You probably won’t blog this because you are going to think it’s a joke but I swear it isn’t. I recently got a dog from the Oregon Humane Society and he is a really great mutt. He’s good with my kids, house trained, and generally well-behaved. The only problem I have is that he barks and growls incessantly every time he sees a black person.
It’s becoming really embarrassing and I don’t know how to handle it. I live in a multi-cultural neighborhood in Portland so almost every time I go for a walk (I walk him almost every night after work, weather-permitting) this happens.
Do you think it’s possible to have a racist dog, and if so, what should I do?
Pet Lover in Portland
Dear Pet Lover:
While I commend you for getting a dog from a shelter, I must take issue with your statement that you live in a multi-cultural neighborhood in Portland. We don’t have those.
You didn’t give me your doggy’s name so I am going to call him Beck. I consulted with an expert (the Internet) and there are a few things that could be going on here:
1. Beck may have had negative experiences with dark-skinned people and therefore reacts poorly to them;
2. Beck may have been poorly socialized and may not have ever interacted with races other than yours, thereby causing him this anxiety; or
3. Beck may have eyesight problems. You mentioned that you walk at night, and some dogs have trouble seeing at night, either because of their breed or because of vision problems. If that is the case, a black person can seem to come out of nowhere and this causes the dog anxiety and probably triggers his protective nature.
In answer to your first question: no, it is not possible to have a “racist” dog. Dogs are without the human element of racism per se, as they are smarter and nicer than the people that own them. It’s not like your dog looks at the black people in your neighborhood and makes a character assessment about their work ethic, likelihood of robbing you, or whether their pecker is bigger than yours.
Is it possible that because of the reasons I listed above Beck has an unpleasant reaction to people with darker skin? Yes. And herein lies the advice portion of the blog:
1. Hire a dog trainer to help you with this issue. I’m a pretty good advice columnist but you need some expert help with this one, lest you be labeled the neighborhood racist along with your dog.
2. Try to socialize Beck with black people on a regular basis. Be sure to provide them with protective suits and have them sign a waiver first.
If Beck does not show improvement, I suggest you consider a move. Can you afford Portland Heights?
What is my problem anyway? The region in which I reside is enjoying a lengthy stretch of clear, warm, gorgeous fall weather–not even any wind about which to complain. And autumn, as gardeners know, is the ideal time to plant perennials and do other fun, calorie-burning outdoor stuff. So why do I waste hour upon hour hanging around the kitchen with my iPad, devouring over 30 consecutive episodes of “Scandal.” To make me hate myself even more, I am rooting for the adulterous Republican POTUS and have absolutely no sympathy with the First Lady. Should I seek counseling, or can you help me out? Maybe I should turn off the Wi-Fi?
Thanking you in advance for your witty, sage advice.
Bereft in Beaverton
Dear Bereft in Beaverton:
Honestly, I think you are depressed, and not just because you live in Beaverton.
Every time I see this sign, my serotonin levels drop. WTF is with the traffic in your town?
I’m not a doctor, but I am familiar with the concept of wasting countless hours on the Internet or marathon-watching TV programs when I am depressed or bored. When I went through a long period of unemployment a couple years ago, I could literally spend the entire day in bed, surfing the Internet and watching programs on my ipad. Every afternoon I would struggle out of bed, shower and make myself presentable so I could pretend to my husband and child that I had actually participated in life that day.
I hated myself even more at the end of the day than I had when I woke up. This terrible cycle was broken when I finally got a job, but looking back I wish I had done something about the depression that was eating away at me and turning me into a recluse.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying television, but you admit that this is causing you to “hate yourself,” which is contrary to “enjoying television.” So what to do?
One of the many reasons I began this advice blog was because my contract job of 6 months came to an end. As I drove home on my last day, I knew I had to do SOMETHING every day so that I did not fall back into my habit of seclusion and inactivity that had depressed me even further during my last bout of unemployment.
What you need, Bereft, is a schedule. You should prioritize your day by those activities that actually make you happy. You love gardening, so tell yourself that every day, until the weather turns, you will commit yourself to a certain amount of time to this activity, or any others that please you, before you do anything that is non-productive.
While obviously Oregonians are prone to depression when the non-stop rain arrives in late fall (continuing until July 5th, most years), we are in the midst of a fantastic Indian Summer (shit, is that racist?) and you yourself note that seeking counseling may be an option. My inexpert reading of your note is that you are neglecting activity that makes you happy to engage in activity that makes you unhappy. This could be a sign of depression, and worthy of a visit to a counselor.
If you take a good hard look at your life, are you doing everything you can to fill it with happiness and satisfaction? Most of us aren’t, so don’t feel bad if that’s the case. However, identifying goals and activities which will challenge you and broaden your world could be a good way for you to get out of this slump.
Me? I’m writing an advice blog and starting martial arts lessons with my son. You can’t write an advice blog, because that would make you a shitty copy cat. But is there something you have always wanted to experience or accomplish? If so, identify it and make it happen.
And turn off the wi-fi. At least until you get those perennials in the ground.