New, Expanded Edition Hardcover Showcases What Became of Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound

It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups is now available in expanded edition hardcover, too! 15 additional pages of before and after dog rescues, plus 320 pages of story and photos.

Who Chains You

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New, Expanded Edition Hardcover
Showcases What Became of
Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound

Publisher Expands Author Tamira Thayne’s “It Went to the Dogs:
How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups”

August 5, 2020 • Amissville VA

When chained-dog activist Tamira Thayne and her nonprofit purchased Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound and set about transforming it to a rescue facility, she had no idea what she was walking into.

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The decision would lead not only to a home for her nonprofit’s rescue dogs, but also to the most turbulent four years of her life: she faced down allegations of racism, community harassment, poisoning, and, ultimately, false charges aimed at driving her and Dogs Deserve Better from the county.

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The four black sheds where Michael Vick’s dogs trained and lost their lives still stand today, serving as a stark and brutal reminder of the world of dogfighting.

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What Thayne remembers…

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A Hermit Crab Becomes a Hero to His Captured Friends in New Book for Ages 8 and Up

I’ve got a new book in my Animal Protector’s Series out! I love the hermit crabs…and they are so mistreated by humans. Give it a read or give as a gift to a kid you love!

Who Chains You

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In Squirmy Hermie’s Heroics, a Crab Helps his Newfound Friends to Safety

by Tamira Thayne
Illustrated by C.A. Wulff

Snip, snip . . . snip, snip.

Squirmy Hermie poked his head out of his pink and yellow-painted shell, peering out into the darkening room. Where was that noise coming from? The store had closed for the night; the only sounds this late came from his newfound crab friends as they began their nocturnal hunt for food and entertainment.

And maybe a way out of here?The nagging hope slipped into his mind for the hundredth time since he’d arrived in this place only a few days earlier.

Snip, snip . . . snip, snip.

There it was again.

Squirmy and his friend Hairy had been taken, along with many others, from their beach homes in the Caribbean islands. Why? Where were they now? And how could they free themselves…

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What do COVID-19 and The Tiger King Have in Common?

What do COVID-19 and the new Netflix series “The Tiger King” have in common?

They both highlight the despicable treatment of animals by humans…and how we pay the price for our cruelty in the end.

I’ve been horrified about the Chinese animal markets for years—you hear things, read things, try your best to ignore those things you can’t fix. Pretend they’re not happening. You know they’re eating dogs and cats over there and see the unforgettable pictures of our family companions crammed into crates, off to the market to be slain for dinner.

“What kind of sick monsters do this,” Americans think, going back to their steak and potatoes dinner.

Except it was only a matter of time before the dregs of Chinese society dragged enough helpless beings into their cruel markets to inflict on humans another disease that the world doesn’t have the immunity to fight.

And so we’re all going down. Yay.

It would be simple to be pissed off at all the Chinese people of the world, but—just as all Americans aren’t responsible for school shootings—it’s only the despicable Chinese people who capture and sell animals who are responsible for bringing us COVID-19.

Those fucks, I am mad at.

And while we stew in our anger that people the world over are dying and will continue to die because some assholes think it’s a good idea to eat bats and pangolins, it’s tempting to make it a problem of THEM vs. US.

THEY are horrible people. THEY harmed animals, and now we’re all dying.

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But it’s not just THEM. Americans are once again offering up proof that we are just as despicable in our own right.

Enter The Tiger King.

If you’re living under a rock (like I usually do) The Tiger King is all the rage; it’s a Netflix documentary series that pits more than one batshit crazy tiger breeder against a tiger activist and her followers.

I’d heard snippets of this story for years—if you’re in the animal welfare movements you probably did too. But I had no idea just how TRULY INSANE the story was.

INSANE. And that’s why people can’t stop watching it.

I watched the whole seven episodes last night, and I felt like my soul needed a good sudsing off afterwards.

I realized Americans can’t possibly believe we’re better than any other country when we’ve got these creepy, egomaniacal white scumbags breeding tigers to make a quick buck and then slaughtering them or selling them to shitty roadside zoos when they get too big to be of use.

“Animal Activists”: the words were spit out throughout the series by Joe Exotic, the premiere douchebag, as an expletive of the highest order.

