By Jeff Borchardt
I guess there’s really no way to describe grief. The pain that goes with it. The emptiness. That lump in your throat that won’t go away. I have actually prayed to God that a comet would slam into the Earth and end it all. The one emotion that haunts me the most is anger. You see, my (our) perfect, tiny, smart, handsome, little round headed boy was killed by two pit bulls on March 6th, 2013 in Walworth County, Wisconsin. I know I will never be the same person as I used to be. I have accepted that on some level. I think?
After that doctor knocked on that door in Children’s Hospital and pulled Kim and I out of the room where our family and friends were waiting to hear the word on Dax is when my journey began. He said,
“He didn’t make it. I’m so sorry. If it makes you feel any better he didn’t feel any pain. It was ultimately his severed spine that killed him. Would you like to say goodbye to him?”
I already knew what he looked like because I had to see him at Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center before they put him on a flight for life. The first responding deputy on the scene where he was attacked was the man to pull me into a room and tell me how bad it was.
“I’m not going to lie to you Jeff. It’s very grave.”
You see, the lady at the front desk had written down “dog bite” on the paperwork when I arrived. I thought,
“Dog bite. How bad could it be?”
I asked myself to this day why the doctors at Mercy asked me if I wanted to see my son in that condition. Maybe it was because they could see the look on my face like I didn’t think it was that bad? Maybe they didn’t think he would survive the flight for life? I will never know. All I remember is that they said there was nothing more they could do at their facility. The doctor stands there looking dejected.
“Would you like to see him?” I replied, “I don’t know. Do I, Doc?”
I followed them down the hallway toward my son. The first thing I saw was a nurse giving him CPR. She looked directly into my eyes with a terrified expression. Then I looked down at my son and saw what still flashes in my head to this day. He was stripped completely naked. He had bites and bruises all over his body. Exposed flesh, blood, everywhere. The entire right side of his face was gone. I mean gone! I began to scream and collapsed to the floor, knocking equipment over. I managed to get seated on a chair in the corner, making quick glances at Dax still being worked on. I don’t know how long I was in the room, but it was not long before they rushed me out of there. I was doing no good. Fast forward three hours later to the doctor pulling Kim and I out of the waiting room in Children’s Hospital.
“He didn’t make it.”
If I ever bumped into the doctor that told me my son was dead on the street, I would know right away who he was. I have no idea what his name is, but I will never forget that face. He was the one who asked us that burning question that haunts me to this day.
“Do you want to say goodbye to him?”
I was trying to stop my wife from seeing him because I already knew the horrific and devastating injuries that Dax suffered. I didn’t want her to see it too, but she just started walking down the hallway before I even had a chance to say anything. As we rounded the corner, I could see all the nurses taking off their gloves. Every one of them had an expression of defeat like I’ve never seen before. Not a single one of them could look us in the eye. Not even a glance was sent in our direction. We walked into the room where Dax was lying on the gurney. I was relieved that they had his entire body covered up so we could only see his head. They had added a neck brace and there were bandages around his forehead. But there he was cold, alone and broken. His little body was bruised and battered. What was once his baby flesh was exposed to the bone.
I could only look at him in glances. It was so bad. But every time I looked down to look away, I could see blood spatter on the floor. I looked up again. My eyes followed his hairline on the good side of his head which was once so perfectly shaped. Then I saw the mauled side of his face. Indented. Caved in. Crushed. My perfect, little round headed boy now looked like a hand grenade went off underneath him. I looked again. Screaming,
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” I cried the entire time. (His left eye was closed.) “He is dead. He is dead. Let’s go Kimmy. Let’s go tell our family.” I really dreaded this.
We had to exit the hospital from the back because the news media was camped outside the main entrance. On our hour drive home we didn’t say a word to each other until about 5 miles from home; I turned to my wife and said,
“Do you want to try and have another baby?” She replied, “I don’t know. “I was thinking the same thing.”
We arrived back home to a house full of toys as we had just left it this morning. How the hell are we supposed to move on from this? (I was asking myself that same thing over and over for months.) The night of Dax’s death, I asked my friend to bring me over a bottle of Rumpleminz and a case of beer. I was going to try and drink myself to death and almost did. I woke up around 4 AM to my wife screaming at me.
