9.02.2005

we hit a speed bump

I am so stressed. It was bound to happen, of course. But did it have to be a visit from Animal Services checking on a report of pit bulls??? You'll forgive me if I go a little long here. I really need to get this out of my system.

The day started out great. It's a beautiful day here in southern Ontario, and the movers showed up bright and early. Allan directed traffic and checked off the numbers as the guys brought them in. I hung out on the front lawn with the dogs, both on leashes. Please remember that. Ninety-five percent of the time, both dogs were lying in the grass, relaxing, enjoying the show. Occasionally someone would walk down the sidewalk with their dog, also on a leash, on their way to the park at the end of our street. Buster would begin to react, as he does whenever he sees another dog in "his" territory. I would either distract him, or if it was an intense reaction, walk him around the side of the house, out of view. That's all.

The move-in went smoothly and quickly. We were thrilled. (The movers were really nice, too. I have some observations about this, for another post.) After showers and something to eat, we headed off to the bank to open our chequeing account. By this time we had decided to put off applying for our SINs until Tuesday. If there was any time leftover after the bank, we would buy a grill and some outdoor chairs. Too much business and not enough enjoyment is bad for the soul.

We opened our chequeing account without a hitch, but we also learned that our money is less accessible to us than we had imagined. Withdrawing some cash from an ATM (ABM?) is no problem. But we're trying to transfer a big wad of cash, with which to buy a car, from New York City to Mississauga. I thought that the Canadian bank could take care of that, but apparently a transfer has to be initiated by the transferring bank, not the receiving bank.

This would not be a big deal, but that we are anxious to return the rented minivan. We're already keeping it a few days longer than we had planned because of having to paint. It costs more than $100 per day, and since we're buying a car anyway, hanging on to it longer than necessary really becomes a waste of money. It was already well into the afternoon, and I was skeptical that our Stupid New York Bank would be able to get a wire transfer going by close of business today.

A little more shopping (world's cheapest plastic chairs on sale at the Loblaw's!), then back home to make phone calls. While I'm trying to get through to someone, Allan is unwrapping the printer, finding paper in our boxes, hooking up the printer, and trying to get an authorization letter started.

First I couldn't even get through to the right branch. I finally found someone in a different branch who took pity on me and gave me the direct line of an assistant branch manager. But on Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend, Assistant Branch Manager isn't answering his phone. Call back Kind Person At Wrong Branch, who gives me the number of the branch manager. Branch Manager was very nice - but I was too late. The cut-off for a wire transfer is earlier than the close of business, and I missed it while listening to stupid electronic menus.

As it turns out, that didn't matter, because our New York bank requires an original signature. We thought we could fax an authorization letter, but we had to overnight it. That took a bit of the pressure off, since we now had a few more hours. However, this hadn't fully sunk in yet, and I was still stressing. You may know the feeling. A few minutes later, you might take a deep breath and say, ok, now I have more time. But for the moment, your brain is still in Crisis Mode.

I was on the phone with Helpful Bank Manager, getting all the information, when we heard knocking on our front door. Allan ran downstairs, and came back sounding as bad as I've ever heard him sound. "You have to come downstairs now. Animal Services is at the door. Someone reported there are two pit bulls at this house."

Allan had already explained that one of our dogs is afraid of strangers. They said that was fine, they could take a look at him through the screen door. When we came downstairs with B on his leash, the Animal Services People (ASP) were already petting and making friends with Cody. Buster barked furiously, but soon settled down. That's what he does. I went outside, Buster and Allan stayed inside the screen door, and I began to explain that Buster was a rescue, he had been abused, and it takes him a long time to trust people, he is aggressive when he's afraid, on and on.

ASP said they understood completely, that was not a problem at all. As we talked, Buster relaxed, as he always does once he sees he's not in danger. He laid down with a relaxed, goofy expression on his face.

ASP could not have been nicer or more understanding. Here's what they said.

- Someone reported that there were two pit bulls acting aggressively in front of this house. Reporting Asshole noted that the dogs were on leashes, but said the owner was having a hard time controlling the dogs. (Not true, although I can see how it might appear that way.)

- When ASP told RA that if the dog was really a pit bull it would be taken away and euthanized, RA felt horrible and wished they hadn't called. Nothing like learning the potential consequences of your actions before you act. RA was totally ignorant of the law, but felt free to pick up a phone and rat out this terrible menace in their midst. Fucking asshole.

- ASP hate the new Ontario anti-pit bull law. It is vague, illogical, and wide open for abuse. The public has not been educated about it. Animal Services were given no extra money for more staff or for public education. The law was put into effect with no preparation.

- Under the new law, unless an owner can prove that the dog is not a pit bull, if the dog in any way resembles a pit bull or a pit bull cross, it can be removed and destroyed. Buster is an unregistered mutt. We can't prove a thing.

- Under the law, an exception is made if the owner can prove that she or he lived in Ontario with the dog before August 29. Our landing papers are dated August 30.

