Capitol Doghouse Tour 2012

It could be worse; I could be a chained dog

Capitol Doghouse Tour Finishes Up with a Ruff Day in Albany, New York

Tamira Thayne in front of the New York Capitol Building in Albany

Tamira Thayne in front of the New York Capitol Building in Albany

Get it? Ruff?

The reporter I met in Concord yesterday kept making little dog puns and cracking himself up. He cracked us up a little too, despite them being about as corny as mine just was.

I wish I could say the tour went out with a bang, but Albany, in many aspects, was more like a bust. I ended up being alone because my chain mate for the day couldn’t find a sitter, and the Capitol wouldn’t allow my doghouse on the premises. They also wanted a million dollar liability policy in their name, despite their own rules stating that it’s not necessary if you are practicing free speech.

The doghouse was not allowed on the Capitol property

The doghouse was not allowed on the Capitol property

So Joe and I scouted out the Capitol area last night, and decided to put my doghouse on the sidewalk off to the side of the Capitol building. They don’t own the sidewalk…

One of our New York supporters correctly stated “That property belongs to all of us who live here, our taxes pay for that property, and I say you can be there.”

I have newfound respect for Pennsylvania, who, although they never passed our bill, at least allowed me to practice free speech unhindered for almost three months. That is our right as citizens of the United States, and our right needs to be honored by the states which are part of our union.

Shari Strader, tour manager, got a flustered call from the permit lady this morning around 9 a.m., who left her a message saying my doghouse was on the property without permission. I called Lucy myself and told her I wasn’t on the property; I was on the sidewalk. When she asked why I wasn’t where my permit slated, I told her exactly why—that since I wasn’t allowed to have my doghouse, I saw no point in standing there with a chain and no doghouse. She said she’d call me back after she spoke to the lawyers, but I never heard from her again.

The comical part of this whole crazy game is that the reason they gave for not allowing my doghouse was that no one is permitted to ‘erect a structure’ on Capitol property. Seriously?

In the thick of the lunch crowd at the food vendors

In the thick of the lunch crowd at the food vendors

Well, whatever. My location was better anyway, because I was out on the street where all the lunch vendors set up shop, so I had hundreds of people walk by and read our signs on their way to grab a bite.

Tami talking to Assemblyman Tidesco about Tethering Legislation

Tami talking to Assemblyman Tidesco about Tethering Legislation

New York was also the first and last state in which we had no media attention, but we had something that could be even better for the dogs: Assemblyman Jim Tidesco came out just to meet me and pledged to push the New York bill harder. We discussed different time restrictions and he asked my recommendations for what a good bill would be. He has sponsored or co-sponsored a lot of animal bills, and he has a great heart for the dogs.

Kathleen Collar is active in legislation

Kathleen Collar is active in legislation, and came out to meet me and discuss tethering

If you live in New York, you still have a current senate bill: SB 1239 provides that no dog shall be restrained by a tethering device attached to a fixed point or to a running cable trolley system for more than six hours per day. Please contact your rep or senator and ask him or her to support this important anti-chaining legislation for New York’s dogs!

Overall Day Ten turned out to be a very long, hot, boring day. When 4:00 p.m. finally rolled around, and we packed up my doghouse to split town, I thought to myself, “well, that was a waste of a day.”

But then I realized…THAT’S EXACTLY THE POINT!

Isn’t every single day of a chained dog’s life a wasted day?

Existing is nothing like living.

Even though I just mirrored the life of a chained dog for citizens of nine states, I still can’t fully imagine the horror of the non-life they lead. Of actually having to wake up in crappy weather and ridiculous living conditions every single day with no hope for something better; no hope for a kind word, some water, a pat on the head.

Chaining a dog for life is truly unconscionable to me, and I can’t imagine why it’s not a no-brainer to every single citizen with any semblance of a heart and soul in this country.

Tonight we are driving the seven hours to Joe’s townhouse in Northern Virginia, and then tomorrow I will return to the Good Newz Rehab Center in Smithfield, Virginia, where we are rehabbing both formerly chained dogs and the property that used to house Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels. I miss the dogs who call our center home!

My dog Sloan before his rescue by Dogs Deserve Better

My dog Sloan before his rescue by Dogs Deserve Better

Sloan stands proudly before the Good Newz Rehab Center

Sloan now stands proudly before the Good Newz Rehab Center in Smithfield, VA

I already know what will happen when I walk through the door of that center—every dog who sees me will rush the white gate; they will leap, they will bark, they will vie for my attention, and my dog Sloan will come back to life because his mommy’s home. These are all dogs who were ostracized to a chain or pen, and now they are like the other dogs—showing joy, loving life, living as large as they possibly can. Because it’s THEIR BIRTHRIGHT.

Have you started fighting for chained dogs yet? If not, there’s no better time than now. They need your voice, my voice, and the voice of every human who has eyes, ears, and a heart to speak up for them. On second thought, forget the eyes and ears. All you need is a heart.

I have hope for a brighter future for chained dogs

I have hope for a brighter future for chained dogs

Thank you for supporting my work for chained dogs and the dogs of Dogs Deserve Better.

Special thanks to those who worked hard to make this tour a success. Shari Strader for route and permit coordination, as well as advance media contact. Joe Horvath for meeting me in week one to help me get the van back on the road, and for going as a volunteer the second week to help things run smoothly and act as photographer. Andrea, Zeko, Melissa, and Kristina at the center who worked extra hard for our dogs while I was gone. To each and every person who came out and chained with me, especially Robin Budin who came twice, THANK YOU! I know it’s hard, I know you faced ridicule, and I am so proud of each and every one of you for showing up. You faced your fears and you did something amazing for the dogs. You have my gratitude.

Tami

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Day 8, a Stuffed Doggie Joins us in Concord NH for the Capitol Doghouse Tour

Doghouse Tour hits Concord New Hampshire

Doghouse Tour hits Concord New Hampshire

Wow, Day Nine of the Capitol Doghouse Tour! I can’t believe it. Even though I’m exhausted and emotionally drained, I can’t believe it’s almost over already; that I did it, that all those who stood with me stood for something that really matters to America’s dogs.

