Meet the star of the Scarlett Bernard Books!
In the front of every novel, there is a little disclaimer stating that none of the characters or events in the story are real. In my case, however, that’s not entirely true – it’s just that the real-life person in question eats kibble and sleeps in a kennel, so we don’t worry about his rights. You guessed it: the dog belonging to Jesse Cruz’s parents, Max, is based on my own Max, an 11-year-old pit bull-greyhound mix that I adopted in LA shortly after I graduated college. All of Max’s behavior in Dead Spots (and he makes an appearance in the upcoming sequel, as well) is based on the real Max’s behavior. The real Max is every bit as enthusiastic, loving, funny, quirky, and devoted as his fictional counterpart.
I could tell a hundred hilarious stories about my dog (example: the time he jumped through a window screen to hunt down a raccoon, only to realize that the window was on the second story, or when he was so worried about protecting my three-year-old while she was on a playground structure that he ran up the steep rock-climbing wall to get to her), but the real reason I’m bringing him up is because Max is legally defined as a pit bull, and they’ve been in the news quite a bit the past few years. Recently, some states and cities have declared pit bulls inherently dangerous, and some have imposed third-party liability, which means that landlords, vets, kennels, animal shelters, pet sitters, groomers, etc are automatically financially liable for bites or other injuries. As a result, pit bull owners are being forced to either give up their dog or find another place to live, as landlords who don’t want to be liable forbid pits in their rental properties. These extremely stupid laws are being passed, by the way, despite the fact that the “the name ‘pit bull’ is simply an artificial category that includes several breeds of dogs as well as any dog that has vaguely similar characteristics.” *
Now, folks, are there bad, vicious pit bulls in this world? Absolutely, there are. Just as there are bad, vicious Dobermans, yellow labs, French bulldogs, and Corgis. The meanest dog I’ve ever met, the dog that has murder in his little doggy heart, is an eight-pound Chihuahua named Rocky. But pit bulls have been singled out as dangerous and evil, simply because there have been a number of pit bull owners who have trained their dogs to fight and attack, some even going so far as to intentionally drive their dogs crazy. Pit bulls have been bred for loyalty, which is what makes them such a great family dog, but unfortunately also makes them an excellent choice for these assholes.
Because cases like Michael Vick’s have made the news, the media has been on a search and destroy mission against the breed, giving tons and tons of coverage to every pits-gone-bad story, which puts everyone in a frenzy, which is how laws like this get passed. This despite the fact that the majority of the Vick dogs have been re-homed to loving families (many with children) or have become service dogs for everything from police departments to supporting children with learning disabilities.
The bottom line is that there is no such thing as an inherently evil breed of dog, just as there is no such thing as an inherently evil baby. Max lived on the streets of Los Angeles until I rescued him at seven months old. He had a liver infection, a broken leg that had healed slightly wrong, and a torn ear. He was also submissive to the point where the other dogs in his kennel at the Human Society wouldn’t let him drink or eat much, which made him almost emaciated. The day that I met him, he crawled into my lap, leaned his whole body against me, and closed his eyes. That’s my inherently evil dog.
Today, Max is one of the sweetest-tempered, most tolerant dogs I have ever met. He lets my daughters climb on him and dress him up and use him as a stepstool or pony. He has never in our seven years together so much as snapped at another person in anger. (Though it did take awhile to teach him to stop nipping people’s coat sleeves while wrestling.) My sister once said that although we may have many pets in a lifetime, including canines, you really only have one dog. One who’s special among all others, who serves as best friend and companion and chief comforter. I will be telling stories about Max long after he passes away (which will hopefully not be for a very long time), and I don’t think I could ever possibly love an animal as much as I love him.
As all this uproar over pit bulls plays out in the media, please remember Max, and remember that there are no evil dogs, only evil owners. If you live in and area where dog breed restrictions have forced people to give up their pets, please consider adopting one of these great animals. In fact, consider adopting a pit bull wherever you live. Before their recent smear campaign in the media, pit bulls were long recognized as an ideal family dog, which is why they pop up in movies like An Incredible Journey, Cheaper by the Dozen, and Little Rascals. As for Max, you’ll be seeing him pop up in Scarlett Bernard books as long as her adventures continue. He’s just that cool.
*From the American Humane Society