Bandit

Dossier of a Dangerous Dog

by Vicki Hearne

This is the difficult book I have been reading intermittent with all the latest Animorphs. I\’d read a chapter, or sometimes only a few paragraphs or even just one sentence, before my head would hurt or I couldn\’t focus anymore and had to switch to something lighter. (Not that Animorphs are light in subject matter, but the writing style is far easier on the brain!)

Vicki Hearne was an animal trainer and in 1987 she got involved in a court case about a dog named Bandit who bit someone. He bit a woman who was attacking another person on his property, which Hearne feels was wholly justified by the animal\’s way of reasoning, but there was a huge outcry about the dog being vicious, uncontrollable and dangerous. The dog was impounded and during that time probably mistreated; when he was finally returned home he urinated on the front porch and his owner smacked him so the dog bit his arm. Bandit was taken away again, and this time due to get euthanized but the author argued for him, so he was given into her custody to see if she could train him. Into better behavior supposedly, but the evaluations of this and all other things regarding the issue were so complicated and messed up it\’s hard to say. Hearne feels that she did a good job training Bandit (and she had the utmost admiration for his staunch character as a dog), but she wasn\’t allowed to demonstrate his manners properly, so the restrictions set on him (to be always muzzled and on lead when out in public for example) were never lifted, nor was she able to return him to his original owner. 
The book is interesting because a lot of it is about how animals think and behave, and also how a lot of people assume they think and behave, but they\’re wrong. Including, according to the author, many people in animal rescue work and humane societies. She has a lot of issues with them. And a lot of issues with how people can\’t be saying what they really mean, because their words, syntax or grammar don\’t make sense- she\’s very right about that in my opinion but it sure put my thoughts in a tangle to tease out understanding of how she explains these examples. The most straightforward being, that she considered the ban against pit bull dogs nonsensical because there is no such actual breed, and saying any \”type of pit bull dog\” is open to a lot of interpretation. In a lot of cases though, the author veers off into widely different subjects and sometimes I could not make head or tail of what she was saying anymore. She studied philosophy and wrote poetry which is all very evident in her writing style and thought process, and I just didn\’t get it. Sometimes I didn\’t even get a single sentence that covered a third of the page, read it three times, scratched my head what and had to put the book down. Also there\’s quite a few instances where she describes and analyzes some artwork- paintings and sculptures- and what they say about dogs (or horses) or our ideas about what dogs and horses are like. Except search as I might, I couldn\’t find the actual pieces she referred to, aside from one by Degas, and I did not at all see what Hearne did, in the painting. Another example mentioned several times is the Capitoline Wolf sculpture, which she says must really be of a dog. I kinda get her point there?
This title had been in the back of my mind for years- placed on a mental TBR so long ago it wasn\’t even on the handwritten paper list I kept before the blog. Yet still it leaped out at me when I saw it secondhand, and I\’m glad I struggled through reading it, at least this once. I would have given it a 4 if I had been able to understand some of it a little better.
Rating: 3/5               307 pages, 1991

4 Responses

  1. \”Sometimes I didn't even get a single sentence that covered a third of the page, read it three times, scratched my head what and had to put the book down.\”Wow, sounds like the book badly needed an editor!

  2. I looked up the author in my local library's catalog (I'd like to read her book Animal Happiness). Found that their edition of this book has the subtitle \”the heart-warming true story of one dog's rescue from death row\” whereas mine is subtitle \”dossier of a dangerous dog.\” Hm, I think the subtitle I have in hand is more accurate. I wouldn't say this is a \”heartwarming\” story- it's certainly not an easy read, and it's just as much about the legal tangle and posturing of people who wanted Bandit put to sleep, as it is about the dog himself. I mean, yes he was saved from that end, but the story is more about the difficulties of it and confusion than anything else.

  3. This sounds like A Lot. Can I recommend a companion read that's, like, much easier to get through? Bronwen Dickey wrote a terrific book called Pit Bull about, er, pit bulls, and I found it so eye-opening! Like I was already on team \”Leave Pit Bulls Alone for God's Sake\” but after reading this book I realized I didn't even KNOW how much I was on that team. 😛

  4. Thanks so much Jenny, yes I would like to read that! I know \”pit bull\” dogs can be very sweet to people- years ago I worked for a short time in a boarding kennel. There was one pit bull type dog there we were housing for a rescue group. He was with us for literally two months, because they failed to find him a home. Sweetest dog ever. Then there was a pair brought in by a family when they went on vacation. The owners assured us the dogs got along fine and could be housed in the same double-wide indoor/outdoor run. Those two got into a fight. We had to physically separate them- which was frightening, to be honest- and one had a lot of wounds, though none serious. After experiencing that, I can well see why a lot of people are afraid of these dogs.

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