Tomorrow I pull up a doghouse and chain to the state Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, for the first leg of my 2014 7-State Capitol Doghouse Tour. I will chain myself to said doghouse from 9-4, letting West Virginia legislators know that American citizens say NO MORE CHAINS for Man’s Best Friends.
Don’t they deserve better than what amounts to a fate worse than death?
Dogs are the most social of beings, and to ostracize them to life at the end of a chain might still—some how, some way—seem acceptable to some folks in America, but I’m here to let you know it just ain’t so.
Just between you and me, the last thing I REALLY want to do is chain myself to a doghouse and embarrass myself on the Capitol steps of seven new states. Not only is it boring as hell, but it’s annoying and constraining and people laugh at me and make fun of me and— worse—pretend I don’t even exist as they walk by.
But, well, that’s kinda the point…because that’s what they do to chained dogs too.
So my alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, and I know I need to get up and drive to our Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained Dogs in Smithfield, Virginia. There I need to meet with staff, help some rescued pups we have coming in, and load up the van to make the drive over to Charleston in preparation for my morning start to the Capitol Doghouse Tour.
Neither my dog Sloan nor I are happy to hear that buzzing sound. At least one of us covers our eyes with our paws, and the other might use the pillow.
My conversation with Sloan goes something like this. [Whining]: “I don’t wanna get up, Sloan.”
Sloan: “Me neither, I’m an old dog for a reason. Now let me sleep. Besides, every time you get up early like this, you leave me and I don’t see you for days. I’m putting the kai-bosh on that.” (Sloan might not know how to spell kai-bosh. I don’t either. But this is how it looks phonetically and we don’t feel like looking it up.)
Me: “Good. Because I don’t want to go out there and chain myself to a doghouse anyway. They’re mean to me. And I look stupid.”
Sloan, sitting up and taking notice: “Wait, you’re going to do that doghouse thing, the one like where I used to be chained and everyone ignored me and I was cold and lonely and no one cared? Before you rescued me and gave me a warm bed and you and dad and love? You have no idea what that was like.”
Me: “Yep, that. I do have some idea, though. I have spent 825 hours chained to a dog house. But you’re right, not nearly as long as you, or even all at one time. I’m kinda a pansy about it.
“But hey, you’re free now. It’s all good, right? Let’s just go back to sleep and call it a day.”
Sloan: “Hell, no.” [Pulls out drill sergeant hat and whistle, blowing shrilly in my ear.]
Shepherds are like that. Kinda bossy.
Me: “What?” [Innocently.] “Since you’re free, who cares if there are still, like, 5 million of your kind chained or penned all across America? Isn’t this every dog for himself, after all?”
Sloan: “You listen to me, little Missy. You know what I’m like. I’m needy as all get out. I put my head between people’s legs I never even met before and embarrass you because I’m so eager for them to like me.
“And I’m a Shepherd! I’m serious, I guard the perimeter. I’m not like those ‘love me, love me, love me’ labs you’re always dragging home. But my life on the chain was NOTHING. I was NOTHING. No one loved me, and no one gave me the time of day. I didn’t know what I did wrong to end up in that horrible place.
“I wouldn’t wish that on the even those annoying ball-playing breeds…hell, I wouldn’t wish that on that cat who drives me crazy here all day long trying to be my buddy.”
Tuna (said cat): “Wait, I thought we were best friends? You’ve just been tolerating me all this time?” [Pouts and starts to plot revenge. No, not really. He just figures the dog is lying and Sloan really DOES love him even when he pretends he doesn’t. Who could resist such a gorgeous kitty, after all?]
Me: “So you’re saying I gotta leave my warm, toasty, SAFE bed for the cold, hard pavement and chain? And loneliness? Boredom? Fear?”
Sloan: “Yeah, buddy. And don’t show your face round these parts until you’ve hit all seven of those states for all the shepherds, all the labs, all those mixed breeds—hell—ALL the dogs living on chains in each of those states.
“Those dogs are still out there today. Many of them have been chained since before you rescued me three years ago, and they are still chained today, waiting for someone to care.
“I love you, but you gotta go. Do it for my people. They need you.”
Me [sniffling now]: “But I feel so inadequate. I don’t make friends well, I’m an introvert, and I don’t easily inspire others to act. Sometimes I feel like a failure. And did I mention they’re mean to me?”
Sloan: “Who cares. Whine on your own time, Sister. This is my time now. Get your ass out there and make a difference. Don’t come home ’til you do.”
Me: “Yes Sir, Sloan Sir. Going now.”
(Sloan swears a lot. He gets that from his dad. I keep telling Joe not to swear in front of the kids, but he never listens to me. Thank God I’m around to set some kind of good example in that household. Eh-hem.)
Oh, and Sloan wants me to ask you to support the organization who rescued him from his chain so they can keep rescuing dogs like him. Can you sponsor his mom during Chain Off? Here’s her fundraising page:
Laws in West Virginia:
The statewide West Virginia law says only this about chaining of dogs: Chapter 61-8-19. Cruelty to animals; penalties; exclusions.
(a) If any person … cruelly chains any animal …, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than three hundred nor more than two thousand dollars or confined in jail not more than six months, or both.
The problem is, they don’t consider every day chaining cruel. In fact, there is no good definitely for what kind of chaining would actually be considered cruel. So it does the dogs of West Virginia no good.
I only found two communities in West Virginia that further limit chaining on unchainyourdog.org. If you find more, please bring them to our attention:
Charleston, West Virginia – June 2007
Dogs can’t be tethered for more than two continuous hours or more than five times in 24 hours. Dogs can’t be tethered outside for more than one hour if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees.
And a long, convoluted one in Moundsville, WV
Moundsville, West Virginia
No person shall tether an animal:
a. When the outside temperature is equal to or greater than 85 degrees Fahrenheit or equal to or less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
b. In such a manner as to cause injury, strangulation or entanglement of the dog on fences, trees or other man-made or natural obstacles.
c. With a fixed point chain or to any stationary object.
d. After dark and before 6 AM
e. Within 500 feet of a school
f. That is under 6 months of age.
g. That is sick or injured.
One of my current favorites at the Center is Sampson, who I had the pleasure of unchaining in April of 2014. He has become one of the lights of my life, and he is so loving and kind and welcoming when I walk through the door of the center. I adore that dog!
Sampson only got free because they wanted rid of him…not because anyone forced them to do the right thing. We need better laws to provide for our doggie friends. It’s a no brainer and just ridiculous that we even have to fight about it.
A few other pics from the Tour Preparation: