Friday, June 8, 2012

Welcome, Dr. Jason McKinney (and Sherwin)!

The Social Work Department is pleased to welcome Jason McKinney, PhD, our newest faculty member! Dr. McKinney will be arriving in Ashland from New York State just in time for the fall semester. As an introduction, we asked Jason to tell us a bit about himself and an issue that he feels passionately about.

From Dr. McKinney:

Meet Sherwin

As a small and timid puppy, he was found wandering around the village of Geneva. In addition to his short hair and fawn color, he had white spots randomly dispersed throughout his coat. While the white on his chest and belly was fur, the white scattered elsewhere was paint. As a result of his painted coat, the shelter workers named him “Sherwin Williams." His picture was posted online with a brief narrative that stated: “Sherwin is an energetic and loving dog, who would love to help you around the house.”

Despite the nice narrative posted on the internet, young Sherwin's future would be plagued with a terrible reputation based on appearance and stereotypes. Even though he was very cute, he had a particular shape to his face that would cause him endless trials and discrimination. Sherwin is an American Pit Bull Terrier. Despite the growing number of persons educated about the real American Pit Bull Terrier, I can't help but focus on the uninformed. Trying to convince my own family members to welcome Sherwin was quite the task.

My mother shared stories about pit bulls attacking their owners without any warning or reason. They warned me that I should keep my face far from Sherwin, as he could attack. After several visits, however, their perception began to change. My step-father said to my mother, "If we ever get another dog, I want Pit Bull." I could not believe my ears. I had anticipated that convincing my father to welcome Sherwin would be another arduous task, as he had his own story of being chased by a growling pit bull (or a dog that resembled how he imagined a pit bull).

After observing Sherwin interact with other dogs, my Father was in disbelief. He was so impressed that he began to tell the rest of the family about Sherwin’s obedience and self control around other dogs. He then started to read about Pit Bulls, and discovered how dependable they can be when raised in a healthy environment with the right training. After having spent much of his life, spreading dislike for the breed and advocating for their end, my father said he would love to own a Pit Bull.

So that's a little about Sherwin, my best friend and side-kick. I hope you will stop by to meet him and look beyond stereotypes and image (I'm also friendly and don't bite). I'd also like to invite you to take a brief quiz to see if you can identify an American Pit Bull Terrier. There are so many mix breeds that resemble the Pit Bull. Visit As social workers, we resist discriminating based on race, gender, sexuality, and so on. Please consider joining me, after doing your own research, in resisting the movements across the United States that discriminate against dogs based on breed. It's called Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), and many large cities (e.g., NYC) have been fighting to have all American Pit Bull Terriers put down or shipped out of the county. I can't imagine being forced to put Sherwin to sleep because someone else doesn't like the breed. On a positive note... I have witnessed several success stories, from perceptions changing to friends rescuing Pit Bulls from kill shelters. The world can be made a better place, one small act of kindness at a time.

I am so eager to meet and get to know all of you! Though I am not going to be physically present until August, I will have access to email this summer. Have a warm and happy summer vacation!

Warmest regards,
Jason McKinney