Concord has a small-town feel to it, unusual in a Capital City

Concord has a small-town feel to it, unusual in a Capital City

Our visit to Concord, New Hampshire couldn’t have been more different from our time at the Boston State House. While Boston could be described as a hub of hubbubinous (yes, I made that up) activity, Concord by comparison seems like a small, sleepy Pennsylvania town—if said town had a state Capitol and some vegan restaurants plopped into its midst (which none of them do).

We didn’t know what to think.

Last evening upon arrival we went into town for some Mexican food, and wanted to scope out the Capitol beforehand. They ended up being on the same street, which led to Joe Jokes about them being in the same building (they aren’t.)

Ten or so people loitered in the front of the Capitol building next to the street parking, and it appeared that they spend quite a bit of time in that location. We became a little nervous about how the natives might react to us today.

Concord Capitol is visible through the trees

Concord Capitol dome is visible through the trees

I was the first of our three chainees to arrive this morning, and instead of setting up directly in front of the Capitol as my permit allowed, I chose once again to hang out in the sidewalk area further out from the Capitol because there would be a lot more activity with the drive by traffic and pedestrians.

It's actually quite lovely

It’s actually quite scenic

I'm set up and ready for what the day sends

I’m set up and ready for what the day brings

We hadn’t been there long when a guy across the street starts yelling “Dog, Dog, Dog.” Joe didn’t notice at first, but I did, and then he sent a kid on a bike over to see what we were up to. The kid went back to report to the man that there was no dog in the doghouse, but that we were trying to get better laws for our Best Friends. Joe’s pretty sure the guy then flipped us off. Lovely!

Someone who didn't like us being there

He doesn’t look too happy

Not too long after that Karen Mayer arrived from the eastern side of the state, and we were soon confronted by another fellow who wasn’t too thrilled with us wanting something better for huntin’ dogs. He claims they won’t hunt in the cold if they live inside but I told him numerous studies and articles didn’t agree with that stance. http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/whatabouthuntingdogs.html. Karen did a better job talking him down than I did, but he still left in a huff.

Worker who keeps his hunting dogs outside

Worker who keeps his hunting dogs outside is reading our signs

I enjoy doing Chain Offs with extroverts, because they excel at bringing people into the conversation, and Karen was adept at it. We spoke to two different state reps as a result of her engaging them in conversation, and she inspired me because she’s very enthusiastic and gung ho to make changes for all animals.

Speaking to a NH State Rep

Speaking to a NH State Rep

Next to arrive was Charay Malas, a very devoted supporter of our efforts, and truly one of the kindest and sweetest women you will ever meet. She seems to see the good in everyone, and I loved being around her, because she was just happy to be there and happy to be standing up for the dogs. She thought of something none of the rest of us had, and it was brilliant: she brought a large stuffed yellow lab, and he spent the day chained to the igloo doghouse with the Don’t Shut Me Out in the Cold poster. (You can buy posters here to help spread the word.)

Chained Stuff Dog

I confess that I’m weird enough that it still bothered me chaining up the stuffed doggie. Even he deserves better! But he got the point across quite well. And hopefully he didn’t mind taking one for the team.

Next we were blessed with the presence of Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Pamela Dein and Sue Skaskiw, who produce a show called For the Animals on Vermont public television. We sat down right there, with two of us chained for the dogs, and taped a future show about chaining, the doghouse tour, and DDB’s acquisition of the Vick property.

Taping "For the Animals"

Taping “For the Animals” with Pamela Dein and Sue Saskiw of Vermont

We also met local humane society leadership, did an interview with a Concord newspaper, and got some pics of us chained on an area news blog. Other than the two incidents in the morning, the community came out to support our efforts and was super excited to have the Doghouse Tour visit them. They practiced acts of kindness from bringing us a bucket of ice so we could chill our water, to bringing us vegan wraps for lunch, to giving us donations for our Chain Off Fundraising Campaign.

Laughing at the newspaper reporter's jokes.

Laughing at the newspaper reporter’s jokes.

What I thought would be a long, boring day, quickly turned into a fast-paced buzz of activity and opportunities to spread the word that dogs deserve better than life on a chain.

My favorite part of the day was when one of Barb Nozzi’s letters finally showed up! If you don’t remember the story behind Barb sending me letters, here’s the short version of it. When I was chained in Pennsylvania for 52 days to win a law for chained dogs, Barb sent me a letter addressed to ‘the lady chained on the capitol steps.’ After some confusion on their parts, the mail guy from the PA Capitol finally delivered it to me! This started a round of letter writing from supporters all over the nation and world, and I received letters from as far away as Holland encouraging me to keep going for the dogs. Very touching.

So on the Capitol Doghouse Tour Barb sent a letter to every state Capitol addressed to me on the Capitol steps, but none of them made it to me except this one in Concord. I suppose they are floating around in the ether as we speak. There is something to be said about a small state house where things don’t get so lost in the shuffle, I guess. Thank you, Barb! You made my day.

Barb Nozzi's letter finds me at the Concord Capitol

Barb Nozzi’s letter finds me at the Concord Capitol

Tomorrow we hit Albany, New York, for the last stop on the Capitol Doghouse Tour. New York has been the hardest location to get a permit for, and they have also demanded insurance and are not allowing my doghouse on the property. My plan is to take it to the street again, instead, so let’s see if the plan works. It worked in Rhode Island when it wasn’t allowed, so wish me luck for tomorrow!

I’m practicing free speech, and I’m doing it for those who have no voice. They need me, they need all of us. Thank you.

Peace.

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Day 8, Boston Massachusetts, a Rockin’ Day for Chained Dogs!

Tami in front of the Massachusetts Capitol building, aka the State House

Tami in front of the Massachusetts Capitol building, aka the State House

Nowhere along the tour have chained dogs been more talked about than Boston, Massachusetts, where the tour hits Day 8.

The biggest city by far of any we’ve played, Boston is a vibrant and very much alive city, putting us in mind of New York as we navigated the streets in search of the Capitol.

We had no permit for Boston, because it seems that the police can’t decide whose job it is to issue the permit, so as long as we didn’t cause a public nuisance, we were good to go.

