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.”
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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.”
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