A few weeks ago, the HSUS posted a story about one of the dogs rescued in raids which broke up a huge dogfighting ring in the Midwest.
At first glance, the bared teeth in Fay’s photo looked as if she was on the attack, as a recent fighting dog might be. At second glance, it looked like a big dog smile because Fay’s demeanor was hardly that of a angry dog.
At third glance, I suddenly noticed something was terribly wrong with Fay’s face. The bared teeth were not intentional but involuntary as I saw that her entire muzzle was misshapen. Reading the brief synopsis, it seemed that her lips had been…removed.
I’ve seen and known former fighting dogs, especially pit bulls and mixes. I also know what a dog’s teeth are meant to do and capable of doing in its wild state—to puncture and tear flesh in order to kill prey, then to dismember it with the same teeth. I’ve always tried not to imagine these teeth buried deep into another dog’s lovely shiny nose or the soft droopy skin most dogs have around their lips.
Unfortunately, as an artist, I can visualize all too well, even when I don’t want to. Looking at Fay’s face, her nostrils askew, scar tissue all over her face, and the lumpy edges of flesh that ended at her gums, I could picture just how they had been removed. A note in the story mentioned that parts of them may also have been cut off—hey, those ragged edges of loose flesh would get in the way in a fight, what caring owner wouldn’t remove them?
Fay, along with all the other dogs who were rescued, received veterinary care and therapy, most were fostered or adopted, and the HSUS posted a follow-up on her progress. Anyone would think she would at least be wary around people after that sort of treatment, but Fay loved people, happily affectionate and even submissive. She would have a number of plastic surgeries to restore her lips because her teeth and gums were eroding from constant exposure to air.
Today they posted the sad news that she had died after one of her surgeries. At least it was in the care of a human who loved her, and her last few weeks were lived probably as a dog with her personality would have enjoyed living all her life.
Likely no one who fights dogs would look at this story and think they ought to quit abusing dogs that way, but hopefully the horror of it can encourage more people to support the efforts against it. Perhaps taht alone can honor Fay’s sad, violent life and her death all too soon.