits about the seclusion rooms, "typhoid cages," and "the blitz" (shock therapy). Pretty interesting, scary stuff. It struck me also that of the people whose suitcases were displayed, most of them seemed decidedly NOT in need of being there. I wondered how much of that was what they chose to display, and how much was simply the proportion of people there who actually had good reason to be there.

Grace, I was so moved by your reflections on your aunt's experience in response to your reading the suitcase website. So many thousands of people endured that experience unecessarily. And Jess, I just wanted to let you know that the only criteria we used to select the people to include in our study was that they had suitcases with a lot of rich material, which made it easier to understand something about who they were before they were institutionalized.

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Rules of Responsible Dog Ownership

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In talking with a few people about Take Your Dog to Work Day, and about dogs in public in general, it's become clear that a lot of people who have issues with dogs in public places or work places really have issues with dog owners who don't act responsibly. And I can understand that. As I hope I made clear before, I think it's a necessary part of dog ownership to make sure your dog isn't a PITA to other people, at least to a reasonable degree. I also think it's part of the responsibility of someone like me, who wants to see the places for dogs in our society expand, to show how that can be done without inconveniencing anyone. In that spirit, I decided to start a list of rules for responsible dog ownership. Please feel free to add other rule suggestions in the comments--this list is a work in progress.

Rules for Responsible Dog Ownership

1. Keep your dog on a leash in public places. With the exception of places that are explicitly leash-free, like dog parks and private yards, I believe dog owners, no matter what size their dogs are, should keep their dogs leased when they aren't at home. Even if you completely trust your dog to stay right with you and you're only walking through the neighborhood, I still think the dog should be leashed. This is both for the dog's protection (particularly from cars) and for the peace of mind of anyone you encounter. Because the truth is that no matter how trustworthy you know your dog is, someone out there is going to be afraid of him/her, and it's going to freak that person out to see the dog without a leash and not under your physical control. People don't need that.

2. Accept and respect that some people don't like/are afraid of/are allergic to dogs. And that your dog, no matter how great you think s/he is, is not an exception to this rule. People should not be forced to interact with your dog if they don't want to, no matter what their reasoning is. Do not assume people want to interact with your dog without asking them, and if they say no, respect that. This goes for the street, the work place, and anywhere else.

3. In this spirit, don't let your dog approach people. People should approach your dog (and as a sidenote, they should ask before doing so, even though a lot of them won't). No one should be put in a situation where s/he is forced to deal with your dog if s/he doesn't want to, unless it's at your house and you've made clear that dogs are part of the package at your house and they shouldn't come visit if they can't deal with that. And even at your own house, anyone who has to be there for a job (delivery person, work person, etc.) should not have to deal with your dog. Ever.

4. Do not expect your dog to train itself. Dogs have to be taught how to act in a given situation. They don't pick up on social cues, at least not human ones, and they can't read your mind. Train your dog to behave properly (not jump on people, not bark, whatever) BEFORE you take him/her in public. Start with safe situations, move up to more challenging ones. It's not the dog's responsibility to figure out what constitutes proper behavior and adapt, it's your responsibility.

5. For God's sake, don't let your dog jump on people. I don't care what kind of dog you have, if it weighs 5 lbs or 150, it should not be allowed to jump up on people.

6. Or lick them.Same thing. A lot of people don't appreciate dog kisses, and your dog shouldn't put its tongue on people.

7. Do not allow children to mishandle your dog. I think this is really important. Even if your dog is the most mellow creature on Earth and kids could do whatever they wanted to him/her and s/he wouldn't mind, you still shouldn't let this happen. While I don't think kids should learn to be afraid of dogs, they do need to learn to approach them with caution and not mishandle them. Just because your calm, well-trained dog will allow kids to stick their fingers in its mouth and pull its tail doesn't mean all dogs will, and we don't want anybody to get hurt.

8. Take care of your dog's health. Obviously keeping your dog healthy is part of dog ownership for the dog's sake, but since I'm focusing on dog-people interactions, it's also vital for people's sake. A great number of attacks by dogs are attacks by sick dogs. If your dog has an untreated medical condition or is in pain, in may act in a way it otherwise would not (just like many people). Don't let that happen.

9. Pick up the poop. This really ought to go without saying, but apparently it doesn't. When your dog shits, pick it up and throw in a trash can. Even if nobody saw it happen. Duh. Similarly, don't let your dog urinate on people's flower beds, or walk through them or dig them up. Or pee on their tires. Or display any other nasty potty behavior.