WE, the animal activists, he claimed, are the horrible people daring to get up in his business…daring to tell him what he can do with his tigers…daring to try to shut him down.

And yet…and yet…and yet. This same man used the allure of tigers to reel in young guys (who it turns out weren’t even gay) to become his what, chattel? Drug use and abuse was rampant, with one of the husbands losing most of his teeth from meth, while the other accidentally offed himself playing with a loaded weapon.

It appeared that all the men involved in this abuse of tigers were USING THEM TO GET WOMEN (OR MEN) TO SLEEP WITH THEM.

It was a den of vipers, and each new character introduced into the story seemed even more despicable than the one who came before.

One of my biggest takeaways from The Tiger King was that America has no high ground when it comes to animal abuse. NONE.

These men believe it’s their God-given right to use the tigers for any purpose they see fit. There is NEVER a thought spared for what the TIGER actually wants. And ALL these tiger breeders kill the babies when they get too big—but they know it’s wrong and illegal, so they hide the fact that they’re doing it.

Will more charges be coming for some of the other losers who are exploiting these animals? Lordy, I sure hope so.

Even the tiger activist, Carole Baskin, doesn’t come across as being above the fray. I’m not even going to touch the missing second husband thing, hoping that’s just a smear campaign. And while I understand that when you mix it up with people of this ilk, lowlife criminals, you can’t help but get dirty yourself…I do have a few criticisms that I think are perfectly valid and need to be brought up.

1. Carole brags that she has no paid staff. It seems that she/the organization has money. She was showing on camera how much her nonprofit was getting weekly in donations just through Facebook—yet she uses only volunteer help? No. That’s unacceptable.

The creepy men were paying their people $100-$125 A WEEK—and making them work every single day—just for the glory of being around the tigers and these egomaniacs.

Yet she comes off even WORSE than them in this area. If you value the lives of the animals, and you value the people who care for them, then you need to pay them, and it needs to be well above minimum wage. Volunteers can fill the gaps, and can make life a little easier for the employees, but expecting people to give 40 hours a week or more for no pay is cruel in and of itself.

2. Her volunteers pose with bloody (dead?) white rabbits that they are going to feed to the tigers. WHAT. THE. HOLY. FUCK. I didn’t even understand what was happening when I saw that photo…who in their right mind would do such a thing? And call themselves an animal activist? When she was asked about the picture, she rolled her eyes and blew it off like people were making a big deal about nothing.

Really? So the rabbits didn’t have a right to life, just the tigers? If you’re going to call yourself an animal activist, then it really can’t be just ONE animal that has the right to live and thrive, can it? While I’m well aware that tigers are carnivores, (all the dead animals they were throwing to them was horrific, I couldn’t watch) other animals that are seen merely as food actually WANT to live and have their own agendas too. Yes, even white rabbits.

How could she be so insensitive as to allow such a photo and then wonder why others have a problem with it?

3. Her sanctuary didn’t look better than the tiger breeders’ zoos…in fact, it looked worse. If you’re going to serve as an example of what a tiger sanctuary SHOULD look like, it needs to be AH-MAZING; it needs to have lots of room for the tigers to roam, to swim, to live as good a life as possible in captivity. Having never been to her facility, I have only the show to go by, but I saw no evidence of her place being better. AND IT NEEDS TO BE. MUCH BETTER.

After watching this show last night, I felt even more disappointed in America, if that were even possible. Until humans learn and understand that animals have the same right to life that we do, we will continue to exploit them in whatever way suits our fancy.

And we will continue to pay the price for it…often with our own lives and the lives of the innocent who truly deserve better.

GOD HELP US ALL.

Happy Birthday to the Mother who No Longer Knows Me

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Mom, second from right, with her husband Chuck, visiting my cousins on one of their trips around the U.S.

My mother turns 79 today, but she neither knows nor cares about that.

Advanced dementia has robbed her of everything that makes life meaningful, rendered her not only incapable of holding a conversation, but taken away virtually all words aside from “Jeep”, which she assiduously uses to strongarm her husband into driving her about the countryside multiple times per day.

Oddly enough, she still points in the direction she wants him to turn, retaining some sense of direction and map knowledge in a brain which has increasingly revolted against her, against all of us.

