A Moment That Change Me - Dogfighting

posted Oct 12, 2020, 1:18 PM by Sophia Sophia   [ updated Oct 19, 2020, 12:22 PM ]

            Many things have changed my life. Maybe everything is a small thing to others, but it is always a small step in my life.

It happened in the first two years right after I arrived in the United States. When I first arrived in the United States, I lived in the mountains of West Virginia, worked while studying, and trained as a deer hunter. There have been many unforgettable experiences during these past two years. One of them is a visit to a private dogfighting game on the ground. Although the whole trip only lasted 2 hours, this was the first time I have experienced the complex emotions of watching a dog fight.

It was a sultry afternoon, and my American friend took me to a private dogfighting ring. The dogfighting arena is/was an old barn that has been converted. The pungent smell of the grain absorbed into the walls. Most of the onlookers were men, and a few women wore shirts and jeans that looked like men. The air was full of huge noises and did not circulate. It emitted the smell of sweat, bad breath, body odor, tobacco, and alcohol. These smells were unfamiliar at that time. I looked around quietly and only heard a buzzing sound. Even though I was wearing earplugs, it still felt very noisy.

I was wearing a blue plaid shirt, jeans, and short brown boots, with a baseball cap on my head to cover my Asian face. My friend looked around excitedly and occasionally greeted his friends from a distance. His body language is full of vitality, which always makes me envious. I  felt English should be just a decorative tool for him. In this case, being the only Asian on the scene made me a little uneasy. But maybe I was overthinking because no one looked at me at all. Everyone was too busy to see if there were people they knew in the arena. My friend's name is Freddie. He took me to many exciting activities, such as a mountain bar or Bigfoot racing. The dogfighting ring is one of the activities he took me to that opened my eyes.

We quickly found a good spot to wait for the dogfighting to start. The dogfighting arena nailed into a circle with wooden boards, with doors on both sides. Everyone stood outside the wooden ring to watch the dogfighting. There were wooden boxes on the ground for people to stand on and be tall enough to watch the game from behind the second and third rows. Usually, people will automatically leave the first or second row to short people, especially women. So, I stood outside the plank circle, and Fred stood behind me like a bodyguard, which made me feel very safe.

Shortly before the start of the game, someone yelled in a megaphone. I guess it was placing a bet on this dogfighting. Before I came in, Fred told me that this dogfighting arena could hold two games per day, and each chance could be as high as $5,000. For locals, this bet is considered a high cost. Fred quickly handed the money to the staff, then returned soon.

At this time, I saw many scratches and dark blood clots on the inner wall of the wooden board of the dogfighting ring. I believed this is a blood stain from a dog's injury during dogfighting. Will those failing dogs be killed? I worried. This dogfighting is a part of the local culture. I tried to integrate into the local people by participating in things that were strange or new to me, to participate, I had to get rid of all kinds of negative thoughts. The scene is noisier than I expected, and my earplugs cannot block the increasing sound. I pushed in the earplugs again to make them tighter.

 After ten minutes of waiting, people calmed down and the game finally began. A bulldog entered the dogfighting ring. I could see that the bulldog looked strong and fierce, with many scars on the face, head, and body. Its whole body was dirty but intense. The challenging bulldog was about the same size, but it was clean, just like a regular pet dog. I asked myself, “Can these two completely contrasting bulldogs fight each other?” I was confused, but maybe people in the arena felt alright with this activity because a strange silence had settled in on the crowd.

However, at the urging of on-site staff, the two dogs locked jaws quickly. The fierce bulldog launched an attack, and the other threw a counterattack. The scene was very bloody. Onlookers began to scream, shouting deafeningly.

I saw a woman who was smaller than me in the arena, yelling in a hoarse voice and she seemed to be very involved in the game. I couldn't scream; I watched the game quietly. It was like watching a movie. Soon, the pet Pitbull was overtaken, he not only began to avoid the opponent's attack but he also cried out loudly. Although more and more people were cheering for the pet Pitbull, it seemed that the pet pitbull may have no longer been able to keep it up. Many bloody stains appeared on his face and body, his movements were slow and withdrawn, his body began to tremble, and from his mouth made an anguished cry.