- Under the law, any dog that is aggressive can be taken away and destroyed. Any dog that appears to be threatening or menacing - an extremely vague term, and wildly subjective, given that many people unfamiliar with dogs misinterpret a dog's signals - can be confiscated. And unless the owner can prove it is not a pit bull, it can be destroyed.

- ASP were hugely relieved to see that Buster was not a pit bull. They dreaded having to call on anyone, especially newly arrived immigrants, to confiscate their pet. I could see the genuine relief on their faces.

- They could see how someone might see a little pit bull in Buster's face. They are certainly correct in that. We see it, too.

- They tried to be reassuring. They were very apologetic at having to welcome us to Canada in this way. They gave us information about Ontario animal laws, including licensing information. Since Buster is both neutered and microchipped, we would only have to license him once. (That's an incentive for owners to do the right thing for their animals.) Cody is neutered but not chipped, so her license would have to be renewed annually. We've never licensed our dogs before - no one enforces that in New York City - but we'll certainly do it now.

- They made it clear that they were reporting that there was no pit bull at our home.

- However, as reassuring as they were, the law is not in our favor. Buster does react aggressively towards other dogs. He will never, ever get to any of those dogs, he will always be on a leash and under our control, but that doesn't matter. Anyone can report him, and the reports will all be noted, and they can be used as evidence against him.

So they were great, and very apologetic, and very, very opposed to this crazy law. I managed to hold it together while we spoke with them, but the second we closed the front door, I broke down.

I have to walk Buster where there are other dogs. He will see other dogs, and he will react. That's a given. There's no way around it. What will happen the next time some asshole decides to be a good citizen?

* * * *

After I finished crying, we completed our wire transfer authorization, collected our documents, found the nearest Fedex/UPS branch online, and went off to take care of the banking. I ate ice cream and chips, and we stopped at the liquor store for good measure. I'm a firm believer in all forms of stress relief. In moderation, of course.

So there it is. I feel like shit. Thanks for listening.

I know some of you agree with the breed-specific legislation, and I respectfully ask you not to engage in debate about that here. I'm too upset, I feel too strongly about it, and, well, it's just not the time.

* * * *

Right now we're sitting on our new Loblaw's plastic chairs, in our green backyard, enjoying the lovely Ontario breeze. The dogs are on their run - a giant metal corkscrew with long tethers - also enjoying.

18 comments:

Daniel wbc said...

What an awful thing to go through! I am glad that the ASP were kind and things turned out OK in the end. Do you think this will change your habits with the dogs any? I'd be a bit paranoid after that. I'd be passing people in the street and wondering who it was that made the report.

Wrye said...

Yes, the last thing you need. I'm astonished that it's such a loose law.

For now, I prescribe sprinkles and seasonal fruit with the ice cream, and don't think too much about this for a few days. Once things settle slightly, practical strategies will suggest themselves, but at the moment it's all just extra stress.

G said...

Yeah, the law has a ton of problems. Rushed in way too fast - but this is the McGuinty government, as you'll soon find out by watching/reading the news regularly. It's not the intent of the law that is necessarily the issue - it came in after a rash of pitbull attacks in the GTA over the course of the past half decade - it is, as you said, the way it was pushed in without consideration of potential pitfalls and loopholes that exist within it. It's McGuinty trying to please his voters with something many of them asked for, and rushing to do so, largely because little else he's done has pleased anyone and he's feeling the pressure.

Good to know everything with B is okay. Most people won't be as asshole as RA was; for the most part, people here can recognize an uncontrollable dog versus one that is merely aggressive when other dogs are around. Walking him in areas with other dogs shouldn't be too big an issue; dog owners especially all know how dogs will tend to growl and bark at each other, and how most larger breeds get a bit aggressive when a dog they don't know is around.

Sounds to me like RA is not a dog owner, and is possibly someone who has a fear of dogs, hence the uninformed phone call to ASP. And not to rag on the elderly, but that is also a distinct possibility - I've seen them call ASP on labradors who were sitting (not pulling or charging) and barking loudly at strangers. And they're among the most harmless and docile dogs.

Try not to fret about it - other dog owners will understand, I'm sure, and I doubt you will have many issues with this down the road. :-)

floydy1976 said...

What a nightmare, on top of moving house and sorting your bank out it must have been the last thing you needed.
I agree with the comment above - RA was obviously not a dog owner or even a liker of dogs. Must be mad! It's just great the the ASP were so understanding. I'm still stunned that someone thought your dogs were 'uncontrollable pit bulls'. It's worrying really.

L-girl said...

Thanks, everybody. I appreciate it, especially the sprinkles and ice cream. :)

I wish I could agree that RA was not a dog owner. The thing is, Buster only goes off when he can see other dogs - so it seems to me that only someone walking their dog in front of our house would see him acting weirdly and the owner (moi) "having trouble" controlling him. Although it's possible someone else not walking the dog could have witnessed it.

In any case, I guess it doesn't matter who the RA was, only that he or she existed.

