Heroes Come in Different Species
An Abused Pit Bull and Human Survivor Share Hope and Healing
Some people see a pit bull and go running for the hills fearing that they will be maimed due to the sensationalizing of (and often untrue) pit bull attack stories overreported by the media. Then there are dog lovers and advocates who see a dog just like any other dog. Donna Lawrence is one of the latter. Yes, even after she WAS attacked by a pit bull.
A recent survey of people who admitted to having negative opinions of pit bulls, 60 percent of the participants cited media reports as the basis of their negative opinions.
“One person and one animal can make a powerful difference in the world,” said Donna. She survived an attack and later adopted an abused pit bull puppy who was set on fire. Her courage and commitment to dogs inspires people around the world.
Donna and Susie’s story of Love, Hope, Courage and Forgiveness has been made into a movie called Susie’s Hope which recently aired on UPTV.
The DVD will be released this fall, but you can preorder through Best Buy now!
Donna thought Susie was dead when she found her in a park. “My heart melted the instant I saw her. I had so much compassion for her. I saw this six week old puppy with third degree burns all over her body and I couldn’t understand how someone could do this to her. I had never seen abuse like this before. She was so little and frail with scars all over her body. Her ears were burned off. She had broken bones. Susie needed a lot of love and protection,” Donna explained.
“As I held her, covered in bandages, she kissed my face. She was so loving and just wanted me to hold her. I was captivated. We were kindred spirits. I could relate to her pain and suffering. She was wrongfully attacked. We both had a lot of physical and emotional scars and fears to conquer.”
A few weeks before she met Susie, Donna had been feeding her neighbor’s abandoned and abused pit bull who was chained up 24/7. One day the dog became aggressive and attacked Donna’s legs. She thought she was going to die.
It is important to note that the attack on Donna was not because the dog was a pit bull. The attack fit the profile cited in a recent report published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)/ The report discusses dog bite prevention and cites factors involved in attacks. Breed is not a factor. The dog that attacked Donna was chained up (a resident dog not a pet), abused, neglected, not neutered and no able bodied person was there to intervene.
“I was working through some serious emotional turmoil, and one weekend when I had Susie in my care, I got the tragic news that I would never be able to have children—as a result of the attack. I cried all the way home from the doctor’s office. When we got home, it was like God spoke to me,” Donna recalled. “You see that puppy, she has been abused, set on fire, and left for dead. Yet she is forgiving. She is not living in the past. She is happy and thankful to be alive. She is moving on with her life and so can you. I want you to adopt her. I have big plans for you–bigger than you can imagine. And you will never fear dogs again.” So, I listened to God. I let go of my hurt and anger and trusted in God that together we would bring healing to people and animals.”
Pit bulls and their bad reputation never bothered Donna. She considers pit bulls “loyal and affectionate dogs with loving hearts.” Before the pit bull that attacked her and adopting Susie, Donna rescued another pit bull named Samson. “He was so sweet; I’d take him to the salon with me every day and he’d sit by the dryers while the gals got their hair done. He’d look over their shoulders as if he was reading the magazines with them!”
Wanting justice (a punishment to fit the crime) for what happened to Susie, Donna was concerned that Susie’s abuser would go free. Animal cruelty laws were very lenient in North Carolina at the time and had not been changed in a very long time. The person who abused Susie was only given jail time because the court could charge him with destroying someone else’s property. Susie was treated as property rather than a living being. So, Donna helped to pass Susie’s Law with stiffer fines and jail time for animal abusers.
It was a team effort. “In March 2010, we canvassed the state of North Carolina, sharing Susie’s story. We sent out emails, postcards and letters with our “request for change.” We took Susie before the city council and county commissioners Votes were unanimous in the House and Senate (after taking one look at Susie). The Bill was signed by Governor Perdue in June 2010, with Susie’s paw of approval. The law was put into effect in December 2010.”
“Remember, serial killers practice abusing animals first and then move on to innocent children and adults,” Donna declared.
Now, Donna has high hopes for the impact of the movie. “We hope that Susie’s Hope will start a nationwide movement, to bring national public and legislative awareness, to change laws in every state. Maybe even a national law to protect all animals. Some states have great animal cruelty laws, and then, some don’t. I hope the movie will motivate others to make a difference and change in their own state, or hometown, for the sake of the animals. I also hope the movie will motivate people to never give up on the things they are passionate about.”
Through Susie’s Hope™ the non-profit organization, Donna and Susie teach people how to treat animals properly.
“Susie and I are on a mission to do all we can to stand up for the rights of animals. It is time for a change in our society. We need to stop turning the other cheek to abuse and start reporting abuse whenever we see it. We need to crack down on puppy mills and backyard breeding. Fight for changes in your own state. Let’s get animals off of chains and make them a part of the family. We hope people will take care of their pets, and learn how to be safe around them, to love and respect them.”
When Susie and Donna visit schools, “I usually ask the children to offer Susie a treat. I teach kids in the schools how to approach animals,and to always ask permission. Not all animals enjoy kids running up to them and getting in their face, or riding them like a horse. Children need to learn at an early age to respect an animal’s space and how to gently approach them.
“People need to understand animals have feelings and emotions just like we do. They feel pain, loneliness and rejection, and they know when they are loved–and when they are not.”
Susie turned five years old in June (2014). “Susie loves chasing her brother and sister dogs around in the yard. She loves going to work with me at the salon. (She gives the clients kisses and shows off with her favorite tricks–riding a skateboard, jumping through a hula hoop, playing dead, counting, reading, pointing to colors, and more). She loves to eat peanut butter. She loves riding in the car and traveling. I think she likes being my friend. Susie does like other doggies, but it takes her a bit to warm up to them–she has to make sure she can trust them.
“Susie and I are on a mission to do all we can to stand up for the rights of animals. It is time for a change in our society. We need to stop turning the other cheek to abuse and start reporting abuse whenever we see it in our neighborhoods, communities or our workplace. We need to crack down on puppy mills and backyard breeding. We want to encourage everyone to fight for changes in your own state and communities. Let’s get animals off of chains and make them a part of the family. We hope people will continue to educate children as well as adults in their own communities how to take care of their pets, and how to be safe around them, to love them and respect them,” she concluded.
Susie is a nominee in the American Human Association Hero Dog Awards contest. As the 2014 AHA Therapy Dog, please consider voting for her. (Visit www.susieshope.com orwww.susieshope-nc.org for more information).