Loki, his name was, which was kind of worrisome, given how many teeth he had, climbed into my lap, leaned against me, and laid his head on my shoulder, wanting only to cuddle. We sat there together, quite happily, until we (our second daughter and I) had to leave. We almost brought him home from the animal shelter, but he was just too energetic for us. Though we wound up with a Rollie (a Border Collie/Rottweiler mix) who was not much less energetic.

Loki was a Pit Bull. 90 percent of you have just thought “Gosh, that’s a dangerous dog.” And 90 percent of you are wrong. The almost inevitable reaction to Pit Bulls is an illustration of (to borrow the title of a nineteenth century bestseller, still in print) extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds, and the effect of a media that likes to scare people, because scaring people sells newspapers and increases ratings, and doesn’t care if they’re lying.

Pit Bulls were once America’s dog, and in fact America’s Nanny . Petey, the dog featured in the The Little Rascals series , was a Pit Bull. The dog in the Buster Brown shoe ads was a Pit Bull. Sargeant Stubby, the most decorated dog in American military history, was a Pit Bull. Helen Keller had a Pit Bull, for heaven’s sake.

I bring this up partly because someone sent me the America’s Nanny link, but partly to say a word for a good dog that fills the animal shelters—-our eldest just adopted one from a city shelter that had 110 dogs, about 102 of which were Pit Bulls—-and partly because it’s so good an illustration of the how ignorant, and willfully ignorant, the conventional wisdom, and particularly the conventional wisdom as conveyed by the newspapers, can be.

Articles by David Mills

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