“You’re not helping Jeff!” I said, “I don’t care!!!! I want to die!!”
At that moment, I realized that I was lying on the floor next to our sofa in a pool of my own vomit. I wasn’t dead. Dammit! This is real. Dax is gone.
The next morning my wife asked me how could I say that on Facebook? I said, “Say what?” I’m going to leave it at that because it was so bad that I’m sure if any pit bull victim stalker or harassers are reading this, they would use it against me. Let’s just say it was “anti-pit bull.” Fortunately, she had already logged into my Facebook account and removed it. I’m sure somebody out there took a screenshot and is just waiting for the perfect time to use it against me. But that’s OK. I could really care less what anyone says about me after this blog.
The person I was, is gone forever.
That morning we had to go down to the morgue to decide what we were going to do with his body and make funeral arrangements. This was no easy task to get me out of the house. I refused to stop drinking. I refused to get in the shower. I refused to get dressed. My family literally had to drag me out of the house kicking and screaming. We were at the funeral home and the man was talking but all I heard was, “Blah, blah, blah.” I didn’t care what he was saying, nor did I desire to listen. Ultimately we agreed to have his body cremated. Our theory was that we didn’t know where we were going to end up so we wanted to have him with us where ever we settled down. We left the funeral home and back to the house where the rest of the day remains a blur. That next night ended with pure numbness, sleeping pills and recovery.
I woke up the next morning and posted the following on Facebook:
“The biology, make up and history of pit bulls will be looked at and analyzed in a different way from here to the future….I do not wish harm to any existing family members (pit bulls), but once your pit bull is dead like my son, you can be sure I will do everything in my power to make sure this breed is bred out of existence…These pit bulls were not abused, mistreated, or harmed in ANY way…They are naturally wired (by God almighty and nature) to bite down on flesh and not let go…I’d always thought my little Chihuahua would be MURDERED by a pit bull. I never thought it would be our baby boy…I will have that picture seared in my head forever.”
Let me tell you something. There is no playbook for what I’m going through. I have said some pretty stupid things in my anger. On the other hand, I have said some pretty smart things. I don’t know about you, but that last statement sounds like I knew exactly what I was talking about when it comes to pit bulls. It sure sounds like breed specific legislation (BSL) to me.
“I do not wish any harm to any existing family members, (pit bulls) but once your pit bull is dead like my son, you shouldn’t be able to own that breed anymore. They are naturally wired to bite down on flesh and not let go.”
I said that I always thought it would be my Chihuahua that would be killed by a pit bull if there were such an attack. Yep. Pit bulls were selectively bred to kill other animals. Sooooooo, how did I know all this before “educating” myself? Good question. You see my experience with pit bulls did not start with the death of my son. No, no, no. I’ve never liked these killer dogs, and for good reason. One of my first experiences with a breed that was created by man to kill other animals came at a three-day outdoor techno festival in Black River Falls, Wisconsin in 2001ish. There were literally thousands of people there. I was walking behind a man with a Rottweiler on a leash. At the same time there was another person coming towards us with his pit bull on a leash from the other direction. They were just about even with each other on the path when the pit bull lunged over at the Rottweiler and gripped him on his side. People started screaming and the Rottweiler started howling in pain. The owner of the Rottweiler started kicking the pit bull in the head and side trying to get it to let go with no success. I’ll never forget the owner of the pit bull screaming,
“Stop kicking my dog!” The owner of the Rottweiler was screaming back, “Then get your fu*king dog off of him!”
Approximately ten excruciating minutes later about a hundred people were standing around watching this. They finally got the pit bull to loosen his death grip. At the same party, the next day, a different pit bull mauling. A lab was injured much the same way. Two separate attacks by pit bulls on other dogs and I just happened to see this out of 10,000 people in a campground. Was I meant to see it? Was this God preparing me for a fight fifteen years later?