It was recommended to us that we chain at the General Hooker entrance, (no lie, see the pic) which engendered no end of hooker and senator jokes from Joe. But that entrance didn’t have near the exposure that the front of the Capitol did, where there was just a ton of pedestrian and vehicle street traffic; plus, our location was a stop on the tour bus route, so we hit all those tourists as well!

The General Hooker Entrance

The General Hooker Entrance to the Capitol

Boston was the first city to find the Senate and House still in Session, which made it even more crazy and busy out there. I was alone until about 10:00 a.m. when Massachusetts Rep Robin Budin arrived, a bit frazzled from the rush hour traffic and circling the block in search of parking. Around noon one of Robin’s volunteers, MaryBeth McCluskey arrived, and then the party really got started.

Tami and Robin Budin

And then there were two; Tami and Robin Budin

I’m a fairly introverted person, so when I’m out on the chain, I speak to those who seem interested, but don’t actively seek out the attention of those who seem uncomfortable with interacting. There are times I lament my level of introversion, but while I can push my limits to get out there and fight for chained dogs, I cannot totally change my basic nature, so I just do my best and realize that’s got to be enough.

Robyn is more extroverted than I am, and will speak more quickly to others, but MaryBeth was right out front with her sign, getting people to honk, dancing to people’s music, and definitely making sure the cause was noticed.

MaryBeth doings the party

And then there were three: MaryBeth McCluskey gets the party started

MaryBeth, doing her impression of a hot and thirsty dog

MaryBeth, doing her impression of a hot and thirsty dog

We were interviewed by three tv stations, and literally reached thousands of people who drove or walked in front of us. Many of them stared from their car windows, or from across the street corner, and would look and then turn away if they walked right in front of us. A great number of people stopped and talked, and many honked or gave us the thumbs up from their vehicles while stopped at the red light.

People stare as they bike by

People stare as they bike by

We piqued people's interest enough to draw them over all day

We piqued people’s interest enough to draw them over all day

Here’s a link to one of the articles we found online: http://www.wcvb.com/news/local/metro/Animal-activist-chains-herself-outside-State-House/-/11971628/15475360/-/pb500vz/-/index.html

Sharing a laugh with one media crew

Tami sharing a laugh with the media crew from Channel Five

Because it was a session day, we were lucky enough to meet up with some other animal advocates who were attending a hearing at the Capitol on mandatory training for AC officers. Apparently at this time, there is no mandatory training for officers, and so most have no idea when they start their jobs how to assess cruelty and what to do about it. Not a good situation, especially for chained dogs who need people who are willing to go to bat to get them better living conditions!

Meeting Rep Coakley-Rivera and her team

Meeting Rep Coakley-Rivera and her team (Rivera on right with her little friend)

We met dog advocates from MSPCA, HSUS, and animal control officers who were really excited about our efforts and couldn’t have agreed more that better laws were needed for chained dogs. We also met the sponsor of the Massachusetts bill (which, contrary to information we received, is not technically dead yet…it’s still hanging by a thread), House bill 2809, Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera. She’s even going to nominate Robin for an award, congrats, Robin!

If you live in Massachusetts, please, please, please pick up the phone and call your State Rep to ask them to support the chaining legislation currently in committee. Your input is crucial for gaining better lives for Massachusetts chained dogs.

Caring Animal Control Officers

Caring Animal Control Officers who want better laws for chained dogs so they can help them out in the field chain up and pose with Tamira Thayne

The weather was gorgeous, except where we were located got not an ounce of shade all day. The breeze came and went, and the sidewalk, which consisted of red brick, became very hot to the touch, as did the steps behind us. There was literally no place to sit all day, so I was forced to spend the entire day pacing. I can only imagine the torture of a chained dog on asphalt in the heat, and my heart just breaks for these dogs who have to endure so much just to survive.

Just when we were packing up to leave, my precious boy Cowboy’s new family came for a visit. They live up north, and adopted him from us at the Good Newz Rehab Center. The boys had even made their own Cowboy sign, and love him dearly. When I see the before photo of how he lived, and the after photos of him with his new family, my heart expands about 50 times over. This is why I do what I do, so that all dogs get a chance to know this kind of love, all dogs get a chance to be real dogs and not abused lawn ornaments.

Cowboy's boys!

Cowboy’s boys love to play fetch with him, and tell me he still can’t fit three balls in his mouth…although he hasn’t given up trying!

The awesome sign they made for Cowboy

The awesome sign they made for Cowboy

Please join me in continuing to fight for their rights. Without us, they have no voice!

Will you sponsor Chain Off? This is our largest fundraising campaign of the year, and we’ve raised SO much awareness between the events hosted nationwide and the Capitol Doghouse Tour, but we haven’t yet reached 1/3 of our goal of $30,000 for this year’s event. Between money raised through sponsor pledges and money sponsored online, we’ve raised $9, 300. Can you donated even $5 or $10 to help us continue this most important work for chained dogs? Thank you, thank you, thank you! Make a donation to the cause here: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/chainoff2012.html

Robin sitting on the steps before they got too hot

Robin sitting on the steps before they got too hot

Tami tallking to interested passersby

Tami talking to interested passersby

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Day Seven, In Rhode Island I am the Sole Chainee on the Capitol Doghouse Tour

Rhode Island Capitol in Providence

In Rhode Island’s Capitol of Providence, I am the sole chainee

I’m surprised it’s taken this long; I made it all the way to Day Seven.

Today in Rhode Island I was the sole chainee, and it’s a really different feeling from that of being chained alongside another human being.

Imagine if you’re one of the dogs chained in the backyard, but you are chained about 30 feet from another of your ilk; maybe you can’t touch each other, but you can still see each other, still communicate in some way, and still feel a little less lonely because of it.

Each day I’ve had others standing with me, from the 11 in Pennsylvania, to 2 in New Jersey, 2 in Maryland, 2 in Virginia, and 3 in Connecticut. When I’m chained with other humans, whether I know them or not, we ‘pack up,’ discuss our lives and our philosophies, talk about anything to kill the time. By the time we part ways we’ve become bonded by an experience not many can lay claim to, with a solid understanding of how the chained dogs live and that we must continue to fight for them in any way possible; life ostracized to a chain is totally unacceptable.

