Novelist overcomes her pit bull prejudice
Novelist Susan Wilson loved all dogs — well, almost all dogs.
As she describes it, “ There was only one type of dog that I never approached, and when the subject came up on town meeting floor, I added my voice to the vote requiring their owners to restrict them behind tall fences.
“That fear wasn’t based on any actual experience, but on the stories of attacks on children and owners and I, like many, accepted the conventional wisdom that pit bulls were bred mean and are unpredictable.”
But while researching her novel, “One Good Dog,” Wilson had an awakening — one she describes in a recent piece in the Huffington Post.
I haven’t read the novel, but apparently its protagonist is a pit bull named Chance — who apparently might not have been so positively portrayed if it weren’t for Jane Rotrosen Berkey, a literary agent who is also founder and president of Animal Farm Foundation, a pit bull rescue in New York.
Wilson, who is associated with the Jane Rotrosen Agency, ended up getting a lesson in pit bulls — and learning the whole “innately evil” thing is a myth.
“Lucky for me, she was more than happy to talk with me and help me overcome a number of misconceptions. Enlisting the help of an animal behaviorist, Bernice Clifford, also of Animal Farm Foundation, I was saved from perpetuating myths and promoting misinformation about the pit bull, even a fictional one.”
As Wilson explains it, she needed a tough but unwanted type for her protagonist dog.
“I needed a dog that was unlikely to be adopted. I needed a tough guy who essentially mirrored my human protagonist in attitude. Not knowing at the outset where the story might go, I also needed a dog that I might be able to sacrifice without guilt. Instead, I got Chance, the philosophical pit bull. And I got a lesson in pit bulls from one of the dog’s strongest advocates.
“What I learned from Jane and Bernice is that people train these dogs to fight and they are good at it because they are doing what their masters want them to do. Once called the nanny dog because they were so good with children, these dogs have become more associated in the public mind with gangs and violence than with family life. That connection has taken the pit bull from “Our Gang” to gangsta.”
(Photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog! — one of more than 150 to be featured at the upcoming exhibit, “Hey That’s My Dog!”)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal farm foundation, animals, awakenings, book, books on dogs, breeds, dogs, jane rotrosen agency, jane rotrosen berkey, myths, novel, novelist, one good dog, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, prejudice, stereotypes, susan wilson