There have been several dogs on chains making the news lately. A dog in Greensboro was taken by authorities after a photographer shot a photo of him, surrounded by vultures while chained up. A couple was arrested for taking a dog that was freezing to death, creating a huge controversy. Several dogs freeze to death every year while chained. Several areas are working on anti-tethering legislation.

People often say when getting ready to have a child, whether they were expecting it or not, “Are we ready for this?”

When one has a child, they have to find a way, ready or not, to care for the child. Pets are the same. If you get a horse, you must have a place prepared for them to live comfortably. A fence with lots of room & a barn for instance, is ideal. You wouldn’t bring a dolphin home, unless you had a huge aquarium, and that’s really not practical. While he is a great pet in Thailand, you wouldn’t bring home an elephant in these parts. Caring for a dog is not quite that elaborate. However, steps must be taken to bring home, and have, a dog. A cat, a fish, a bird. Any pet really. They are all lots of work!

I had a wonderful childhood, because while I did not have any brothers & sisters, I always had lots of critters. My critters didn’t fuss with me, or steal my crayons. They were always available, and ready to play. My parents grew so tired of hearing “Can I PLEASE keep it?” I had rabbits, hamsters, parakeets, dogs, cats, and caught plenty of critters in the wild too. My Mom would be horrified to arrive home, to find a turtle moseying across the living room, or a frog, and once I even brought home a possum. I once caught a baby snake, and had it for about a day to play with. Once a baby raccoon. I captured a pigeon from the State Capital when I was real small, and pitched a fit to keep it, but the answer on that was “no.”

Dogs are a special kind of animal, not known as “man’s best friend,” for no reason. They are smart, learn words & behaviors quickly, & make wonderful companions to the young & old. They save lives every day, solve crimes, find missing persons, perform rescues, find drugs, bombs, cadavers, visit nursing homes & schools, can do tricks, and bring people great joy. Some dogs are the reason many people are alive, in more ways than one.

I noticed a big yellow dog chained up down the road, on my way to work one day. I didn’t think too much of it. When I rode by & saw him sitting in torrential rain, and another time, snow covered ground, I began to feel sorry for him. No matter the time of day, or the weather, there he was. He looks just like the big yellow dogs, trained as guide dogs (but way skinnier). He looks like a grown version of the new puppy star of the TODAY show, Wrangles. This yellow dog appeared to be chained 24/7. Sometimes when it would rain, he would try to fit in his tiny plastic house, but you could see his back end hanging out, because he didn’t quite fit. He did not look very happy. I know my dog wouldn’t like it!

I suddenly began to notice one day, a huge hole in the top of his plastic house. At first I thought I was seeing things. When I rode by a couple more times, I realized it was a huge hole, so I began to get really concerned. One day, I finally broke down, and called the authorities. After a few weeks, he had a new house. I couldn’t believe it took so long for the authorities to make the folks get him a new house. That poor dog.

It is completely legal to chain a dog here in Randolph County, as long as the dog has water & shelter. (A plastic house, even one not big enough, is considered shelter). Thousands of times I have passed this home, and I have never seen a soul spend one iota of time with this dog. He is ALWAYS out there. He is always standing facing the door of the home, wagging his tail as if waiting for someone.

Over time, this began to really weigh heavily on my soul. I began tossing & turning at night. It has really aged me, worrying about this dog, and many other dogs left to suffer 24/7 on their chains, in even worse shape than yellow dog.

I began to lay awake wondering, “what can I do about this?” Well, you can’t get a pair of bolt cutters and go around cutting chains. As I could hear my Daddy say, “That’s a good way to get shot.” In addition to that, you can’t approach people about it, because they get extremely offended, and besides, it’s legal.

While it is not legal to beat, burn, or torture a dog……. some chained dogs are clearly neglected & equally as miserable, while stuck in the mud all day every day, or the hot summer sun… & it makes no sense whatsoever to me. A dog that has been beaten, will heal. A dog chained up, sitting 24/7 in horrible conditions, with no attention of any kind is much worse off in many ways, I think.

As I began to stay up nights, this song, “Dog On A 10 Foot Chain” came to me. I battled with myself about whether or not to put it in their mailbox, and never did, because if I am fighting with neighbors, it’s hard for me to be constructive, & use my resources to help the cause, rather than having to waste time defending myself.

At a younger age, I was much more confrontational, and would have been a true vigilante, surely landing myself in jail, or dead over it, but with age, also comes wisdom, and I am determined that someone like Miranda Lambert, or Lee Ann Rhimes will cut this song. I would have an absolute army of support then for sure. Somebody big will join this fight with me someday, without a doubt. Too many people out there are passionate about this, for me to not think it is entirely possible.

I have many songs I could pitch that I believe in, hundreds even, that don’t take sides of any argument, and don’t bring heat into my world. But this one is important to me, and I want to see things change before I die.

My opponents on this have said “I can’t believe people call this a real issue,” or “Why can’t you use your efforts to help children, the homeless, cancer, etc.”