Fast forward till the summer of 2011. My wife was pregnant with Dax. I was running sound for a show in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. Just off to the side of our stage was a group of campers all in one area with their tents. I was over there hanging out and talking with them about the weekend. They had what looked to be two younger pit bull puppies about 6 months in age. We’re all sitting there talking when suddenly a fight breaks out between the two dogs for no apparent reason. The owners were shocked and immediately broke it up. No sooner than they broke up the fight, the one pit bull comes charging back again and starts to attack the other one. AGAIN. The second fight ended up going on for about 3 minutes before the owners were able to get them under control again. They just kept going after each other. The scene was insane! The owners were shocked too. They said the two dogs had been raised together but they had never seen them act this way. I just walked away shaking my head. Not knowing what I had witnessed was really not the dog’s fault. They were just acting out their genetic heritage. But once again, I ask myself today if this was God preparing me for what lay ahead. Why out of the thousands of people at this festival, did He choose me to witness this? Another time I was visiting my parents’ house on a hot summer day and we decided to walk our dogs down to the lake for a swim. We were almost to the lake when I look over and see two pit bulls charging across the neighbor’s yard at full speed. They were heading straight for my dogs with zero hesitation and you could tell they weren’t going to stop. The only thing that spared my dog’s life and possibly serious injury to myself, was a steel cable that was thankfully tightly secured to both of their collars. Those two pit bulls were running full speed towards my dogs when they were yanked back by the end of the cable. This didn’t even phase them as they kept slamming their entire bodies with full force against the chain. The owner nonchalantly came strolling out of the house and took the dogs back inside. I was so furious and said,
“That’s great. That’s real great. Someone is going to get hurt.”
The owner didn’t even acknowledge me. He just took the dogs back inside and closed the door. So you see, the irony when I said,
“I always thought it would be my Chihuahua that would be killed by a pit bull.”
It didn’t make it right at the time. I had just accepted what I knew to be true from my life experiences. Pit bulls are inherently dog aggressive.
When Susan and Steve adopted their pit bull puppies, I was a little upset. I knew now that I would have to leave my dogs in the car unless their dogs were secure in the dog run or in their kennels when I visited. Even with my life experiences with pit bulls, I still let them sniff each other through the fence. All four of our dogs were wagging and sniffing each other though the fence. These pit bulls were different. They played with the landlord’s sheep dog, “Judy” all the time. They seemed really nice with my dogs and anyone that came to visit. They were making a believer out of me.
“It’s all how you raise them” seemed to be true.
Susan and Steve’s dogs were really good pets. They obeyed all commands and were very obedient. But I was still skeptical about letting our dogs play together due to my life experiences with pit bulls and other dogs. This was just now the routine. I knew that pit bulls were dog aggressive, but were always told that the human biters were “culled.” I never heard of a dog killing a human, let alone an innocent baby. Boy how I wish I had followed my first instincts. I knew better than to trust this breed but I believed the myths that it’s the owner, not the dog. I am so mad at myself sometimes! I know I am in denial. I find myself bargaining with God.
“Please let me have a do over. I will change if you let me hold my son again.”
*This brings me to my next section. The “Kubler-Ross – Five stages of grief” This blog post will be focusing on the “Anger” stage the most. Then it will be followed by “acceptance.” Anger is by far the scariest and most devastating emotion I have experienced out of the five stages of grief. Anger has led to me saying things that I regret and will come back to haunt me years from now. It is one I still suffer from today but I refuse to let it tear down my mission to save another family from going through what we had to.
The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the five stages of grief, was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.
The progression of states is;
- Denial – “I feel fine.” Or “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of situations and individuals that will be left behind after death.
- Anger – “Why me? It’s not fair!” “How can this happen to me?” “Who is to blame?”
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.
- Bargaining – “Just let me live to see my children graduate.” “I’ll do anything for a few more years.” “I will give my life savings if…”
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time…”
- Depression – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” “I’m going to die… What’s the point?” “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
During the fourth stage, the person begins to understand the certainty of the predicament. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the person to disconnect oneself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
- Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare to accept it.”
In this last stage, the individual begins to come to terms with their own mortality or that of their loved one or the loss that they have experienced.
How I have experienced the 5 stages. (Not necessarily in order)
I have experienced this after my son’s death. “See? I’ll be fine. I’m going back to work. I’m smiling again. This isn’t so bad.” This is only temporary. The waves of depression and realization feel like suddenly someone has thrown a big, heavy blanket over you. The weight and pressure gives you the sensation of suffocating. You literally cannot breathe once this blanket hits. Ironically for me, this is usually triggered on a good night. For example, when I’m spinning records and having fun, I suddenly think about the defeated looks on the doctors and nurses faces when we were walking down the hallway to say goodbye to our son. The grief bubbles up to the surface when I least expect it. I see no quick resolution or escape from the sadness that goes so deep into my very being.
