I live in a state where the news flow is littered with stories of animal neglect and abuse…you really can’t avoid seeing it unless you choose to shut the world out completely. Every time I see a new story I look at my own dogs and wonder how could it happen so often. The reality is that I know how it happens…people who abuse the innocent…whether its a child, an elderly person, a
handicapped person or an animal are spiritually sick. The rest of society has to take the responsibility to do their best to protect the innocent and vulnerable from the spiritually sick. I painted this little diddy after I read about a particularly disturbing animal abuse case right here in Scott County…I won’t retell it…but it was horrible. This painting went viral pretty quick on Pinterest….guess I am not the only one who feels protective of my dogs!
My dog’s are all sweeties…but all shall pity the fool who messes with mama’s dogs!
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Pet Rescue Art: Dog Fighting Sucks…what is wrong with Kentucky?
I live just 20 minutes north of Lexington, KY. Lexington is the horse capital of the world. In my county and several of the counties surrounding us…horses are a focal point of community life. The barns built for horses here are nicer than most folks houses. There is a retirement home for race horses a few minutes from my house…some of these horses have earned upwards of $90 million dollars in their life time. The horse is sacred here.
For the most part everyone I meet here is also a dog lover. Just about everyone has a dog or two. Hunting dogs are everywhere here…for the most part the hunting dogs live productive lives as working dogs here…the bond between the hunter and his dog something to respect. The local humane societies are well supported…and there are numerous smaller fringe rescue groups as well. But there is also a dark underworld for animals here that few folks want to talk about.
Kentucky has the worst laws in the nation for protecting animals…dead last…they are in fact a disgrace. Because of the pathetic laws the abuse and neglect of animals (especially dogs) goes on publicly and is never punished. Sure, folks can (and will) call and report the abuse they see…but there is often little the authorities can do…dogs are left to suffer out in the open for everyone to see. There are no laws here to fit the crimes of cruelty to animals here…it is a sad, sad state of affairs.
Kentucky is also the ONLY state in the nation that does not consider raising dogs for the purpose of fighting a felony…literally the only state in the nation! Why is it so important to classify raising dogs for fighting as a felony you might ask? Because this is the only way to stop dog fighting. It is very rare that the authorities will catch dog fights “in theater”…their world is too secretive. The only way to stop dog fighting, that every other state in the union has already figured out, is to bust the creeps for raising fighting dogs in the first place. In Kentucky…raising fighting dogs goes on right out in the open. Kentucky is in fact a safe haven for dog fighting.
We also must not be naive about the world of dog fighting…its not just about cruelty to animals…its about drugs and violence against humans too. These are dark hearted people with no regard for life…not a dog’s life…not my life…not your your life.
The Louisville Humane Society recently stated that 80% of the dogs they in take are pit bulls or pit mixes…80%….and most of them come in with wounds and scars reminiscent of dog fighting. We also have another problem here in Kentucky…dog fighters need bait…animals that they can use to teach their fighting dogs to kill…we therefore have an epidemic of stolen family dogs. It’s sickening…but if your dog goes missing here…we want to hope for the best but we are in fact forced to at least entertain the idea that the very worst of fates has befallen our dogs.
There is a group here; Kentucky Coalition to End Dog Fighting, that has been tirelessly working to get laws passed to make raising fighting dogs a felony. But alas…there are legislators standing in the way…many of them. They “kill the bills” to protect the dogs by adding abortion amendments, ag gag amendments and other amendments that have nothing to do with dog fighting. Its disgusting but these politicians are elected (over and over) and have been getting away with this for years. There is still a chance that a bill will pass this month where anti-dog fighting language will itself be an amendment…we can hope and pray that it passes. If it doesn’t I hope for public outrage against these legislators standing in the way…but I doubt it.
I have no desire to opine about corrupt politicians and their role in the suffering of animals here in Kentucky..most thinking people know that the role of “career politician” has simply become a euphemism for corruption…removing all “career politicians” with term limits is the only answer to cleansing our corrupt government.
I do think it is worth reflecting on the state of a society that passively stands by in the face of cruelty. Basic kindness to animals should be easy…and it should be a key measure by which we judge our communities. Abominations such as dog fighting (any kind of animal fighting) are a blight…a dark spiritual sickness that every single civilized person should be unwilling to tolerate in any form. Here though…there is an entire segment of society accepts things like dog fighting and cock fighting as part of their “culture”. Whenever there is actually a raid of a dog fighting ring or cock fighting ring here there is a hardcore group of people that are outraged by the intrusion of government on this pillar of their history and culture…literally they identify things like cock fighting as “part of their culture and heritage”.
This is a picture my husband took in eastern, Kentucky (click on it and enlarge it). If you don’t know what you are looking it…the barrels are for fighting roosters. Roosters are tied to these barrels (which are their homes) until they are taken to the ring to fight. This picture was taken “in town”…it wasn’t hidden from civil society…these fighting roosters were being raised right out in the open for all to see…everyone driving by knows what the fate of these roosters will be…and nothing can be done for them.
Where I personally struggle the most with issues like cruelty to animals is NOT in pondering “how could they?”…”how could anyone be so cruel?”…I don’t wonder that at all…I know exactly how individual people can be so cruel…they are spiritually sick…in many cases spiritually bankrupt.