Comparing the doghouse to the Capitol

I get a kick out of comparing the doghouse to the Capitol

My hubby is with me this week, having taken a week of vacation to volunteer with the organization and help me through my remaining five states. I love him for it. While he’s not chaining—unless he steps in for me to use the facilities—he is doing most of the driving, most of the photography, and most of the equipment lugging.

Joe stands in for me

Joe with our Thank You Rhode Island sign

When I’m alone I have a lot more time to think, a lot more time to feel bored, and a lot more time to be driven mad by the confinement. Fox News came early this morning for an interview (thank you!) and then the rest of the day consisted of random talking to anyone who didn’t give me a wide berth as they walked down the street. This turned out to be very few people.

Being interviewed by Fox News

Being Interviewed by Fox News

Here’s a comparison of Joe’s day to mine, so you can get a feel for what it’s really like to be the dog left behind in the backyard while life goes on around you.

8:00 a.m. Joe helps me get set up. Once I put the chain on, I’m in my location for the day. Joe walks to the other side of the Capitol to see if there’s a better location and takes photos of the front. Guess we’ve set up in the back! Oh, well. The street traffic is much better here, so I decide to stay put.

Rhode Island wouldn’t allow my doghouse on the property. An officer came out shortly after we got there to remind me about their ‘no doghouse policy’, but I had moved my house just off their property onto the sidewalk, so the officer said that would probably be fine. Once again, he was very cordial about everything. I appreciate the kindness of all the officers I’ve met, and am really quite surprised to find them so friendly and caring.

8:45 a.m. Joe has already made multiple trips to the van to get things I needed or forgot, and to feed the meter. I haven’t gone anywhere.

9:00 a.m. Joe leaves to find a post office to drop a few items in the mail and get quarters for parking. I stay put.

10:00 a.m. Joe spells me for a potty break, during which I go into the Capitol. I take a detour to grab a quick 2-minute look around, then head back out to my chain. Joe goes inside the Capitol and spends 1/2 hour touring and photographing the historical displays.

11:00 a.m. Joe leaves for the mall to get lunch and bring me back a salad. I sit in the dwindling shade by the pylon.

12:50 p.m. I send Joe off to see a movie, because he’s on vacation, and shouldn’t have to sit around with me in the hot sun all day. I scootch farther over into the shade and try not to fall asleep.

2:00 p.m. I start to pace on my chain; I have so much pent up energy that I can’t bear sitting still any longer. I pace for an hour, and then I listen to a woman walking by who stops to tell me her life’s story. I was eager for more because I wanted to fill even a few more minutes of my time.

She’s never met her biological father, and didn’t discover she was adopted until she was 22. However, now everyone in her family, her mother and all her siblings, are dead. I tell her whoever her father was he must have contributed some good genes if she’s the only one left! She seems a little embarrassed she’s told me so much…but I was a captive audience!

3:59 p.m. Joe pulls in from the movies with a minute to spare, helps me load up, and another day as a chained dog is over. He’s had a normal day as a human, and I missed out on being part of that with him. I love going to the movies with him, it’s one of our couple’s things. We buy popcorn and share a large soda, me on the left and him the right, and then we hold hands and snuggle during the movie.

I missed out today, because I chose instead to live as a dog on a chain.

God help these babies. Needy, needy creatures ostracized to a cruel, miserable, lonely existence…

Me, alone and ostracized

Me, alone and ostracized

On the bright side, Rhode Island passed a law limiting chaining on June 20th! It limits chaining to ten hours a day, and even limits penning to 14 hours a day. If properly enforced this law will bring Rhode Island dogs relief, and most people will stop chaining altogether to come into compliance with the law.

I’m shouting out a big Thank You Rhode Island today for passing a law limiting chaining! The people who were instrumental in the passage and get the gratitude of all the dogs and dog lovers the world over are Allyson Cote, Ernie Finocchio, Scott Marshall, and Senator David Bates. Thanks also go to Dennis Tabella from Defenders of Animals and Senator John Tassoni who sponsored the bill originally. If we missed anyone, let us know and we’ll thank you too! Way to go Rhode Island!

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On Day 6, Connecticut Brews up a Beautiful Day for Three Chained Ladies

It’s Day 6 in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Capitol Doghouse Tour hits its fifth state Capitol building. The frenetic pace of racing from one state to the next after sitting on a chain all day and trying to keep up with some of my organizational work at night is wearing me down by this point. By the time I go through the photos for the blog that my wonderful husband Joe took for us, I’m too bleary-eyed to even consider writing.

Therefore, in honor of my extreme sleep-deprived state, I’ve decided to make this a picture blog; because after all, a good picture is said to be worth a thousand words! Today I’m choosing to believe that. Enjoy.

Plus, watch this great 2:30 second interview by Fox News Hartford. One of the two best interviews of the tour yet! Thank you, Fox! http://www.ctnow.com/videogallery/70974973/News/Protesters-Chain-Themselves-To-Dog-Houses

CT Capitol

The Capitol is HUGE! And beautiful. Note my tiny doghouse in front of the flower bed to the right. Puts things in perspective, huh?

3 Chained Ladies

Me with Robin Budin and Brittany Bousquet chained in front of the CT Capitol building

Chained Ladies

Starting to get hot, no shade in the north section. These steps are closed off, and the foot traffic is slim to none, hence poor visibility.

Asking Police if we can Move

Here we are asking the bicycle police if we can move to the other entrance so people can see us. They love our cause and kindly agree

Interview with Fox

Fox News interviews us twice, and we are lucky enough to receive a 2:30 interview!

Robin laughing

Robin Budin, Massachusetts and CT Rep for DDB, laughs at something Brittany is saying. Not the cute little cloth doghouse she found. She’s letting me borrow it for Rhode Island and New York, as they won’t let me bring my own doghouse there. Lame!

Doghouses

Cool shot

This is a cool shot Joe took, not sure what I’m doing, but I love the composition.

Mr. Squirrel

A very friendly squirrel visited with me and partook of some peanut butter bar. I think he buried his last piece of it.

Tomorrow is Rhode Island, where they just got a law limiting chaining. (Which I’m being sure to say I had NOTHING to do with!) I have made a Thank You Rhode Island sign, and have copies of the law to pass out to interested passersby. More on this tomorrow. For now, I have to get some sleep! Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me and chained with me. Bless you.

