On Bipeds & Brutes

National Museum of Animals & Society Blog

Renovating Place and Purpose

The Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinate...

The Lorraine Motel, where Dr. MLK was assassinated. Image via Wikipedia

Earlier this week our education intern, Caroline Shapiro, blogged about a dog fighting app that’s ruffling quite a few feathers. In the wake of the Michael Vick controversy and his return to the NFL, it’s a timely subject and one that reminds me of the future of Vick’s former Virginia home at 1915 Moonlight Road in Surrey County.

Dogs Deserve Better (DDB), an organization working to end the practice of chaining dogs, secured a loan to purchase Vick’s property, the same one on which he used to house and train bit pulls. Vick’s name for his venture was Bad Newz Kennels. DDB has renamed the estate to the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained & Penned Dogs. The closing date on the property purchase is May 15th. The group’s goal is to rehabilitate dogs that have suffered abuse and neglect by providing a home-like environment. It’s a turn away from a traditional shelter concept where dogs may be confined to a kennel for the majority of a day. Founder Tamira Thayne elaborated in an interview:

“Yes, basically it’s [the rehab center] to do what we do with these dogs in foster homes every day already, but with more dogs and on a grander scale. When a dog is living chained or penned, it’s very rare that they come away issue-free. The very least we have to do is spay/neuter, vet, bath, and housetrain the dog to get him/her ready for adoption. As more issues come into play, we will address those as well. Some examples of chained-dog issues that we deal with frequently are: timid dogs from lack of socialization with humans, food aggression from time spent with too little food and water, territorial aggression from spending so much time ‘guarding’ their little plot of land, and poor people skills, such as jumping for attention and mouthing to get attention.”

What fascinates me is that DDB is converting a place once known for serious mistreatment of animals to a refuge of love, warmth and hope. Personally, I find such poetic justice in that renovation of place and purpose. In that same interview, Tamira was asked if she found the place haunting. Her response:

“I felt when I was there that the dogs who lost their lives and suffered there welcomed us and were grateful to us for both preserving their memories, continuing the fight against dog abuse, and bringing happiness to a place of such sadness.”

There are other locales that have undergone similar changes in facing a “haunting” past. For one, many historical museums centered on the holocaust or civil rights have, in a way, reclaimed or reinterpreted their residential spaces. The former concentration camps in Dachau and Theresienstadt are now sites that interpret the past, but also allow for visitor reflection and remembrance. The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN was the location of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, but now serves to chronicle “key episodes of the American civil rights movement and the legacy of this movement to inspire participation in civil and human rights efforts globally.”

Do you know of any site that served as a backdrop to negative human-animal interactions, but has been revitalized for other purposes or as an educational venue? Would you feel that these places are “haunting”?

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