10. Maintain control. This is really the bottom line rule. If you can't control your dog's behavior and make sure that the people around him/her are safe and not bothered, then you need to work more with the dog before you take him/her out of your own space. Dogs are a privlege; they come with responsibility. If you don't take this responsibility seriously, you shouldn't have a dog.

A good start, I think. More?

Edited to add more rules:

11. Don't leave your barking dog out all day/night. Dogs bark. It's part of what they do. Fine. But if your dog barks all day or all night if you leave him/her out in your yard, then s/he probably shouldn't be left out in your yard. Constant barking will annoy the hell out of your neighbors, and it's likely a sign your dog isn't having a very good time either.

12. Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die. I know people disagree with this, but this is my list, so I'm adding it. I don't think buying or breeding dogs is responsible behavior given the plethora of wonderful dogs who are killed every year in shelters. And that's all I'm going to say about that, since I've blessed you all with that particular rant before. More than once.

3 Comments

Train your dog to behave properly (not jump on people, not bark, whatever) BEFORE you take him/her in public. i've been thinking that next fall i might be ready to get a dog (though now that i'm considering moving i probably won't be able to afford it, but the intent is there) and i've been looking at dog training sites and i read one guy who said that the best way he's found to train puppies is to take them to a dog park, make them go f-ing bezerk, and start training them when they're dead tired. i kinda like that method. great list. especially about not jumping or licking people. i love dogs more than anything but i don't want it on me. a person who can't control their dog isn't really a person i want to be around, i've found.

I think this sounds terrific. I'm storing up your advice for future reference, because I'd like to own a dog one day. I also have a question - my neighbour has a large dog (a mastiff, I think, but I'm not sure) that barks and barks and barks and barks and barks. All day. Allll daaaaay. Does this mean he is in some kind of distress, or is he just being a dog? I mean, if he's bored or lonely, I'd be more than happy to volunteer to take him for walks and play with him, but I don't want to piss off my neighbours by implying I think they're bad dog owners or anything.

It's hard to say, Sofiya. Some dogs bark because they are bored/lonely/unhappy. Some alert bark at every leaf that blows by. Some seem to bark just to hear themselves bark. However, I don't think it's very responsible to leave your dog in your yard all day/all night if s/he barks constantly. It's an annoyance to your neighbors, and chances are the dog isn't very happy. I think it would be nice if you made an offer to walk or play with the dog, assuming you sort of know the neighbors and it wouldn't be too weird. However, you should probably get a feel for the dog before you take it out on a leash alone, especially if it's a good sized dog (and if it's actually a mastiff, it could easily weigh more than you do). You don't want to get pulled all over the city.

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Grace's feminist canon

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My friend T. recently asked me for a list of my favorite feminist books, to use for a book review website project he's putting together. Unable to contain myself with the joy of this task, I put together a fairly comprehensive list (though I edited it down quite a bit). It was so much fun, I thought I'd share it here. Disagree with my picks? Think I left something essential out? Comment--I'd love to hear what you think!

Foundations

vindication of the rights of women1. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (W.W. Norton and Company, 1987)
2. The Second Sex by Simone DeBeauvoir (Everyman's Library, 1993)
3. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (W.W. Norton and Company, 1963)

It's tempting to me to skip these books altogether, because I don't like any of them, but I think they are necessary as foundation if you really want to get into this stuff.

Histories

the world split open4. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen (Penguin, 2001)
5. Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement & the New Left by Sara Evans (Vintage, 1980)
6. Tidal Wave: How Women Changed at Century's End by Sara Evans (Free Press, 2003)
7. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freidman (Ballantine Books, 2003).

If you only read one book about feminism, the Ruth Rosen book gets my vote. It's very comprehensive, yet easy to read, and it has an amazing bibliography, sorted by subject. It's a great place to start. Personal Politics is also important, as it situates 2nd wave feminism in the other social movements of the time, which is something people are likely to miss. I haven't read Tidal Wave, but given what a good historian Sara Evans is, I can't imagine it's anything but good. Freedman is also a top-notch historian, and her book is excellent. It does a better job than the others with feminism before the 1960s.

2nd Wave
Dear Sisters8. Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Robin Morgan (Random House, 1970)
9. Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon (Basic Books, 2001)
10. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett (Doubleday, 1970)
11. The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone (Vintage, 1971)
12. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (McGraw Hill, 1971).

