Bravery and the pursuit of compassion

Apr 20 2011 Published by under Kindness and Compassion

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All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. ~Edmund Burke

NOTE: This post contains some disturbing descriptions of animal abuse. I understand that stories like this are hard to read, but they need to be told. I hope you’ll continue on…

When I was a kid, I saw a picture in a magazine of a dog with its legs somehow tied behind its back. The dog was alive, but unable to move. It was the saddest, most haunting image I’ve ever seen, and I’ve never been able to scrub it from my brain.

For me, dogs have always been a source of happiness, to be treated with kindness and affection. Until I saw that picture, I had no idea there were people who felt otherwise. It hurt too much to think about it, so for years, I didn’t.

I avoided any and all images of animals in pain—even cartoon animals in distress were too much for me. (To this day, I refuse to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas because the Grinch is so mean to his dog.)

Recently, though, I’ve been tougher on myself. If I want to help end animal suffering, I need to start opening my eyes to what’s going on.

Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away.

Last week I saw a story about Braveheart the dog on that captured my heart. In the past, I would have avoided reading the article, for fear of more disturbing images forever burned into my memory. Instead, I clicked the link.

I read the story, and I looked at the pictures. I hope you will, too.

A scared little dog with a brave heart

Braveheart, the little dog found diseased and starving in a dumpster is now on the road to recovery.

He was found in Kentucky, cowering in a commercial dumpster—mangy, starved, infested with parasites, and covered in sores. Clearly, someone left him there to die.

The local shelter in Kentucky was not equipped to care for a dog so critically ill, a dog they called Romeo. They sought the help of other rescue organizations, using a list called Death Row Dogs. That’s how Romeo ended up here, in Madison.

Marti and Jim Houge of the One Starfish Rehoming Connections rescue in Columbus, Wisconsin, took Romeo in, and gave him a new name. Knowing what a tough battle he faced, they named him Braveheart.

Braveheart was malnourished and had a severe case of parasites. The sores on his body were likely caused from being confined to a cage for long periods, with no room to change positions.

After two weeks in intensive care at the UW Veterinary Care Small Animal Hospital, Braveheart is continuing his recovery with a foster family in Madison.

The Houges say despite everything he’s been through, Braveheart is a sweet, trusting dog who perks up a little more each day.

Braveheart still has quite a road ahead before he’s ready for adoption. He will need extensive follow-up care in the coming months.

It’s nice to think that cases like Braveheart’s are few and far between, but the truth is the number of abused and neglected pets in this country is in the millions. More of us need to open our eyes, get involved, and insist on tougher laws to protect the welfare of animals.

The costs of Braveheart’s medical care are adding up quickly. You can help by making a donation to One Starfish Rehoming Connections via PayPal to, or mail your donation to:

One Starfish Rehoming Connections
P.O. Box 404
Columbus, Wisconsin 53925

Follow Braveheart’s battle on Facebook, where today he has 10,993 fans rooting for his speedy recovery. You can also read more of his story here and here.

Have something to add? Please, leave a comment with your thoughts. If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to Peculiar Girl or share it on Twitter or Facebook.







10 responses so far

  • Dia says:

    I love this post, Cheryl! You know this subject is near and dear to me. I also can’t imagine why anyone would abuse or neglect animals. OR people for that matter. When I was watching the news yesterday I saw a blurb about teenage boys putting a kitten in a microwave and dropping it out of a high rise building (at least, they didn’t microwave the kitten which is also something I’ve heard about in the past). The kitten survived and was adopted by a nice family, but we must educate children about what abuse actually is. If a friend dares another friend to do something like that, it’s obvious that sometimes it’s easier to do it to save face, rather than stand up and say no. The boys actually acted like they thought it was a fun thing to do. They were laughing as the microwave was falling. Obviously, there are many disturbed people out there. It’s heartwarming to see that there are so many willing and empathetic people to reach out and help these animals when it’s needed. Thanks for writing about this subject.

    • Cheryl says:

      Thanks, Dia. It seems like every time I think I’ve heard the worst possible story, I hear a new story that’s even more horrifying. It appears Braveheart is going to make a full recovery, so focusing on the happy endings helps me deal with the rest, until we can find a solution.

