Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The work is called ”Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.
The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.
The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.
Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.
Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.
Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the ArtPrize website. ”Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”
This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.
A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.
When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.
Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.
Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”
According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website, Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.
Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.
There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.
Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.
We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.
So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.
Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.
“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 6th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, artprize, artworks, attacks, breed, breeds, contest, discrimination, dog, dogs, downtown, fatal, grand rapids, joan marie kowal, memorial, out of the blue, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, victims
After its news reports blamed two pit bulls for the mauling Saturday of a 7-year-old girl, ABC2 News in Baltimore took steps to correct the error.
But take a look at the news report (above) and see if you agree with me – that they only compounded it in this story touted as “the real truth about dangerous dogs.”
Rather than clear the name of pit bulls, they besmirch that of American bulldogs, lumping them in with pit bulls and saying they share the same “aggressive” traits and legendary jaw power – or “muscles of mastication” as one vet calls it.
“They have muscles of mastication. They have muscles in their jaws that are so strong they have 500 pounds of pressure. They can snap a broom just like that,” Dr. Kim Hammond, of Falls Road Animal Hospital, says in the report. “They’re a predator if you’re lower on the food chain and they’re good at their job, and they’re going to win.”
Those remarks – inaccurate and irresponsible as they might be in reference to pit bulls or American bulldogs – were apparently being made about pit bulls, which he also compared to “a loaded gun.”
My guess is that ABC2 sent a reporter out to do the knee-jerk, misconception-spreading, how dangerous-pit-bulls-are story, then learned it was two American bulldogs that were actually involved in the attack on Amanda Mitchell, who remains hospitalized with severe facial injuries.
For the sake of expediency, it appears, the report portrays pit bulls and Ameridcan bulldogs as peas in a pod, which wouldn’t be so bad if the pod wasn’t 99 percent wrongful stereotype and 1 percent fact.
Mitchell was playing outside when the dogs escaped from a neighbor’s yard in Dundalk Saturday. Both dogs were later seized by Baltimore County Animal Control and, with the consent of their owner, euthanized.
On Monday, the Baltimore County Health Department issued a correction – identifying the dogs involved as American bulldogs – and, after more than a few complaints from vigilant Internet commenters, ABC2 corrected the story, pointing out that police had provided the misinformation.
In all fairness, the breed of the dogs was also misreported by other media outlets, including the Baltimore Sun.
Even though most news outlets have corrected their reports, the misinformation remains – not just in the public consciousness, but on Google, where search result summaries of news reports since corrected still describe the dogs as pit bulls.
Tragic as it is, the story goes a long way in helping to understand how pit bulls have gotten, and continue to get, a bad rap – based largely on police mistakenly identifying dogs, “experts” who may not know what they’re talking about and the news media’s dutiful reporting of such misinformation.
What gets lost amid all the assumptions and jumping to conclusions is this: Any breed or type of dog has members who can turn violent or aggressive – be it pit bull, bulldog or Chihuahua.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abc2, aggressive, animals, attack, attacked, baltimore, baltimore county, breed, bulldogs, dogs, dundalk, erroneous, error, girl, health department, labels, mauling, misconceptions, misinformation, mistake, news, news media, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, police, reinforcing, report, reporting, safety, stereotypes, television, tv, violent, wmar
If you happen to be strolling around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Sunday and run into a pack of pit bulls, fear not — they are there to make friends, influence people, and lick away any misconceptions you may have about the breed.
B-More Dog, the organization behind “Pit Bulls on Parade,” plans to make group walks like Sunday’s a monthly event, held in various parts of the city — all aimed at erasing the stereotypes surrounding the breed.
While all breeds are welcome, dogs must be signed up in advance to take part in the parades. So while it’s too late to get your dog into Sunday’s, you can find out about participating in next month’s by emailing email@example.com.
To check out Sunday’s parade, show up around the Inner Harbor at 11 a.m.
Pauline Houliaras, a founding member and current president of B-More Dog, came up with the idea for the parade after noticing how often she’d be stopped and asked about the dogs she was walking. Her own dog, Ravenopolis, she found, often got greeted on walks around the harbor by tourists and locals alike, who’d stop to ask questions and pet the dog.
Taking the concept to the next level, B-More Dog organized groups of pit bull owners to walk together and spread goodwill about the breed. Then they decided, rather than just do it once a year, to try and parade pit bulls every month.
B-More Dog is an outreach and education organization that formed in the fall of 2007 to speak out against breed specific legislation being proposed in Baltimore County. That legislation, which would have required all pit bull owners to muzzle their dogs and confine them in locked kennels, was not passed.
Since then, B-More Dog has gone on to focus on improving the breed’s image and promoting responsible ownership of pit bulls and all other breeds through education, mentoring, and outreach.
