Commentary: Aggressive dogs

Marshall A. Mays

Commentary: Aggressive dogs
July 17
15:40 2019

By Marshall A. Mays

Pit bulls can be a well sought after breed of dog when one considers their natural capacity for guarding families and their belongings. Many people find them to be faithful and affectionate pets as well. Sometimes pit bulls can become aggressive, however. Experts are uncertain if this is a characteristic of the breed or if environment is to blame.  

The facts are that during a 13-year period from 2005 to 2017, dogs killed 433 Americans. Pit bulls accounted for 284 of these deaths. Dogs have been selected to have certain traits. The manner in which dogs communicate with each other and with people is probably influenced by the desired trait a dog is selected to manifest. Pit bulls may have an aggressive attitude because this trait was singled out as desirable for this breed.

Some time ago, I was driving down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when I came upon a pit bull barking aggressively at two youths who were walking their bicycles. The dog was dangerously close to the youths and the youths looked frightened. This incident occurred in the parking lot of what was formerly a strip club but has now been turned into an auto garage. It was on the very edge of a neighborhood.

I didn’t find a safe place to turn around until I came to Bowman Gray Stadium. It was my intention to pull my car in between the youths and the dog. I would roll down my window and distract the dog until the youths could get far enough away to be safe. I knew that I would only scare the youths if I offered them safety in my car.

I felt strongly about assisting the two youths because I had a traumatic encounter with a dog when I was a young teenager walking home from school. I lived in the South Fork neighborhood when my encounter with an aggressive dog took place. I was walking along Country Club Road when a German shepherd came dashing across a resident’s yard. When he was some ten feet away from me, he stalked closer and closer to me very slowly. All the hair on his back was standing up. His mouth was gaping and saliva was dripping from his teeth. He growled in a deep guttural growl. I was terrified. The dog stopped when he was about a foot away. We stayed in this position – the dog holding me captive and dead still, while I used all of my self-control to refrain from fleeing.

I really would have been beholden to any Good Samaritan who may have found it in his heart to help me. This is why I desired to help the two youths that I came upon on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I wanted to be a Good Samaritan, because I knew how it felt to be terrified by what is, surely, an unexpected encounter with an aggressive dog. I’m happy to say that the incident resolved itself without injury to the youths or the necessity of my intervention.

Aggressive dogs don’t come in just one breed. Aggressive dogs don’t just walk the streets of African American or Caucasian neighborhoods. It pays to be cautious.

Marshall A. Mays is a lifelong resident of Winston-Salem and a graduate of R.J. Reynolds High School. He attended college in North Carolina and majored in creative writing.

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