A Walking Time Bomb? The Trouble With Ira Glass’s Dog, Piney

Ira Glass photo

Ira Glass photo by ricky.montalvo.

I was driving to visit my 87-year-old Dad last Sunday, as I do every Sunday. It’s usually one of my NPR-listening times, and I caught the famous This American Life on the radio.

But there was a twist. Someone was interviewing Ira Glass, the host, instead of the other way around. If you aren’t familiar with the program, Ira Glass, in an inimitable voice, narrates oddball stories about regular people. He sounds like he was raised by intellectual Martians who expatriated to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He actually grew up in Baltimore.

Ira Glass was talking about his pit bull, Piney. In his oh-too-blasé voice of bored neutrality, I actually sensed some emotion as Ira talked about the constantly muzzled, Prozac-taking, kangaroo-eating pit bull that has changed his and his wife’s life. Mostly for the worst.

You can listen to the relevant part of the show here (skip to 38:35):

Piney Has Already Attacked Children

In a nutshell, Ira and his wife adopted a pit bull pup some seven years ago, and took him to some kind of a wedding celebration with children soon after, where Piney bit two of them. The inference is that the wedding incident changed Piney forever. He has subsequently bitten both Ira and his wife, Anaheed, and several other people.

Ira referred to these bites as “nips.” Nancy Updike, the This American Life interviewer, insisted that if the act draws blood, it is a bite. Ira decided they should be classified as “bloody nips.”

The owners have sought multiple trainers and veterinary advice without improving Piney’s behavior to a socially acceptable level, and the dog’s health is a big problem as well. While it is clear Ira Glass is dedicated to this extremely problematic canine, he seems clueless, or irritatingly smug, about Piney being a walking time bomb.

No Visitors Allowed

Ira and his wife now live in a New York City apartment with Piney, in seclusion. No visitors allowed. When Piney sees the light of day, he is muzzled. Ira recounts an incident when, after an early-morning walk, he and Piney returned to the apartment and Piney turned on him. Ira believes the dog was guarding the sleeping wife. He tried to divert Piney’s attack into a tug-of-war play.

Cesar Millan-like trainers, or many less celebrated trainers with many differing philosophies, are probably tearing their hair out by this point in the broadcast.

Toward the end of the segment, the real meat of the problem came to light. How do Ira and his wife justify this type of existence, for them or the dog? Why do they keep doing it? That’s what Updike, a producer who has known Ira for a long time, couldn’t comprehend. Her lack of understanding offended, or seemed to hurt, Ira. This was his explanation:

“It’s really sweet to have this animal that trusts no one and is alone in this world except for us, and he trusts us.”

He raveled on about Piney’s helplessness and dependency.

The interviewer responded, “It’s interesting that you consider him helpless, though, since he lunges at you every day. And you see helplessness behind I think what other people see as aggression.”

THERE’S MORE… Keep reading here: Page 2

From Around the Web

  • facebook-1572483271

    This simply is not the life for this dog or his family let alone anyone this dog may come in contact with.
    What I find sad is there is no talk about this dog before he was adopted. What kind of life he lead before adoption or what age he was when adopted. Though that may not be where the answer leads it still leave’s many questions and hair pulling in my mind!

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      Not sure about too much of Piney’s early life, but Ira himself says the dog was a rescue, and that Piney’s “slave name” (whatever that means) was Marley before they changed it to Piney. Ira has also commented that Piney’s mother was mistreated (“starved in a garage”) during pregnancy.

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/08/26/ira-glass-on-rescuing-a-pit-bull-dog-with-a-ridiculous-diet.html

      • facebook-1572483271

        So genetic, neurological, social/environmental or combination of all three…….hair still pulling out.

  • facebook-1572483271

    I also just saw in the picture…..what is on this boys foot??

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      The photo was taken after a vet visit for some sort of leg problem a while back.

  • Jen@MyBrownNewfies

    Such a sad story for both owners and dog. For me, it comes down to quality of life and it doesn’t seem like Piney or her owners have a good quality of life the way they are currently living in seclusion, avoiding the problem isn’t going to help it. Piney’s owners don’t seem like they are being responsible in the sense that they are doing more harm than good for Piney’s aggression. It sounds like an accident waiting to happen and when it does it could be fatal.