Tami

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Day Five, Virginia throws us out of the house into the backyard, figuratively speaking

Tami looks at the Capitol building from the bottom of the hill

Tami looks at the Capitol building from her chain at the bottom of the hill

The end of week one of the Capitol Doghouse tour has me through the van crisis and on to Richmond, the capital of DDB’s new home state of Virginia, where I hope to raise awareness of chaining and encourage statewide legislation which would bring some relief to our suffering canines.

I was disappointed to discover that free speech is seriously curtailed on the property that houses the Capitol. I’m really not sure how these governments are getting away with controlling our ability to express our desires since they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, but Virginia was the first state who seriously interfered with these rights.

Maryland had given us only a two hour permit, but since no one else was showing up in 100 degree weather to express their opinions, we were allowed to stay the whole day.

In Richmond, we were given permission to demonstrate for one hour near the Bell Tower, whatever that happened to be. It certainly didn’t sound like the Capitol steps that we had requested. It turned out that it was a small building which is being renovated and therefore covered by scaffolding; as such it appears downright unattractive and dangerous to get close to. Um…thanks?

Stephanie Scott holds her sign at the Capitol in VA

Stephanie Scott holds her sign at the Capitol in VA

Stephanie Scott, an animal advocate from Virginia Beach, rode over with me from the center, and the two of us lugged our doghouses into the fenced area which surrounds the Capitol grounds and put them as close to the Capitol building as we could get without being out of the Bell Tower area.

Don’t tell anyone, but we were actually on the premises by 8:00 a.m., and set up by 8:15, so technically we squeaked out an extra hour before we were scheduled. Ha!

Shortly after I got back from unloading and then moving the van to a local parking garage, Channel 6 showed up for an interview about chaining and the tour. They asked why we weren’t on the Capitol steps as our media release stated. I replied that I wanted to know that too!

The cameraman said that they are very finicky about who they allow on the steps, and they are typically used only twice a year for photo ops for the Senators and House Reps.

As we were finishing up the interview, two Capitol policemen waited about 50 feet behind for their chance to talk to us. We were told we were ok where we were, and that one of them would be staying for the length of our one hour permit to ‘ensure our safety.’ Stephanie agreed there was probably an angry mob of people who want to chain their dogs waiting to come in and beat us up. Well, you never know.

While I’m not happy about the governmental interference in Virginia, I want to express my utmost respect and thanks to the officers we dealt with at the Capitol. They were at all times professional and kind, and answered our questions to the very best of their abilities. In fact, I haven’t met one single official along our tour that was anything but professional and courteous, and I think that’s really amazing and cool. While free speech may not always be free, courtesy for those expressing it was at least preserved up to and including Virginia.

Tami moving the doghouse to outside the fence

Tami moving the doghouse to outside the fence

At 10:00 a.m. the officer told us that we could move to anywhere outside the fence, but within the fence you needed a permit. So we packed up our doghouses and proceeded to the top of the hill to a location we’d already scouted out with this eventuality in mind.

We definitely felt like the family dog who isn’t allowed membership, and eventually is expelled to the backyard. He or she may be lucky enough to be inside for a while, but is confined to the laundry room so that the living room and kitchen doesn’t get messed up. Forget about sleeping in the bedroom. Then after a week or so, when s/he makes a mess in the laundry room trying to get out to the family to be part of the pack, s/he is dragged out to the furthest section of the backyard and chained up to the tree, to be forgotten and ostracized.

Here s/he spends his/her life looking toward the house, waiting for the chance to come back in. This chance usually never comes.

Levi ignored us and looked toward the house, hoping his family would come out.

Levi ignored us and looked toward the house, hoping his family would come out. He was rescued and rehomed.

While we were in the shade below the Capitol, at the top of the hill shade was harder to come by, and the scorching heat of the 102 degree day was exacerbated by all the stone of the sidewalk. We could feel the heat emanating in waves.

I spent most of the day following the small area of shade created by the tree to my right, and as such was able to survive well enough. Stephanie wanted the real authentic experience of being the family dog who was without a nice patch of shade, so she spent much of the day out in the sun. I don’t know how she did it!

Our doghouses in our new neighborhood at the top of the hill

Our doghouses in our new neighborhood at the top of the hill

Our new location was right off the sidewalk on 9th street, and just in front of the buildings which housed the senators and representatives. This was actually a much better location, truth be told, although it was indeed a slow day in the Virginia government.

Tami interacting with the passersby on the street

Tami interacting with the passersby on the street

We were now visible to all traffic driving by, as well as to foot traffic. Stephanie had gotten two signs donated which we held up, garnering quite a few thumbs ups and honks. Being located in the inner city leant itself to meetups with a few of the people who typically wander the streets.

One gentleman insisted on regaling us with his poem (quite well written, incidentally) about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we’re all gonna die. He then asked if we wanted to hear his money poem. Having had my fill of gloom and doom, I replied “If you must.” Honestly, I thought he was so out there he wouldn’t really get what I meant but he promptly took himself on down the street, and we were spared a second rendition.

Movers pitied us so gave us chairs to sit on for a few

Movers pitied us so gave us chairs to sit on for a few

In one of the sweetest and most amusing incidents of the day some movers were working on the street right in front of us, and decided we looked really hot and tired standing there. They insisted we sit on two chairs they were moving until they got loaded up, and even though I have a policy against sitting in comfort while I’m out on the chain, I was touched by their kindness and didn’t want to hurt their feelings so we both sat. It was like we had our own little living room out on the street! They took our information home to share with their families.

When the bells of the church across the street chimed four, both Stephanie and I literally jumped for joy! For me it signified one week down on a whirlwind state tour for chained dogs, for Stephanie the end of her first very long, hot day spent as a dog.

Stay tuned next week to see if I ever see any rain on this tour, or even one day below the 95-104 days I’ve experienced so far! And remember we are out here for the chained dogs. Please do whatever you can to advocate for them in your community…conditions will not change for Man’s Best Friend until we all unite to accept nothing less than caring and respect for those who give humans so much and ask little more than love, food, water, and companionship in return.

Today as I journey to Connecticut for the start of the second leg of my tour, I am wishing you all a fabulous weekend, and I’m wishing for the absolute BEST for all chained dogs in America.

