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, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.