I’ve been lurking on a number of pit bull websites for months and I’ve learned so much. It’s still hard for me to jump in and participate. Even though I thought I knew a lot about dogs, I am merely a low-ranking “petbuller” because I do not have or raise game-bred pit bulls. The vetting process for new members is intense! Common chat room questions are, "What do you feed?" and "What lines do you run?" And one’s answers quickly determine their status as a "dogger" or a "petbull" person. These folks are extremely opinionated! If you feed crap dog food like Purina, or God forbid, Ol’ Roy, you will get blasted.
So last night, I answered an ad on one gamedog site looking for a moderator. I’m supposed to be giving back to the community I’m studying, somehow, plus I thought it might get me more in the know. Then today, an instant message popped up on my screen with an icon of a pit bull superimposed onto a Confederate flag. This was the avatar for Jeff, the webmaster. We ended up having a long convo!
He started the site because he was interested in providing information to the public about the pit bull breed. When he found out I am a lawyer and now also a grad student, he asked me to help review the rules and guidelines for the site, and maybe write a mission statement. He made me a staff member, which I see now gives me access to private forums for moderators!
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.