The other day, I was trolling Facebook, and I saw an article my friend posted about a dog, Coffee, who sits outside of Yankees and Mets games holding a pipe or wearing a Groucho Marx disguise and panhandling. The article was about how people think that Coffee is being abused. Of course, this put me on alert, so I read on. I then went to the Facebook page "Stop Abusing Coffee." The people on the page stated that Coffee wore an e-collar, and was forced to sit outside for long periods of time with no food or water. They also claimed she had no teeth, and they said that all these factors pointed to extreme abuse. The people called to have the man arrested. After the ASPCA investigated and found no signs of abuse, they turned against the ASPCA. They insulted Jay Leno after he made a brief comment about the situation, and they insulted Nick Cannon because he agreed with the ASPCA.
Frankly, I'm more than a little annoyed and quite disgusted by all these people. So, let me address each issue.
The e-collar is a training tool. Cody wears an e-collar on a regular basis. I put it on him so he can walk next to me off leash and come when called. I call it my safety blanket, because I know it will keep my baby safe. He wears that collar WHENEVER he is off-leash, but I rarely have to the nick (shock) function, and I often use the simple vibrate function just to get his attention. Whenever his collar comes out, he gets excited because he knows we are going somewhere fun. Putting and e-collar on Coffee does not equal abuse.
That said, an e-collar can be used improperly, and I have not seen/met Coffee or her owner, so I don't know how they're using it. All I know is that the fact she's wearing one does not point to any signs of abuse.
Of course, forcing a dog to sit for hours on end with no water available could be considered abuse...sort of. When I'm out with Cody, or when we're at an event, I do not often have a bowl of water for him. Rather, I keep an eye out for his needs. Does he seem thirsty or tired? Is it particularly hot? On more than one occasion, I have taken water in my mouth and put it back in his (particularly on long car rides) just to wet his mouth. Also, there are lots of doggie water bottles that do not require an owner to carry a bowl. On top of that, Cody does not drink water 24/7. He will often go hours without any water, and if a bowl were placed next to him, he almost certainly would not drink it if all he'd been doing was standing in one place.
It is Coffee's owner's responsibility to make sure she is not dehydrated. Having a bowl of water out all the time would be easy, but it does not promote actually watching and observing your dog for signs of healthiness.
Many people are claiming that Coffee has no teeth, and indeed pictures of the dog's mouth do not show many (if any) teeth present. However, while most are assuming that the owner removed the teeth so the dog could hold the pipe for long periods of time, I'm more apt to believe that this is how Coffee came, or that Coffee had bad teeth that HAD to be removed. Coffee was a rescue dog. I have seen lots of rescue dogs with terrible teeth. Many had to have teeth removed. As a pit found in a shelter, Coffee may have been a fighting dog. If she had chewed on chains, bars, and other unsavory objects and not been given proper care, it is totally plausible that she simply wore her teeth down beyond repair. If this is the case, then one could applaud Coffee's owner for feeding her foods she could eat and caring for a higher maintenance dog.
Dogs Shouldn't Have Jobs
This is one argument that makes me want to slap the people who say it. The human-dog bond was created by dogs working for us. ALL dogs need a job, especially higher-energy dogs like pits. For some dogs, like Yorkies, the job is to chase rodents; Shih-tzus have the relaxing job of keeping laps and hands warm by sleeping on them; Labs work by retrieving; Pits were originally bred to work on farms. ALL DOGS HAVE JOBS. This one may be unorthodox, but it's a job none the less.
All in all, I think these people are overreacting. They've contacted all sorts of sources, and those sources are all giving the same response: "There's no sign of abuse, but we're monitoring the situation." Even PETA said this...PETA, the same people who insulted the president for killing a fly and who wanted Ben & Jerry's to start using human breast milk instead of cow's milk to make their ice cream because milking a cow was inhumane.
It makes me ill to see how quickly people jump to reactions, and it makes it difficult as a trainer to see how some people treat other trainers. Please, people, get over yourselves.
Oh, and just to quickly address some other issues raised. The bandanna is worn over the e-collar not because the owner knows the e-collar is wrong, but rather because he's sick of comments for ignorant people. The Groucho Marx disguise that's worn does NOT cover the Coffee's nose. She can breathe just fine. Oh, and Coffee probably has had puppies, and she most likely bore them BEFORE she came into her current owner's home. There, I hope you got the message!