Daniel wbc: this does make me paranoid, very. But I can't change my habits with my dogs, because there's no way to. I have to walk them, we're in a neighborhood with tons of dogs (including both our immediate next-door neighbors). We walk him double-collared, so in case one collar should fail, he still couldn't get loose - and we scrupulously avoid other dogs. But that's all there is to do. Nothing else can be done, as we know from years of experience.

We've been walking him in areas with other dogs for his entire life, and in our experience, dog owners are not particularly knowledgeable or alert or sensitive to other dog owners' needs. Many are, but many are not.

Hey Floydy1976, thanks for reading.

Well, thanks everybody. I'll try to put it aside for now. It's hard.

L-girl said...

Once things settle slightly, practical strategies will suggest themselves, but at the moment it's all just extra stress.

I just wanted to note, this is excellent advice, and very smart. I'm going to remember it.

L-girl said...

It's not the intent of the law that is necessarily the issue - it came in after a rash of pitbull attacks in the GTA over the course of the past half decade

Just to let you know, I do disagree vehemently with the intent of the law. Breed-specific legislation is bigotry, and it doesn't work. I've read about this extensively, and I oppose it.

I truly don't feel up to debating it, it's too emotional for me right now. I just wanted to say that my disagreement is not just with the implementation, it's with the entire package.

Naturally I respect your opinion on the matter, that should go without saying. (But is worth saying anyway!)

redsock said...

Well, we obviously won't be sitting and relaxing in the front yard any time soon. Or ever.

The insane thing about this law, as ASP pointed out -- it only takes one nutty neighbour to end a dog's life.

Say someone has been deathly afraid of dogs all of his or her life -- even marshmellows like Cody -- and he or she decides some dog a block away is being "aggressive" -- the term is so elastic as to be completely meaningless -- and picks up a phone. ... And someone's dog is quickly put to death.

But then this ignorant would-be snitch was horrified at what might happen to our dog after he or she made the call. ... Completely unaware of what the consequences if his or her actions would be ... Fucking Idiot.

It was nice to hear ASP say how sorry they were to have to come to our house on our 3rd day in Canada and tell us all this shit. Welcome!

The thing for us to remember is that this call was total bullshit. The complaint said we had TWO pit bulls. ... ASP said as much when they were here. They understood that someone could think Buster might look a little like a PB. But they also know that this complainer ID'd Cody as a pit bull.

And this was absolutely someone with a dog -- Buster would have continued dozing in the yard otherwise. ... Ignorant people have dogs too. And they can be equally full of shit.

mkk said...

So sorry you had to go through all this. What a way to be welcomed to Canada. Marty and I were both very upset to read your sad account. Hope this is all behind you and that you, Allan, Buster, & Cody can live peacefully in your new homeland.

tijo said...

Well at least the nutty neighbour got it over with on the first day Buster was out in the front yard! I'm sure it was their way of welcoming you to the neighbourhood (and making sure at the onset that Buster wasn't going to attack).

Since the caller was so upset it's unlikely they'll call ASP again, especially since they've assured no pit bulls are at your house.

L-girl said...

Good point, Tijo. I'll try to look at it that way.

Thanks, Marce. Love to you & Marty.

Anonymous said...

Hey L-Girl
ALPF
Sorry to here about your ordeal with RA. I have to say as a dog owner and lover this law puzzles the hell out of me... There is a Rottweiller and a Sharpei in my neighbourhood that would love to have the chance to kill each other let alone my dog. They scare the hell out of me and my kids too. To single out one breed is just nutty, when it really is just irresponsible owners that are the real problem...
I'm jealous that you guys have a beautiful view of Lake Ontario, my view of the lake looks through the industrial haze here in Hamilton.
Take Care

L-girl said...

To single out one breed is just nutty, when it really is just irresponsible owners that are the real problem...

That's it in a nutshell.

I feel totally spoiled by my proximity to the Lake. Every time I see it, I grin like a little kid.

dogsled_stacie said...

Bummer about your stressful welcome! That law is total SHITE!! I hadn't even heard about it - been under a rock for a while here :). It's ALL about the dog owners being responsible. And you with your double collar, and knowledge of how your dog will react to people and dogs and taking measures to minimize problems, is more than responsible. Good god, what more can you do?

And it's so true, just 'cause the caller is likely a dog owner, means nothing. Sometimes they're the least understanding.

That said, MOST dog owners are great!

Anyway, enjoy that beautiful neighborhood (and lake view... *jealous*...). I suspect once you get to know the area and neighbours get to know you, things will go more smoothly!

L-girl said...

Thanks DS. I hope you're right. I think you are.

You are sure right about the law. I'm going to post more about it tomorrow. Some of the details are mind-boggling.

Liam J said...

Thanks for that info on the new dog law. Up until now I had supported it, but did not realize how vague it is. I'll will send my MPP an e-mail telling him that I want the law changed.

L-girl said...

LiamJ, thank you so much for reading and for saying this. See my most recent post. I linked to a great site with lots of information on why the ban is bad and won't work.

Niko said...

I'm sorry to hear about the bump in the road...I hope things got better. I just got back from New Mexico and am getting cuaght up on WMTC