A big “Thank YOU” to Donna Hughes, my August Shero for Chained Dogs, for all she’s done to move the cause forward. It’s A LOT!
I first ‘met’ Donna Hughes when she messaged me through Facebook about her first song for chained dogs a few years back; it was called Dog on a Ten Foot Chain. What drew me most to Donna from the get-go was her upbeat attitude and her embodiment of the spirit and practice of bringing your unique gifts to bear in service to the animals. Not everyone can sign or write music, but Donna can; so she uses her voice to raise awareness for the voiceless.
(I just rewatched the video, above, with a tear in my eye. Five of the dogs Donna pictures were dogs I personally rescued and was able to give the life they deserved…that brought a smile to my face. A few others you’ll see in the video are dogs I tried to help and failed; without laws to protect them, these dogs are solely at the mercy of uncaring owners. Other dogs pictured I’ve never met or seen in person…some of these dogs may STILL to this very day be living chained—to the same decrepit doghouse, attached by the same rusty chain. It’s a sobering thought.)
Donna Hughes is an Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter, who has written over 500 songs during her impressive career. She has albums produced by Tony Rice (Gaining Wisdom) and J.D. Crowe (Hellos, Goodbyes & Butterflies) both on the Rounder Records label. Her original songs have been recorded by numerous artists through the years including “My Poor Old Heart,” which was recorded by Alison Krauss & Union Station and performed during the CMA Awards Show in 2005. Her website can be found at http://donnahughes.com.
Here are my five questions for Donna Hughes, who has undoubtedly become one of my favorite (and most talented!) Chained Dog Sheroes over the last few years.
What Brought You into the Fight to Win Freedom for Chained Dogs?
I noticed a big yellow dog chained up on my way to work one day. I didn’t think too much of it at first. When I rode by again and saw him sitting in the torrential rain, and another time on the snow-covered ground, I began to feel sorry for him. No matter what time of day, or what the weather was like, there he was. I finally realized this yellow dog was chained 24/7. Sometimes when it would rain, he would try to fit into his tiny plastic house, but you could see his back end hanging out; he didn’t quite fit.
He wasn’t happy. I know my dog wouldn’t like it!
Once I noticed him, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dog and what he was going through. I researched dog chaining online, and was totally inspired by a lady named Tamira Ci Thayne! She had done so much for chained dogs, that I became completely inspired to make some changes for the dogs too. I started pondering what I could do with the talents I have, and I got to work. (Aw. I didn’t pay her to say that. Really.)
What Would You Say have Been Your Greatest Accomplishments for Chained Dogs?
I have been lucky enough to draw a ton of exposure to the issue through my songs, videos, and a petition. My actions on behalf of chained dogs have been covered by Viral Websites like “The Little Things,” Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalists, and have been re-tweeted by many celebrities.
I was able to convince the Randolph County Board of Commissioners to pass a tethering bill, as well as Asheboro City. I often write letters to Commissioners in other areas in support of others who are going after anti-tethering legislation, too. It takes a village, so raise your voice for those on the front lines whenever you can! I like to pay it forward to those who’ve helped me.
I have spoken to Davidson County four times now, and I refuse to give up on this county-wide anti-chaining legislation!
I have had people contact me from everywhere, to get points and tips on how to get laws passed, so I’ve gotten to mentor others as well—that has been wonderful. I sing my dog songs to elementary school children to educate them about proper treatment of animals, because I know that the next generation is very important to ensuring that our dogs are no longer chained and ignored.
What Further Steps Have you Taken to Make a Difference for Chained Dogs?
I addition to creating music, videos, and a petition, I have started a non-profit called Flying Hound Fences. So far we have $3,200 which I will use to build fences for dogs in need in North Carolina, and I am also applying for grants for more funding.
What Was your Hardest Moment, the Moment you Wanted to Give Up, Throw in the Towel, and How Did you Overcome It?
The hardest part for me was getting used to the haters. Now I’ve learned to tune them out; when they sound off, I’ve found that the best way to handle them is to just block them on Facebook.
I now celebrate the fact that they are at least thinking about it, because in order to defend chaining they have to give it some thought. Which is more than they did before. I am happy that while people are hating on me for making them feel bad, I’m loving the fact that I am doing JUST THAT….making them feel BAD!!! Because I know, deep down, they feel guilty for the way they treat these defenseless beings.
Another hard part of the journey for me is seeing all the suffering; for that I have had to harden my heart a bit. If I can share these gruesome scenes, and get these heartbreaking images out there—while it is tough—these dogs will not have suffered and or died in vain. I want to make people face this horrible truth that is still going on in backyards all across America.
What Would Be Your Best Advice for Others Trying to Free Dogs from Chains?
In short, get legislation passed however you can. Be nice or be naughty. Try it with sugar first—but be prepared to come with vinegar if that doesn’t work.
Don’t give up. I never want to give up, and I never want you to give up either! They need us.
Any Parting Words of Advice for those Wanting to Make a Difference for Chained Dogs?
Yes! Share photos and articles about chained dogs and chaining, both good & bad. Meet with other community animal people, collaborate, and get laws passed together. Volunteer at a local rescue. Use your voice, art, skills, whatever gift you have been blessed with to expose this horrific cruelty. Be prepared to get your thick skin on; ignore the haters, get tough, and make people see.
Donna Hughes is one amazing and VERY STRONG voice for the animals! What are you skills and talents? Think about how you can put them to use for the chained dogs near you. Remember, without us, they remain voiceless.
You can reach Donna through her website at Donna@DonnaHughes.com.
Here are some web links to help Donna make a difference for the chained dogs:
Donna also co-wrote this song with Amy Hines. It was sung by Bria Kelly, formerly of The Voice. Awesome song…it’s still on my iPhone playlist for when I’m walking/running with my dog.