She no longer knows her children, her sisters, her friends, or even her husband, beyond the understanding that he’s her caregiver and life is much scarier for her when he’s not there.

I’d planned to make the four hour trek for a brief visit today, even though I acknowledged that it would be for my sake and not hers. I wanted one last photo of her with her birthday cake (which she probably wouldn’t eat), because I have a clear understanding that this will be her last.

Yet my recent illness and fears of being the one to put the final nail in her coffin by unwittingly passing along COVID-19 kept me home today instead.

I won’t pretend that my mother and I had the perfect mother-daughter relationship, yet the inevitable ending has a way of softening the edges of the middle.

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A photo of Mom I found in the files from her computer. Most were blurry, ha.

My mother longed to be a writer, and although she never achieved any sort of fame or made much in the way of money at it, she did write and publish three Christian fiction novels plus a children’s book, and had a handful of articles and daily devotions published in magazines and books.

When her mind was addled to the point that she could no longer use her computer, I pulled all her writing off her laptop and saved it to my own. I’m now very grateful I had the presence of mind to do so.

As a way of saying “Happy Birthday”, and “I miss you, Mom” to the woman who birthed me and my two brothers, I share a couple of her pieces with you, below.

Help! I’m Not Aging Gracefully

by Lorena Estep
(A version of this was published in Mature Living)

Nearing retirement age, I began battling the aging process in every way possible. I didn’t mind getting older—I just didn’t want to look older. It was bad enough struggling in my 20’s and 30’s to keep the weight down, but from middle age and up, it became a Herculean effort! Each new fad diet worked for awhile, especially the lo-carb, hi-protein. That is until I began to dislike meat and crave carbs . . . especially the sugary ones with lots of icing.

Reaching the age where I was considered a senior citizen in some places and not others, I found I would rather pay the full price than admit to being in that age bracket, unless there was a significant difference in cost.

I had my first very rude (and I mean very rude) awakening while shopping in a department store with my husband one day. He said, “I’m going to the snack bar for a cup of coffee.”

“Okay, sweetie. I’ll be there in a few minutes to join you.” I shopped a little longer, then went over to stand in line for a cup of tea.

“That’s twenty-five cents,” the young girl at the cash register said.

Surprised, I asked, “Why is it so cheap? Are you having a special?”

“That’s the senior citizen rate.”

The feelings that ripped through me were hard to describe: a combination of mortification, indignation, and anger that was like a slap in the face. Of course, being a very determined person, I couldn’t let it alone.

“So how do you decide if someone’s a senior citizen?” I had to ask.

“I just look at them, and if they look old, I give it to them.”

I stared at her in icy disbelief, as she stood there in all her youthful glory, smiling so guilelessly. I grabbed my tea and stomped over to my husband. “How much was your coffee?” I asked in a snappish tone.

“Twenty-five cents,” he answered innocently, taking a sip.

I set my tea down with a thud and plopped onto the chair beside him. “Well, that’s because you look old,” I informed him.

“No it isn’t. It’s just a special sale.”

“Nope. The girl said that’s the senior discount, and if someone looks old, she gives it to them!”

He shrugged and placidly kept drinking.

That was my mortifying initiation into “seniorhood.” Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten any younger looking, no matter how many different kinds of facial exercises or creams I try. Nor have I gotten hardened to the offense of being given the discount without asking for it.

Occasionally there is the upside where someone thinks you’re younger than you are. Recently, I had my four-year-old granddaughter and ten-year-old grandson in a store at a mall. The man who waited on us referred to me as their mother. My smile was wide, and I didn’t bother to correct him.

When we left the store, I said to my grandson, “He thought I was your mother.” I was still smiling.

Giving me an indignant look my grandson said, “I know. I was rather insulted!”

Then he laughed, and Grandma still had enough pizzazz to chase him up through the mall.

Lorena Estep

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Mom with my son when she visited him in California

I found this amongst her writings, and am very touched she nominated me for an award that I’ve never heard of. I obviously didn’t win, but thanks for trying, Mom.

YOU CAN’T QUIT, MOTHER!

“You can’t quit, Mother. You know you love to write. That’s when you’re the happiest.”

