Dogfight Club

Brown Dog vs. White Dog for the macho championship of South Florida

My love affair with gambling had reared its head many times, but never so intensely. I had plenty of money because I'd just received my first check from Buzz Daly's Player's Choice -- a gambling tabloid out of Las Vegas, for which I write a weekly column.

It seemed odd that even though the majority of us were Latino, we were placing bets in English, but that's the way it is. From a linguistic standpoint, it takes more words and so a lot more time to place a bet in Spanish, whether you're betting on football, horse racing, or dogfighting. In countries like Argentina and Chile, where there's a lot of cattle ranching, dogs are trained to understand commands in English. Dogs hear hard sounds better than soft ones. It's the difference between "sit" and "sientese."

The bets had been placed and it was time to begin the fight. Each owner carried his dog into the fighting pit. The owners were purposely obstructing their dogs' lines of vision so they still couldn't see much of each other. The referee looked at each owner. Both nodded their readiness. There was no Michael Buffer "Let's get ready to rumble" show. Organized dogfighting is so illegal that people want to get in and get out. I certainly felt that way. Each owner allowed his dog to see the other one for the first time. The dogs locked eyes and the referee gave the signal to let them go. Brown Dog went straight for the face and popped a "bleeder" on White Dog. A "bleeder" is when one dog bites the other's face and bursts a blood vessel. There was a lot of blood. All bets rose on Brown Dog.

"I got two more on Brown Dog. Who can cover?" I yelled.

Some sucker stepped right up: "I'll cover your two!"

In response to having his face bitten, White Dog immediately seized Brown Dog's front leg in his mouth and began "riding." He was trying to chew the leg off, but doing it from a position half-straddling Brown Dog's back ("riding" is exactly what it sounds like -- whether in college wrestling or dogfighting, one combatant is trying to wear the other down through a strategy of force and pain). Brown Dog couldn't take much of that and bucked White Dog off (though Whitey kept his death bite on the leg), then clamped down on the hurt nose again.

There is very little flesh on a dog's snout. The sound of teeth grating against bone was an audible, ratchety noise. It was enough to make you queasy, but not me. I had money on this thing and could not afford to get nauseous. It was becoming obvious that White Dog was going to let up on the leg because his nose was getting torn apart. When he did, Brown Dog jumped over him and tried to go underneath and bite his testicles. This is a fatal move that would have killed White Dog within minutes. In order to get an accurate picture of what this looked like -- imagine two dogs running and playing in a meadow. The dogs are jumping up and around each other. That was what it looked like, except there was no sense of frolic.

Brown Dog missed and only managed to bite White Dog's hind leg. Then, with Brown Dog momentarily on his back, White Dog had a chance in his turn to go for the balls -- but again, he only got a hind leg ...

We were moving into a seriously disturbing scene. Tat was in the corner of the pit yelling, "Go, Boy! Get that! Get that!" in a low voice that sounded like a barn door scraping against the floor, or a very controlled drill sergeant. The other owner was urging his dog on, too, sounding equally pleasant. Both dogs were punishing each other, and it was clear one of them was going to give -- either for the match or for the leg. Slowly, White Dog began to release his grip on Brown Dog, reluctantly, hard against his will. As he did, Brown Dog scratched to his feet, turned with a wild look, and bit him squarely in the chest. Then, with his fangs sunk into White Dog's front muscles, he picked White Dog up and slammed him into the side of the pit. The force of the move left White Dog on the ground, and Brown Dog with a little mouthful of skin and meat, but White Dog just lay there. The referee called a "turn" -- the unwillingness to fight, like the end of a round. When a turn is called, the referee has the dogs put in their opposing corners, so that if they are in shape to continue, they can "face off" again.

At the face-off, all bettors and spectators can see what damage has been done. White Dog looked to be in a bad way. It seemed his shoulders were broken. He had a hole about the size of a silver dollar in his chest where Brown Dog had bitten him. At this point, White Dog only had a certain amount of time to start an attack. If White Dog didn't initiate the "scratch," the willingness to attack after a turn has been called, he would be seen as "curring out," or quitting. White Dog stood on one leg, barked, and initiated the attack. It was a brutal sight. Now Brown Dog had the obligation to counter. He hurtled across the scratch line, bit White Dog in the neck, and slammed him on the ground again, gurgling with combat. The referee rushed over with his "breaking stick" and pried the dog's jaws apart. Brown Dog was returned to his corner. White Dog let out a yelp and lay there. After a "ten count," the referee called the match and declared Brown Dog the winner. Tat came to get Brown Dog and White Dog's owner got down on the ground in the pit beside him. The fight had taken an hour and fifteen minutes.

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