    On a side note-I’m wondering about the author’s protocol for euthanizing dogs that have bitten. No disrespect intended, but in the state where I live if a dog has bitten it has to be quarantined for 10 days before it can be euthanized, or rabies testing has to be done on the dog after euthanasia. Just a curious thought in my head. Maybe different states have different protocols for this?

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

      Here in New York City, to my knowledge, you’re supposed to call the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene if your dog (or cat) has bitten a person. The owner (not the city by default) must confine and observe the dog for 10 days for any signs of rabies. Then you have to notify DOHMH again to let them know that your dog appears healthy (or not) after 10 days.

      A judge can order euthanasia for a dog that has attacked someone (or another animal) and caused serious injury. I assume that by the time a case is serious enough/fatal to go to criminal court, 10 days will have already passed anyway (with the dangerous dog presumably in custody of animal control).

    • Dr. Deb

      You are absolutely correct. The dog is always quarantined for 10 days post the bite. If the dog is an extreme threat, it can be euthanized and the head sent to the state for Rabies testing. Naturally, the state discourages this.

      In the very sad case of the Springer, the dog had bitten several family members several times and was highly unpredictable. I did not get into the details in my article. I quarantined the dog at my hospital for the 10 days period because the owners were so distressed. They did come and visit every day which made the entire situation all the more heart wrenching for us all.

      Again, these cases are few and far between. I have certainly refused to euthanize a dog when I believe the dog has a chance. If an owner wants an animal euthanized and I don’t think it’s warranted, they can go someplace else. But unfortunately, some dogs have seriously bitten multiple times. These dogs cannot be easily placed in another home and, unfortunately, pose a serious threat. These decisions are reached only after a detailed, deep, and personal discussion with the owner. And I have to know the owner and the dog for a long time, the training history, etc., in order to reach a decision.

  • John Van Olden

    There’s really no mention of any behavior work that’s been done with this dog, other than a prescription for Prozac. Without behavior modification, the drugs are typically a temporary band aid. Sad. The muzzle is nothing more than a management tool, which, as the behavioral training pendulum swings more and more towards a training ideology that doesn’t address all of the ways an animal learns, this is the only option that a dog owner like Ira receives. Yes, in its current state, this dog is a time bomb. Her life is at risk, and should she bite someone, she very well could be euthanized. This is a losing situation for the dog, for Ira and his wife, and even for Piney’s veterinarian who stands to loose several year’s worth of veterinary care. As a dog trainer with 25 years of experience, I’ve worked successfully with dogs like this, even after other trainers condemn the dog as “untrainable”, and while I would never know if this is a case that could be successfully treated without meeting Piney, and Ira & his wife, I hope that they continue to look for a trainer who has a track record of success working with these types of issues.

  • Jowilsie

    I too am a huge This American Life fan and find my image of Ira utterly shattered. I was a dog walker for a few years and walked a pit bull that was nervous and unpredictable. I walked him every day and had a good relationship with him. He destroyed and peed all over the room his owners kept him because their attempts to crate train (well, they didn’t train, they just put him in the crate and he destroyed it) failed. His owners were young, just married, just bought their townhouse. They had a fenced yard – a large one for a townhouse, but their dog was way too nervous to be left alone in it. So they could afford a dog walker but not a trainer. The only time I had incidents with the dog was when I was in a hurry. In a rush I’d forget that this dog didn’t like his head or neck patted. That’s when I’d get a tooth bump – fortunately he never broke the skin. It was sad to see how radically these young people changed their lives for their dog. When I hung up my walking shoes in my last note to them after my last walk with their dog I urged them once again to hire a trainer to work with them and their dog. This time I also asked them to consider what will happen the next time their dog escapes and a kind stranger tries to grab him by the collar to bring him home. Hopefully that dog wasn’t as much of a time bomb has Piney seems to be. But as much as I like dogs and as much as I liked this pit bull and as hard as I tried during my short time with him I certainly wasn’t sure he was enjoying his restricted life.