Well, to that, I say: I was a Daddy’s girl, and I lost my own Daddy to cancer. I have helped raise money for cancer, and will continue to do so. As far as children, I have taught children gymnastics for 25 years, and if I ever saw a kid be abused, even remotely, I would go after that in a New York minute. I want to make the bullies in this world pay, every chance I get. My most powerful weapon is my pen, with the following I have developed over several years of writing songs now.

Having had one song recorded by Highest Grammy Winner ever, Alison Krauss & Union Station, a well-known Grammy Winning Bluegrass & Roots band-The Seldom Scene, and many other acts around the globe, I can now draw attention to things I care about with music. Music speaks to souls, when simple words cannot. While there are certainly other issues, like killing shelters, animal abuse, etc. Cancer, child abuse, domestic violence, are all causes I will find words for in my lifetime. For now, what tears my heart out, is what I can see right now. I see this big yellow dog every day while driving to work, and I can’t get it off my mind. So that is where my true passion for this issue comes from, and not being able to do anything about it any other way.

I have been to several elementary schools to sing. It really caught me off guard the 1st time I sang “Dog On A 10 Foot Chain.” I wasn’t expecting to look up, and see over half of the children, from kindergarten to 5th grade crying, some uncontrollably. It really hurt my heart, just as hard to see that, as it does to see the dog sitting out there in the torrential rains. It hit me then, just how bad that really must seem through a child’s eyes, with his view of the world untarnished, with their hearts not yet hardened, as hearts can get over the many years of life-as some grownups either chain their dogs up, or look the other way & pretend as if it is not happening.

Those children verified to me with their tears, that this is God’s way of showing me that it is important for me to speak out and try to help change the lives of the dogs that are suffering. I have to do something for yellow dog.

The children’s tears verified to me that songs can put things into perspective for us & remind us something isn’t going away, even when we try to look the other way, unless we do something to change it. I have not performed the song for one group of children yet, that did not leave over half, if not all of the group in tears, sobbing. It kills me every time. Then I am forced to follow up with a funny song that I had to come up with to counteract the sadness, “I Kiss My Dog On The Mouth,” always inciting hysterical laughter, & helps dry their tears from the other song. If you can make people laugh & cry with a couple of songs, they will never, ever forget you. I’ve been called a dog kisser, but I’d rather be that than some things!

Opponents of the cause can also say that dogs will be running loose, causing damage, and that it will cause pet homelessness. Well, it’s a problem that is for sure, difficult to solve. However, most of our society came from across the ocean, moved the Native American out of their homes, built railroads, roads, infrastructure, cities, tall buildings, malls, wireless networks, computers, and handheld devices that would give a heart attack to any person who inhabited this country several hundred years ago. Look how far cell phones & computers have come in just 10, or even 5 years. Getting running water & electricity was a task a hundred years ago, so if we can put a man on the moon, clean up & re-build the World Trade Center, & find the Titanic, this is most likely a problem that can be solved, somehow, if we put our minds & hearts to it. If we put enough energy & resources toward solving this, & other problems, rather than always coming up with the newest & shiniest, fastest thing, the world would be a better place. It’s all about convenience these days. Chain up the dog, we don’t have time for it….so we will play with him when it’s convenient…seems to be a common attitude. It’s pouring rain, and he’s sitting out there, but “we don’t have time for him right now.” Can you imagine?

Opponents say that they don’t want their dogs in their homes, because they smell, will tear up stuff, and pee on everything. My Mom rescued a dog that was the wildest of wild. He did all those things, and just like training a child not to tear up stuff, and potty train, you can train a dog as well. He chewed up her piano books, her music bags for her piano students, cocked his leg on stuff, tackled people, ransacked the house, chewed things up, and threw them up. Even though she is an extremely busy retired assistant principal, with 26 piano students each week, is in the choir, and plays bridge, having recovered from 2 broken arms 4 years ago, she has found time somehow to work with Albert. He is now a very well-behaved house dog, with finally an understanding of what is his, what is hers, and finally knows the word NO. And as for the smell thing, most people who have dogs in the house give them a bath often, to help take care of that. I think people who chain their dog 24/7, just don’t take the time to think it through & do these things, or they don’t make time to work with the dog & figure it out. Some dogs like being outside, just not tied up to something in the rain, and not when it is extremely cold or stormy. Can you imagine being on a chain during a lightning storm? If my Mom can recover from an accident as she did, with her busy schedule & that wild dog, who is no longer wild, most anyone can train a dog to behave. It’s just an excuse people use.

I realize that animals cannot be free to roam the earth. Cows, horses, livestock, must all be fenced in. Birds are caged, and animals are kept in captivity in zoos. However, there has got to be a better solution to keeping a dog, rather than keeping one on a chain 24/7. Humans are very smart, just think of how far we have come since the founding of our country, we can surely figure this out.

A good fence is very expensive. A dog left in a tiny pen 24/7 isn’t any much better off than the chained dog, if there is little interaction with the owner. There are opponents of the electric fence collar, but I think it’s better than a chain 24/7. A dog on a chain, left there for his whole life, cannot fight off predators. When we are cold, we move around. A chained dog, can’t move around and get in a warm place.

