Pit Bulls: From America’s Dog to Public Enemy #1

Flickr: Nickel3rd

A Pit bull puppy.

Do a news search for “pit bulls” and you’ll notice certain themes: neglect, dog bites, as well as proposals to ban them. No type of dog arouses more emotion than those identified– and misidentified– as Pits bulls. Yet a century ago, these dogs were so admired for their loyalty and bravery that they were considered “America’s Dog” and used on posters during World War I to sell war bonds and recruit for the U.S. military. Before that, Pit bulls were prized for their gentle disposition and willingness to watch over children whose parents were busy at work, in the fields. So how did a dog which was once respected become so feared?

President and CEO of the Washington Humane Society Lisa LaFontaine says, “If you take a historical look at the breeds involved in dog attacks, the dogs that had been trained by certain elements of society to be aggressive were the pariah breeds of their era.”

LaFontaine explains that during the era of slavery, “Attacks by Bloodhounds were common because Bloodhounds were used to track runaway slaves. They were used to doing something violent. Fast forward to the 1880s and New York City, where Newfoundlands were being used to guard markets, so a preponderance of bites came from Newfoundlands. After World War II, Dobermans were associated with Nazis and were seen as dangerous.

“It was really when gangs adopted Pit bulls that they became the latest pariah…these happy, healthy, well-adjusted dogs became a symbol of drug culture and violence because unfortunately, you can take all of a Pit’s positive traits and turn them negative.”

Some may ask, what positive traits does a Pit bull have? Once again, history provides answers– and some surprising examples of great, if not heroic dogs. The only dog ever to be promoted to the rank of “Sergeant” started out as a brindle puppy with an abbreviated tail, a trait which inspired his name, “Stubby”.
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The Georgetown Student who was in Tucson

Flickr: SearchNetMedia

A sign promoting the "Congress on Your Corner" event that Rep. Giffords was hosting on Saturday.

Alex Villec was three feet from Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, his former boss, when she was shot along with nineteen others on Saturday, in Tucson, Arizona. Via Vox Populi:

Like most students home on break, Alex Villec (COL ’13) decided to spend his time visiting friends back home. Villec—a former Washington and district office intern for Representative Gabrielle Giffords—assisted in running the “Congress on Your Corner” event yesterday in his hometown of Tucson because he wanted to visit friends he had made while serving as an intern.

As Villec checked constituents in at the event, Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter, came up to him and asked to speak to the congresswoman.

Villec told Loughner that he would have to go to the back of the line and wait about twenty minutes before he could talk to Giffords. After a few minutes, Loughner left the back of the line and started toward the congresswoman.

“He was intent when he came back,” Villec told the Arizona Daily Star. “I didn’t see his gun, but it was clear who he was going for. He was going for the congresswoman.”

Georgetown Pres: DREAM Act will make us stronger

Center for American Progress

Georgetown University President Dr. Jack DeGioia

Now reading: Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia’s thoughts on the DREAM Act:

As a university in the heart of the nation’s capital, working to understand the impacts of globalization and the responsibilities we have in a new global context, it is our job, as educators, to support all of our students, including those who were born abroad, and to encourage passage of this legislation…

At Georgetown, students who meet the DREAM Act criteria are campus leaders and role models for their generation. They are pursuing challenging majors, are actively engaged in campus organization, and regularly participate in community service.

As these students work toward completing their degrees, their drive to give back to this country — using the knowledge gained through an American education — is unparalleled. They have done their part to make America, and our increasingly interconnected world, a better place. We must do ours to support a future for them that is free of fear, constraints and limitations on their success.

Passing the DREAM Act is an essential step toward that end. It will not only help these future leaders, it will enrich our campuses and make our country stronger.

A Good Family Makes All the Difference

The City Paper said it, so I won’t (note the parenthetical observation):

The lawyer for one of two college students arrested for manufacturing DMT, G. Allen Dale, points out that the accused aren’t “thugs.” He tells City Desk: “We’ve got some very young kids from good families, who’ve done some good things.” (Which, clearly, means they shouldn’t be treated the way most other accused drug dealers in D.C. are.) Dale points out, for instance, that his client, John Perrone, is an honor student who has worked at a homeless shelter, and has participated in a walk against hunger for the last ten years. So, he explains, “Our first step is to get them out.”…Pointing out Perrone’s youth and small size, he calls his current incarceration a “criminal hell.”

Soon: Mengestu.

"The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears"

Last week, when I mentioned that I wanted to read something by Georgetown Alum Dinaw Mengestu, DCentric reader Danielle (who–if I have guessed from her profile correctly– is Visual Arts editor of the grassroots publication Liberator Magazine) helpfully pointed me towards the bookstores at Busboys and Poets.

I appreciated Danielle’s suggestion because I prefer the immediacy of walking out of a building with a book in my hands vs. buying online, saving four dollars and waiting a week for a cardboard box to arrive in the mail. And about that cardboard– I’m thrilled my apartment building has started offering more options for recycling, but I still feel guilty, as I break down boxes and dutifully trudge to the trash room to stack them up. That’s a discarded, dead tree…used to convey another dead tree.

Fortunately, I get a kick out of supporting independent Booksellers, so that usually prevents cardboard-induced guilt when it comes to procuring reading material. Last night, I unexpectedly had to run an errand near P Street, so I impulsively ran up to Kramerbooks and asked for some fiction. They had both of Mengestu’s books in stock. Huzzah! I’m excited about starting “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”, especially because it takes place right here in D.C. I’d tell you what I think of it so far, but I’m finishing this book, first.

On my Reading List- Mengestu


When I was a child, my favorite way to learn about someone or something else was to devour fiction. Considering how often I am mistaken for Ethiopian (daily, if not hourly), it feels apposite to learn a little about this unique, visible community in D.C. The next time I’m near a bookstore, I’m going to look for Georgetown Alum Dinaw Mengestu‘s work, whose first novel was born “when he spotted a solitary Ethiopian store owner while on a walk one day through the Adams-Morgan neighborhood” (via NYT):

Mr. Mengestu’s first novel, “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,” focuses on an Ethiopian shopkeeper, living in isolation in a gentrifying neighborhood in Washington, who develops a tentative bond with a professor of American history, a white woman, and her precocious biracial daughter. The New York Times Book Review named the novel, whose title derives from Dante’s “Inferno,” as one of the notable books of 2007, and Mr. Mengestu quickly became a literary name to watch.

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