Of the first two, which are both document/essay collections, I'd say Sisterhood is Powerful is probably the better book, but Dear Sisters is a lot easier on the eyes and more reader-friendly. Both are definitely worth reading. The other three are all books written by activist women during the late 60s and early 70s. Kate Millett's has to do with sexism in literature, while Greer's and Firestone's are more broad-reaching.

3rd Wave

manifesta13. To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism by Rebecca Edby Walker (Anchor, 1995)
14. Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
15. Listen Up! Voices from the Next Feminist Generation edited by Barbara Findlen (Seal Press, 1995)
16. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (Seal Press, 2002)

I'm not a huge fan of most of the 3rd wave writing, but I think Manifesta gives a nice overview, and I am a big fan of nearly everything Rebecca Walker has written. Listen Up! is also a primer of sorts--short, easy-read essays. There is actually a newer version of it as well, Listen Up 2 Edition, which was published in 2001, but I haven't read it. Cunt is a must-read.

Radical Feminism

gynecology17. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly (Beacon Press, 1990)
18. Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Andrea Dworkin (E.P. Dutton, 1989)
19. Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Harvard University Press, 1988)

This is a category I am not all that well-versed in, but I've read Pornography, and got quite a lot out of it, and the other two books seem to be standards.

Women of Color

feminism is for everybody20. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks (South End Press, 2000)
21. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks (South End Press, 1981)
22. Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis (Vintage, 1983)
23. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lord (Crossing Press, 1984)
24. Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman (Seal Press, 2002)

I am ashamed to say that I don't know nearly as much as I should about this category. However, I can vouch for both the Davis book and Feminism is for Everybody, and I have heard nothing but good things about Ain't I a Woman. Sister Outsider is mostly short stuff, and I have read most of it and loved all I've read. Colonize This! is anther one I haven't read, but since the rest of these are older writings/writings by older women, I think it's good to include a younger perspective as well.

Sexual Minority Feminism

stone butch blues25. Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation by Karla Jay (Basic Books, 1999)
26. Stone Butch Blues: A Novel by Leslie Feinberg (Firebrand Books, 1993)
27. Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam (Duke University Press, 1998)
28. Amazon to Zami: Towards a Global Lesbian Feminism edited by Monika Reinfelder (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996)

Again I haven't read all of these, but have heard good things about all of them. I can personally vouch for Tales of the Lavender Menace and Stone Butch Blues, and neither should be missed, in my opinion.

Beauty/Body Image

the beauty myth29. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf (Anchor, 1992)
30. Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image edited by Ophira Edut (Seal Press, 2003) (Formerly Adios, Barbie! Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity, Seal Press, 1998)
31. Girl Culture by Lauren Greenfield and Joan Jacobs Brumberg (Chronicle Books, 2002)

The Beauty Myth is an all-time favorite of mine, and I think it holds up well over time. Body Outlaws is more fun to read, however, and is also quite good. Girl Culture is a photo essay book, and it's amazing.

Memoirs/Autobiographies

in our time32. In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller (Delta, 2000)
33. Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant by Andrea Dworkin (Basic Books, 2002)
34. Saturday's Child: A Memoir by Robin Morgan (W.W. Norton and Company, 2000)
35. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem (New American Library, 1992)

For my money, memoirs are the best way to get into reading feminist writers, especially someone like Andrea Dworkin. The Brownmiller and Morgan memoirs are both excellent, and Steinem's is a bit too wishy-washy for my taste, but you can't argue with her selling power or her staying power.

Misc

backlash36. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller (Ballantine Books, 1993)
37. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi (Crown, 1991)
38. Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood by Naomi Wolf (Random House, 1997)
39. Femininity by Susan Brownmiller (Ballantine Books, 1985)

These are about a variety of topics, obviously, but they are books I think are important and beneficial that don't fit in elsewhere.

4 Comments

So, what book would you recommend as a primer for the average guy?

Hrm. Depends. I think Against Our Will is the one guys should really read, but it is a tough read and it's certainly not a primer. On a more accessible front, Femininity gives some insight guys would do well with having.

Hey Grace! I'm working on my Master's in Women's Studies at TWU in Denton, and we are required to take a couple of classes dealing with women of colors. The books we read in the "intro" class were real eyeopeners: This Bridge Called My Back, by Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga and the follow up text, This Bridge We Call Home by AnaLouise Keating and Gloria Anzaldua. Dr. Keating teaches the class, btw, so it's totally excellent. Anyway, in my Epistemologies class we are reading Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, which is EXCELLENT also. Just thought I'd throw a couple of really great ones into the pot for consideration...

excellent list- thanks!