“Sometimes it’s so discouraging and overwhelming,” I complain. “There are a hundred manuscripts I want to send out at once, and I don’t know what to work on first. If the ratio of rejections to acceptances were reversed, it would be more encouraging and worth the time, energy and frustration.”

We go through similar scenes from time to time, and my daughter is as tenacious as a dog with a bone. Since she determinedly rescues chained dogs, fostering them in her home, I suspect she has learned a few tricks from the assorted canines she lives with.

“Dwell mostly on the acceptances,” she continues. “Only allow yourself two hours to mourn when a rejection comes.

“That last article you had published was great, and I loved the full-page drawing they put with it. I was thinking that for Mother’s Day, I could take that picture out of the magazine and mat and frame it as my gift to you. If you hang it by your desk, every time you get discouraged you can look at it and know all the hard work is worthwhile.”

I always end up hugging her and getting back to work.

She also does much of my critiquing, diligently checking for mistakes and clarity. On a bi-monthly basis, I put together a ten-page newsletter for the church I attend.

When it’s time to add in pictures and the finishing touches, she comes to my home and uses her graphic designer skills to give it a professional tweak.

She’s a caring person who never gives up on what she sets out to do. Her home is full of children, dogs, cats and love. I’m proud of my daughter, and thankful for her love and the fact that she believes in me, and my writing venture.

On behalf of a person who won’t allow me to quit, I hereby nominate my daughter, Tammy, for the “Barnabas-Marcie” Brag award.

—Lorena Estep

Until you experience dementia in someone you love,  you will never know the unique pain this disease dumps on the family of those affected. In reality, I lost my mother years ago; now that she’s finally at the beginning of the end, I feel only relief tinged with sadness. The long, slow road to the final curtain has been replete with hurt, anger, and mourning, all while her body still lives.

I learned to celebrate a smile, and treasure the jolt of hearing her speak—because in my head she’s already gone. Her voice brings me back, for an instant, to the mother I once knew.

Happy 79th, Mom. I wish you were here to celebrate with me.

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Mom captured on our camera walking my dog Sloan and my cat Tuna in 2014

Just your Average American, Wondering if I’m a Walking Talking Coronavirus Disseminator

I started feeling sick last Saturday. Typical cold symptoms, cough, headache, feverish, etc., which I’ve experienced at least four other times in the past six months.

Except this time is difference. Because now I have to wonder…could it be? Is it? THE coronavirus? The rampaging COVID-19?

Yet I’m not in any of the high-risk groups. I haven’t traveled outside the U.S., or been in contact with anyone who has, to my knowledge. And I’m not at death’s door…so the odds of me being tested are about zero. Even though I’m one of the lucky ones who actually has health insurance—it doesn’t matter.

Because America isn’t testing anyone who isn’t set to keel over at any second. And it’s not looking good for anytime soon either.

BUT CORONAVIRUS PARANOIA HAS SET IN…both here in America, and in my living room.

Using my case as an example, let’s digress to before Christmas. My Facebook feed had been overtaken by these adorable cat paw sock ads. If you’re an animal lover, you might know the ones…they look something like this:

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Me: Those would make an awesome extra gift for Bryn for Christmas. I’m buying some.

Me two months later, in February: Hey, why didn’t those socks I ordered ever show up? I should investigate.

After some sleuthing, I end up filing a complaint with PayPal, patting myself on the back for using their foolproof services to pay for the purchase. Yes! At least I’ll get my money back. I’ll show those scammers.

But then…about a week later, I get a notice of a package at the post office. “Surprise…we meant to send you these kitty socks all along. We just forgot!”

From. China.

Great! So China is now shut down with the coronavirus, but I’ve just been handed a bag of very belated and not-so-christmassy cheer…by an obviously-sick postal worker. Ouch. Double whammy.

Me, to me: Don’t be paranoid. Of course the virus can’t really last on packages from China. I’m sure it dies enroute.

About twelve days later I get sick, and then two days later my daughter gets sick, too.

Me, to me: Could it be? Nah…that’s crazy. I better keep this to myself…everyone will just tell me I’m being stupid. The virus surely can’t last on packages that long, right? 

And then John Oliver jumps in to assure me that I’m nuts. They have NO PROOF. NO PROOF.

