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Often in the course of my daily activities I am asked to explain how a mental health professional and humanist (not humaniac) can be so involved with and be appreciative of dogs whose instincts urge them to fight amongst themselves at every opportunity. Perhaps I invite such invitations, as I proudly display an 11" x 14" picture of my stud dog "CH" Pedro" besides my children's pictures on my office wall. At any rate, the consenquence of these questions is that I have spent considerable time pondering this apparent conflict and will happily share my conclusions with anyone who cares to read further.
Now most of us sense that there is something noble about having the courage to stick by our convictions. In fact, this wonderful country we live in would certainly be vastly diffrent were it not for the convictions and courage of our ancestors. Our heritage practically demands that we place a premium on convictions and courage. But how does this relate to our dogs? Well in my estimation a bulldog that doesn't start, has no convictions. One that starts and quits has no courage, and one that starts and sticks with it can eat the same thing for supper that I do.
But why is it necessary to experience pain and injury in demonstrating courage and convictions? This is the nature of life, my friends. Ask Patrick Henry who died for his beliefs. Ask the mechanic who daily busts his knuckles to provide for his family. Ask the secretary who suffers migraines from stress but regularly gets the paperwork out on time. Ask the doctor, who accpets the pain of self-denial for eight years to complete his degree. Ask our president who took a bullet to the chest but didnt't run home and hide, ask yourself.
Pain is the hand-maniden of acheivement, and the triumph of will and perserverance over the forces of pain and fear, is the essence of all achievement. This is a scenario which permeates all of life. The props and actors may change but the story remains constant. Why then are so many people capable of accpeting this struggle in some settings, but not others? I suspect that many of these people do not have a good philosophical understanding of themselves, of life, and certainly, not of our dogs. Many people could not do an adequate job of contemplating their navels.
Many outsiders view our acceptance of pain in life as a love of pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. I for one would be perfectly content if our dogs could do their things without pain or injury, but that wouldnt require a great deal of conviction on their part now would it? Unnecessary pain is certainly an evil. That is why my dogs sleep in heated houses in the winter, eat good nutritious food, are kept free of parasites and get all of the love and affection I can muster. I love life, especially fruitful life, in all its forms. I love it for my family, you and your family, and my dogs and even my philodendron. Even the hopeless fly who mistankenly enters my house doesn't get mashed. He gets re-located to a more appropriate spot in the universe-outside. To prevent a living entity from actualizing its potential is a crime against nature. To do so out of love is a terrible mistake. To clip and eagle's wings so he could never fly and run the risk of a crash would be absurd, but this manner of thinking is often applied to our dogs.
Ernest Hemmingway repeatedly demonstrated his belief through his novels that life comes to be meanigful through "fighting the good fight". I too contend that the most meaningful element of living in a full life comes from having a purpose and the courage to fulfill it. Nowhere in my experiences have I seen these qualities more clearly displayed than when our dogs are simply being themselves.
Written by Tom Garner, this article first appeared in the American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette, volume 9, issue 1.