“I was born into darkness… but I am made of light.” - Christy Ann Martine
Nearly everyone remembers the infamous, animal-cruelty case of 2015 where Caitlyn - a then, 15-month-old, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-Mix - was found roaming the streets in critical condition after her muzzle had been tightly, taped shut with electrical tape. The case made national headlines after it was discovered that her then owner - William Dodson - had tied her up outside and taped her muzzle closed in an attempt to “shut her up” because of her barking. By the time Caitlyn had been found, her situation was grim. She likely would not have survived another day. It took veterinarians at the Animal Society in Charleston, S.C. an estimated 36 hours to unravel the tape and Caitlyn required several surgeries to repair the damage that had been done.
Her abuse was violent and calculated. She not only had to recover from the painful physical torment she endured - of which she’s reminded of daily from the scars that remain - she also had to overcome the emotional torment as well. Caitlyn was fearful, anxious… and rightfully so.
Her story sparked outrage across the country. People demanded justice against the depraved individual that was capable of such malevolence. In March of 2017, William Dodson was made an example of by the courts and given the maximum sentence for animal cruelty of 5 years in prison. The message had been sent that animal cruelty would no longer be tolerated.
Rescue and animal-welfare advocates would argue that 5 years is not nearly enough for someone who nearly killed an innocent life. They will also be the first to say that William Dodson’s sentence was a step in the right direction. Historically speaking, animal cruelty charges carry very little weight in a court of law. Abusers are “let off” with probation or worse, a warning and a fine. The majority of animal cruelty cases are never even charged. Dogs are abused and tortured every single day in this country alone, and no one gives them a second thought. They never see the army of advocates in their corner the way Caitlyn did; the way they are all deserving of. Their stories go completely untold, as was the case for a dog named Emmett.
Emmett is a rescued pit bull who also suffered unspeakable abuse. Pulled from a local shelter by Strength of Shadow Dog Rescue, Emmett was seized from his home after reports of abuse and cruelty. Like Caitlyn, Emmett’s muzzle had been tied shut for quite some time. He had large, gaping ligature wounds around his snout, his body was covered in mange and there were visible signs that he could have been used as a fighting dog. He was alarmingly underweight and had likely never felt a gentle hand in his short three years of life.
It is very possible that Emmett had been used as a bait dog. It is common among dog fighters to “bind shut” the mouths of dogs so they cannot defend themselves against the training “champions.” The scars around his muzzle are not only deep, but also recurrent; meaning he was likely bound frequently and used to help train other dogs often.
There was a time not so long ago, when dogs seized from fighting rings - and/or severe abuse environments - were automatically sentenced to death. Pit bulls especially have long been believed to be incapable of rehabilitation after being exposed to extreme violence. That all changed in 2007 after Michael Vick’s notorious underground dog fighting ring was uncovered. What those pit bull’s went through rivals some of the worst cruelty ever known to man. And truthfully, the only good thing to come from the abuse the Vicktory Dogs endured, was that dog’s like Emmett were given a chance to prove that their pasts did not dictate their futures.
Emmett has suffered greatly, as is evident in these photos. Rescued by his mom in the late summer of 2019, he has been a loving and happy dog throughout his entire rehabilitation process. Despite the abuse he suffered, he has never shown aggression or reactivity towards people or other animals. He is a wonderful foster brother to the animals his family continues to care for in their efforts to help other dogs in need. Emmett is living proof of the resiliency of dogs, pit bulls especially.
Pit bull-type dogs carry a heavy burden, a stigma placed atop their shoulders like a rolling thunder cloud by the very humans who have exploited and abused them. Society has made great strides in addressing the true nature of these dogs, but for some reason people just cannot help themselves. They see a dog like Emmett, with very visible scars all over this face and body and the immediate assumption is that he must be a “bad” or “dangerous” dog. That is simply not true.
Emmett is just a dog. A happy, loving, sweet boy who had an unfair advantage in life. He is not defined by the scars that line his body. He is not defined by his square jaw and broad shoulders; the features so many find intimidating. He is just a good boy who was dealt an unfortunate hand. Unlike Caitlyn and the Vicktory Dogs, Emmett’s abuser(s) never saw their day in court. They were never charged. He is a representation of the countless others who are abused, who’s stories go untold, who fight like hell to live another day.
Let his journey be a reminder that we must never give up the fight to not only change the narrative that surrounds pit bull-type dogs, but also the one to make sure every last animal abuser faces the consequences for their actions.
To keep up with Emmett and his daily adventures, please follow him on Instagram.