There was a long break between my first entry below and when I started writing fieldnotes in earnest. I think I was waiting on my IRB (Institutional Review Board approval for my research) and lurking on lots of message boards. It was around this time that I went to the Coon Dog Cemetary in Alabama.
As a newbie at fieldwork, I have no idea where to begin. I went to a continuing legal education seminar on animal cruelty cases where Sandy Christiansen, the head of the Dogfighting Task Force of the Humane Society of the United States, spoke about pursuing dogfighting investigations online. He said they are finding out a lot about dogfighting online. The presumption of anonymity encourages people to speak more freely about their involvement in illegal activities. So even though I’m not that sort of undercover investigator, I figured maybe it makes the most sense to start there.
I’ve done some surfing around, and my initial experience looking at pit bull websites is completely different from Sandy’s description. There seems to be a broad range of message boards devoted to pit bulls, some of which take an animal rights perspective, and at the other extreme, a handful of anti-"humaniac" or possibly pro-dogfighting boards. Although the history and illegality of dogfighting are being discussed in these forums, I haven’t seen anyone selling fighting equipment or setting up matches like he made it sound. There is one site that seems most promising to start with. It has sort of a pro-dogfighting or at least pro-gamedog (is it the same thing?) slant, and it has a more welcoming vibe than most other sites.
Now I'm jumping to 2003, before my ethnography begins but still in-between the entries in my book. Here is the extreme photo cuteness of Idgie during my first ill-fated wedding. She was trying to get me to run away with her - it's clear from the photos.
I miss her, and my father, so very much. These pics were taken ten years before those strange months when they both crossed over, one after the other, my atria. I'm a firm believer in Faulkner's famous quote... (He also knew and loved dogs):
It's wild and therapeutic, rummaging around in photos and materials that have survived from those days. There's a beautiful reading log of my book published by Gersande. I love this kind of feedback, and want to write a proper response to this response. One critique though was the need for context to fill in some of the ellipses between entries. I like the spaces-between, and some were necessary. But in this space I can continue this work-in-progress that is the past.
Back in my single days in that little condo. We went on long walks every day after work and that was my favorite part of the day. We must've walked all over Buckhead. Idgie was a remarkable pup - it took her literally one day to be house-trained! She just "got it" immediately. And she was so good with the kitties, although I'm sure they were less than keen on the bouncing baby girl.
Oh how I miss her!
From Idgie's baby book.
Found a few more from that charmed day in Idgie's baby book.
Those were some good days, yes they were.
Idgie came home under the funniest circumstances. I had been wanting a dog for years, and lately I had been torturing myself with surreptitious visits to the Humane Society and the “pet orphans” outside of the dog treat bakery, and looking at ads for puppies in the paper. I had not met a dog that felt like “the one,” and I was trying desperately to argue myself out of getting one anyway.
Then during a terrible day at work, I decided to leave early in the afternoon. I found myself heading over to the Humane Society. I lingered in the front area a while played with the puppies, a big litter of hound mixes, and then went in the back to look at the adult dogs.
At some point I went back to the puppy area and a new litter was brought in. I spotted Idgie’s cute face bounding toward me. She was mostly white with big brown spots on her back like a saddle, and her eyes were coal dark. She had a cheeky, happy expression and was the friendliest, biggest puppy of the litter. I played with her and her littermates for a long time, sitting on that ledge of their pen, stuck between between desire and responsibility.
Three of them were solid black, two were black and white merle, the runt was white with big black spots and a hurt leg (they whisked her away when they realized), and then there was Idgie. The info card said Lab/Dalmation mix, but I immediately thought there was no Dalmation in these pups. I held several of Idgie’s brothers and sisters, and Idgie for a long time, and then tore myself away and went out to the car to check voicemail.
In the car, I got up some determination, and went back in to see her. I held her and carried her around as the volunteers tried to convince me to get her, but still I was scared. A dog was a big responsibility and especially with work, I didn’t want to get in over my head.
Then a camera crew and reporter from Fox News randomly appeared with all their lights and equipment. They interviewed the director of the Humane Society about a recent amendment to the animal cruelty law that made extreme cases of cruelty a felony. It seemed like they left, but then they came back in and interviewed me while I was cradling Idgie! I was so nervous and am sure I said something dumb but I was excited to be on TV with her. I hoped that no-one from work saw me playing hooky at the Humane Society. (As it turned out, Sarah called and said, “Jere, I just saw you on television. You looked great! Did you get a dog?”)
It was as if our fate together had been sealed. After the news crew left and the hubbub died down, I knew I was going to adopt Idgie. A man named Manuel took care of the paperwork and asked if he could be adopted too. I followed my heart. I have never been sorry.