Stephanie cheers as the church bell chimes 4 o'clock.

Stephanie cheers as the church bell chimes 4 o’clock.

Peace.

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Maryland, Day Four: Don’t Poop in the Grass

Doghouse and Capitol building

Doghouse and Maryland Capitol building in Annapolis

In case you didn’t see the announcement about Day Three: Delaware, and are wondering where it disappeared to, read the Day Two: New Jersey blog for a plausible explanation of why we just up and decided to blow off Delaware. Nah, I wouldn’t do that. It was for the dogs, of course!

As it turns out, it was quite a good thing for safety’s sake that I didn’t do Delaware on the 4th of July, because I was able to continue down to Annapolis and meet up with my hubby for the night of the 3rd and the 4th. On the drive I kept telling him that there was something wrong with the van, and I thought it was the wheel bearing since it’d already gone once before and it sounded the same.

As soon as I got there, he test drove it and said I was lucky it didn’t totally blow out on the way there. The next morning we took it to the only open shop we could find—it being the 4th of July—and they were nice as could be and really tried to fix it for us; unfortunately, with so many stores being closed, they couldn’t find the part.

We went over a million different scenarios of how to handle the situation, but kept coming back to me not being willing to lose any part of the tour, so that had to be my #1 consideration. I had made a promise to a lot of people and a lot of dogs to be at each of these locations, and I was not going to go back on my word if I could help it.

Since I needed to be at the Annapolis Capitol building at 8:00 a.m. this morning, and the van wasn’t safe to drive, we determined the best course of action was to be at the Chrysler dealer when they opened at 7:00 a.m., leave the van there, and hope that they could give me and my doghouse a ride to the Capitol steps.

Good in theory, not so much in practice.

We left the van at the dealer's, hoping to get it fixed

We left the van at the dealer’s, hoping to get it fixed

The dealer had 35 appointments and 25 cars left over from the day before, for a total of 60 cars that needed fixed ahead of ours! There was no way the van was getting worked on there today.

Our next plan was to buy the part and take it to the first shop, where we were told they couldn’t use the part we bought because they had to buy it themselves. OMG! So we told them to just buy it, and we would return the part to the dealer and get our money back. At this point there was no sense in quibbling about anything that stood in the way of getting the car fixed so I could get to Richmond for tomorrow.

Joe pulling the smaller doghouse out of his car for me

Joe pulling the smaller doghouse out of his car for me

Since this shop didn’t have a shuttle service, I had to swap out my bigger, decked out doghouse for the small one I brought along as an extra in case someone needed it, and Joe drove me over to the Capitol in his car.

By the time I arrived at the Capitol in Annapolis, MD, it was 8:25. I tried my best to get there on time, but some days you just have to settle for Good Enough. This was one of those days.

Fellow Chainee Yvonne Curry was already there and waiting with her chain for the doghouse I’d promised her. I remember reading somewhere about Facebook having a saying painted on their wall along the lines of  “Done is better than perfect.” I love that, because I don’t think you can run an organization and hope to get anything accomplished if you sit there and wait for perfection. It ain’t comin’.

Yvonne and I made do with the situation at hand, and just chained up to the same thick chain at the end of the tiny doghouse. We were only slotted for two hours, and were not allowed to chain up right in front of the steps, but had to be in the little commons area between the state house and the road.

Doghouse with our sign in the background

Doghouse with our sign in the background

It was the location with the least visibility to date, and even though I was disappointed that we couldn’t be closer to the road, I set about the process of giving the commons the ‘homey’ touch we all know and love.

Lt. Parker came out to have me sign the permit, and we really enjoyed his sense of humor. Everyone I’ve dealt with to date has been very nice, and I’m exceedingly grateful for their kindness.

When we asked him about free speech and where we could move our doghouse to to finish our eight hours after our allotted two hours at the Capitol was up, he told us he’d check with his supervisor, but we could probably just stay there since no one else was scheduled for today.

He proved good to his word, and returned shortly to tell us “He said you can stay, but just don’t poop in the grass.”

Haha. Good one!

Yvonne Curry, my fellow chainee

Yvonne Curry, my fellow chainee

I’ve enjoyed the company of all my fellow chainees, and love to hear their stories of what motivates them to come join me in eight hours of hot, sweaty, boring, hell. It’s always for the dogs, of course.

Yvonne volunteers for both a local rescue group and a local animal shelter, is retired, and still has a very active life giving back to the animals. She lives with two bulldogs who were pulled from chains in the same backyard as part of her family, and she can’t imagine how horribly they were neglected while left in the backyard. It’s often the personal connection to a certain dog that makes people want to take the stand, and Yvonne’s passion for the cause definitely stemmed from her love of her own family dogs, and the horrors she’s witnessed with embedded collars and chained dogs coming into the shelter.

We started out the morning with some shade, but it quickly went by the wayside as the sun climbed the sky above the Capitol. The temperature climbed with it.

Me in front of the MD Capitol Building in Annapolis

Me in front of the MD Capitol Building in Annapolis

The high for today reached 101 degrees in the full sun, and we felt every second of it. I kept wondering how many dogs were suffering and dying at each exact moment, and I couldn’t help the feelings of helplessness that engenders in me. I don’t like that feeling.

Open Door at one of the MD office buildings

Open Door at one of the MD office buildings, allowing the cool to blast out to us

Interestingly enough, we were saved from expiring from heat stroke by a waste of tax payer money in the form of an open door about 20 feet directly in front of us. This door remained open all day long, and the coolness of the AC wafted over to us like a cool breeze sent directly from above. It took us a little while to figure out where the cool air was coming from, but once we did, we both positioned ourselves directly in its path until some shade hit the other side of the courtyard in the afternoon and we wondered over there and sat.

We had one piece of media for the day, although they didn’t actually talk to either of us, just took some footage and we assume the anchors put it together with our release. We don’t even know what station it was. And Cindy Smith, a supporter and founder of Snip Tuck, came for a couple hours in the afternoon and took photos for an article on the eastern shore.

Cindy Smith, founder of Snip Tuck

Cindy Smith, founder of Snip Tuck

The heat is expected to continue for days, and I am not looking forward to another eight hours in the sun tomorrow…the poor dogs who have suffered in this heatwave still have no relief in sight, and no understanding of why they are forced to live in such a cruel fashion. I pray for a change.