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Treatise on canines

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You know, the best friend I ever had was a dog
It sounds like a cliche unless it's happened to you
Some days that dog was the only reason I even got out of bed

-Dan Bern, "Estelle"

Tonight, I am moved to share my feelings about dogs.

First, a bit of history. I grew up around a lot of dogs. I hated them. I wasn't scared of them (except for my continuing phobia of Boston Terriers, but that's another story for another time), I just didn't like them. They were smelly, they were slobbery, and I just didn't get what was so cool about them.

These dogs came into my life in various forms. The household I grew up in included an Airedale (Sissy) when I was a small child and later was home to a Fox Terrier mutt (Spike) and a Border Collie (Missy). My grandfather on one side bred and raised Boston Terriers. My grandparents on the other side had a Pit Bull (Rowdy). My dad and stepmom had a Black and Tan Hound mutt (Shiloh) and a Malamute/Husky (Sheba) when I was a kid, then later had an Akita (Kuma) and a Rottweiler (Kahn).

Kahn was my stepmom's dog. He was an abused dog she rescued from the city pound when he was about 18 months old. He weighed about 115 lbs. And he was the single most gentle creature I have ever had the privledge of knowing, regardless of species (and certainly regardless of breed). Even though I didn't like dogs, I liked Kahn.

I have been attacked by dogs twice, neither time serious. The first was the meanest fucking Boston on Earth, when I was a little kid, the second was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever when I was 13 or so. Neither of these experiences endeared dogs to me, but neither caused any type of phobia. The Chesapeake was trained to be aggressive towards people; I have no fucking clue what was up with the Boston.

Fast forward a few years, Mark and I meet and fall in love and all that jazz. It becomes clear that as soon as responsibly taking care of one is an option, Mark will be getting a dog, regardless of what I think about it. If I want to be with him, a dog is part of the package. He grew up with two Golden Retrievers who were family members, both of whom died early in our relationship. He loves dogs. So I decide I can deal with having a dog, as long as I don't have to walk it and it doesn't lick me.

So we start looking for a dog. One of my conditions right off, which Mark has no issue with, is that the dog has to be a rescue dog. This is because my core belief is that human beings have absolutely no right to be breeding dogs. I don't think they should have been domesticated in the first place, and since they were, I think we have a responsibility to take care of the ones that are around "accidentally" before we force them to make any more. But more on that later.

The first rescue dog Mark wanted to go and meet was this big-ass black and tan mutt. I wasn't impressed with the picture, but I agreed to go meet him. Whatever.

And that's when I met Chance.

When we met him, Chance's name was Champ. He was estimated to be somewhere between a year and two years old. He had been unceremoniously dumped at the local kill shelter by his family. The explanation was that they had gotten him as a puppy and didn't realize he was going to be so big, and they couldn't handle him. Or something. We later learned, from a fortuitous meeting with someone who had known his first owner and recognized him, that his "life" previous to being dumped at the pound was to be chained in the backyard.

So he came to the pound. A very large (103 lbs at that time) animal with no training and no social skills. That meant a short wait to be killed, as he was considered low adoption probability. Had the amazing folks at Blue Dog Rescue not taken a chance on him, and taken it quickly, he almost certainly would have been put down. The shelter were Chance was "puts down" (just using a euphemism for it doesn't make it OK) 48 animals per day, 5 days per week. A few of these are animals that are very sick, or have what have been identified as unalterable behavioral issues. Most of them aren't.

Having heard this story, I was already warming up to the dog idea before I ever met Chance. Then I met him. He was being walked by his foster mom's 10 year old son. The boy was completely blind. Chance, a huge dog with bully breed markings (he is listed on his papers as a Rottweiler/German Shepard--I don't think that's his exact breed makeup, but it's close enough) and absolutely no training, was leading him. With an amazing grace and perception I never could have guessed possible, Chance stepped out of the way when the boy was going to run into him, he led the boy around obstacles, it was amazing.

He was similarly gentle and fantastic when we took his leash. We were sold. We had our home visit the next day, and Chance stayed at our house for the weekend for a pre-adoption "trial."

During our trial period, things were mostly great. And then Chance bit Mark. He was chewing on a bone, Mark walked too close to him, and he bit him. It wasn't much of a bite--it didn't break the skin, it was a warning, not an attack. But we were scared. So we called Lisa, the woman from whom we got him, and told her.

She told us she'd come get him immediately and that he was no longer an adoptable dog under the rescue's rules. They would take him back, but if we gave him back, he'd be put down. It was that simple.

