Writing the Backwash with R. H. Sheldon
- 5-Spot Ebook Travel Series
- Ebook Now
- Dancing the River Lightly
- Blog Essays
- Freelance Writing
A Bite Worse than the Bark
Earlier this spring, I stopped for breakfast in the town of Gold Bar, at one of the last remaining cafés on the east side of Snohomish County. It was a typical small-town diner, with a counter and coffeemaker and pie case and bulletin board hanging near the front door. Country music filled the air, along with the smell of grease and deep-fried fish sticks.
I stopped for a moment at the bulletin board and quickly scanned the announcements about rummage sales and backhoe rentals and firewood deliveries and services offered by painters and plumbers and pruners.
One flyer stood out above all the others. Perhaps it was the parchment-like quality of the paper or the legibility of the print or the lack of slits at the bottom to provide take-home phone numbers. Or maybe it was the large, bold, one-word headline across the top. “ATTENTION,” it said, as though it were speaking to me.
I’m including the photo I took that morning, but it’s not the greatest quality and I’m not the greatest photographer, so I’m also including the flyer’s content, in case you want to read it for yourself:
* * * ATTENTION * * *
Protect your dog!
A LOW LIFE HERION DEALER IS STEALING PIT BULLS FOR
DOG FIGHTS! Don’t let this happen to your dog.
He pays his low life junkies heroin to steal Pit Bulls to fight, there has
already been some missing dogs, please protect your dog they depend
on you!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is happening in Gold Bar and the surrounding
Following the message was a monochromatic photograph of a pit bull, mostly of his wide, flat head and chopped-off ears. You can see all this in the photo.
Although little surprises me these days about the goings-on in Gold Bar and the surrounding area—drugs, fights, gangs, burglaries, murders, to name a few—I had not realized that dogfighting was among them. So I did some checking with the ASPCA to see what I could learn.
It turns out that dogfighting is a common occurrence across much of the country, including urban, suburban, and rural settings. Although organizing dogfights is a felony in all 50 states, people are doing it in every one of them.
At one time, dogfighting had been considered a Southern tradition because the laws down there had been more lenient, but now it’s a felony in every state, and in every state is where it’s happening. And the people involved—whether organizers or breeders or trainers or spectators—come from every sort of community and background. They might be teachers, lawyers, judges, civic leaders, or sports figures. They might be just about anything else.
It’s difficult to know exactly how many people participate in this blood sport, but estimates put that number in the tens of thousands.
Most of the dogs in these fights are American Pit Bull Terriers (commonly known as pit bulls), bred and trained for one purpose—to rip apart their opponents. Owners invest a considerable amount of time and money to condition these dogs, often infusing them with steroids and narcotics to enhance their strength, endurance, and aggression. They also keep the dogs isolated so they’re not socialized to other dogs or people. In many cases, trainers use smaller dogs, cats, rodents, or rabbits as bait animals to feed the fighter’s aggression. Some of them are family pets, stolen from their homes to serve as fodder for these carnivorous canines.
If a dog doesn’t perform well—that is, doesn’t win fights or gives up too easily or isn’t aggressive enough—the owner often disposes of the animal through such means as shooting, hanging, blunt force, or electrocution. In some cases, if a dog is too aggressive to humans, the owner sells the animal to people looking for such dogs as pets or street fighters.
Street fights are a type of dogfighting that has been growing in popularity in urban areas over the last two decades. They’re much more informal than the organized ones carried out by professionals and enthusiastic hobbyists. Street fights can erupt at any time and in any place, including street corners, playgrounds, and back alleys. People who participate in these events often starve and beat their dogs to encourage aggressive behavior. Professionals and amateur dogfighters are much more attentive to the care and breeding of their animals, despite their willingness to fight those dogs to the death.
So these are some of the things I learned from the ASPCA. I also learned that many of the people involved are in it only for the money. They can make a fair amount by breeding, selling, and fighting the dogs. Plus, there’s cash to be had from the gambling. During a single event, $20,000 to $30,000 can change hands.
But not everyone who’s in it cares only about the bottom line. Many come because they find it entertaining or they’re attracted to the animals’ strength and prowess. Perhaps that’s what drew Michael Vick in at the beginning. Given his soaring NFL career, it’s hard to imagine he needed the cash.
When I was reading up on dogfighting, I came across a website who’s author scoffed at both the street fighters and the laws that criminalized dogfighting. His premise is that dogfighting, when done professionally, is a fully acceptable pastime.
It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose. But I find it nearly impossible to grasp any viewpoint that would justify breeding and training dogs for the express purpose of fighting them. Yet such people exist, many of them. And others exist with perspectives as equally foreign to me, wrapped as they are in their hateful religions and divisive politics and wars against the poor and the oppressed. Yet I’ve no doubt that the way I see and experience the world makes me just as foreign to them.
We are a country divided and afraid, with little but our ignorance and selfishness and sense of entitlement to guide us. So how do we come together under such circumstances? Where is the common ground that leads us away from ourselves and towards something far deeper and greater?
Dogfighting, I’ve learned, has been around for a long time in every part of the world. It was big during the reign of the Roman Empire, but didn’t reach its peak until the early Renaissance. In this country, it dates back to the 1750s, although it wasn’t until after the Civil War that interest swelled and continued to grow throughout the 20th century. And despite having declined in the 1990s, it is again gaining in popularity. The dogs, in the meantime, continue to suffer. Not the owners or trainers or spectators.
But isn’t that the way it always works?
Check it Out!
Latest ebook from the 5-Spot travel series, for the frugal, miserly, penny-pinching tourist in all of us.
Daily Kos Blog Posts
- Two, Four, Six, Eight, Now’s the Time to Litigate
- Coyote Blues
- Senseless Sensibility: How To Survive in the Age of Unreason
- What Would Buddha Do? Coping with America’s Not-So-Great Divide
- Good Fences, Good Neighbors, Good Grief
- Wearing Your Heart on Your Ballot
- One Moment, Please…
- What Would I Be Willing to Give Up?
- Aging Makes Buddhists Out of Us All
- What ‘No Child Left Behind’ Really Means