    I’m so glad to read this measured, well-written article. It helps to read an experts confirmation of things I’d only suspected.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sofia.erliencerullo Sofia Monica Erlien-Cerullo

      Do not speak about Piney like you know him. You had a bad experience with ONE of many Pitbulls. And I’m sorry for that. But before just reading this horrible article and (maybe) listening to the interview, don’t you DARE judge Piney until you know EVERYTHING about him. He doesn’t have a restricted life, he will CONTINUE to have a long and happy life surrounded by people who love him!

      • AJ

        Why do so many waste their time, money and efforts (as well as risk their lives and those of their families) on these dogs when there are many GOOD dogs being euthanized in shelters daily?

  • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

    I found this comment online elsewhere and thought it was interesting, so I’ll share it here. The commenter said:

    “I guess people can do what they want, but I don’t get why anyone would want a screwed up rescued pit bull that bit people. For all they spend on his [dumb] diet and team of people and valium, they could rescue like 10 pit bulls who DON’T eat faces.”

  • Anaheed Alani

    It’s surprising to me that you say you actually heard the program, as you got so many facts wrong. It’s also surprising that a website would publish so many factual errors, without the slightest attempt to fact-check. And finally, it is shocking that a medical professional would think it appropriate to diagnose a dog she has not met, and furthermore to prescribe death to that dog. And for other seeming “professionals” to do the same in the comments.

    Our dog has been working with a behaviorist for many years. She is the one who prescribed his medications. He’s not on Prozac, he’s not a she, he’s not a walking time bomb. He has been very well managed for years. He has not bitten anyone for years. He has a behaviorist, a trainer who specializes in aggressive dogs, and many friends (human and canine) whom he sees every day. The professionals in his life do not see him as a danger, because we are excellent at managing him. We have no need for fake concern, either; our lives are just fine and people who actually know us don’t seem particularly worried about our choices. I find this article and its comments, and the website that published them, really irresponsible and really bad manners all around.

    Also, I never gave you permission to use my photos of Piney. Using them without permission is against copyright law; please take them down immediately.

    Sincerely, Anaheed

    • Dr. Deb

      Apologies for the gender discrepancy. That is always offensive to owners. For the record, Piney is a male dog. The correction has been made.

      I did not offer a diagnosis of Piney. Certainly, I did not prescribe death. My goal was to discuss dogs that pose a threat, the many aspects involved in handling those dogs, the difficulties owners have in owning such a dog, and owners’ attitudes.

      From the broadcast, I picked up on the interviewer’s real concern about Piney’s behavior, the discussion about the bloody nips, and the multiple bites. I believe it is professionally astute to extrapolate from this information that Piney still poses a threat, despite medications, trainers, and behaviorists. I’m sure the veterinarians and trainers involved in Piney’s case are working with great expertise, professionalism, and concern.

      I always like to express in my posts what situations feel like for me as a vet, speaking from my side of the exam table. Discussing a few of the times I have been asked to euthanize a dog that has inflicted death or a vicious attack was meant as a “what if” scenario. Clearly, my friends and clients who owned these dogs were torn apart by what eventually happened. What do they say to me? “How could I have let this happen?”

      I want dogs like Piney to get every bit of help they need. If they all could be rehabilitated, there would never be another court order to euthanize a dog. This would make my responsibilities as a veterinarian a lot less heart wrenching in certain situations.

      • Anaheed Alani

        I’m not the least bit offended that you though Piney was female. I think it’s weird that any owner would care about their dog’s gender presentation. I was just pointing out one example of a factual error among many in your article. If you couldn’t even keep the pronouns that were used throughout the radio story straight, how could you be expected to have paid attention to what drugs Piney is on, or any other details?

        If you think that the professionals involved in Piney’s care are so great, why did you say you were pulling your hair out when you heard about how we manage him?

