Fit To Be Tied

Pleasefencemein_1Why would a South Philly construction worker want to chain himself to a doghouse for two weeks?

Love, of course.

Not just for the new Chevy Aveo he could win, but for Rocky.

Rocky’s the three or four-year-old pug that Brandon Richardson owns. Richardson never thought much about the issue of leaving dogs chained up until he found a flier slapped onto his car a couple weeks ago while visiting a friend in Cherry Hill.

This is the backstory to why Richardson, 21, is taking a couple weeks off from his job - with his boss’s ok - and heading to a park in Mundys Corner, Pa., about an hour east of Pittsburgh, where Saturday begins his Survivor-style stunt for a cause.

He’ll deposit his son with his in-laws and with his wife’s blessings join 13 other animal lovers who are trying to do without books, TV, radio, showers or cigarettes.

They must wear collars. They get a half hour a day to call home or receive visitors. They share four tiny port-a-johns. They get food in drink - but don't have to consume them in bowls. "I'm not cruel," said organizer Tammy Grimes.

Some contestants have said they'd donate the car to an animal charity. Aija Nicole Gillman, 18, of Pinckneyville, Ill., explained in her application why she's competing: She feels, "as Ghandi did, that you can tell a lot about a country by the way it treats its animals."

Says Grimes, founder of Dogs Deserve Better: "One of them will walk away with a new car, but more importantly, none of them will walk away unchanged. The knowledge they now bear may make it virtually impossible to look at a chained dog without an understanding of what it is like to be that dog."

Richardson’s car was papered by Marion Churchill, an animal rights activist who runs Compassion for Camden, and helped write the New Jersey city's anti-chaining ordinance of 2001.

She was hoping to make people sensitive to what it’s like being chained and left alone.

"They're right," Richardson said by phone. "It's cruel to keep your dog chained up all the time. They're part of the family. You wouldn't chain your grandmother up."

No, we wouldn't.

Grimes describes chained dogs as a forgotten cause. "People think they have a home, but is it really a home?" she said Monday. "These are dogs sitting out there living lives of confinement. The biggest problem is that they can kill children quite easily. We do this to the dogs. We leave them unsocialized and chained and they're like ticking time bombs."

Unable to lure a corporate sponsor or big donor, she raised the money for her contest through about 10,000 contributions of $3 each. Originally a couple dozen animal lovers showed interest in chaining themselves to a doghouse, but enough dropped out that no one was turned down.

"People were a little more intimidated than I'd expected them to be," she said.

Not Richardson.

"Hopefully I can go the whole two weeks. The bugs and weather won't bother me. I've gone camping with the family before. I think I can last quite a while."

One slight hitch: Organizers have the park for only two weeks. Meaning, what happens if no one's dropping out?

After one week, organizers plan daily "Reality TV elimination rounds," Grimes says. "We've got to have them drop," she said. "We've got some games planned."

Posted 06/28/2006 07:00:34 AM

That's part of the reason I never want to have any pets.

Tammy Grimes
Posted 06/28/2006 01:06:24 PM

Thanks so much for the blog, Dan, and to Brandon for having the guts to go through with it! Kudos to both of you. Tammy