Well, I couldn't do that. So we enrolled in an obedience course, stopped giving him chew bones, and hoped for the best.

And he was good at obedience training. He learned to sit, to stay, to lay down, to shake hands. For a few weeks, it seemed like things would be OK.

Then one morning I was walking him, and out of nowhere he charged a pedestrian. He pulled the leash out of my hands and ran at a man walking towards us on the street. He did not hurt the man--the guy fell down backing away from him, scared shitless (and I don't blame him), but Chance never even touched him. As soon as he fell, in fact, Chance came right back to me. But a passerby called the police, and it was quite the ordeal. A few days later, he barked at a small kid that came up to pet him. Again didn't touch her, but scared her plenty.

So, as responsible dog owners, we had to do something. It was either get rid of Chance or try something a bit more intense than a Humane Society obedience course. And even though at this point I honestly was scared he might hurt someone, there was no way I was going to give him up to certain death. So we went to a behavioralist. And started training. And worked really fucking hard for about a year, spent a shitload of money, and broke him of the antisocial habits he learned from his first owners.

Technically, and even in the eyes of the Austin Police Department, who have him on record due to the day they were called, I have an aggressive dog. I have a dog who, by virtue of his size and how he looks, makes people cross the street on a regular basis. I have a dog who most probably keeps people from visiting my house. I also have a dog who is a certified Canine Good Citizen and a dog I would trust completely with any child (and do trust with my favorite child). I also have dog who is my best friend on earth, who I know would lay down his life for me at any moment. I have a dog I would do anything for. I have a dog I prefer to most people. I have a dog who is a part of my family--more than that, a dog who made my family.

It is feasible that breed-specific legislation could apply to my dog. It probably wouldn't, as Pit Bulls are the horrible dogs de jour and Chance resembles a Rott, but it's not infeasible. It's not infeasible that the government could tell me not only that I have to carry liability insurance on my dog, or that I can't live in a school zone because of my dog, but even that I just plain can't have my dog. Not because of anything he has done, but because of his breed.

No, that's not OK with me. It's not OK with me on a personal level, as I'm not giving up a member of my family because some small-minded people have decided he's scary; and it's not OK on a political level, because dogs (ALL breeds of dogs) are creatures that we created and we have a responsibility, as a society, to take care of them. Getting rid of them (which, let's be honest, means killing them) if and when they become inconvenient for us is not morally acceptable.

I'm not saying that the specific animals who attack people should not be put down. By the time a dog attacks a human being (I'm talking a real attack here, not the warning bite Chance gave Mark), it quite often is to late. But here are the facts about dogs attacking human beings:

1. It doesn't happen very often. There are approximately 20 fatal dog attacks per year in the U.S. Approximating 20 deaths per year in a dog population of 53 million yields an infinitesimal percent of the dog population (.0000004%) involved in a human fatality (http://www.fataldogattacks.com/). For purposes of comparison, approximately 73 people per year are killed by lightening strikes (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/product.php?site=JKL&product=PNSJKL.0506201442).

2. Breed is not a good identifying factor in dogs that attack. What are good identifying factors?

1. Function of the dog - (Includes: dogs acquired for fighting, guarding/protection or image enhancement)
2. Owner responsibility - (Includes: dogs allowed to roam loose, chained dogs, dogs and/or children left unsupervised, dogs permitted or encouraged to behave aggressively, animal neglect and/or abuse)
3. Reproductive status of dog - (Includes: unaltered males dogs, bitches with puppies, children coming between male dog and female dog in estrus)(http://www.fataldogattacks.com/)You'll notice that these things are all under human, not canine, control.

3. Nearly all cases of of fatal dog attacks could have easily been prevented with responsible dog ownership.

Why am I only talking about fatal cases? Well, mainly because that's what I could find stats on. Stats for attacks in general are notoriously untrustworthy, as only a small percentage of dog attacks are reported, and attacks by small dogs (yes, those happen!) are almost never reported. I think this sums it up pretty well:
A study performed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the CDC, and the Humane Society of the United States, analyzed dog bite statistics from the last 20 years and found that the statistics don't show that any breeds are inherently more dangerous than others. The study showed that the most popular large breed dogs at any one time were consistently on the list of breeds that bit fatally. There were a high number of fatal bites from Doberman pinschers in the 1970s, for example, because Dobermans were very popular at that time and there were more Dobermans around, and because Dobermans' size makes their bites more dangerous. The number of fatal bites from pit bulls rose in the 1980s for the same reason, and the number of bites from rottweilers in the 1990s. The study also noted that there are no reliable statistics for nonfatal dog bites, so there is no way to know how often smaller breeds are biting (http://www.healthypet.com/library_view.aspx?ID=16&sid=1).

