This 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: http://www.championsdocumentary.com/see-the-film/).
Little 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.
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.”
A 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 http://bestfriends.org/stories-blog-videos/vicktory-dogs/champions-film.
Gayle 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 www.gaylemirwin.com.