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Every January, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a great leader who lost his life in the fight for human equality. He was an inspiring public speaker, which came from his background as a Baptist minister. I also learned while looking up his story that he worked against poverty and war, something I think a lot of people have forgotten.

But there’s something else that Dr. King did that I think was more a result of his actions than his intentions, a byproduct of his crusade for equality.

Dr. King didn’t only speak out against racism. Through his deeds, he also dispelled myths. At that time, a huge myth was that one group of people was automatically inferior to another group simply because of one minor accident of birth — so the two groups should be kept separate.

While the myth has lost much of its power, there are, sadly, still people who believe it. It’s not unique to America. It’s an unfortunate human tendency to think that anyone who looks different, speaks a different language, has a different lifestyle, or is otherwise not like you is somehow inherently different at a fundamental level — and humans can often be afraid of those who are “different.”

But this tendency is exactly backwards. We are only different on the most superficial of levels. Inside, at our cores, we are all human, and we all have the exact same wants, needs, and desires. The external differences are only a mask. There’s a famous line that expresses this well: “Si nos pincháis, ¿no sangramos? Si nos cosquilleáis, ¿no nos reímos?”

I quoted the line the way I first heard it, in its Castilian Spanish translation, but it has exactly the same meaning in the original English just as Shakespeare wrote it: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”

Ultimately, we are not a product of our appearances. We are a product of our minds, emotions, and spirits. We are all the same on the inside.

This is also true of dogs, but humans make the same mistake about them, assuming that some breeds are more dangerous than others, or that big dogs are naturally more vicious than little dogs, entirely based on appearance.

Because of this, several breeds have been stereotyped over the years and have become the ones far more likely to wind up abandoned in shelters and even executed for their “crime” of being a particular breed. Of course I’m talking about pit bulls, Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, German shepherds — and all the other frequently banned dog breeds.

These breeds are discriminated against in housing that is otherwise dog-friendly, and are far more likely to be shot in a confrontation with law enforcement than “friendly” breeds like cocker Spaniels or beagles. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I don’t want to compare breed discrimination directly to the civil rights movement or problems of racism we’re having today — the latter is obviously a far more serious issue — but I do want to point out that they come from the same place in the human psyche: ignorance and fear.

People fear the unknown. That’s just human nature. Fortunately, since humans are intellectual, we can eliminate our ignorance through education. In learning about other customs and cultures, we can learn that people really are alike inside no matter where you go. And in learning that dog psychology is exactly the same for a Chihuahua, a collie, or a pit bull, we can learn to let go of the fear of certain breeds for the sake of rehabilitating all dogs that need it.

Stay calm, and learn your way out of fear!

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