Regardless, more and more places in the United States are passing breed specific legislation (you can check and see if there is any in your area here). Why? Ignorance and fear. Will it help? No. Will it get more dogs like Chance killed? Absolutely.

So what is the answer? Some people think Good Dog Laws are sufficient. I don't. I think that using the impetus the occasional, media-hyped dog attack fatality brings to actually deal with this problem at its source is a great idea. The source I think should be dealt with? Breeders.

In all but a very few cases, dogs that attack are dogs with irresponsible owners. How do these owners get their dogs? More often than not, they get them from breeders. Reputable dog rescue organizations take the time to make sure their animals are going to a good home before they adopt out--and why wouldn't they, as they have no financial incentive? If you are using your dogs for profit, though, you lose this impetus.

As I may have already mentioned (yep, this is getting long...), I don't think intentional dog breeding should be legal at all. I think we should deal with the dogs that are here unintentionally before we go encouraging them to make more. But that's a hard sell. What may be an easier sell, and what I think would ultimately help with the issue of aggressive, human-attacking dogs, is making unlicensed dog breeding illegal. If you had to be licensed to breed and sell dogs, and breeding for aggression or selling to people who are going to train dogs to be aggressive were punishable (by fines and loss of license, say), there would be a financial impetus towards responsible ownership.

No, this would not solve the whole problem, but I am firmly convinced it would do more to help that any breed ban (besides being a fuckload more humane, both towards the animals themselves and towards the people who love them).

7 Comments

Put down the arseholes who train dogs to fight each other, if anyone.

I think your idea about requiring licenses to breed dogs is absolutely a good idea. When I was a kid, we had two Shar-Peis that we got for dirt cheap from a local breeder. This person had obviously only bred for the appearance of the dogs--the wrinkles--,because they were plagued with other problems. The first dog died of kidney failure when she was 3 years old. The second dog had major animal aggression issues and was, in general, a little punk. If this had been a responsible breeder, s/he would have been breeding not just for good looks, but also for good health and behaviour. The first dog was dead, and after I went to college, my mom took the 2nd dog to the pound. I must admit that, as you feared, you haven't sold the idea of eliminating dog breeding altogether. But I would definitely go for requiring licenses for dog breeding. When we were looking into getting cats, I looked up some local catteries and was surprised that they required a long and extensive adoption process for their cats. One of the criteria was that, under no circumstances, would they sell to a person who was buying the cat as a gift for someone else. And there are responsible dog breeders who do the same. But people like those who sold us our Shar-Peis for $100 each should be put out of business.

We had to go through an extensive process to get our second dog, a Great Pyrenees from a Pyr rescue group. This included a home visit. It wasn't quite as extensive as the process for adopting a child (there was far less notarizing, and I didn't have to be fingerprinted for the FBI database again, etc.), but still . . . it wasn't the sort of thing someone with a "wild hair" to get a dog would likely put up with--and that is probably the point. I think if breeders were more controlled and sales/adoptions more controlled, a lot of these problems would be reduced.

" (I'm talking a real attack here, not the warning bite Chance gave Mark)" That's where you and I differ. I don't think there's any such thing as a "warning bite". A growl is a warning, imo, and a bite is a bite. Mark is a grown man. If Chance had done the same thing to a child there would have been much more damage.

I suppose, Dana. And that is, of course, the way the rescue sees it, which is why they would have had him put down. But I am completely convinced we did the right thing by giving him another chance. I don't think that a dog who has had no socialization and has been neglected putting his teeth on someone, without breaking the skin or even leaving a mark, when he thinks they are trying to take away his food is really a mark of anything, or very surprising. I also don't think that now that he's in a secure home he'd do it again (and we've tested about a hundred times to make sure of that). However, even though I completely trust Chance, there is absolutely no way I'd let a child near him while he is eating anything. As far as I'm concerned, that's just irresponsible.

I think one needs to be careful with dogs around kids in general, not just when they're eating. In the end, the dogs are animals, no matter how much training, socialization and love they've had. I love Gorm, but frankly, I don't fully trust him around the kids. It's an acceptable risk, but I never forget that it is a risk, and position myself accordingly.

Thanks for the great post about Chance and breed bans. By the way, have you heard that Blue Dog is selling 2006 calendars now? They look great and would make a great gift if you still have holiday shopping! :)

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