At this critical moment, something happened in the arena. The game was interrupted roughly.

A harsh, sharp scream pounced on the scene from a distance. This sound that was piercing the arena quickly attracted people's attention. It turned out to be a little boy about eight years old. He had short brown hair, sweating heavily, his face flushed, his eyes full of tears, his hands clenched fists, his whole body tense, and his screaming voice was hoarse in the end. People immediately made way for him. The little boy ran to the edge of the wooden wall, screamed, and cried at the pet pitbull dog. He desperately shouted the name of the pet pitbull. At this time, the ferocious Pitbull was desperately held by the owner, while the pet Pitbull was already lying on the ground, showing his neck weakly, waiting for the end. Simultaneously, a man took off his clothes and quickly jumped over the plank circle into the dogfighting arena. He wrapped the dying pet dog with the clothes he took off,  gave it to the spectators outside the dogfighting ring, and then returned to the stadium to continue the dogfighting game. Someone outside the dogfighting ring was holding the pet dog and accompanied the little boy away.

The above happened very quickly, and in just one minute, the entire bullring was entirely different. The audience was silent for a while and soon restored the dogfighting atmosphere under the host's shout. It seems that the fight between man and dog makes the game more exciting.

The crowd move closely together and erased the route the little boy and pet dog had left. I looked in the direction where the little boy was going and vaguely saw the small figure leaving the warehouse of the dogfighting arena. He succeeded in saving his pet dog, but who was the man who replaced his pet dog to fight the dog? The audience seemed to have a tacit understanding. I haven't heard anyone ask. As long as a there was a fight to watch, the audience would have the flexibility to accept what was served.

Instead of watching the dogfighting game, I left the arena and went outside to wait for Fred. I sat on the hood of Fred's pick-up truck, looking at the mountains and intoxication green in front of me. There was a massive growl from the warehouse of the dogfighting arena, as if from another world. Compared with the natural scenery in front of me, the warehouse door was like a portal that transmits another dimension. As long as I enter that gate, I willing see other scenery.

Before the little boy appeared at the dogfighting arena, I didn't feel much about the dogfighting event and the fanatical crowd except for novelty.  I saw it, I knew it, but I don't have the extreme emotions of ordinary people towards dogfighting. I understand that some people think dogfighting is cruel, and some think it is fascinating, but I did not choose the side. The little boy came in and rescued the pet dog. I noticed the emotional shift among the crowd. I saw it, I knew it, but I still didn't feel much. I noticed that there were many different kinds of emotions mixed during the incident, and I also saw that people could switch between their emotions instantly. These mixed emotions have already flooded me with too much information at the same time. Generally, these excessive emotional details will make my brain feel tired and delayed. Before I had to leave the arena, this dogfighting experience did not make me lose faith in human nature.

On the contrary, it taught me to accept people's differences, to accept different colors, and to accept the naturalness of various cultures. Human culture itself has no right or wrong in its own eyes. The value of a dog's life and a person's life seem to coincide with the same truth, and the truth and beliefs will vary depending on the position. People can only adjust their perceptions in the changing world. It is not easy to know why someone fights dogs. Who knows if anyone fights dogs to make money for saving a loved one’s life?

Some people are warriors, fighting desperately for some reason, like that fierce pitbull fight for their lives. Some people are pets, and their lives depend on others. Some people are creators, and their lives are desperately rewriting the rules of the game. Some people are bystanders to stay in a comfortable zoo, satisfy their emptiness by listening to other people's stories. What kind of person am I? What kind of person do I want to be? Part of me wears the observer's clothes, but the creator who thinks out loud is inside me, waiting to leave the secular constraints. After this incident, something is budding silently.

When I leaned against the truck, took a deep breath, and looked into the distance, I felt that I had just encountered difficulties in the dogfighting arena. I saw another pick-up truck not far away. The little boy and his pet dog were crying alone in the back of the pick-up truck. I gathered up the courage to jump into Freddi’s truck and drove over to the boy and his dog. The little boy was still full of tears and he had messed up his hair. He looked up at me in horror. I took off my sports cap and asked him with a gentle smile, "Should we go to the vet?"

-- sophia  Oct. 2020