Be a Champion for Pets

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“Her body has scars all over it,” the woman named Susan says at the beginning of the film trailer. “I don’t know how she survived or why she survived…. but she did.”

Susan is speaking about her dog, Little Red. Both are featured in “The Champions,” a documentary about dogs once in the hands of NFL football player Michael Vick, arrested for, and later convicted of, dog fighting. The award-winning documentary has been part of several Film Festivals across the country (see where the film is playing at this website:

Michael Vick DogsLittle Red, Cherry, and about 20 others were taken to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah after countless people spoke up on their behalf. Usually such dogs were killed because they were deemed too dangerous to live with people. Little Red and her canine friends proved that theory wrong. Cherry lives with a family with small children, Johnny is a therapy dog, and Little Red lives with other dogs and Susan. Truly, they championed over their circumstances, and the people who helped them overcome such traumatic conditions are champions as well.

April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Cruelty comes in many forms. Abandonment, neglect, abuse are alive and well in our country, state, and community. Dogs tethered without shelter, receiving little socialization or interaction; cats abandoned in apartments or thrown out on country roads… although the law may define cruelty as something much worse, each is a form of abuse. Companion animals depend on people to feed them, provide water, and give shelter. Although a dog, cat or horse may survive for awhile scavenging for those things, they cannot live long doing so – lack of food and water and exposure to the elements (like rain, snow, and cold) and to disease (such as rabies), will kill them.

The number of abandoned, neglected, and abused pets is unknown, but every year thousands of companion animals come into shelters across America, many as strays. Only about 25% are adopted. Some people believe a shelter pet is a “bad” animal – but the reason animals are in shelters in the first place is because of humans. The #1 reason provided for giving up a pet is “I’m moving.” Not a behavior issue, a human issue, and the pet pays the price, oftentimes with its life. I believe people who accept responsibility for their animals for the rest of their lives are champions, and that’s what I desire to be.

Gayle and Chet Cat_Buggy_Best Friends
Gayle with Chet the cat, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Another way to be a champion for pets is to help shelters and rescues – donate money, supplies, and/or time. Assist with fundraisers by participating, donating, and when needed, help out with cleaning/pet supplies. Serve as a volunteer, whether walking dogs, playing with cats, or being a foster parent or pet transporter. Shelters and rescues depend on communities to help care for the animals they serve – we are all part of that community.

Be a champion when you witness abandonment, abuse or neglect – report your suspicions to the proper authorities. Help is available, we just have to step out of our comfort zone, get involved, and champion the cause of prevention of cruelty to animals in our community, state, region, and nation – just like Susan, Little Red’s compassionate guardian.

As the documentary trailer closes, the two walk through prairie grass. “No one will ever, ever hurt this dog again, and I think she believes that now,” Susan says. “This is where she was meant to be – she knows that she’s home.”

Little Red photoA photo of Little Red hangs in my office, reminding me daily to champion the cause of animals like her. When we are champions for abused, neglected, abandoned, unwanted animals, they have opportunity to become the champions they were created to be – just like Little Red.

Learn more about “The Champions,” which is available as a download for a nominal fee, at


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational dog books for children and adults; she is also a contributor to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the upcoming Spirit of America, to be released June 2016. One of her short stories, about her two adopted dogs, will be part of the forthcoming Pawprints on My Heart, to be released this summer by Prairie Rose Publications. She speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various organizations at events; a percentage of her book sales is donated to different animal rescue groups, such as Best Friends Animal Society, which took in many of the former Vick dogs, including Little Red (Gayle volunteered at Best Friends in October 2015). Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at


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27 thoughts on “Be a Champion for Pets

    1. As you know, Neva, I believe people can learn lessons from pets, and dogs teach us especially about loyalty and forgiveness, as you mention. I so admire the dogs and the rescuers and am so thankful for both. Thanks for stopping by to comment.


  1. Powerful post, Gayle. It is one’s duty to care for a pet until they die if we adopt it. It is so sad that there are such bad people out there who torture animals, and who give them up on a whim “because they’re moving.” I wouldn’t think of letting loose of our little darling for any reason. She is not only my service dog, she is part of our family. This post causes me to think about checking out our local animal shelter to see if there is any way I can help. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by to comment, Linda — I am so glad you have your special dog and that she helps you in so many ways. Dogs do that — they are amazing creatures, and SO FORGIVING as well. I’m sure your local rescue/shelter will be happy to have some help through service or donation from you — THANK YOU for thinking of doing so! 🙂


    2. I’m so glad you and your special pup have each other, Linda. I, too, don’t understand the mentality of dog fighting, animal abuse, any of that. I’m just so glad there are people and places like Best Friends who provide creatures like Little Red and the others opportunity to be loved and cared for. Thanks for your comments!


  2. I grew up in a little country town where it seemed people felt free to dump animals. Guess where a lot of them ended up and remained as treasured pets (rulers) for the rest of their lives. (My mother: “If you bring one more stray dog or cat into this house… oh, isn’t he cute.”) My current cats came from Austin Pets Alive, which fosters dogs and cats from the animal shelter. I’m glad there are champions out there. (And what Joe said.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad your family were rescuers, Kathy, and obviously you still are — HOORAY!! As you know, I adopt my pets and help various rescue groups, so we are kindred spirits in more ways than one. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post.


    1. Thank you, Sarah, for your kind words. I do hope to bring the film to Wyoming and use it as a benefit for rescue groups in my state. I’ll be posting about that if it comes to pass. I agree with Joe’s comment, too! 🙂


  3. Back to back posts… you’re on a roll, Gayle. I love how you use your writing gift, and you’re making a bit of money doing it. When you pass into the Great Beyond, no doubt you’ll be greeted by all the doggies and kitties –even wild critters? — you have helped through the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gayle, I think shelter pets are the best. Our dog Val is 13 now. We got her from a shelter when she was 8 weeks old. She has been a great companion over the years. Our previous dog was from a shelter as well. He was with us for over 10 years and even tolerated a pup I was raising for Guiding Eyes. Thanks for reminding us all that we could do just a bit more to help companion animals.


    1. Thank you, Sue, for rescuing those pups and for raising a Guide Dog! I often talk to students when I make school visits about the jobs that dogs have, and Guide Dogs are on that list. I add “friendship” to the list of jobs and then I get to talk to the kids about pet adoption. I hope in some small way I make a difference, that I am a champion for pets. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


      1. Gayle you make a big difference , those talks with the kids will stick with several of them. As adults they will teach their kids what you taught them.


  5. I cringe when I hear of some people who have acquired dogs, often special breeds which seems to scream a possession rather than the animal being a cherished pet. I do a lot of hoping that the dog won’t be passed on as unwanted when it becomes evident that animals are for life and they do need to be cared for properly and don’t stay as the cutie pups got for Christmas. On the other hand, I love to hear that someone who gets a new dog loves caring for it. Helping shelters to care for the unfortunates is a great thing but you’re correct, Gayle, that the animals shouldn’t be there in the first place having been let down badly by humans.


    1. People often don’t research what requirements some pets need, such as rigorous exercise, or their temperament, such as herding… that’s why I’m so thankful for the rescue organizations and the passion and heart those people put into helping pets in need. Thanks for taking time to read and comment on my post, Nancy!


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