illustration by Jan Feindt

How To Solve Dallas’ Bad Dog Problem

My dog’s name is Elvis. He is a rescued hound, a basset found lost and alone in East Texas. There are a few things I would change about him if I could. I would have named him Fred, after the basset in Smokey and the Bandit, because that movie is awesome. I would make him less scared of thunder, because a 50-pound hound under your covers with a case of the terror shakes makes sleeping difficult. Mostly, though, he charms me. He has short legs and a long torso, like me. He is something of a gourmand (he likes pasta for dinner on Sunday nights and clusters of litter-covered cat poo for dessert). He whimpers when I enter a room, like I wish everyone would. He is petrified of tiny yippy dogs but fearless in the face of big, aggressive animals. He smells bad. I love that damn dog.

Which makes it all the more odd that I’ve become something of a villain to Dallas dog lovers. This is because I’ve railed online for years about the city’s problem with vicious dogs. Worse, in said railings, I’ve suggested the core of this problem is really pit bulls. This prompts many smart, well-meaning people to send me e-mails explaining in great detail that pit bulls are really great breeds, most bites come from other dogs, and that the crux of the problem is that there are bad dog owners, not bad dogs.

I could argue these points, but no one wants to read me being right for the next several hundred words.

Oh, okay, one time: pit bull apologists point out that only about 20 percent of dog bites in Dallas last year were by pits or pit mixes. This doesn’t exactly sway me. For one thing, that means one in five bites came from one breed or breed mix, and four in five came from 78,000 other breeds. Also, chihuahuas can be mean as hell, and if one bit me, I’d be in pain. But if a pit got his teeth into me, I’d be missing a limb.

That said, I don’t have a problem with pit bulls. I’m sure they’re like any other dog. With caring owners, they can turn out to be sweet, loyal, productive little doggie citizens. This is probably true of any dog, as is the reverse. I’d hate to see what bloody mayhem a rogue teacup Yorkie could cause in the wrong (read: non-gay) hands. In this way, dogs are not unlike children. Except that they’re animals. This is a point lost on some dog lovers—that dogs are not people, and therefore are not as sentient, or important, or as loved by God—but I’m willing to overlook that. Because I feel the same way about dangerous, violent kids as I do about dangerous, violent dogs: we need to get rid of them.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Settle down. I’m not suggesting something barbaric here. I’m not saying we should indiscriminately round up strays. We all know where that would lead: a black-ops program, 2 a.m. chopper runs piloted by ninjas equipped with nets, night-vision goggles, and bacon-flavored Beggin’ Strips, rounding up pooches Planet of the Apes­-style. Too horrifying to think about.

No, my idea is much simpler. I think we should track and kill the bad guys—and only the bad guys—like action heroes. We blow ’em away, Mr. and Mrs. Smith-style. You know, wearing custom suits and sultry red dresses, looking cool, packing heat and a smile.

Here’s the pitch: Councilwoman Angela Hunt and I go about our boring day jobs until we get wind that a violent doggie crime has occurred. (Why Hunt? Because she is also fed up with strays and owners who don’t keep their violent dogs from attacking people. And because the obvious sexual tension between us would play well at the box office.) It won’t take long. Every week I see a news story that would qualify: a pet attacked by a pit at the dog park; a pit that runs into a house and attacks another dog; the roaming pit that had my block in East Dallas on high alert for days; the pack of dogs that killed a steer by Fuel City near downtown.

That’s when we show up, looking fabulous. We engage in tense banter with a hard-boiled detective, hamstrung by the rules of polite society, willing but unable to do what is necessary to protect a frightened, endangered citizenry. We track down dogs in the area, see what they know, what they’ve heard. We may have to rough them up a bit to get ’em to talk, because dogs can be pretty loyal. But it’s for the greater good and all. Then, with the help of my trusty basset hound, we find where the perps are hiding. Turns out it’s an evil lair where they and their masters are plotting an assault on Dallas Animal Services.

From there, you know the drill. Mrs. Hunt gives me a wink, I blow her a kiss, Elvis shakes his head and sighs for comic relief. We go crashing into danger, in slow motion, guns blazing, doves flying. We blow away the owners, the real ones to blame. Oh, you think you’re exempt from leash laws? POW! That’ll teach you to be such a heel. Bloodied, we hug. Elvis sniffs the dead.

Again, it’s a happy ending because only people die. The dogs all survive. So don’t e-mail me.

Don’t write to [email protected].


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