By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Immediately they began to break the pit and seating area down. That was the job of the owner of the site -- the beer-drinking old man and his crew. I collected my money -- $400. You can't really get out of a dogfight site until after your bets are squared. In just a little more than half an hour, you couldn't tell what had been going on. The four white walls of the pit were stacked like lumber over in the corner, the gory carpet was disposed of, and the removable bleachers had been folded and carried out. Brown Dog was being administered antibiotics and painkillers. The same was happening with White Dog, except that with broken shoulders, his owner looked really concerned.
This fight had been for Brown Dog's "championship." Dogs become "champions" after three wins. They become "Grand Champions" after five wins. Then "Double Grand Champions" after ten wins. There has only been one "Double Grand Champion" so far, because dogfights are so rough (castrations, blindings) that surviving ten of them is a miracle. The Grand Champ's name was "Hurricane," from Texas, but he fought all over the U.S. White Dog's owner was going to retire him to stud service, but he died of his wounds three days after the fight.
Vader lay sedated in the back of the truck. As we were riding along, I turned to Cas and asked: "What were the odds that we would have been busted for this thing?"
"There was one time there where we thought the cops had come for a raid, but it was a false alarm. I mean, I don't do this all the time, but I've never had problems with the cops. The sick thing is that [some] of them are involved in this shit," he claimed.
"Is this where you always go, or what?" I asked.
"Nah, sometimes here and sometimes Hialeah. But it's all around really. I couldn't put a finger on it. Thing is that you never know where it's gonna be until about two hours before the fight. Tat just sent out the word that he wanted a match for Vader and a few days later somebody got ahold of him and they settled the ref and the purse. The ref called each guy and told him where to be. We knew when, just not where. That was the only way that I could tell you where to be. You know?" Cas said.
Tat dropped Cas and me off at the Beach, then drove on to his place. He would be heading to Virginia in a little more than three months for a fight with a purse of $20,000. Vader had to be nursed back to health and put back in the "keep." Cas and I shook hands. He went to meet his girlfriend, and I went to meet my beer.
As I nursed it at Jerry's, I thought about what Cas had said about some cops being "involved." It did seem odd that the Miami-Dade Animal Services Unit hadn't been busting dogfights, but then all over the world, where dogfighting has suddenly burst out as the low-rent entertainment of choice (after cocaine), cops just give it a low priority. When I talked to Sergeant Espinoza, he told me, "We have not, I don't want to use the word 'bust,' we have not 'encountered' any dogfighting operations since we took over [the shelter] on October 1, 2001." And, when I asked how "close" they had ever gotten, and where he thought most of the organized dogfighting was taking place, he answered, "We have encountered 'training facilities' and schedules for workouts such as 'Treadmill one hour. Give vitamins. Inject with B-12', which [led] us to believe these individuals were involved in dogfighting. I don't want to name a place because that would be unfair. We found a person in Cutler Ridge with ten pit bulls. And, you know [there was a] man in Hialeah a few weeks ago."
Violence is more and more the norm, it seems to me. In popular sports, there's hockey and football and auto racing and boxing, shading off now into Xtreme Fighting, and Truck Rodeos, where the object is to smash your vehicle to bits while the hicks in the stands roar like lions. In civilian life there's bombings (fly-bys) and drive-bys, and even bike-bys -- some guy rolled up on his bike one night recently when I was coming home late from work, put his arm around my neck, held a box cutter to my throat, and took my wallet.
I figure a lot of people are just poor and frustrated now, and so they get angry and need to find a way to let that out -- either directly, or as a watcher. The fight I'd just seen could have taken place in 1902, in almost exactly the same manner. Do I think organized dogfighting is making the world worse? Not really. I can't honestly condone it or condemn it. My experience was nothing like what you'd read about in the papers (but what is?). From my experience with "Gene," I can't say I disbelieve that there are people out there actively mistreating dogs by fighting them. Gene was a sleaze, not above the pepper-in-the-ass ploy, and with plenty of room to rent upstairs. That, however, was not my impression with Tat and Cas -- before and after the fight, they seemed to be careful of their dog, and you wouldn't want to find better guys on our side of the law.