Black Dog Lovers? The Complex Relationship Between Black folks and Man’s Best Friend

You know those videos where the dad, who didn’t want the dog at first, slowly becomes his friend? Yeah, that’s me for the most part.

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I’ve never owned a dog until about four years ago. Growing up in the Caribbean, dogs were either used for protection or were one of many strays roaming the streets. I’ve been chased and almost bitten a few times, so I harbored a special resentment towards them. I had no desire to own one until I had a family. Even then, it took about 12 years. My son asked and asked until he pretty much gave up. Then we finally caved in and figured it would be a great lesson about responsibility. Sure, my upbringing still kicks in sometimes. I don’t kiss my dog. in the mouth. I don’t look on him as a child. I might roll my eyes when I see my wife forget he’s not a human, but little did I know the effect it would have on all of us and the joy “Elroy” would bring to the house.

All this to say, I know I’m not alone. Black folks and dogs have a complex relationship. Since moving to the United States in the ’90s, I’ve realized Black people in America aren’t that different when it comes to how they view the relationship between dogs and humans.

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I spoke with another converted dog lover, author and educator Joshunda Sanders. In the video above, she shares her perspective on the complicated history between African-Americans and canines. She also discusses how becoming a dog owner and seeing other Black dog owners can be therapeutic and brings her joy.

Video Producer @ The Root

DISCUSSION

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Growing up in my neighborhood, dogs were more protection and a ‘alert’ if someone the owner didn’t know well came by, because most of the dogs owned by people were breeds used in police and prisons and such. Big, powerful and not willing to put up with outsider’s shit.

But that didn’t take away that those dogs were loved and if they ever got loose, there always was someone alert to call the owner and let them know that their dog was out and even help locate it. When the weather was bad, one of the first things was that folks would put their dogs inside and you were not allowed to give treats or get familiar with other people’s dogs if the owners didn’t know you well.

I’ve grown up with their always being a dog owned by my family and it’s only with the latest one, a 13+ year old rottie who will still hop a seven foot fence, who raises hell if someone shows up that he doesn’t know that I’ve really embraced being a dog owner and all of the fur-baby stuff that goes with it..to a point.

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