15 June 2010

Practicing to become a vicious, scary pit bull

This is not exactly a story about Toni, nor is it exactly a story about Téa. It’s a story about the horrible, horrible things that pit bulls can do to children that never make the news, by way of being a story about my nephew Nate. And by “horrible, horrible things that pit bulls can do to children,” I mean, share their crates with them, teach them to sit quietly when asked in order to get a treat and other heart-breaking activities.

T2 and I took a road trip recently to visit my families in North Carolina. The first stop was Charlotte, where we stayed with my sister, her husband and my nephew Nate. Nate, coming up on three years old, spends plenty of time with
dogs. He’s practically a younger sibling to my father and step-mother’s dog Osgood, right down to chewing on Osgood’s chew toys when Os isn’t looking. My brother’s pit bull Pearl is really just a taller, brawnier version of Os in his world. Sometimes he gets their names mixed up, but as long as the names are said with affection, I don’t think Pearl or Os much mind. Nate’s been taught all of the right things—no pulling of tails or ears; no bothering sleeping dogs; no yelling at them…. In fact, if they could just get him to stop sharing the chew toys, I think he’d have the whole list of dos and don’ts down pat.

Nate also knows Toni, though he probably doesn’t remember her from her first two visits. He met her during the visit resulting in the infamous claustrophobia incident at my parents and then again when we went to Charlotte for my brother’s wedding a month later. He had never met Téa, but actually no one in Charlotte had met Téa yet. My sister shows Nate family photos every day, though, so that he will know who all of his relatives are even if they live far away. For our part of the family, those photos also include ones of T2.

It didn’t take long after our arrival to realize that not only did Nate get along with T2, he actually wanted to be T2. Every morning when Toni crawled into Téa’s crate for a little nap (and possibly a moment’s rest from Nate’s constant chatter), Nate needed to crawl in with her. “Look. Look. Pearl and I get in crate.” He was really in with Toni, but all of those
brindle pit bulls look alike anyway, right? When asked what they were doing, he would close the crate (which for some reason didn’t trigger Toni’s claustrophobia) and say, “We sleepin’,” which sounded a lot more like, “We sweepin’.” Toni was actually making a fairly good approximation of sleeping, if you can call lying in a ball with an “I’m so over this” look on your face sleeping. Nate did more of a fidgety, fussy, twist and turn kind of pretend sleeping that ended up looking nothing at all like sleeping.

Then there was trick time. T2 have to work at least a little for nearly everything. They sit before going outside, sit or lie down while a meal is being prepared and so on. So did our new “puppy,” Nate. Nate sat with T2 before going outside. He sat while I made their dinner. One morning, when Nate was feeling particularly chatty and that he ought to be touching or petting the dogs every other second, my sister was feeling particularly short of patience with
him. So when the dogs laid down, as dogs often do throughout the day, we told Nate that the dogs were having a time out quiet time. Well, if the furry dogs were having a time out quiet time, then the human dog needed to have a time out quiet time, too. So Nate got down on his belly on the floor, put his rear end toward Téa, put his head down on his hands and whispered very loudly that he was having a time out quiet time, too—look! When everyone was “allowed” to get up 10 minutes later, T2 got a liver treat each and Nate had a pretzel stick. Win-win.

I did have to stop myself short of picking Nate up his own collar when we stopped by a Target during my visit—my sister would have invited us back but I think it would have been touch-and-go with my brother-in-law if we’d put a collar on his son. Which I think makes it clear that the moral of this story, with apologies to Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, must be “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be pit bulls.”

1 comment:

  1. I love love love this post, Julie! I think what I love most is that Nate is growing up around all sorts of dogs, and not being taught to fear or discriminate against any of them. How heart-warming!