Even though I like to believe everything John Oliver tells me—because he’s John Oliver, and he’s funny—NO PROOF at this point isn’t really cutting it for me. I mean, all that’s saying is that they haven’t definitively proven it one way or another…not that IT’S NOT POSSIBLE.

Even though a dog has already tested positive, they are also saying we shouldn’t read into that little fact. I’m begging to differ there, too. “The case has raised the specter that dogs might be swept into the epidemic, which, even now, public health officials say does not appear to infect or be spread by pets. But experts say much remains unknown about the dog’s infection, and they emphasized the lone case is not yet cause for alarm or reassessments about interactions with pets.”

Um, yeah, alright.

Given that I don’t watch Fox News, I also learn from John Oliver that Jim Baker is peddling some silver solution for the virus. Far be it for me to agree with Jim Baker or any other snake oil salesman, but I’ve got nothing to lose at this point, so…

Me, feeling like complete doggy doo: Ooh, I’ve had some kind of silver stuff in my cupboard for years. Let me see if it’s still there…

Ta-DA! It is!

I spritz it in my mouth a couple of times.

No lie . . . within an hour I start to feel better. What sorcery is this?

Me: Placebo effect? I don’t think I’m really that good at thinking myself well. I’ve tried it hundreds of times before and it never worked.

Also me, two days and multiple spritzes later: I feel like that damn silver stuff helped me. Could Jim Baker be onto something? Should I join his cult after all?

Well, hell: did that silver spray really do more for me than my government did?

But seriously, here’s the problem with the lack of testing in America. I’m not the only one left confused and feeling helpless in the face of our national response. Every sick person is. COVID-19 is pretty much indistinguishable from the cold or flu, which we all can easily end up with multiple times a year.

And yet, unless or until we’re completely knocked out by the worst symptoms of our cold or flu, we still go to work. Because we have to. Because we can’t stay home for every sniffle, every cough, every sneeze. That’s a luxury we don’t have. And so for those of us who feel ill right now but know we can’t get tested, we’re just going about our daily lives.

And if we actually do have the virus, we’re spreading it. To other innocent people.

Which none of us should be doing.

America needs to get our act together. The test should be available to anyone exhibiting the symptoms, without question. We should be able to know if it’s safe to go to work or if we have “permission” to stay home for weeks at a time.

Staying home for many of us is a luxury we just can’t afford under normal circumstances.

Our government’s lies, false statistics, and “gut feelings” are just another reason so many of us don’t feel safe in America anymore.

We want and deserve the same testing that is available in most of the rest of the world. Hell, South Korea even has drive through testing! How hard can that be?

Reflections on 56 Years: Oprah Lied about the 50s, the Curse of Empathy, and Why Can’t the Real World be Sanitized like “The Call of the Wild”?

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Gorgeous drawing of my dog, Khronos, by Abbie Withers. He reminds me of Buck in the remake of “The Call of the Wild.”

Tomorrow I will turn 56.

Yesterday, my hubby Joe and I went to see “The Call of the Wild.”

Neither the harking back to a book I’d read as a child and remembered as being emotionally painful, nor the forthcoming years that promise the ongoing pain of aging has seemed very celebratory.

I liked “The Call of the Wild”; in fact, I liked it much more than I’d expected to. And while I couldn’t remember the details of the book—it’s been 46 years since my last reading of it, after all—I had a sneaking suspicion that the movie was a sanitized version. For which I am grateful.

Buck’s first beating in the movie consisted of only one hit; I thought the book was probably much worse. And, true confession, I escaped to the bathroom as the second abuse scene came up, not able to face what the evil man would do to the beautiful dog. A couple renegade sobs escaped my throat as I burst through the theater door into the emotional neutrality of the quiet hallway. As I hurried to the ladies room, I  corralled my wayward pain, shoved it back into the recesses, and went about the business of denying the ugly of life once more.

It occurred to me that way too much of my time is spent denying the ugly in an attempt at surviving my days here on Planet Earth.

I see this as the curse of having a heart, the ability to empathize, to understand and in some way feel the pain of others, both human and animal.

