Friday pit bull blues

Craig Ceely, author of The Anger of Compassion sent me a link to a wonderful piece in the New Yorker about pit bulls and profiling. I don't agree with everything the author says, but as gems go, this one's unbeatable:

It can even be argued that the same traits that make the pit bull so aggressive toward other dogs are what make it so nice to humans. “There are a lot of pit bulls these days who are licensed therapy dogs,” the writer Vicki Hearne points out. “Their stability and resoluteness make them excellent for work with people who might not like a more bouncy, flibbertigibbet sort of dog. When pit bulls set out to provide comfort, they are as resolute as they are when they fight, but what they are resolute about is being gentle. And, because they are fearless, they can be gentle with anybody.”

Then which are the pit bulls that get into trouble? “The ones that the legislation is geared toward have aggressive tendencies that are either bred in by the breeder, trained in by the trainer, or reinforced in by the owner,” Herkstroeter says. A mean pit bull is a dog that has been turned mean, by selective breeding, by being cross-bred with a bigger, human-aggressive breed like German shepherds or Rottweilers, or by being conditioned in such a way that it begins to express hostility to human beings. A pit bull is dangerous to people, then, not to the extent that it expresses its essential pit bullness but to the extent that it deviates from it. A pit-bull ban is a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general. That’s a category problem.

Yeah, I'd say so. And to think it was in The New Yorker! I'm always glad to see the much maligned pit bull acquire eloquent and civilized advocates wherever they appear.

Of course, I'm a partisan defender of pit bulls, but even if saving pit bulls isn't your thing, be sure to check out Craig's plan to save the world:

Pave the planet. Asphalt the arroyos.

Now that pit bulls and the world are saved, I'd like to wish a slightly belated Happy First Birthday to a favorite blog and longtime link, Maggie's Farm! Unpredictable in nature (which is why I like it), the blog features all sorts of interesting stuff -- like this piece about the 70% failure rate of anti-depressants. The problem, of course, is that depression seems to be as individual a disease as there are individuals with depression:

1. there are many kinds of depression besides major depression; 2., the personality type, and personal strengths and weaknesses can effect the way depression occurs, and whether it occurs at all, and, 3. life circumstances have a real impact on the ability to improve depression with medicine (if your business is going bust, or your child dying with cancer, no antidepressant will make you merry).

I'll try to keep it brief. The generic term "depression" runs the gamut from the heavily-inherited form that occurs in Bipolar Disorder (which is probably a brain-wiring abnormality), to the grief-like depressive reactions to life-events, especially loss, which occur in vulnerable people. In between are sad-sack people with chronic mildy depressed mood, and many people with chronic mood problems due to personality disorders or neurotic problems. My point is that there is not one "depression". The word refers to a group of symptoms, not a diagnosis.

"Depression" is a depressing catchall. Another overused word which probably does more harm than good.

So check out Maggies Farm -- a great, hard-working blog, with lots of links!

And with that, I'm off for the evening.

posted by Eric on 02.03.06 at 05:11 PM

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