Last Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, the National Walk for the Victims of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dogs was held, a Walk to remember all those mauled and killed by these dogs. A victim's Walk of remembrance.
The month of October had been dubbed Pit Bull Awareness Month but the awareness should be around the victims of these canines. The Walk was a success, not only in attendance, but also in the amount of support received worldwide. Many people found strength from this Walk and are now requesting how to do one in their own communities.
Tamie Beitz-Williams was one of those in attendance, flying in from Canada to represent her son, Zach (pictured above), a victim of a pit bull attack. She writes below of what this Walk meant to her and her family.
On October 25, 2013, I boarded three planes that took me from my home in Canada to Tucson, Arizona, for the First Ever Walk for Victims of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dogs. Leaving early that Thursday morning, I looked into the tear filled eyes of the boy I was doing the Walk for. This was the first time I had ever left my sone for more than a couple of days, and once I passed security and he couldn't see me, I cried too. But I knew, this Walk, for so many reasons was something I had to attend, and I hoped that when I returned he would have a better understanding of why I left him to join my friends and other victims in solidarity.
Saturday, October 27, the day of the Walk. Arriving at the park, we all started chatting and really getting to know one another. I made a poster with a photo of my son that the Walk organizer had supplied. (She had a stack of at least 100 victims.) I took the photo of my son, and gently glued it to a piece of cardboard, and with all my heart wrote "My Reason, My Hero, My Son" on that poster. That was just the beginning of what turned out to be an experience that cathartic doesn't quite begin to describe.
Being with all those people, people who understood, really and deeply understood the impact of a literal and figurative attack helped heal my soul. None of them judged my little boy or blamed him for what happened, they just presented their shoulder as a place to lay my head. And once I did that, I allowed one more wash of sorrow to go through me, and when it had subsided, I came out the other side with a much lighter feeling soul. Speaking to other fathers of victims helped me understand the weight on my husband on the night of our son's attack, and talking with other mothers helped me to realize how all this must have felt to my daughter.
I also spoke with a girl whose face was "degloved" by a pit bull. She is almost my age, and spoke about how she believes her attack was likely more mentally difficult for her mother than it was for her. That helped validate all the feelings I have had through the 14 months since my son was attacked. It's okay for me to be angry and sad. It's okay for me to feel the weight of how unjust the attack on him was, and how unjust the lack of justice for has been. Without the Walk for Victims, I may not have had the closure I feel I have now. That is why events like this one are so important. They help heal the deepest, darkest parts of our hurt souls.
Tamie isn't the only one that has gained from this experience. Mellie Barbalaco-Baze, the organizer for this event has garnered support world wide. Barbalaco began her journey to help other victims when her beloved service dog, Jade, was attacked by a pit bull. Jade suffered not only physical injuries, but also the emotional injuries prevalent with these attacks.
Barbalaco said that the Walk was a lot of work but seeing and hearing about all the attacks and maulings that occur every day pushed her forward to complete her mission. She said she only has to look at her beautiful, helpful service dog, and all of the other victims, mostly children, to gather the strength to endure.
Not only did Barbalaco receive support but she also received harsh, hateful emails and comments, including death threats, from the pro-pit bull people who do not want the truth about what these vicious dogs do. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/when-does-walk-victims-become-hate-walk
She goes on to state the Walk was for victims, it wasn't about the dogs. The Walk was not about legislation or ordinances of any kind, but only for supporting the victims and raising public awareness. Indeed that is what was done! All four local news stations were in attendance, interviewing victims, and covering the event.
Colleen Lynn, founder of www.DogsBite.ORG, was there and was also interviewed by the local news stations about her efforts in this long and arduous fight for victim justice. Don Bauermeister, Assistance City Attorney of Council Bluffs, Iowa was also in attendance, sharing his fight for victims at the microphone. Ellen Taft, victims advocate from Seattle, shared her frustrations of fighting for justice for victims of these horrific attacks. Finally, Tony and Irene Solesky shared their knowledge, experience and joy with all the Walkers for be able to be present and sharing their success in their fight for victims in the Maryland High Court of Appeals.
Two bands played at the Walk and were enjoyed by the Walkers for not only the music but their comments about the importance of supporting victims. Funky Bonz, Tucson's favorite Funk band, played a wonderful set, followed by Black Cat Bones (no pun intended), an awesome Blues band. Both bands offered their heartfelt support for all the victims of dog attacks everywhere.
Donations were also raised at the event for four year old, Levi Mulkey, badly mauled by two of the neighbor's pit bulls. Levi and his family could not be at the Walk due to Levi having his fifth surgery the day before the Walk, but they were there in spirit. Barbalaco read the story of Levi that his parents sent to her for the Walk. The last part of their story read, "Thank you all for coming to this great event. We pray for all the victims. We are sorry for the pain that each of you have and are going through. Remember God is always there. We are able to move on from these horrific traumas because of our God and his Love. We praise God for all the family and support that we have though this. Thank you for all your support and caring thoughts. Have a great WALK!!" Barbalaco said, "We're just glad we could do something to help the victims heal and to raise awareness in the community."
When all was said and done, this Walk was a success beyond the dreams of Barbalaco. And Jade, Mellie's beautiful service dog? She's doing just fine now, she was one of the lucky ones. http://walkforvictimsofpitbulls.blogspot.com