Apparently, my foggy memories served me right about the movie’s sanitization, according to this article. And yet I found even the couple abuse scenes, and the (very sparing) dog-fighting scenes, almost more than I could bear. I squeezed Joe’s hand at each attack during the fight between Buck and the pack leader, Spitz, and pondered—for the thousandth time—how anyone could actually choose to participate or watch such a thing as dogfighting.

I was in my late 40’s when I read an article in Oprah talking about how wonderful the 50’s were supposed to be for women. I couldn’t wait! Now THIS was more like it! Ostensibly, when we hit 50, we women would magically stop caring so much about our looks and how the world viewed us, would be free to be ‘ourselves’, and would truly enjoy the rest of our years on the planet.

What bliss awaited me!

Yet tomorrow I’ll be 56—over halfway through the magical decade—and I’m still waiting for this glorious epiphany to hit. Crap. Did I miss the bus, again?

Or, did Oprah lie to me? Maybe the 50’s are just good if you have plenty of money to mute the evils of the world.

Instead, I’m tubby, have decided to embrace my grays even though this will not enhance my appearance, and think it’s a wise idea overall to avoid the mirror.

And depression rides my coattails on the best of days.

Whereas empathy SHOULD be a trait to be celebrated, instead it’s become an anchor weighing me down in a world where cruelty toward animals and humans alike abounds.

Avoiding pain in the quest for emotional survival seems to be my daily modus operandi.

In a world under Trump, cruelty towards our fellow humans and animals is more the point that the consequence of our interactions with others.

I rarely blog anymore, because I can’t offer much in the way of support for those suffering. I can’t help others, when I’m in too much pain. I avoid Facebook, and most social media, most of the time. I find myself more attracted to Twitter, because at least there people are standing up to Trump and his ilk, and I need to feel like not all hope is lost.

It’s ironic that the kindest people on the planet are those who are most able to feel the pain of others: this is, indeed, specifically what makes them kind. It also makes them less able or likely to fight back against evil.

Those who are cruel are able to cage children at our borders, lie with impunity in the hijacking of America, and toss out of office anyone telling the truth with no qualms or twinges of conscience.

I messaged with a friend yesterday about the upcoming election, and we agreed we were afraid we couldn’t emotionally SURVIVE another four years of Trump. How sad is that? That a president causes so much emotional harm to those in the country they don’t know if they can live through it?

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THE TRUTH IS, at this point, I WOULD VOTE FOR A BLOATED TICK OVER TRUMP.

I’m already seeing so much infighting in the Democratic primaries, that I feel hopeless about our ability to focus, to rise above, and to effectively fight this evil.

Why? Why can’t we see that getting rid of Trump, by coming together as a nation, has to be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY?

As Jennifer Rubin said in this The Washington Post editorial, “What, if anything, can Democrats do in the next week or so to change the trajectory of the race? There is very little chance that they will do what is necessary; that would require selflessness and self-reflection as well as party leadership, none of which is evident in today’s Democratic Party.”

Great. As if I needed more to be depressed about.

If you have a heart and soul; if you care about animals, if you care about people, if you care about our planet, then removing Trump has to be the first and foremost responsibility.

The death of our planet looms…our only chance for survival for us and our children is putting actual adults in charge.

Maybe it’s not all Oprah’s fault that I can’t embrace my 50’s. Still…if she can’t sanitize the world to make me believe it’s a kinder place, she at least shouldn’t make me promises that she can’t keep.

Happy 56 to me.

Lobotomy, anyone?

 

I Gave Hundreds of Tours through Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Sheds. He Deserves No Pro Bowl Honor.

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The property as I saw it on February 1, 2011

My nonprofit organization bought Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound in Surry County, Virginia, and transformed it to a rescue facility for formerly chained dogs. As such, I walked the grounds where his dogs were chained, fought, and died for four years.

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One of Vick’s footballs, abandoned in the weeds.

The black sheds where his dogs trained and ultimately lost their lives still stand today, serving as a stark and brutal reminder of the world of dogfighting.

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Our dog Sloan the day we bought the property.

What I remember about my first experience with the house and grounds of 1915 Moonlight Road was a stillness, a loneliness, an oppressive feel; yet underneath there was a yearning for more—a wish to be seen, to be heard. Did the land, the souls who remained on the property seek redemption for the blood spilled in their name? Perhaps.

