We All on Chains

Since meeting them in person it seems like I’ve become friends with Jeff and Larry and Cindy. They’ve invited me over a few times now. I haven’t had the nerve to go by myself, so my brother has gone with me, and Lou.

They live at the end of a street of small houses. The area still feels rural but they live within a mile of Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and the other usual suburban big boxes. Larry is middle-aged and was working in construction when we first met, but now he has since been laid off because of an injury. Cindy stays at home to take care of the dogs, and to make sure that they are not stolen. Their home is modest, but tidy. Cindy has always just vacuumed when I arrive, I can see the rows in straight lines on the carpet. Individual wood-framed photos of each dog cover the living room and bedroom walls, amidst dream-catchers, a gun rack, and an inspirational poster that says:

Never Quit

Ashtrays and coasters line a side table next to puppy pictures of Cody and Honey, two of their favorite pit bulls.

The family's computers are prominent: on a desk at the foot of Larry's bed, where he frequently shouts what people have posted on the site out loud into the living room, in Jeff’s small bedroom (which you can only get to by going through Larry’s bedroom), and there’s even a laptop in the corner of the living room. Most of our conversations center around the website and how it can improve the public's perception of the breed.

The other main topic of conversation is their dogs. While Larry sits at the computer, Roscoe, their house dog, continually jumps up and down from Larry’s bed, playing with a knotted sock. The other dogs must be kept away from Roscoe and each other. Their pit bull yard is like most, from what I can tell: the dogs are kept on individual chain spaces secured by an axle sunk at least two feet in the ground. A twelve-foot tie-out chain is affixed to the axle on a swivel, and the other end is slipped through an O–ring and attached to the dog's collar. The hardware is very important and specific so that the dog doesn’t get tangled. This circular area drawn by the chain is covered with rock dust, which helps with drainage, and punctuated with a wooden doghouse with an overhang for the rain, and a concrete water bowl. These light beige circles dot much of the yard, each a few feet apart, and gorgeous dogs wriggle, jump, and strain against their chains for attention.

Keeping dogs on chains is a hot-button for most animal welfare advocates, but I’ve learned that doggers insist that a well-maintained chain system is the healthiest and safest containment system available. The argument is that the dogs can exercise an area double the length of their chain, much larger than most kennels, and certainly larger than the crates that middle America has deemed suitable for dogs day and night while their owners keep up power jobs. I can’t argue with that. When I asked Larry about chaining, he gave me a surprisingly poetic answer:

Honey, we got to realize, we all on chains.
Posted on June 22, 2005 and filed under book.