One fleeting glance, we think we know a dog. We gage a dog’s personality based on looks alone. Suppose a dog on the street has the same physical attributes as a dog we’ve known. In that case, we automatically assume they share the same temperament because that dog is also fluffy, short, muscly, floppy-eared, has a mustache, or boasts a smile. But, dogs are much more complex creatures and deserve the space and time to be appreciated for their unique awesomeness, quirks and all.
We’re starting this series in hopes that are seeing the FACES OF wonderful dogs and reading their beautiful stories that we better understand a dog’s color, shape, and size are not indicative of how friendly, cuddly, nervous, or even aggressive a pup can be. Our goal is to reduce aesthetic stereotypes that prevent amazing dogs from being adopted. But, we also hope to decrease biting incidents because dogs who need space are not bombarded just because a human thinks he’s cute.
We’ll kick off this series with a little diddy about Gavin, the FACE OF Bark Pouch, perfect sidekick, retired school volunteer, and expert snuggler.
How did you and your dog find each other?
After police arrested Gavin’s previous person, the remaining family members didn’t want him or his brother, so they tied them up outside. During that time, someone shot Gavin with a BB gun. Rescuers took both dogs to Animal Care and Control, where volunteers assessed, loved, and even allowed both dogs to attend manners class and play-groups with Safe Humane Chicago. It didn’t take long for Gavin to use his best shimmy-wiggle-pittie-scrunch-face to win the heart of ALIVE Rescue, who cared for him until they brought him to my condo for a meet and greet. I opened my front door, and Gavin immediately ran away into the other room. I crouched down. Gavin’s eyes lit up. He trotted to me and flopped his too-skinny (no one yet knew of all his food allergies), snotty-nosed (from kennel cough) self into my lap. We both knew.
What is the most significant assumption people make based on your dog’s looks?
Gavin is pretty ripped for a dog who believes there’s little need to go outside between 4pm and 7am. Twice, I was told by random people that Gavin was vicious because he’s a pit bull. Without even interacting with Gavin, a man walking past us asked me if my dog was a pit bull. I said, “I think so, I’ve never had his DNA tested.” The man proceeded to tell me that his friend had a pit bull as he gripped his wife’s arm and told me to get rid of my dog because he was going to kill someone. I asked the man, “can you tell me where you received your master’s degree in canine behavior?” The man walked away, shaking his head at me.
During a second incident, a little boy ran up to Gavin and asked if he could pet my dog. I said, yes. Gavin’s LOVES people petting him. A man (seemingly with the child) approached us then immediately squealed, “OH MY GOD, THAT’S A PIT BULL” and raced away, leaving the child and I standing there, dumbfounded.
What personality trait does your dog possess that contradicts his or her physical appearance?
Gavin is the BIGGEST BABY. After a fire engine passed by Gavin too closely one afternoon when he was outside with his dog walker, our leash walks went from fun and relaxing to terrifying and stressful. I sometimes had to carry Gavin a couple of blocks because he was so nervous that he couldn’t move. People driving by seemed to think it was funny. Neighbors watering their lawn made snide remarks about how spoiled my dog is. If I had the chance to interact, most folks apologized when I told them Gavin was scared, and I refuse to drag my dog down the street.
What are the biggest obstacles you and your dog have overcome together? And, what was most helpful in helping you do so?
Fear and anxiety. Of course, daily training and behavior modification is key to his recovery and continual improvement. But, Gavin is the snuggliest dog I’ve ever met. And, I genuinely believe that if I withheld affection like some popular approaches tell us to do, Gavin would not be as silly, goofy, and playful as he is today.
If you could make a sign for the world to see to understand your dog’s individual needs better, what would it say?
PET ME, LOVE ME. Gavin thrives on human attention. If every person who passed him on the street rubbed his shoulders and kissed him (yes, Gavin likes being hugged and kissed), he’d forget about barking dogs and fire trucks.
Anything else you want to share?
What you see on the street is not always indicative of who a dog is or what they’ve overcome with their person.
Photo of Gavin taken by Christy Gregory.
Please submit your story and email us a picture of your dog firstname.lastname@example.org.