{discovery} The Double Life of Mr. T


Mr. T is going for his hip surgery tomorrow. It isn’t so bad – in other words, not a hip replacement but Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO)

Two vets we took him to said it’s the knee (“Just give him anti-inflammatory and let him rest and it’ll be just fine.” “Typical structural issue for pitbulls, expect the other knee to go as well.” )

The expert surgeon laughed at that and noted that T has probably been hit by a car early on in his life so the hip is out of socket or otherwise injured. Most likely, FHO will do the job.

He also noted, as all the other vets that have seen Mr. T (including his trainers) that T is “a great dog”.

I’m sure most vets tell the owners exactly that. But we hear the same comment also from people with other kind of knowledge about pits.

The “great dog”, I suspect,  means a couple of things – the double life of T:

  • Apart of the hip issue, T is healthy, very strong, and energetic. He excitable but everyday less so, and is very loving and friendly towards strangers. His vets can observe that.
  • In addition, T has become skilled in teaching troubled dogs how to play (something that our trainer Ray has witnessed and the owners of T’s girl friends’ — note the plural — have shared with us). He’s also very pack-conscious. It’s endearing to witness how he constantly makes sure that Mu (who’s not so fond of the wild running of the youngsters) is still around. Quick kisses in the middle of mad play.
  • But: The “great dog” is also what the surgeon vet, with 30 years of experience, hinted at: T is most likely if not full then at least some mix including the (in)famous Colby bloodline American Pit. This is the kind of pitbull closest connected to fighting dogs, at least historically. Colbys are not cheap — so T is not a mutt stray. The surgeon speculated that T was injured a while back, but the owner had no interest in fixing his hip, so he let T go. (We also know that T wasn’t house-trained — it took him almost two months to go without accidents — so he might have lived in a shed or partly outdoors…)
  • T is also  a “great dog” according to the father-son team working for a garage close to us. They raise pits and their “cousin raises them for fights, we would never of course…” We got talking about the cost of feeding the dogs. I noted that we are slowly introducing some raw meat to Mu’s and T’s diet (that will help to re-build his muscle and keep the Grande Dame healthy in her later years). This, we learned, is a no-no, unless we want to fight the dog: Supposedly the taste of blood will make the dogs thirsty for more, and if another dog is bleeding that will make T attack automatically. These experts also checked T’s tail: “Yeah, it’s broken, you know they break the tails of the dogs they wanna teach fight…” (There was an explanation as to why, I just didn’t have it in me to listen. And there was more wisdom, about how the losing dogs are shot and so on.) It goes without saying that I disagree with all that. At the same time, I’m not trying to demonize these two men here. The duo was very nice, giving us compliments and advise, from their perspective; from the perspective of the context they know.

2014-11-09 13.10.18

The reason I’m chronicling the above examples is that, apart from the bad rap in the media, these are two very concrete and everyday discourses that we are faced with.

Two stories: a great dog, now well-adjusted and rehabilitated rescue, playing in Prospect Park after having a massive dog cookie at Choice Market while the owners drink their morning coffee. A great dog, is it a Colby, does it fight, why did you have it fixed, at the projects on Marcy. It’s easy to detest the latter discourse. But at the same time, this reflects same unfortunate divides everywhere: Class, race, gender (are there female fighting dog breeders?); defining the double life of T.

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