'Not the end of the story'

Friday, October 19, 2012

Local author showcases remarkable rescue

In 2010, Cynthia Schlichting saw a photo on Facebook that changed her life forever.

Schlichting, who was raised in Spencer and graduated from Spencer High School in 1988, lives in Minneapolis with her husband. Two years ago, they were a two-dog family: Foster, a German Shepherd, and Jane, a Rottweiler.

While they were considering adopting a third, it wasn't until that photo appeared -- of the brutally mistreated pit bull in North Carolina -- that Schlichting knew they had found their next pet.

Bella's history is largely unknown, but those who treated her believed that she was a victim of dog fighting, not as a prize champion, but as a bait, or clown, dog.

"We know for a fact that Bella was a bait-dog because of the scarring where her legs were bound, and the fact that her teeth were pulled," Schlichting said.

A bait dog's teeth were often pulled so they wouldn't injure the dog they were baited for, usually the prize-winner and most valuable dog.

"I knew about dog fighting before we got Bella, but I didn't know about the 'bait,'" Schlichting said.

After reading a book on dog fighting, to better understand Bella's background, Schlichting decided that Bella's story needed to be told, to raise awareness against the brutality that she helplessly endured.

"There are countless dogs suffering the same way she did," she said. "She has survived so much."

Schlichting's book, a part-memoir, part-novel titled "As Bright as the Sun," highlights the tragedy of dog fighting.

"My No. 1 goal is to educate people on the issue of dog fighting," she said. "It's everywhere. There are countless dogs suffering the same way she did. They don't have a choice."

In "As Bright as the Sun," Bella's story begins before adoption into the Schlichting household. The adoptions of both Foster and Jane are also detailed.

"Each dog led us to the next," she said. "I wanted to highlight all of our pets, but Bella has the story that would most resonate with people."

Included within the non-fiction accounts, however, are also fictional chapters where Schlichting attempts to envision Bella's experience as a bait dog, from her perspective.

"I put myself in her shoes" she said. "I felt it was more powerful coming from her perspective. I really want to highlight that these animals are suffering."

In the fictional account, Bella's life began as a plump puppy born under a porch and adopted to a loving family. It was only after she was stolen in the middle of the night that the horrors truly began.

"Theft for dog fighting is very common," Schlichting said.

Schlichting decided to first self-publish "As Bright as the Sun," and has been receiving a "phenomenal response."

"People have been so gracious in sharing their thoughts with me," she said.

Even after incredible suffering, Bella has once again found a loving home. But her story doesn't end there.

"Bella's story is a means to an end, but it's not the end of the story," Schlichting said. "She's a different dog than when we got her, but she still has ear infections. She still has fear."

After a period of time with the Schlichtings, Bella began to recognize love once again, and she began to love in return. She and her family have found a rhythm.

"Jane and Bella are besties," Schlichting said. "Bella is (like) a puppy now."

She continued. "We can't imagine she wasn't exposed to love at some point. Bella is a star."

"As Bright as the Sun" is available from Amazon.

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  • OMG what a amazing story! Never have I even heard of a "bait dog" Awful!! Awful!! Such horror has always seemed like a far away issue. God Bless the rescuers!!

    -- Posted by windchimes3 on Fri, Oct 19, 2012, at 9:48 AM
  • Cynthia, thank you so much adopting a pit bull and for bringing to light the ugly lives that so many of them lead. It truly is amazing how, with time and patience, they will recover from the brutality they have known and become a loveable companion.

    -- Posted by Foster Mom on Fri, Oct 19, 2012, at 12:29 PM
  • I've heard about bait dogs; it's an even lower, more hateful form of cruelty than the dog fighting itself. Thank you for adopting a dog that suffered through that, and giving her a loving home.

    -- Posted by JTennant on Fri, Oct 19, 2012, at 2:52 PM
  • I love what this family is all about and that she felt so moved to try to educate people! A lot of people will see, think its horrible, and then go on and either forget about it or simply put it in the back of their mind, and this woman choose not to do that but take a stand and get it out there to reach more people that are unaware! I LOVE it!

    -- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Mon, Oct 22, 2012, at 10:18 PM
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