Maine's banned breeds

Pariah dogs
By AL DIAMON  |  September 1, 2010

I'm a dog slut.

I admit that's not an attribute I'm proud to list on my resume, but it still beats being called a "dog person." Whenever I hear that term, I get visions of genetically engineered mutants incorporating the altered DNA of canines and humans. These Franken-beasts are compelled by their hybrid natures to run to the kitchen when they hear the can opener, bark furiously at the UPS truck, and pee on the bathroom rug when they get overexcited. At cocktail parties, they greet strangers by sniffing their butts.

As a dog slut, I exhibit none of these tendencies. I just fall in love with virtually every pup I meet. I treat the three terrier mutts that occupy most of my household as full-fledged members of the family. By which I mean I list them on my income tax as dependents. Also, my wife and I don't allow guests to sit on our couch ("That's the dogs' space"), and in the pooches' presence, we do not discuss the more exotic ingredients of the cuisine of Thailand.

I'm crazy about all types of dog, whether it's my neighbor's St. Bernard-bull mastiff mix — a beast so massive he disrupts weather patterns — or a friend's chiweenie — a miniscule combination of Chihuahua and dachshund that looks like a furry Vienna sausage with ears — or an artist acquaintance who owns a Chinese crested — a mostly hairless breed that bears an unsettling resemblance to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.

I even like pit bulls, creatures with a reputation for viciousness exceeded only by 3D piranhas and Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

Perhaps that's because, over the years, I've been attacked by more politicians than pits. For every nip I've received from an Airedale, a golden retriever, or a Benji-like mongrel with adorable eyes and extraordinarily sharp teeth, I've been repeatedly savaged by elected officials. Which just proves that people are much nastier than dogs.

And less responsible. In every case in which I got a hunk taken out of me by Fido, it was either my fault for doing something stupid — startling the dog or forgetting to ask permission to give the pooch a pat — or it was the owners' responsibility for failing to properly restrain the animal.

In other words, a human was always to blame.

That leaves me perplexed about the sudden interest in passing a law in Maine banning certain kinds of dogs with an alleged affinity for violence. According to an op-ed in the August 17 Portland Press Herald by Fritz Spencer (described as somebody who "writes about public policy issues and lives in Augusta") the three breeds that are "vicious by nature" and therefore ought to be outlawed are pit bulls (which aren't a breed at all), Rottweilers, and something called the presa canario (is that Spanish for yellow journalism?).

"One trait is sought in these breeds above all," wrote Spencer, "and that is the instinct to attack ruthlessly and without mercy."

Sort of like the speakers at tea party rallies.

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