Every day in the news, there appears at least one story that prompts the question: How did this happen? Occasionally those news items are about dogs — a dog mauled a meter maid, a family pet attacked a member of its own household, a neighbor kid was chased up a tree by the dog next door. ...

The following letter tells us how these stories happen, how they make it onto the front pages of our newspapers. It's the backstory to a tragedy that has yet to occur but surely will if the people involved continue to turn a blind eye.

Baby is my husband's dog, meaning he had her before we were married. She was a rescue from a shelter, about to be put down for aggressive behavior. A volunteer and close friend felt Baby was being pigeonholed for being a pit bull and so took her in. When Baby did not get along with her dogs, she called my husband.

At first Baby seemed timid, but she was very warm and loved to be petted. My husband plays with her, and she lies still to have her belly scratched by him.

Initially, I was intimidated by her and only went around her when I was feeling confident. I did not allow my children around her at all at first — and later only exposed them briefly and with our supervision. If the children are outside, Baby is kenneled or chained away from the play area.

We have two other dogs: a 2-year-old male Heidelberg shepherd and a 9-year-old female Shar-Pei. In the beginning, all of the dogs roamed the backyard, with the Shar-Pei sleeping indoors at night.

One day during feeding, the two females fought and the Shar-Pei almost lost her life. My husband refused to get rid of Baby, stating he needed a good guard dog for our property, and that she kept our neighbors from allowing their dogs to roam the neighborhood, which he feels is more of a danger to our children.

The second incident with the Shar-Pei really pushed me over the limit: We had been working with a trainer with both dogs for months — Baby has food aggression, especially on hot Texas afternoons — with muzzles and leashes and treats. The Shar-Pei got her muzzle off first and would lie beside Baby and wag her tail. Baby was not relaxed, but also was not showing aggression — no snarling or puffing up. She would just get very still.

Then one day, Baby suddenly turned her head and latched on to the Shar-Pei's throat and face. She would not let go and was growling and snarling. I was afraid that if she let go at my persuasion, she might come after me or my children, who were in the yard only feet away from the attack. Again the Shar-Pei fought for her life.

Even after such a close call, my husband refuses to get rid of her. He thinks that all dogs are equally dangerous — even though none of the other dogs has a history of any type of aggressive behavior with dogs, people, strangers, cats or anything else. He feels that the Shar-Pei instigates situations with Baby. I don't really care who starts it; it is who finishes it that scares me the most.

I do not want to leave my home or create a strain in my marriage because of a dog. But I not only feel like a prisoner in my own home, but also that our livelihood and safety are in jeopardy.

She's right — their livelihood and safety are in jeopardy. This is like going to a PTA meeting and being told Charlie Manson will be your child's homeroom teacher. You don't let that happen. You do something about it.


Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Read all of Uncle Matty's columns at the Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.