        I think that by calling my dog, whom you have never treated, a “walking time bomb,” saying that it’s dangerous for us to own him, and then going on to talk about how in your practice you help people euthanize such dogs, you are making a strong implication that you believe Piney should be dealt with similarly. I believe that, as an experienced writer, you probably recognized the rhetorical device you were employing in your piece, and chose to use it. I think if you wanted to make a point about which dogs in your practice need to be killed, you could have done so without having to tie your argument to a semi-famous person’s name, and a dog you have never seen. Using real people and a real dog as a hook, without so much as inquiring as to what kinds of treatment the dog is getting, and what measures we take to keep other people safe, is really irresponsible journalism and medicine. It might be a better idea to use your own stories to make your arguments, instead of pulling us into them, from now on.

        • Lucy Muir

          Luckily she did not edit out this sentence which is the crux of the issue, not which psychoactive or sedative drug you have to keep your dangerous dog on so that your sycophant Sophia can continue to proclaim she’s Piney’s number one fan:” I did not hear Ira Glass expressing legitimate concern about the damage a dog like Piney can cause.”

      • Anaheed Alani

        Why’d you delete my response to this?

        • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

          Sorry, it had been sitting in the Pending folder, and has now been approved. Thanks for your comments.

        • Anaheed Alani

          Ah, OK, sorry & thanks! It was up (and people were able to upvote it) then it suddenly disappeared. I approve comments on a website, so this behavior on a comment was confusing to me. I know nothing about how Disqus works, though, so thanks for explaining.

    • Lucy Muir

      You have some nerve claiming that Piney has been well managed by you when in your now deleted blog you admit to “forgetting” Piney’s inadequate muzzle and then you self-righteously crabbed about getting a ticket for allowing the same dog you allowed to bite SEVEN people to be illegally off lead. There are several other posts in which you blame the world for not magically knowing, bowing to and conforming to your whims and perceived rights as the owner of a dangerous dog.

    • DubV

      Anaheed,

      Your entire blog about Piney betrays what you have written.

      Now that an unwelcomed light has been shined, you have deleted your entire blog dedicated to Piney.

      Don’t worry though. The entire blog has been saved by others to pdf. Piney’s next bite victim may find that those pages come in handy.

    • BigFatRedDawg

      I listened to the interview with Ira on NPR and loved it. I also have a beautiful dog with fear aggression issues, and can relate to most of the situations. He will always have to be managed and he will always be loved.

    • Guest

      When a dog bites one person, it’s a warning. When he bites *6* people (as Ira said this dog has), it’s time to have THE OWNERS put down.

    • AJ

      So….do you use fake service dog ID for this thing, as is claimed?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sofia.erliencerullo Sofia Monica Erlien-Cerullo

    I can’t believe a “vet” would jump to conclusions and assume things about a dog she’s never met before. I know Piney and boy he is so scary! NOT! He is such a sweet fat boy who gives me loving kisses non stop and loves my scratches that I give him! We all sit around in a circle and he goes to each one of us giving us kisses and his love. So do not sit up there on your high horse acting like you know every single thing about Piney just because you heard ONE SHORT STORY on the radio. Ever think that you only heard the bad stuff about Piney because that is all the interviewer asked about?! Did she ask about any good things? No. So you and every other ignorant person who is now judging Piney, Ira and Anaheed failed to hear the following:
    How he visits us daily to love and kiss us
    How he enjoys walking under hanging clothes
    How he loves to cuddle and snuggle
    How great he is with other dogs
    How happy he is with Ira and Anaheed
    How he probably has a better life than many other dogs, I mean he goes out every day to see his friends.
    He is surrounded by so many people who love him and adore him and who will stand up for him to people like you.

    Yes he has NIPPED some people. And yes it bleeds. But so do paper cuts. Doesn’t mean you severely cut yourself. Yes he is a lot of work. But don’t you dare judge him, his family or his situation until you know EVERYTHING. And that goes for everyone else who chooses to be closed minded and ignorant about Piney and his family!

    Sincerely,
    1 of Piney’s biggest fans, Sofia

    P.s. the “dangerous vicious ticking time bomb” was just here attacking us with all his dangerous kisses! Good thing we all got out alive! -_______-

    • Dawn James

      you are just as naive, irresponsible and stupid as anaheed

      • http://www.facebook.com/sofia.erliencerullo Sofia Monica Erlien-Cerullo

        And you are ignorant for judging others simply on one article and story. Have you met Piney? Have you met Anaheed? Have you even listened to their side? Nope. Hence, ignorant! As said before. Don’t judge until you know everything. Soon, there will be a video uploaded of Piney attacking us so viciously …with his kisses -_-. Now go somewhere else with your ignorance. Thank you :)

        • Freya L

          It’s no use. That’s one of the people that writes on Craven Desires. They hate pit bulls. Refer to them as Monsters and the owners as Nutters. They’ll use anything to prove their point and wrote about Anaheed and Ira on their blog already.