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The sheds in 2013

I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to protect the ground and all those lying therein, a similar desire to what one might experience when visiting battlefields or other sites of tragedy—a wish to somehow “fix” the horrors of the past.

To me, the grounds and buildings there were never evil, but instead almost hallowed by the pain they’d been forced to witness. They were victims of the evils of man in a way similar to the dogs who suffered so greatly within them.

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Almost everyone who came to visit asked to tour those sheds, and during my four years I would lead hundreds of people through them, highlighting how each had been used in the dogfighting operation.

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Car axles dogs were chained to in the clearings.

I’ve cried and I’ve watched others cry, as they were so touched by the plight of the fighting dog and so moved by what occurred there that their emotions overtook them. Not a single person who went in there came out unaffected. That is the power of those sheds.

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Rusty chains left hanging in the sheds.

Dog lovers felt a need to see where the crimes were committed, to understand the depths of the depravity involved in dogfighting. Most left with a strengthened resolve to put an end to this horrific abuse of our “best friends”.

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Board where the carpet mill was placed to train the dogs. BNK stood for Badd Newz Kennels.

The buildings appeared hastily and poorly erected, especially compared to the pristine white house decorously built at the front of the property. Three of the four sheds had spray-painted black interiors, too—even down to the windows—to keep anyone from seeing inside.

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DDB employee giving a tour of the dark shed.

The far right shed consisted of darkened kennels for the injured and mothers with pups. This shed gave off a pervasively eerie feel, the walls scraped with claw marks by dogs desperate to escape.

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Old collar and ESPN mug in fight shed.

Finally, there was the two-story fight shed, closest to the house. There were still odds and ends left in this shed, almost like it had frozen in time. Anything that the feds hadn’t considered as evidence for their case against Vick and his buddies still remained as it was four years earlier. This included an ESPN mug, old collars, lots of rusty chains, some cement dog bowls, and, creepiest of all, a puppy calendar from 2007.

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Old jackets draped over camp chairs in the fight room.

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Old stereo on the floor of the fight room.

Upstairs, where the dog fights actually occurred, was like stepping into a time warp. There were two old sweat jackets tossed over camp chairs, an old stereo and speakers, cut out squares in the floor from where the feds tested the wood for blood, and old tan carpet remnants.

The windows were painted black, and dog scratches etched the walls.

If there is indeed a hell, I hope that this is one of the rooms dogfighters end up in, forced to fight for their lives day in and day out.

The man who had these sheds built, who planned and financed an elaborate dogfighting operation, who served not a single day in jail for the crime of animal cruelty, was none other than the man the Pro Bowl now seeks to honor with a captainship today: Michael Vick.

“Yeah fine. I killed the dogs. I hung them. I slammed them. I killed all of them. I lost f@*king millions, all over some f@*king dogs.”—Michael Vick, October 12, 2007, after failing his polygraph.

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We transformed it to a beautiful home for our rescue dogs.

The argument has been made that Vick served his time and he deserves our forgiveness. That he’s shown remorse.

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The axle the carpet mill was attached to. It was taken for evidence.

I would argue that the remaining physical evidence of his crimes instead shows a man determined to commit atrocities against our best friends, to use them in a way most heinous and slaughter those who failed him—and the only reason he stopped was because he got caught.

While even murderers may be worthy of God’s forgiveness, that doesn’t mean that they should be upheld and honored by man.

If Vick’s crimes against the voiceless aren’t enough for a lifetime of dishonor, what would be enough?

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Me,  chained in front of the PA state Capitol, advocating for a law.

Take Action: Have you signed any of the petitions yet?
If not,
please click here and start signing. Thank you!

—Tamira Thayne is the founder and former CEO of Dogs Deserve Better, and the author of the newly-released: “It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups”, now available from Who Chains You Books.

Some photos here courtesy of photographer Rita Thomas.

What Happened When I was Dumb Enough to Buy Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound? Find Out in “It Went to the Dogs”.

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Who Chains You Books Announces Our New Release…

It Went to the Dogs:
How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups

by Tamira Thayne

What could possibly go wrong when a dog activist buys Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound? As it turns out…everything.

