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!


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, 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:

If you live in Delaware, please contact the governor’s office and urge him to sign the bill into law: Governer Jack Markell


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.



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