I know what the Kubler-Ross theory is saying here, but I experienced the opposite effect. I actually WANTED death to hurry up and let me be reunited with my son. As I said before, I have prayed to God that a comet would slam into the Earth and kill us all. Many times on my way home from work, I have thought about driving my car into a tree and killing myself. The only reason I haven’t done it was because I’m told that is a one-way ticket to hell. I couldn’t leave my wife and family to deal with even more grief, could I?
Three or four days after Dax was brutally mauled to death, we were all sitting at our house. Kim’s parents were there with us visiting from Denver. I was lying on the sofa under the blankets and on my phone using Facebook. I was reading comments while everyone was arguing back and forth about pit bulls. I made a status update that said
“I want to die. Someone please come kill me.”
Not even ten minutes later there was a knock on the door. The county worker must have been monitoring my Facebook page. At the door was a Darien police officer and a woman from the county health department. They were there to make sure I wasn’t in danger. They would’ve taken me away had I been alone. My wife immediately took my phone away. The thoughts that were going through my head when I made that comment were,
“When did Dax’s soul leave his body? Was it at the gate of the dog run where the attack happened? Was he in pain or is it shock like the doctor said? Did his soul leave his body at Children’s Hospital when he was pronounced dead? Did he see mommy holding my hand? Did he hear Da-Da screaming at the top of his lungs? Was he hovering over his body watching the chaos, confused and scared?”
My heart was crumbling with pain not knowing.
I think this stage goes without saying. Most of my uncontrollable crying comes when I am isolated and by myself. Usually, on the way home from work in the car is when it really sinks me. You have no idea how hard it is to be alone with your thoughts after the loss of a child. It was this solitary time that I would pick up the phone and have the need to call someone. I’m going to give this advice to anyone that is friends with someone dealing with child loss and devastating grief.
Don’t put your phone on vibrate and go to sleep. You have to hear that phone ring when they call. Don’t let your friend be alone for five minutes. You will be able to tell if they want you to leave or not. This is what friends do for each other, right?
In my case, you might be the person that picks up the phone in the middle of the night that will get me past that 20 minute drive, or sleepless night. But I am not the only one experiencing devastating loss. This touches so many people especially as these attacks are increasing. Some of the victims I have connected with in this advocacy movement have been crucial in moving me past this stage. And to be honest, they still keep me out of depression and despair. This advocacy keeps me out of it. You know who you are. If you’re reading this, I could never repay you. I could never thank you enough.
Another extremely vague and seemingly unattainable stage. Almost as if hey, “If I reach this stage, I’m cured. Right?” Wrong. This stage is like that high that I used never be able to catch when I was addicted to drugs. It starts to feel better when our advocacy moves forward. When we connect with new victims and try and help them. We move them into our secret groups on Facebook so it gives them a place to share or vent and connect with other victims and advocates who know what they are going through. It makes US happy when we help THEM get through the 5 stages of grief together. We connect. We laugh. We meet each other at events. We shouldn’t know each other but we are grateful we do. We start to move forward together. We are almost to the acceptance stage. Our goal is within sight. Then BAM! Kara Hartrich is mauled to death by 2 family pit bulls on her fourth birthday. We sit back in shock. We just can’t believe it. How can this happen? Why is our message not getting out there? Oh yeah, now I remember.
This little girl’s story is not getting anywhere NEAR the media coverage she deserves! What the heck just happened to all of us? We were almost to that acceptance stage. Now we have to start all over with this mother. Together! Again! Do you see a pattern developing here? Nobody that is a victim of a dangerous dog attack that will not allow their child to die in vain will ever reach this stage. Not as long as family fighting and gripping breeds of are bringing more mothers, fathers and family members into our secret groups.
- And now for the most important and scary stage of them all. Anger. I saved the best for last. I saved this stage because it brings me to the point of this blog.
Was I angry when I had to make that call to Kim and tell her that news?
“It’s bad! It’s really, really bad! Turn around and head to children’s hospital baby! They’re putting him on a flight for life?”
