Barbaric, cruel, brutal, ugly, pitiless, violent, inhumane, sadistic… just some of the many words to describe the ferocious world of dog fighting. Indescribable in single words, however, is the pain suffered physically and psychologically by the animals forced to take part, the ‘fighting’ dogs, the ‘bait’ animals and the rescue staff and volunteers who try to mend the broken spirit of these dogs once they have served their use and are no longer producing a profit for the monsters who run this ‘sport’.
I’m fed up hearing people call dogs, or more specifically, certain breeds of dogs ‘dangerous’ – Akitas, Staffies, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Bull Mastiffs etc. As a rescue volunteer I have come into contact with so many of these dogs and I can state that, from my experience, not one of these breeds of dogs is ‘dangerous’. It is the behaviour that some heartless, inhuman people force upon them that is dangerous.
Programmed into them through habitual abuse and fear, the ‘fight’ as opposed to ‘flight’ instinct takes over. Once the dogs have served their purpose the ‘lucky’ ones get dumped at the local pound or picked up as strays by the dog wardens. Their bruised and battered bodies, their shattered souls. All trust in humans destroyed.
The dog wardens then have the unenviable task of deciding if there is any chance for these dogs – with patience and time could they enjoy a second chance at life? The others get put to sleep.
Cue the rescue staff and volunteers. The dogs that have potential are taken in by rescue organisations all across the country. In the case of Dundalk Dog Rescue, the volunteers wince and hide their tears as they meet the frail, undernourished and badly mistreated dogs. They take in the huge, sad and fearful eyes; the ribs poking out through the skin; the cuts, gashes, sores and other tell-tale signs of the fights; the trembling as the dog wonders when the next blow will fall; the tail that is well and truly tucked beneath the body. Then, they take a deep breath, smile, put on their best ‘happy voice’ and say ‘who’s a good boy?’. Maybe the first time these words have ever been heard by this dog.
Volunteers then spend weeks building up trust, trying to connect with a dog who can be completely emotionally detached from its surroundings. A dog in survival mode. The first tentative wag from the tip of a tail can be enough to make a grown man, or woman, cry with happiness. The first time the dog recognises you and runs to greet you, covering you with slobbery kisses can be enough to get you through the worst of weeks.
Then after slowly building trust in people it’s time to try with other dogs. Slow and steady, gradually getting closer, hoping that all the work you have done has helped to de-programme the ‘fight’ mode. In many cases, volunteers are rewarded for their hard work by the dog being ready to move on to its forever home. A place where it will experience love for the rest of its life.
For some however, the volunteers are faced with making the hardest choice of all. Something they hope they never have to do.
Please, please, help us, help them – report anyone suspected of being involved in dog fighting and make a donation to give these dogs a second chance at life http://dundalkdogrescue.ie/