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The house sat empty, an eerie white sentinel against the flat winter landscape, now guarding only whispers of the past. A six-foot white metal fence with coded entry gate lined the country road, abandoning its purpose at the property line and allowing passage to all with the temerity and curiosity to walk around.

The bullet hole in the front window went unnoticed.

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Tamira Thayne was alone, parked across the street, and early for her appointment with the Hampton Roads, Virginia realtor. Today was the day she’d tour Michael Vick’s former dogfighting compound, something she’d never imagined nor particularly wanted to do.

It seemed pretty creepy, truth be told.

Tamira felt the whispers surround her, reaching out. The rescuer in her wanted to rescue the ghosts, too; embrace the broken dogs who lay undiscovered and probably buried on the property, assure them they weren’t forgotten. She shuddered, pulling herself together.

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The decision Tamira would make that fateful day in February 2011 would lead not only to a home for her nonprofit’s rescue dogs, but also to the most turbulent four years of her life: she faced down allegations of racism, community harassment, poisoning, and, ultimately, false charges aimed at driving her and Dogs Deserve Better from the county.

There was a reason Michael Vick felt he could get away with dogfighting in Surry County, Virginia—and why he got away with it for as long as he did…

With over 200 bw photos and documents.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-946044-67-9 • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-946044-69-3

Buy in Paperback from Amazon
Buy on Kindle
Buy in hardcover direct from printer
Buy a Signed Paperback Copy

About the Author

Tamira Thayne pioneered the anti-tethering movement in America, forming and leading the nonprofit Dogs Deserve Better for 13 years.

During her time on the front lines of animal activism and rescue she took on plenty of bad guys (often failing miserably); her swan song culminated in the purchase and transformation of Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound to a chained-dog rescue and rehabilitation center. She’s spent 878 hours chained to a doghouse on behalf of the voiceless in front of state capitol buildings nationwide.

Tamira is the author of It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups, the Chained Gods Series, the Animal Protectors Series, Foster Doggie Insanity, and Capitol in Chains. She’s the editor of More Rescue Smiles, and the co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles. In 2016 she founded Who Chains You, publishing books by and for animal activists and rescuers.

Tamira is an Air Force veteran who lives by a river in the woods of northern Virginia, with her husband, daughter, one dog, six cats, and hundreds of outside birds and critters she adores from afar.

“4 Love of Animals” Using Coloring Books in Creative Way, Brings Awareness for Chained Dogs

Love this! How one group is using the coloring books I wrote (and April Pedersen illustrated) in their work for chained dogs. Even when you’re no longer on the front lines, you can still find ways to make a difference!

Who Chains You

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Not only does Who Chains You Books sell our Happy Dog! Coloring Books online and in bulk through our website, we also license the coloring book to nonprofit anti-chaining groups to help them raise awareness for suffering dogs in their communities.

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It’s a win/win. Often, small local groups don’t have the volunteer support or funding to commission an illustrator for their own book; licensing ours at a fraction of the cost enables them to quickly and easily get their own product. PLUS, we get the unique pleasure of knowing our books are making an even bigger difference to chain-ge minds and lives in communities across America.

When we license Happy Dog!: From Chained To Cherished, (by Tamira Thayne and illustrated by April Pedersen), we change the background cover color and personalize the cover and interior information for each group, so it truly becomes their own product. We…

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We Know What Happened To Michael Vick’s Dogs…but What Became of the Infamous Property? Read All About it December 1!

Don’t miss my new book coming out December 1st! What became of Vick’s dogfighting property, and how my nonprofit get there?

Who Chains You

If you haven’t read the most recent Washington Post story on the Vick dogs rescued from his fighting operation in 2007, we urge you to read and share it with all your friends. After all, can there ever be enough happy ending stories from a tragedy such as this?

A Second Chance

Twelve years ago, 47 dogs were rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation and allowed to live. They’ve enriched the lives of countless humans and altered the course of animal welfare.

Even though most of the dogs have since passed on, many groups and families gave their all to chain-ge the lives of these dogs for the better. They deserve a place in history and our gratitude. Read the full article and see the heartwarming photos here.

In addition, the article mentions that the nonprofit Dogs Deserve Better bought the property, and turned it from the Bad Newz…

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