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Paraphernalia
by Richard F. Stratton

As the author of a number of dog books, I often get sent samples of doggy items that the producer is hoping I will hype. Usually, these things are of little use to me. Some of the equipment, such as leashes and harnesses are poorly conceived. Recently, however, I received an item that had quite an impact on my dogs, and it had enough effect on me that I am writing this article.

It was a flirtpole. Now, I have seen many flirtpoles, and they have ranged from such a simple thing as a glove on a bamboo stick to what I received in the mail. Incidentally, I have corrupted my mailman, as he owns a Bulldog, too, so he is always interested in my Bulldog mail. But he didn’t recognize the flirtpole while it was still wrapped. He brought it into my house, and just to get attention, he said, in front of my wife, "Will you stop ordering this stuff from those porno houses!" Well, that got a laugh because it really looked large and obscene. When I unwrapped it, I discovered that it was a very well designed flirtpole. It had a cow hide as a lure, and it had plastic housing as protection for the rope, and the rod was some sort of tough fiberglass or plastic construction.

It had been many a year since I even had a flirtpole on the premises, and my mailman, a big giant of a young fellow, wanted to see it work, so I took it out back. You should have seen my dogs when I emerged from the house with the device. These descendants of countless generations of pit champions looked at the flirtpole with immediate recognition and considerable excitement. One of my young males is so ball happy from playing fetch that I didn’t think he would prefer anything else, but he wanted that flirtpole! I worked him on it, and later on, I included the other dogs in the daily routine. I have an old bitch here that is fifteen years old, and I expected that this would be her last year. However, the flirtpole has given her a new interest in life. It is not just the exercise, in my opinion, it is something for her to look forward to each day. And when she finally gets hold of the hide, she shakes it mightily in those ancient jaws of hers!

So I now have a springpole, a flirtpole, numerous breaking sticks, and a treadmill. (I used to have two.) According to putative dog fight authorities touring the country and giving their little seminars, their possession makes me a "dogfighter." Such arrogance and ignorance should not go unchallenged, but it does. Only when I am called in to testify as an expert witness in a criminal case can I affirm that all this paraphernalia is something that goes with the breed. And it has from long history. These dogs come with equipment! That was one of the things that I liked about the breed when I was first introduced to it. The dogs themselves are enough fun on their own, of course. But the equipment is extra spice on the enchilada. The very idea that these self-appointed guardians of the animals try to tar anyone who has paraphernalia as "dogfighter" makes me nearly apoplectic in righteous indignation. All these things are merely ways to exercise a dog, and it so happens that these dogs thrive on exercise and excitement. And this paraphernalia supplies both. For that reason, many people have some of this equipment, even the ones who just have show dogs. Heck, I have even known Staf people who had treadmills, and sometimes even turntables.

Fortunately, I have a high pain threshold, as the breed is under attack from all sides, as are the owners. I watched with bemused anger as the great conservative Bill O’Reilley badgered Dianne Jessup on television some weeks ago. Dianne is certainly no ally of mine, but she loves Bulldogs, so I was pulling for her. And if you listened carefully, she answered his every challenge and that was no surprise for the simple fact that she certainly knows more about the dogs than him. But observers may not have seen it that way, as O’Reilley is a loudmouth and something of a bully, and he dismissed Dianne with "I’m through with you." Yeah, I can see why. She was kicking his derriere for him!

I have seen O’Reilley a number of times at the urging of friends who think that he has a great mind. Well, he’s loud, and he has a certain presence. But I was never convinced of his great mentality. After his shabby treatment of Dianne and his authoritative and ignorant attitude about the dogs, I don’t have much respect for his other traits either.

On another front, the acclaimed television series Law and Order did an episode that was a take off on the San Francisco killing by the giant Canario Presa dogs. I used to watch the show regularly, years ago, but I had stopped last year, as the writing had become predictable and unimaginative. I watched this one because I knew the subject. And I was right about their being predictable. Of course, they switched from the Presas to Pit Bulls! This noble breed is currently the Frankenstein monster in the public mentality, so why not make use of the fright factor whenever possible! To list all the things they got wrong would take far too long. But let me comment on just a few things to give you an idea. First, there was the implication that you train a pit dog by torturing it. This absurd notion is one that was pushed over twenty years ago by the humaniacs. Pit dogs would not be the great warriors they are without being physically tortured. The truth is that such treatment would only cow a dog and make him less confidant. He would be a less capable pit dog, not a better one. Not only pit dog men know that fact. Anyone who knows dogs or anything at all about animal behavior would know that. Only people ignorant of these two areas would bite on such a ridiculous notion. But, of course, it justifies euthanizing any seized pit dogs as "unsuitable for pets." That is such rot! Some of the great pit dogs were valued house pets, and that includes such immortals as Centipede and Bad Billy. But I must remember my blood pressure. I remind myself that these are ignorant people with an axe to grind. In this case, I am talking about the humaniacs not the show’s writers. The writers just had a plot to put out, and they obviously didn’t care whether they got it right or not. Or perhaps they thought checking with humane officials would be sufficient.

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah, the things they got wrong. Well, of course, they also implied that other breeds were used in pit contests. They used human treadmills instead of dog treadmills for props, but what the heck, they’re probably on a budget. Implicit in the entire production was the idea that pit dog men were sick criminals, deserving of any punishment society decides to mete out. But the program reeked of a repulsion of the breed. The underlying theme was "Why should anyone be allowed to own these dogs?" It wasn’t stated outright, but the great blowhard Bill O’Reilley wasn’t afraid to say so. I thought conservatives were supposed to be for individual liberties!

But let us be honest here. The pit dog game is a tough one. Dogs do get hurt, and occasionally one will die. My point is that it is not cruel. The dogs come from a long line of happy warriors. Some love fighting contact so much that they will stay and fight until their last breath. Fortunately, most pit dog men will give up the fight before that happens. Even if that weren’t the case, the rules are structured to make sure a dog has every chance to discontinue the contest. The scratch in turn rules make it unlikely that a dog will be left in the pit to die. Nevertheless, there is a certain brutality here, but that is true to some degree of nearly every sport, human and animal.

My main concern is the breed. It is not only the low class people who own one. But even if that were true, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so? The truth is that people of all strata appreciate a born fighter with pure courage. That doesn’t mean that they want to let them fight, but they will most likely want a pup from tested game stock. For that reason, I think it ill behooves these people to condemn pit dog men, even though some of them do. Such people may even acquire some of the paraphernalia that comes with the breed. That is one of the reasons I feel that banning the possession of such equipment is a back door attempt to outlaw the breed. If we want to live in a totalitarian state, there are a number of them in the world. So I’ll stay here. And I’ll do all I can to keep America the free country that it has always been.