Its members work with local shelters to provide information packets about the breed to adopters. B-More Dog also offers a “Humane Education” program in which members take their friendly, trained and well-mannered pit bull to community centers and after-school programs.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, b-more dog, baltimore, bmoredog, breed, breed specific legislation, breeds, dogs, downtown, goodwill, harbor, humane education, image, information, inner harbor, march, myths, outreach, parade, pauline houliaras, pet owners, pet ownership, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, pride, responsibility, responsible, stereotypes, training
Names: Buddy Holly (named after the performer) and Peggy Sue (the fawn-colored one, named after Holly’s hit song)
Ages: Buddy is 3; pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Peggy Sue is 4
Encountered: At what’s billed as the largest free-standing cross in America, located near Interstate 40 in Groom, Texas.
Backstory: The two pugs, and the couple who owns them, were headed home to Hobart, Oklahoma after a Christmas visit to Arizona.
The owners of the pampered pugs planned a stop at the cross, which is 19 stories tall and, in the flatlands of the Texas panhandle, visible from 20 miles away.
They were big fans of God, Buddy Holly, pugs and, judging from their racing jackets, NASCAR.
Buddy Holly and Peggy Sue enjoyed a long potty stop on the periphery of the property, then jumped back in the car while their owners went to see the church and gift shop.
To see all our Roadside Encounters, click here.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, black, breed, breeds, buddy holly, church, cross, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, encounters, fawn, god, groom, largest, nascar, panhandle, peggy sue, pets, pug, pugs, road trip, roadside, roadside encounter, texas, traveling, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
Dogs are too smart to hold elections, and it would be presumptuous of us to do it for them. But if there ever were a vote for which breed to make class clown, the bull terrier would be a strong contender.
I say this having only limited experience with the breed – virtually all of it through a woman named Marilyn Bailey, and most of it in the last three days, during which time her two dogs kept a smile on my face, made me laugh out loud and even brought Ace out of his diarrhea doldrums enough to play.
Ace is better now, thanks in large part of Marilyn, who spoiled him with cottage cheese, eggs, rice and other forms of pampering, and to Browser (above left) and Ivy (above right), whose goofiness — though young Ivy is far goofier than old Browser — is, while laughable, also somehow soothing, like an old sitcom.
Marilyn and I worked together at a newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky. That was 30 years ago, and I believe her bull terrier then was named Hot Shot. In the interim, I’ve seen her maybe three times. Yet, when she heard about our travels, she invited us to stay when we came through Seattle, and she treated us like family — in the good and functional, kind and caring sense of the word.
She’s a serene and laid back sort, which can be an advantage when one is raising bull terriers, or when one is married to Carleton W. Bryant, as she is.
If Marilyn and Carl were a Chinese food entree, they’d be sweet and sour something.
If Marilyn is the epitome of graciousness, Carl is the personification of sarcasm, prone to hilariously biting comments, skewering those in need of a good skewering, and a bluntness that can leave you disarmed. Acerbic and gruff as he is, though, there are signs that, deep down, he’s actually a tender-hearted soul.
Marilyn is a copy editor for the Seattle Times, Carl is a media consultant whose current projects include a website he developed called MrThoughtful.com.
It offers a solution for those men who just can’t seem to remember to acknowledge significant dates – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. — with a card, or, at best, wait to the very last minute to do so.
The website serves as an automatic, surrogate card buyer.
Users register and create a profile of events and relationships — who in their lives they should send what cards to when. Then, as the significant dates approach, they receive by mail the appropriate card and envelope, as well as an email reminder to make sure it gets to the intended recipient.
Magically and with little effort, they appear to be thoughtful guys, fooling everybody. (There’s also a MsThoughtful.com, but the marketing pitch is slightly different. It’s for the woman too ”busy” to buy cards, as opposed to just being a negligent oaf.)
But back to their dogs, dog show quality both, and members of what, to me — with their huge and sloping, football-shaped heads — is one of the more unusual looking breeds of dogs. It was rare, back in Baltimore for Ace to run into a bull terrier. The one time he did, he approached it slowly, almost as if he wasn’t sure it was a member of his species.
Browser, 11, is a mellow sort, content to sidle up to you and stay there – for days, it seems. Ivy, not yet two, is contagiously playful. By the second day of our stay she had Ace fired up. Of course, they chose to let loose in the formal living room, where she’d run up to Ace, jump on him, then scurry away, somehow managing, while traveling at high speeds, to slide her whole muscular body under the sofa, before repeating the process.
Ace, who likes to softly bite the legs of the dogs he’s playing with, or stick their entire head in his mouth, had some difficulty with the latter, but that didn’t stop him from trying.