What I do struggle with is how can everyone else stand by and do nothing…how can we have a such a high level of “dis-interest” in ending cruel practices going on in our own communities…Most of us would never consider engaging in the world of dog fighting or cock fighting ..but at least in Kentucky…the voting population repeated elects legislators who refuse to put a legal end to it. This is a dark blemish on our society…we (Kentuckians) must end it…we (Kentuckians) cannot stand by in disgust and judgment rather we must be the voices for these animals. We have to do something about it…the animals can not put an end to dog fighting…but we can.
It appears there is one last chance for Kentuckians to speak up and encourage our legislators to finally do the right thing and stop dog fighting. There is a bill that has passed the Senate…was amended in the house and now must pass the Senate with the amendments again. It is SB143 and it has the anti-dog fighting provision as an amendment. Will you make the phone call? Call your state senator (800-372-7181)…call the Senate leadership…ask them to support SB143 and to take a stand against dog fighting. If you don’t know who your Senator is…click on the link here Kentucky Coalition to End Dog Fighting…and they have details and links to find your Senators and details about the bill. Like their page on Facebook if you want to follow this more closely…the phone calls matter THIS WEEK!!!!! I will be making the phone calls this week…will you?
Do you know a lot of heroic people? I believe I know a lot of them…I think they are all around us. Everyone has their struggles…some people wear them on their sleeve…some people bury them deep inside….but we all fight battles and those battles makes living life on life’s terms heroic in its own right. Still, we have the more obvious heroes…like our soldiers. A hero comes in many forms…and sometimes its the sweet soul who wanders to the shelter and rescues a dog…and sometimes it’s the dog.
Sparky, my black lab, has been creeping in to my art more and more…he creeps in to my dreams more too. He is very old now and sometimes I think his presence in my dreams is his way of beginning to say good-bye to me. I love to draw and paint him. He is a fascinating dog. When I first adopted him he was near a feral dog. I could not touch him or even get very close to him…he was never aggressive but he had no use for me…would not even take food from my hand. He had no concept of how to live in a home with humans and destroyed miraculous amounts of things in my home and would jump up and down (several feet up) when I put a leash on him. What kind of crazy woman adopts a dog like that might be a fair question…honestly…one that didn’t know any better.
While I was clueless then I know now that dogs come in to our lives when they are suppose to. Sparky, who for years wanted nothing to do with me…turned in to a loyal companion. He never leaves my side and has become a hero to other dogs. Whenever I hear someone say a dog is not adoptable…I cringe. Sparky was in that category. The weekend I adopted him (he had been adopted out several times and returned to the Humane Society) was his last chance…he was on doggy death row for the following week. Don’t get me wrong…the early years with Sparky were not easy….sometimes I could do nothing but cry at the things he destroyed …at the frustration of trying to manage little things like getting him in to the car. But oddly enough…in the midst of a very dark time in my life he started to change and calm down…he became the dog I needed at that time. Eventually, Sparky was the dog that went through dog training school with me…all of which were efforts to help my other dog (Hercules) who was terribly reactive. Sparky rocked dog training school…my mentor couldn’t believe his ability to focus on me (neither could I really…I think now of all the years I was underestimating what he could do). Now Sparky is the dog that I use to work with other dogs…those that are fearful and those that are reactive in the presence of other dogs. (Reactive is the politically correct way to say dog aggressive). There is something about Sparky’s presence that calms and guides other dogs to better behavior. I won’t pretend for one moment that I understand it nor do I feel the need to.
Sparky has a way of communicating with other dogs…his body language, his eyes..in ways that say all sorts of things I suppose…its so hard not to anthropomorphize our dogs…I would imagine he says things like…”knock it off you obnoxious idiot” to dogs like Buster and “follow my lead I’ve got your back” to dogs like Turnip.
But make no mistake…he is a near 100 pounds of a take no prisoners bad ass if he needs to defend his family. Very few times in all the years that Sparky has lived with me have I seen him go in to a guard dog state…but each time it has happened I have been both startled by and also proud of his fierceness…I believe he would die defending our pack. The first time my husband saw Sparky defend the pack he was shocked.
Since we moved to Kentucky Sparky has worked his magic with our two foster dogs; Turnip and Buster. Turnip is a fearful dog and Buster is a reactive dog. Sparky is a dog that gives other dogs a second chance…it is really a magical thing. Turnip was afraid of his own shadow…taking him for a walk in the neighborhood was nearly impossible…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can…all were potential threats in Turnip’s eyes. We started walking him with Sparky and it changed Turnip’s world. After his Sparky therapy…Turnip walks the hood like he owns it! Buster was an obnoxious idiot that wanted to hump and bully every dog he encountered. Sparky very quickly taught him some manners. Turnip and Buster will be Sparky’s last miracles…we declare him officially retired and will focus on caring for him in his old age.
We all owe Sparky a lot….the dogs and certainly Bret and I. We enjoy every day we have with him…and relish in the grace with which he is dealing with his old age. He is totally deaf now, his kidneys don’t function well, his hips are weak and he farts all the time…still he hangs with pack, goes on his daily walk (slooooowly) and rarely leaves my side. While he isn’t going to live here on earth with us forever…he will be in my dreams and in my art until we reunite on the other side…and I find great comfort in that. He is like magic to me…or maybe a better word is grace. Sometimes I think that in certain moments with our dogs we get rare but clear glimpses in to the mystery of grace…the only other place I have felt it is in my marriage…dogs and husband…what more could a girl want.
I leave you with all these thoughts and images of my Sparky…my sweety, my magic and when he needs to be … a badass!
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