  • Katherine says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I love a happy ending. So many do turn a blind eye because it is too painful for them – but what about all the animals? I discovered in a conversation once that many people don’t think animals feel, especially animals slaughtered for food in inhumane ways. Maybe this is the only way these people can sleep at night, Idk, but it is amazing how so many Americans are desensitized to cruelty, abuse, and violence against any being. I especially HATE what they do in China with crates STUFFED with dogs used for fur and what not – and so many Americans show how much they don’t care by purchasing those clothes and things. I saw a show exposing this and that many clothes marked fake once tested showed they were Real Animal fur. Ugggg. I think we could go on and on.
    Btw: I just saw somewhere on FB that a state (I forgot which) is working to make animal cruelty a Felony – I say its about time!!!!

    • Cheryl says:

      Katherine, you are right. The prevailing science used to say that animals don’t feel, that they are just automotons. Now, science is proving otherwise wo hopefully that changes a lot of minds. You’re also right about the fur, which is why I don’t buy anything furry looking, even if it feels fake. President Obama did sign a law this year requiring stricter labelling laws for fur and faux fur.

  • Laura M. says:

    Just spent a few minutes soaking in the story of Braveheart as tears came out of my eyes. I haven’t had much experience with animals, but I spend a lot of time with abused and neglected children. Needless to say, I cannot understand how in the world anyone can abuse such sweet, wonderful creatures. I am so glad that Braveheart was rescued. My heart goes out to him, all the other rescued creatures in our lives, and to those who unfortunately could not be saved.

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Laura. I’m sorry the story made you cry, but glad that you read it. Stories of abuse and neglect of children are equally (or more) difficult to read and hear, and the extent of the problem can seem overwhelming at times.

  • Kate says:

    I completely understand what it’s like to have an image etched into your mind :( I am an advocate for handicapped animals. It is called “Cirrus’ Friends” (after my beloved feline, that has accepted and helped to care for all of the animals I have brought home), and I remember the day I decided to start it. One of the animal rights groups I belong to, posted a photo of a dog that had been raped in Turkey. It was posted to have people write to the president, as it had happened directly behind his office building. That one image will always haunt me, as I continue to save the special needs animals that need that loving home.

    Thank you Cheryl for posting this beautiful story of Braveheart ♥

  • Bitingontinfoil says:

    Hi Cheryl: It’s funny – the photo you describe in the first paragraph has haunted me as well! I saw it many years ago in some sort of magazine – it was a dog in Thailand w/its front legs tied behind its back and a rusty can on its muzzle. The photo disturbed me so much that I too decided to avoid any and all photos/videos of cruelty because it really affects me in a very strong and lasting way. Now that the internet is here, it seems to only empasize the issue. It’s good that the word is getting out there, but the sheer magnitude of cruelty that people are capable of is often very depressing. Take YouTube, for example. I’ve stumble across so many videos of cruelty that I’ve flagged, with no effect. The story of Braveheart is truly a sad one, but with a happy ending. The most important thing people can do is to GET INVOLVED and do not ignore the problem – report whatever you may see or suspect. It’s nice to know there are like minded animal lovers out there!

  • Roxanna W says:

    Thank you for caring about Braveheart and all the other abused animals, and thank you for getting tougher with yourself so that you can help try to end animal abuse. I too am one of those people who can’t stand to see or hear about an abused animal, and yet every night I read the story’s and share the posts hoping to save an animal from being euthanized. Every night I am haunted, and horrified by what I see, and every night I cry for these animals. My daughter tells me I should stay off of all the rescue/advocacy sights that I have found on facebook, but I can’t. As you stated, to ignore it or turn your back on the abuse, that doesn’t make it go away. I read, and I see and I share hoping that others will be haunted as well. Maybe some day enough people will be haunted that we can make a real dent in the problem. Until then, I will mourn the loss of every animal that needlessly dies, and I will pray for every animal that manages to survive abuse and neglect.

  • via Facebook says:

    Wow, 189 Likes on Facebook. Thank you so much for reading my blog and helping spread the word about animals in need.

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