I probably can’t expect another open door with AC leaking out toward me to keep us cool tomorrow, but you never know! Stranger things have happened.

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New Jersey, Day Two: Sometimes it Turns out Better than Expected

My doghouse sits in front of the New Jersey Capitol building in Trenton

My doghouse sits in front of the New Jersey Capitol building in Trenton

As I admitted in yesterday’s blog, I was very nervous about moving along to the next state, which in this case happened to be New Jersey.

I remembered the first day I showed up on the Capitol steps in Pennsylvania two years ago to fight for their law, and I had no idea what would happen. I was terrified!

Everyone I had told that I was planning to chain myself to a doghouse on the PA Capitol steps to fight for passage of our law in 2010 told me I was crazy and it was a bad idea—so I just stopped telling people about it but kept the dream alive and kept planning. I figured I’d show up and see if I got arrested; I had no idea how far the whole constitution and free speech thing would take me, but I was determined to try for these dogs. We had nothing to lose.

Instead, PA was very tolerant about my presence, and while some people laughed and made fun of me, especially behind my back, many others admired my dedication and I made a few friends along the way.

In moving it along to Trenton in this 2012 campaign, I experienced again the anxiety of showing up at a new place, wondering where I would go, where could I park, would I be able to get everything unloaded and in place, and would the powers that be give me a hard time about practicing free speech for the dogs on their Capitol steps.

As it turned out, things went smoother than expected, thanks in part to the efforts of volunteer coordinator Shari Strader who had arranged a permit in advance. I also scouted out the area last evening as soon as I arrived in town so I had some idea how to proceed this morning when it came time to step into the paws of New Jersey’s chained dogs.

The officer showed me on a video camera screen where to put my doghouse, and it was a good location directly in front of the Capitol building and with plenty of visibility for anyone going into and out of the building. This location is much more intimate than the PA Capitol steps, because there are only a few steps and then a large bricked circular walkway, so everyone who cruised down the street came to within mere feet of the doghouse and chainee.

I had no sooner gotten back to my house and chained up, lamenting to myself the fact that I was alone today and it would be a long and boring day, when New Jersey resident Jackie Bernardi arrived and said she planned to chain with me for a few hours. Yay!

Jackie Bernardi

Thanks so much to Jackie Bernardi who came out and chained up with me for six hours!

Yippee! I had an extra chain handy just in case, and it was a lift to my spirits to have a little company out there. After the introductions, we got to talking immediately about dogs and chaining, and I was so surprised to hear that Jackie had never seen a chained dog! She comes from a very suburban area in southern Jersey, and told me about how they’d made their dog a huge part of their family, and so did the families in her neighborhood where she grew up. She is absolutely amazed that people chain their dogs for life, and wanted to do more for her favorite friends. She felt chaining up with me was a great start because she would be taking action for them and not just talking about it.

Kudos to her.

The high temp hit 99 degrees in Trenton today, which would have knocked us out (just like it’s doing to the dogs), except we were very lucky and after only one hour the tree to our left started eeking a little shade close enough for us to drag our chains into. So—just like the dog who’s chained in the yard—we ran over there and leaned up against the thick trunk for awhile until the shade area grew and we were able to move about more freely and still be out of direct sunlight.

Jackie in the shade

Jackie scouts out the patch of shade under the tree

Jackie remarked that she felt badly that she didn’t experience more of the direct sun so she could understand how hard it is for them to bear, but I for one was grateful; yesterday was more than enough for me, and I’m sure I’ll get plenty more chances coming up to roast to death. 99 degrees in the sun and 99 degrees in the shade are two VERY different beasts!

I would assume that every dog who has died of heat stroke was not able to reach shade and had no water. It’s a horrifying death, and it’s horrifying that we as a country are even tolerating this behavior toward Man’s Best Friend for one instant.

Two TV news stations came out and interviewed us, bringing the media hits for Chain Off to five. Double Skippy!

Jackie had to leave by 2:50, and as she walked down the street, I watched her go just as a dog watches his owner leave him in the yard…forlorn and wishing I got to go too.

As I left Trenton at 4:00 p.m., I not only ran into some pretty major rush hour traffic, but I also ran into van trouble, just what I needed this early in the tour. The unknown noise that has been coming from the front tire region got worse and worse until it was making quite the racket driving down the road, and I didn’t know if a tire was about to blow or something was heading for a breakdown that would seriously put a damper on my plans. Luckily for me, my hubby is back from his deployment and was able to meet me in Annapolis. Tomorrow we will search out other auto mechanics and see if anyone can tell us where the problem lies and hopefully get it fixed up so I can continue my journey for these dogs who have no voice.

On a brighter note, my friends and wonderful DDB supporters have put my Chain Off sponsor goal to 100%, and I’ve raised $3000 for our work leading up to and through the first two days of my Capitol Doghouse Tour. Thank you, thank you, thank you to EVERYONE who donated to my page or any of the other wonderful women and men who are taking time out of their busy lives to chain up for man’s bests friend.

To see everyone’s Chain Off pages and donate to your favorite chainee (it all goes to a great cause!) click the link. Remember, even a $5 donation all adds up, and it does wonders for the self-esteem of those who are so brave to get out there for the dogs this way!  http://www.firstgiving.com/dogsdeservebetter/ddb-chainoff2012

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:

Dogs Deserve Better is calling off our chaining at the Capitol in Delaware tomorrow. If you didn’t know, Delaware has a bill limiting chaining that has passed both the house and the senate, and is waiting for the governor’s signature. We are deeply appreciative of the groups who put so much effort into making this happen: Delaware SPCA, Delaware Votes for Animals http://www.VoteAnimalsDE.org, and HSUS. We have decided that the bill is in a fragile place right now, and we want to ensure that it is signed and goes into effect for the dogs. We do not want our presence to—for any reason—negatively affect the path of the bill, so out of deep respect and fervent wishes for passage of this bill for Delaware’s dogs, we will be skipping the state and moving on to Maryland on Thursday. For more information, visit the below links:

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2012/06/delaware_bill_limit_dog_tethering_062912.html

http://www.delspca.org/news/194-action-alert-help-unchain-delawares-dogs-now

If you live in Delaware, please contact the governor’s office and urge him to sign the bill into law: Governer Jack Markell
http://governor.delaware.gov/connect/index.shtml

NOTE ABOUT RHODE ISLAND:

Rhode Island has a law limiting chaining that just went into effect June 20th. We are most grateful to the groups who pushed for this law (we are waiting on a list of names for this law, to come), and we thank them and the state of Rhode Island for doing the right thing for chained dogs. We will still be holding our Chain Off at the Rhode Island Capitol, and going in a Thank You capacity, with signs thanking the state from the dogs, and with copies of the new law to pass out to get citizens informed and excited about these changes for Rhode Island’s dogs.