      • Anaheed

        I’ve noticed that you comment ONLY on articles about pit bulls. Can you explain why that is?

        • Karen Batchelor

          Because he/she is a Pit Bull hater and turns up like a bad penny on any article involving Pit Bulls spewing hate, personal abuse, slander and misinformation. And that’s just what they do to the people they target.

          There are a bunch of them and they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  • Freya L

    First of all, shame on you Dr. Debora for even writing this. Obviously you either have a problem with pit bulls or you just wanted attention for writing about someone more well known then yourself.

    Next, I see that Anaheed and a friend commented. This is to you directly and I hope you read this and that Dr. Debora allows this to post. Ira, you should try to think about things before you say them, when it come to Piney…he’s a pit bull and people will do anything to give them a bad name. This information has already been used by Craven Desires..a blogger associated with Colleen Lynn and dogsbite.org with is a pit bull hating website that lies and post up false statistics about dog bites.
    http://cravendesires.blogspot.com/2012/12/this-american-nutter-piney-files.html

    They said some nasty stuff about you. Obviously I’m not going to take the time to listen to what you said because I just don’t feel the need to. If these people are taking your words out of context or making anything up then you should probably try to deal with that as best as you can.

    By the way, look up prey model raw. I know you feed you dog a special diet because of his digestive system issues. It might help. I feed my dog Instinct Raw because he’s small and it’s about $40 bucks for a bag that last about a month but for a bigger dog you’ll be better getting the meat on your own. Dogs don’t need anything but meat in their diet. Starch isn’t really necassary just meat and bone and organs. There’s a website called preymodelraw.com. Check it out, and best of luck :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Carol/100002822235948 Steve Carol

    The majority of people who read this and listen to the segment about Piney will realize that this dog should have been put to sleep years ago. Perhaps first time dog owners do not realize what it is like to have a dog that is relatively trustworthy and gentle, the type of dog that would never bite its owners and would lay down its own life to defend them from a dog like Piney.

    http://www.saljournal.com/news/story/Osh-Gosh-hero-dog-dies-031911

  • migedy

    As I listened to the interview of Ira Glass (about his dog Piney)on This American Life, I thought of my cousin Sonia who had also had a neurotic, fearful dog that she loved very much. The dog bit off her lip while she was asleep. It turns out that the skin of the inside of the lip is extremely difficult to replace and she was left permanently disfigured. It amazed me that Ira referred to bites that draw blood as “nips” and I thought of how many resentments his wife, Anaheed, must have against him (forcing him get up at 5am to walk Piney or to travel 2 hours to get kangaroo meet — all to prove his love for her — what about Anaheed proving her love for Ira by freeing them both of Piney so that they can have a social life?). Having Piney is a perfect way to punish Ira continually (perhaps for being more successful than her?) It amazes me that Ira does not see the obvious. Of course Anaheed is going to defend the ridiculous lengths required to maintain Piney because it is not about Piney at all, but about control over Ira.

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

      Your point about your cousin’s tragedy is well taken. The rest of your comment involves a tremendous amount of speculation.

  • JewelD

    90% of all adoptable cats and dogs in shelters are euthanized daily in the US. It’s awfully ironic to keep the biters alive in their stead – emphasis on “awfully.”

  • newyorkisnotheuniverse

    Yet another set of Childless New York Pseudo intellectual
    (Quasi celebs)… Believing they can understand and are communicating with an animal … In this case a dangerous animal. my parents were right…
    ignorance flourishes best where arrogance flourishes best ..
    those nerd/hipster glasses must be deflecting reality.. good grief ..

