I was taking in a walk the other evening with a friend when we happened upon a dog walker doing the same. My friend wanted to cross the street which I found odd since she interrupted our conversation with a bit of alarm, obviously concerned about the bully-type dog merrily sniffing about at the end of his leash. When I asked what was wrong she stated, ‘Those dogs are dangerous! You never know what they are going to do!’
After explaining she didn’t really know what I was going to do either and that the dog walking towards us was showing all the body language of a friendly pup, we introduced ourselves (after permission from his guardian) and found him to be a lovely friendly dog. As we continued our walk we had an interesting discussion on how we have formed opinions or labels that we apply to a various number of beliefs and how we use them to pigeonhole not only dog but many others into socially acceptable and unacceptable roles even though we have no experience with the individual with which to form that opinion.
The much maligned American Pitbull carries with it a label of ferocity seldom bestowed on any other breed though few who have that view have had any experience with them. The pit-bull is just one of the many unqualified preconceived notions we make every day when interacting with others. When we make such statements we are mistakenly creating our own opinion when we are using another’s description or knowledge, which can be tainted or at the very least misrepresented.
My walk with a friend not only brought to the forefront how often we place a label on someone but also reminded me to make my own decisions concerning pit-bulls (perceived as vicious), small dogs (many considered as yappy ankle-biters), people with blue hair (rebellious anti-authoritarian youth) and the various other factions rather than using someone else’s rhetoric.
When viewing the world it is possible we can be a bit more independent of generalizations and embrace the idea that all creatures are individuals. Many pit-bulls are sweet. Not all small dogs are lusting for an ankle-bite and some polite and kind youngsters just like blue hair.
Maybe the ‘others’ are not so very different from us.