Yes! I was very pissed. Was I angry after our son was pronounced dead on the way home when I put on Facebook, “If you have a pit bull, do yourself a favor, take it out back and put a bullet in its head?” Yes! I was really angry. Was I pissed when I texted Steve and asked him, “What the “f” just happened?” Of course! I was enraged. I was really angry when he texted back and said, “I don’t know what happened!
They just snapped!”
Was I angry when the authorities told me they had humanely euthanized” the two pit bulls that killed our son? YES! I was furious, I was livid. I wanted a chance to kill those dogs myself. “Humanely euthanized” was too good for these dogs! But excuse me ladies and gentlemen. I’m talking especially to the parents out there. How would you feel forty eight hours after seeing half your son’s face ripped off, eyeball hanging from his socket, and skull crushed? Could you see yourself saying this?
“The biology, make up and history of pit bulls will be looked at and analyzed in a different way from here to the future….I wish to go on record from my heart. I do not wish harm to any existing family members (pit bulls), but once your pit bull is dead like my son, you can be sure I will do everything in my power to make sure this breed is bred out of existence…These pit bulls were not abused, mistreated, or harmed in ANY way…They are preselected through breeding and hardwired (by God almighty and nature) to bite down on flesh and not let go…I’ll always thought my little Chihuahua would be MURDERED by a pit bull. I never thought it would be our baby boy…I will have that picture seared in my head forever.”
In retrospect, I have remorse for saying a lot of things. I’m not trying to make excuses for the things I have said. I honestly do regret saying things when in this stage. But seriously. Can I get a break? I’ve never carried out the threats I made while in this stage. That was my anger boiling over and I hope you never have to have those feelings yourself.
At the funeral an elderly neighbor lady in the neighborhood I grew up in asked me…
“Why do you think the dogs did it?”
“Oh gee, I don’t know lady! Why don’t you ASK the damn dogs why they attacked their owner to get to my son in her arms to kill him?” I thought.
My rage was right there at the surface. You know how hard it was for me not to explode at her? I almost did it but thankfully, I didn’t say a word to her. You know how many times I talk to people and wonder to myself, “What would happen, how would this person react, if I just started hitting him right now?” You know what? I never did it.
When I stood up at the second Watertown meeting to share my story in front of the city council that was considering BSL, I had to listen to this self-proclaimed “expert” that just called me “negligent” about ten times in a letter to the editor THAT WAS PUBLISHED in the Watertown Daily Times speak my son’s name, yes. I said some pretty bad things about how I wanted to hunt her down and let her have it.
But I never did. I never truly intended to. I was angry.
After finding out our private groups that were established to help and support victims achieve acceptance, is actually being infiltrated by crazy, pit bull enthusiasts posing as victim’s advocates, I get angry. When this “mole” shares our personal info, stories, and sometimes our JOBS, on websites like FoolishFollies (founded to harass victims of pit bull attacks) and WhoisColleenLynn, (founded to harass a victim of a pit bull attack) in an attempt to slander and harass us into silence, I get VERY angry. And yes, I have said and done some pretty bad things in an attempt to “get even” with these anonymous keyboard warriors. But don’t worry. I have never intentionally done anything that would cause a HUMAN BEING any physical harm.
So 3-4 months after our son was killed by pit bulls and I am connecting with other families that have gone through the same thing, we are all informed of the daily pit bull attacks. This makes me angry. This makes US angry. VERY angry. During this time period, (3-4 months after Dax was brutally mauled to death by two pit bulls in an attack that lasted 15 minutes) I hit the tipping point of anger that led to “THE SCREENSHOT.”
After the death of our son, we had to move. This was no longer a financial decision, it was an emotional one. We could no longer bear the memories we shared with our only son in that house. The marks on the walls he had left when Da-Da let him draw. His finger prints still on the windows. We took a huge loss and abandoned our 10 year investment in our future. Dax was killed in March, we were moved into our new lake house by May.
Our new neighborhood is amazing and vibrant. Our house is almost perfect. If it weren’t for the stairs, we would be pretty comfortable. Almost all our neighbors are friendly and very nice. There are dog owners of all kinds of breeds. It just so happens that the only pit bull owner in our neighborhood is the ONLY dog owner that feels he must walk his dog around without a leash. This pit bull is a brindle, (same as the pit bulls that killed Dax) and at least 70 pounds. On several occasions I have been walking down by the harbor and seen this dog insanely barking out of the second story window at other dogs, but when I drive by when the owner is with him, he is totally mellow and obedient. I’ve even seen this dog playing with other small dogs. It seems like this is a good dog that “has never had any problems before.”