Rhode Island and Delaware are proof that positive change is coming for America’s chained dogs.

Thank you! See you Thursday. Enjoy your 4th of July, and as you enjoy your freedom, send out positive wishes and thoughts of freedom for not only the chained dogs of Delaware, but the chained dogs of every state in this nation. May they all know the freedom of love, family, play, and exercise in the very near future.

Tami

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Pennsylvania, Day One of the Tour Finds us Cheering for a Cloud

I've spent over 700 hours chained on behalf of chained dogs

I’ve spent over 700 hours chained on behalf of chained dogs

[Make sure you read the About the Capitol Doghouse Tour first, so perchance this blog actually makes sense to you.]

I stayed over my mom’s last night near Flinton, PA, in order to spend yesterday with my son Rayne for his 19th birthday. {Happy Birthday, Rayne!}

Unfortunately for me, this meant a three hour trip to the Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg this morning for the start of my Ten Day Capitol Doghouse Tour.

Which meant getting up at 3:30 to shower, pack, and hit the road.

Which meant it was a bad idea to combine that mega strawberry margarita with mexican food yesterday because the indigestion that had me up at 12:30 was not conducive to feeling refreshed before the BIG DAY.

Which meant I had to pull over and sleep for ten minutes along the way in a Sheetz parking lot.

Which meant I arrived feeling less than eager to spend eight hours on a chain in the blazing sun.

But then I saw THEM. Gordon and Mike. Waiting to help me unload the doghouses and supplies on the PA Capitol steps, and suddenly the “can’t I just go back to bed and start over again tomorrow” feeling left me, and I sprang into action to get this party started.

Gordon at this year's Chain Off

Gordon at this year’s Chain Off

Gordon and Mike were both big supporters of my PA Capitol chaining where I spent 52 days at the end of a chain trying to get the dog’s law passed before it died in committee two years ago. I failed.

Seeing them this morning reminded me that I’m not all alone in my pursuit of better laws for chained dogs, and I wouldn’t be all alone out there today. Seeing them inspired me to get on with the business of chaining myself to a doghouse, which was after all what I got up at 3:30 this morning to do.

Seeing them made me so happy I was starting with Pennsylvania where I could rely on seeing a few friendly faces to jump start my tour and help me realize that what we’re doing for them here matters.

Mike Chained at PA Capitol

Mike Chained at PA Capitol

There ended up being 11 of us on those Capitol steps today sweating bullets in the 93 degree heat for the dogs. Although there was talk of how hot it was, no one complained, no one said they couldn’t take it anymore, and most all the 11 made it all the way until 4:00 p.m. because they KNEW THE DOGS HAD NO CHOICE IN THE MATTER.

A dog named Buddy the Beagle died just three days ago in the Pittsburgh area of heatstroke, because THERE WAS NO LAW to protect him. When the neighbor tried to get him help, she was threatened with theft by the police, which is unconscionable.

Justin holds the sign we made for Buddy

Justin holds the sign we made for Buddy

I felt like a proud mamma hen out there. The ones who showed up came despite their fears. It takes courage to come out there to the grandest building in the state—full of stuffed shirts and suits—and pull up a doghouse, then don a thick logging chain while people stare at you like you’re nuts.

But we must remember that each and every movement in history started because people were willing to be perceived as nuts in doing something different to make a change. And eventually with enough time and effort on the part of those who knew the passion, things did change for the better. This will too.

Don’t our dogs deserve for us to be a little nuts about them and for them? I think so.

We got this great e-mail later from a gal who came to give us a donation: “Hey guys, I follow your fb posts and share stories all the time. I stopped by the Harrisburg capitol today to make a donation with my baby, Tonka. If I could have had off work today, I would have loved to sit out with you all, as much as it’s great that there are any people willing to do so, it blows my mind that those steps aren’t full of people standing up for the dogs who have no voice. It literally breaks my heart to see the pictures and articles of the chained dogs whose whole lives are just completely wasted, lonely, hopeless, when all they are dying to do is love someone. I admire you all so much for doing what you do, everyday, and I’m sure most days get no appreciation for any of it. I hope you know that there are people out there, like myself, who are very thankful for you.” – Rachel Kupp

I enjoyed watching the ‘newbies’ watch things they normally wouldn’t due to being so extremely bored on the chain. Across the street there was a big truck full of renovation supplies which they were removing with a crane. Every single chainee was transfixed and watching something we normally wouldn’t give more than two seconds of our attention to.

And when a single little puffy cloud obscured the sun for about 2 minutes? We literally all CHEERED for joy, because that speck of shade meant the world to us.

Take a moment and think about the way a chained dog lives today. It’s not right, it’s not humane, and it has to end.

PA still has two bills languishing in the Senate and House committees. If you live in PA, please contact your rep and ask him/her to support HB826 and SB972.

See you tomorrow in Trenton, where I’ll be all alone out there! That’s when you really get a taste of how these dogs live. Try it for even an hour, and you will grow wise beyond your years. Maybe.

Here are some photos by one of our Capitol supporters from today, as well as more posted at the bottom of the page. http://www.flickr.com/photos/77007575@N07/sets/72157630393705024/with/7489937086/

Amy shades her head in her cool, handmade cardboard doghouse

Amy shades her head in her cool, handmade cardboard doghouse

Becki's a real trooper out there for the dogs!

Becki’s a real trooper out there for the dogs!

Jan holds the sign asking to pass the laws in committee

Jan holds the sign asking to pass the laws in committee

Justin and Mom Cherie came out to help

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