Both Browser and Ivy have an endearing habit of approaching when you are seated, bowing their head and pushing it softly into our stomach. Ace will do this from time to time, but only for half a minute. Browser seemed happy to stay in that position for five minutes.
While speedy dogs, as Ivy showed, they are also very adept at standing still — perfectly still. It’s almost as if they become statues, motionlessly pondering what to do next and whether it’s worth the effort.
Both loved to snuggle, Browser for extended periods, Ivy only briefly before nibbling your ear, climbing your torso or scooting off in search of something more interesting.
Once seated in Marilyn’s lap at their home in Kirkland, though, she settles down, almost as if hypnotized.
Marilyn sent us off with a huge care package — sandwiches, beverages and apple cobbler for me, and for Ace, dog biscuits, atop which she spread peanut butter. Carl, who provided us with several great Seattle area tours, sent us off with a list of places to see on Oregon’s coast and one of his website’s promotional caps, allowing me to show the world just how incredibly thoughtful I am. Ivy and Browser — members of a breed whose faces seem to say, “Yes, I’m a dog, and I plan to engage in some dog-like antics. You want to make something of it?” — sent us off with a warm and giggly feeling.
One day soon, I’ll need to thank them for all that southern hospitality, Seattle-style.
Maybe I’ll send them a card.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 14th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, antics, behavior, breed, breeds, browser, bull terrier, bull terriers, carl bryant, clowns, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, greeting cards, hosts, ivy, marilyn bailey, mr. thoughtful, mrthoughtful.com, pets, reminders, road trip, seattle, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
Carolyn Baker, 63, of Cleveland Heights, died of a heart attack in Feburary — not from being mauled by the family Rottweiler, the News-Messenger reported today.
Baker was found dead at her back steps, wearing only a thin polyester nightgown and boots, with bite marks on her arms and shoulder. That, apparently, was enough for the police, and subsequently the press, to indict Zeus, the family’s 9-year-old, 140-pound Rottweiler.
“Cleveland Heights Woman Dies Afer Being Attacked by Rottweiler,” one headline read. “POLICE: Woman Mauled to Death by Dog,” shouted another. “Woman Found Mauled to Death by Pet Rottweiler,” concluded a third.
As ohmidog! reported in February, police and, in turn, the news media, may have jumped the gun — perhaps a little too eager to place blame on a dog because of his breed, which is, of course, nothing new.
Zeus was seized by authorities and impounded, despite the family’s contention that the dog was actually trying to rescue the woman, and that any bite marks were a result of him trying to drag her back to the house.
It took almost six months, but now Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller says there were few dog bites on Baker, that she died of a heart attack and hypothermia, and that her injuries indicated “the dog was trying to help her.”
Had the results come in sooner, Zeus might still be around.
The Cleveland Municipal Court ordered him destroyed in April.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breed, carolyn baker, cleveland heights, conclusions, coroner, cuyahoga county, destroyed, dogs, euthanized, executed, heart attack, innocent, journalism, jumping, mauling, news, news media, ohmidog!, pets, police, press, report, rottweiler, stereotypes, zeus
Whether an Australian couple’s half million dollar investment in keeping their $300 dog alive was successful is expected to be learned today.
Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko have been locked in a six-year battle with the Gold Coast City Council in the Supreme Court over its identification of their dog Tango as an American pit bull, as opposed to an American staffordshire terrier.
The city’s ruling that Tango is a pit bull meant the dog was automatically deemed dangerous and would be required to be euthanized.
To avoid that, the family moved Tango to a kennel more than five years ago, where it could be registered as an American staffordshire terrier.
Today, a judge is to decide Tango’s fate in a decision which could have ramifications for thousands of dog owners, the Gold Coast Bulletin reports. The city is arguing the American pit bull and American staffordshire terrier are the same breed, which means it would fall under its breed ban.
“The fallout of the decision could be horrendous,” said Mokomoko, 47, who works as a Brisbane airport security officer.
The case prompted Mokomoko to work 98-hour weeks at his former security job at a desalination plant to pay the cost of the kennel, weekly travel, lawyers and documentation, including Freedom of Information requests, and video evidence.
Along with thousands of pages of documents, the couple also obtained DNA samples from Tango’s parents and submitted a breed identification test to the court, arguing the 22-point identification checklist was flawed.
The American staffordshire terrier clubs of Queensland, Victoria and Northern Territory have asked the city council to drop the case.
If the family wins, Mokomoko believes it will prompt litigation from other owners who may have had their dog wrongfully identified as pit bulls.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 6th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american staffordshire terrier, animals, australia, ban, breed, breed-specific, checklist, city council, definition, description, dogs, euthanized, gold coast, identification, identifying, john mokomoko, news, ohmidog!, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbulls, put down, tango