  • Nick

    I used to work at the kennel that banned Piney. Some staffers liked Piney, and let his owner in to visit, despite the ban. I overheard Piney’s owner, Anaheed, tell another female staffer about Piney’s “fake service i.d. tags”. Not only did Anaheed use these fake service identifications for Piney, but she also recommended the female staffer do the same for her pit bull. I recently saw a news story, on a local NYC news channel, about the problem with “imposter dogs” using these fake i.d. tags, and the dangers they pose. Hence, my post here about Piney with his “service” tags. Yes, Piney is a ticking time bomb…but with service dog tags (?!).

    • AJ

      Pit owners falsely claim their dogs are “service dogs” (and sadly, ID and vests can be bought by anyone online) so they can keep them.

  • Karen Batchelor

    Ira and Anaheed are just bizarre. Small wonder that their dog is such a head case. This situation has the makings of a very public mauling death when this dog finally loses it and releases his frustrations on one of these clowns. Most likely Ira.

    We don’t hear anything about a normal existence for this dog. He’s kept in an apartment, 5 flights up, and isolated from people and other dogs which is a recipe for disaster in itself. THAT is why he is biting people. Just how much socialisation did he get as a young dog when it really mattered? Judging by the wedding biting incidents the answer to that is NONE.

    He is threatening his owner. He is expressing unresolved resource guarding issues in his resentment of Ira and in the fact that people can’t approach Anaheed.

    What exactly is their problem? Do they think they are martyrs and that they are protecting Piney? They are harming him and creating his aggression.

    Thanks Ira and Anaheed. You are feeding the haters all the ammo they need to further harm the reputation of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

    This dangerous dog is a direct result of dangerous owners. Breed irrelevant.

    • AJ

      Maybe its true what the pit supporters say, when they claim “its not the dog, its the owner”.

      Indeed. Its actually BOTH. Let’s pray Glass and his wife never have children, or they might become Piney’s Hamburger Helper someday.

  • Elsa

    dogs are living creatures to .they have emotions and feelings like us …. the way a dog behaves is dependant on how the owner has raised it and treated it .. its obvious if an owner mistreats or abuses the dog it will eventually adapt to protect itself agaisnt humans because the image of a human will register as a threat to him.. same as if a dog is grown up in a loving family environment it wil be playful and loving.. also. they are susceptible to problems and conditions … i once had a rot who had short term memory but even though he was aggressive at times he still had a normal life…. i currently have 3 pitbulls and a pitbull pup born 3 weeks ago … i have never once had a small breed dog .. i have always had either a rot or pit and none of them have ever “tripped” off as u call it ….. and as for Piney .. you don’t know what happened to him in the wedding … dogs are very sensitive and adapatable creatures …we do not know if a person at the wedding mistreated him while his owners were not looking.. and kids tend to harass and kick dogs… those kids he “attacked” may have been harassing him but ofcourse no one will tell you that side of the story … they just want soemthing to gossip about so they blame the poor dog….. and as for attacking his owners .. he may have been scarred by the possible torment at the wedding …..

    BUT!! i do not know what happened … it could be that Piney may have some condition or medical issue that his owners are not aware of … but a dog will not attack someone without reason …. whether it was provoked or misunderstood .. everything has a reason .. and “tripping off” is NOT one

  • Joe

    I can’t breathe with all the smug in here.

  • Jamie Mount

    I am in pit bull rescue. The biggest problem with pit bulls are their owners, especially ones who do can’t see the truth. This guy is setting our efforts back a decade: this dog should be put down.

  • AJ

    After having worked in animal shelter and rescue work for 35 years, and in that time having encountered many pits and their deluded owners (mostly since the late 1980s when the no kill movement began), I have become convinced of one thing: most pit bull defenders are mentally disturbed, antisocial people who, if they have small children, need to have them taken away from them by child protective services. The owners, just as much as the dogs, are a very real threat to civilized society. As for the dogs? Pitbulls do not belong in our world. Period.

    • Cindy Ballard

      Yes AJ!! Agree 100% I just want to wrap my arms around every single child in this world that are forced to live with these predators and protect them all! As a parent it is our job to protect our children. Anyone that willingly places their child in harms way is very ill and doesn’t deserve a child! God help us.