Friday the Capitol doghouse tour hit Missouri and it’s capital, Jefferson City, or Jeff City as the locals call it.
The town was smallish, but the Capitol was HUGE, dominating the landscape in every direction. Although we would have been allowed to chain up on the Capitol steps, we opted to take our plea out to the street level instead, as the state reps weren’t in session and we wanted to be seen by as many passers-by as possible.
I was actually quite excited because today was the day I would finally meet in person two women I’d been working with for years as part of Dogs Deserve Better: Sheila Ehler and Melody Whitworth. Both Sheila and Melody have been part of Dogs Deserve Better, serving as volunteer area reps, since at least 2007-2008. They have stuck with me and DDB through thick and thin, and have saved hundreds of dogs from chains through their local branch and volunteer foster home system.
I want to publicly express my gratitude to these women for all they’ve done as part of DDB, and for all they’ve done for the dogs. Meeting Sheila and Melody in person was like finally meeting a long lost family member or something.
It was delightful.
Missouri was a day of chained dog stories, and those who came out to chain all had a story to tell.
Darrell, who came out specifically to meet us and tell us about the dog who lives in a pen across the street from him, explained the pain he and wife Diane go through watching the suffering of the dog every day. The owners lock the pen—so the feces is NEVER removed—and they just dump water and food into the pen over the side.
Sheila pledged to try to help him as our local rep, but without laws on our side, good citizens are forced to watch the abuse daily without recourse. It’s incredibly disempowering and frustrating, not to mention psychologically traumatic for those who watch.
It’s not only the suffering of the dogs who are stuck on chains or in pens that goes unaddressed, but the suffering of caring humans nearby—forced to silently observe the abuse—that is unthinkable.
When we put Darrell on the chain, he got down on one knee for a photo, and I said it looked like he was proposing to Diane. We all had a good laugh when Diane remarked that it was about time he got down on one knee—after 40-some years of marriage—and it took him being chained to do it.
Sheila Ehler has been a DDB rep for years, and has a ton of great rescue stories under her belt. She told me that the hardest thing to deal with—still—is talking to those who chain their dogs, as they are often confrontational and uninterested in bettering the lives of those they have imprisoned to a chain. It takes a lot of courage and guts to get out there and advocate face to face on behalf of the dogs, and I admire so greatly those who undertake the challenge.
Jennen Herbst is a DDB Missouri volunteer and foster mom to Gator, pictured above. She created her own ‘doghouse’ out of a cardboard box and a black plastic bag to simulate how he was living before his rescue. Even though he’s been with her as a foster for seven months, he still suffers pretty severe separation anxiety when she leaves the apartment, because he’s so afraid of being left alone again.
Debbie Hinman made the three hour trek to the Capitol to chain with me for the day, and I am so honored by her dedication. Debbie has a dog she rescued from a chain, and her girl still suffers issues to this day as a result of not being socialized from a young age. She created her own shirt and wrote this one the back:
I am a “Sitting Duck”
For whatever comes by
I cannot run; I cannot hide
The sun bakes my skin
The cold numbs my mouth
But nothing hurts more than being banned for life.
Did I do something wrong?
Did I do something bad?
What could’ve possibly made you so mad
That you hooked me to this chain
Never Again to be part of my family.
If you love me—Set me FREE!
One TV station came out and did an interview of both Sheila and myself. This makes nine pieces of media so far from the tour, which has helped spread the word about chaining immensely.
I joined Melody and Sheila and some of the volunteers for dinner that night, and then met up with them again at Petsmart the next day for their adoption event. My heart was so touched and warmed by all these people volunteering their time as foster parents and advocates for Missouri chained dogs.
Today we drive to Kentucky, where tomorrow we will do a chain off at the state Capitol in Frankfort, with Kentucky rescue group SOAR.
And the beat goes on.
To read more about chaining and DDB’s work for chained dogs, visit our site at http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org