My Daddy always said “People make time for whatever they want to do. If they want to make time for something, they always find a way.” He was right. It takes a LOT of work to own a dog, have a child, have a fish, have a bird. A dog is like a 2 year old child that never grows up. But I can most definitely assure everyone that no matter the opposing argument, man’s best friend does NOT want to be chained up 24/7.

I recently wrote a new song, “One Less Dog In The Cold.” When it was posted on the internet, a huge reaction followed, of sadness, outrage, and passionate anger. This told me I once again did my job as a writer, if I could pull that much of a reaction out of people with a simple rift of the piano, accompanied by a few carefully chosen words.

This led me to believe what a great idea a Songwriting Contest would be. A group I highly admire, is Dogs Deserve Better. They are based in Smithfield, Va, but have volunteers all around the country. The Founder & CEO, Tami Thayne, has been arrested over helping rescue dogs in really bad shape. How many people would be willing to risk getting arrested to help a dying dog? She is a rock star to me. Not many people would be willing to fight for the helpless like she has. They have saved, and will continue to save countless dogs.
The Songwriting Contest to benefit Dogs Deserve Better will be accepting entries from February 15 – June 15. February is Unchain A Dog month. The contest will be judged by Grammy-Winning Producer & Hit Songwriter, Carl Jackson, as well as Jenee Fleenor. Jenee played fiddle & sang harmony on all my latest releases, and is in the Blake Shelton Band. She will be on SNL this Saturday night with Blake. Jenee also co-wrote Blake’s latest hit “Just Getting Started,” which she accompanied him on, at the TODAY show recently. She’s been on all the major network shows, has toured with Martina McBride, Terri Clark, and has played on every recent hit project from Rascal Flatts to Don Williams. Another judge is Brink Brinkman, who has written countless bluegrass hits, for all the biggest names in bluegrass. Other judges will soon be announced, and great prizes soon to be announced as well. The contest will be free to enter, and will be accepting everyone’s best “Dog song.”
How will this contest benefit the group if it is free? Well, the contest will hopefully bring more fans to Dogs Deserve Better, which already has over 760,000 likes on FB, and hopefully all the dog songs, will renew the love & interest folks have for their fine furry friends, and wake up those who have a dog, but seemed to have forgotten.

Please like “Dogs Deserve Better,” and also my page “Dogs Without Chains,” on Facebook.
I have recorded a PSA for Radio Programmers, that has been recently downloaded by DJ’s around the world, regarding chained dogs. I have a PSA on You Tube, which explains my petition. I started a petition to end dog chaining, and hope to get a million names. In order for the laws to change, people have to come together, and figure it out, as we have many times on many other issues.

While a petition might, or might not be effective, it would be great to be able to show lawmakers the comments that are being made about dog chaining, from those around the world. The lawmakers act from the standpoint of the safety of the public, not the perspective of the dog. There is going to be no legal regard for the mental well-being of a dog, unfortunately. “Having dogs on chains makes them more aggressive,” is the center of the argument against tethering, when it comes to laws. When they get loose after being chained, is when they become the most dangerous & aggressive. What would happen if you chained a lion? I bet you it would make him meaner too. Also from the legal view, it could be considered animal cruelty to chain a dog. Beating them is cruel & illegal, neglect is illegal, and so is chaining them to an object 24/7, according to most.

Opponents of the anti-tethering bills, say “the government has interfered enough in my life.” Well, it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole cart. I would rather inconvenience a few, than to see countless dogs continue to suffer, while legally we are required to look away. The government tells us we can’t drink and drive, because it harms others. The government tells us we can’t go into schools, or to a ballgame, with a gun. While some may never use their guns to harm people, you still have those nuts out there, ruining it for the good guy. The government tells us we can’t get on a plane with a knife, or even a razor to shave with. Most of us would never do harm, but nobody will ever forget 9/11. This is a bit drastic in comparison, but I just can’t, for the life of me, forget all those dogs people have left tied up, and have died because they were forgotten about. It traumatizes children to see animal abuse. It’s not good, nor healthy for society to raise traumatized kids. I know it traumatizes kids to see it, because they cry like babies when I sing my song, and that’s only them sitting there visualizing it, not actually seeing it.

Dogs are dangerous running free….. but again, to figure this problem out, can’t be as hard as figuring out how to get your favorite ball game to play on your phone while you’re in a restaurant.

People can argue with me on this until the cows come home, but I will never be impressed with any opposing argument. I will always be thinking of yellow dog. I will always be hoping & praying that I can help change this before I die, or before yellow dog dies. Every night when I turn off the light, I pray for yellow dog. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes not. Every time it rains, I say a prayer for yellow dog.

I would love so much to see yellow dog be able to get off his chain, and live like a dog should. Petted, played with, running, jumping, sleeping on a soft, warm sofa, never in the pouring rain or freezing snow, or hot blazing sun again.

America is the land of the free, the home of the brave. It takes brave people to make changes!

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”~Albert Schweitzer

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~Margaret Mead

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.~Dalai Lama

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.~Dolly Parton

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” ~Winston Churchill

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” ~John F. Kennedy

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” ~Nathaniel Branden

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” ~Harold Wilson

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Victor Frankl

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” ~William Blake