Where have I heard this before?
After seeing this dog walking around with no leash on several occasions, I finally called the police. This was a waste of my time that only made me angrier. The officer told me there’s nothing they can do about it because there’s no leash law in our town, but “If it makes you feel any better, that guy has lived there with that pit bull for three years and there’s never been any problems.” The officer told me over the phone.
“Ahhhh, no officer. I do not feel better Sir. Considering the pit bulls that killed my son were about three years old and never had any problems either.”
I couldn’t believe it! No leash law? I asked the officer, “Do we have to wait for another tragedy to do something? Didn’t we learn the hard way with our son?” I was furious! I was angry as hell! I wanted to lash out at anyone that crossed me! “How can you people go on with your lives like nothing happened? It was only 3-4 months ago!” I vent my frustration out on Facebook by going on a public group I co-founded called The Pit Bull Propaganda Machine Revealed and said this,
don’t worry. I never really did this, nor would I in reality. This was just me experiencing one of the “Kubler-Ross Five Stages Of Grief – Anger.” What WOULD I do if a pit bull moved next door today? I don’t know. Probably move. You see our house has a lot of stairs. And I’m sick of climbing them just to get to my car. Grocery day is a total pain so moving wouldn’t be a bad option. However why should we have to move? Don’t families deserve to live in safe communities? Why should we be pushed out if a pit bull owner decides to insert themselves into a stable and secure neighborhood? As I learn about pit bull politics I become educated about the tactics that their owners use. For example;
We have an intelligent landlord and he won’t rent to owners with “pit bulls or bully breeds of dogs.” He owns all the houses on our side of the block so we don’t have to worry about a pit bull moving in next door. I have spoken to my landlord about this issue and my own experience in detail. Thanks to DaxtonsFriends.com and learning about breeds, my landlord now sees the risks and dangers and will choose not to rent to folks that use these shady tactics to try to fraudulently pass off their pit bull as a boxer, lab mix, staffie etcetera. He now knows about the Americans with Disabilities Association rules and the difference between a real “service dog” and an “ESA” emotional support dog. He understands how breed identification is actually done by observing distinctive physical traits. In other words, phenotype indicates breeding and heritage. That’s why there are breed registries and the AKC, UKC, etc. In layman’s terms:
“If it looks like a pit bull, it’s a pit bull.”
He’s the landlord and has the right to choose. He can “discriminate” against a dog by the way it looks all he wants. Why? Because he owns the property. Because he assesses risk as well as his insurance company who would also be liable in the case of an incident. He doesn’t want to be sued if a breed of dog that has been selectively bred for hundreds of years to fight to death in a pit suddenly snaps and attacks someone. In my case, it was their owner who fought them for fifteen minutes while they tried and succeeded in killing and mauling the baby she carried in her arms.
“Who is to blame?” – Stage 2 of the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief – Anger:
You see, I have learned a lot about myself, dog breeds, and especially the people and organizations that protect the image of fighting and gripping breeds in the nearly two years since our son was taken from us. I get it now. It really wasn’t the dog’s fault. They were just acting out of hundreds of years of selective breeding. Every pit bull type dog alive today is a descendant of the original, bull baiting, pit fighting dogs. It is not Susan’s fault, not for the attack itself. No. The only mistake she made was in not knowing about the “zero margin of error” rule when it comes to fighting and gripping breeds. How could I blame her for something I didn’t know about either, particularly the part about human aggression? How easy is it for two 45 to 50 pound dogs that were bred to take down a two thousand pound bull, working together to take down a woman all by herself and a baby in four inches of snow?
Yes, I told her to never have Dax around the dogs. But that didn’t mean it was because I thought they were vicious human killers. I was more afraid that he would be knocked down or whacked in the face with their tails. The worse case scenario would have been a warning nip. Did I say hurtful things about Susan in the few days or weeks after Dax was killed? Yes, but I never acted out what I was thinking. The only thing Susan is guilty of is being a good babysitter. And I say that because she wasn’t willing to leave him alone for even 2 minutes while she let the dogs out. She later told me how he would cry so hard when she even left him alone on the other side of the door when she went to the bathroom. If I had known that Susan was letting her dogs out while carrying Dax, I wouldn’t have been greatly concerned, but I would’ve just asked her to change her routine. I honestly believed that Dax would’ve been fine by himself for 2 minutes. I used to run out to the garage, mailbox or take out the garbage and leave Dax alone in a pinch. I would like to think that my weakest moments have been in this anger stage.
“Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.” – Stage 2 of Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief.
Oh how I can relate. A few weeks after Dax was killed, Kim and I had to get out of the house for the first time. Again. We were never alone. We were bonded and always with each other especially during this time of grief. Soon after the funeral, we decided to go to Walmart for a few necessities. This was difficult because everyone seemed to be going on with their lives as if nothing had happened. But in the days after his death you could almost feel something like tension in the air. There was a certain look on people’s faces, even the ones that didn’t know us. We felt like we could tell they were thinking about what happened to Dax. But a few weeks later, it felt different. And this is where the misplaced feelings of rage and most importantly, envy intruded into our process of healing.
“How can these people be just going on with their lives? How can they be happy?”
I absolutely resented these people. Walking around Walmart I thought I noticed a couple who seemed to be annoyed with their baby while shopping. I momentarily thought about going up to these despicable people that don’t even seem like they want their child, and start screaming in their face. But they wouldn’t get it. Sad.
“You don’t even know how damned lucky you are! You don’t even care about your child!”
The cycle began again. Anger, resentment, jealousy, then I was back to anger. This was followed by absolutely haunting thoughts of our loss. Neither one of us paid attention to events going on around us. Here we were in Walmart to grab just a few things, and we ended up in the store for almost two hours. We had to keep snapping out of it because we continually found ourselves in the corner of the store just staring at the shelves. We ended up in all four corners of the store without even knowing how we got there. Finally Kim turned to me and said,
“We need to focus Jeff. Let’s get what we need and get out of here.”
Yes, I prayed for a comet to slam into the Earth. Resentment.
“Damn these people if we can’t be happy. The world should suffer the way we have. Maybe then they’ll have to think about God, heaven and hell.”
It is also very difficult to get over the anger phase when the general public seems to not really care about your son’s death or somehow blames you for it. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to get past the anger stage to a parent that has lost a child to a dangerous dog attack when someone tells you,
“It’s all how you raise them?”
How could anyone ever think I would ever leave my child with someone who “raised a dog to kill a child?” Can you imagine trying to get past this stage when people are telling you, “Well, more people are killed by guns, parents, humans, blacks, whites, cows, wasps, and even coconuts?” Do you even realize how you are minimizing the suffering of a parent trying to move past the anger stage? Do you have any idea what it’s like for someone trying to resolve the anger stage when someone goes on and on and on proclaiming?
“I have children and I couldn’t imagine. I am so sorry for your loss, BUT, or HOWEVER?” After reading that I think,
“Oh gee, I was just about to roll out the red carpet for your “pit bull”, BUT.”
Do you know how many times I have wished our son was killed any other way than to be eaten alive by two pit bulls?
Yes. It’s really damn hard to move past the anger stage when you have daily messages sent to you like this;
And this, and this, and this, and this…..
There were quite a few incidents that led up to me finally deciding to address THE SCREENSHOT in the almost two years since my son was killed. Besides the pit bull fanatics using it against me in almost every comments section in almost every news article I’m mentioned in, the first thing was a message sent to my “Mix Master Bogart” Facebook page by a man named Ian Haas.
To better explain why Ian’s message was the first thing to make me finally address THE SCREENSHOT, I have to give you a crash course in what it’s like to speak out and say anything negative about pit bulls on social media. When you are a victim, victim’s advocate, or just a plain supporter of BSL, you better watch what you say, when you say, and where on Facebook. I have to admit this is new to me. I’ve been using Facebook for years to promote my shows and book DJs. I had almost 2000 likes when Dax was killed. I was using “Mix Master Bogart” for my profile name for years with zero issues. After Dax was killed and I started getting involved in this advocacy, I started getting these things that we call,
“Facebook timeouts” and “Facebook jail.”
When someone reports you for something that offends them you get put on hold. Enough of these and eventually you go to “Facebook jail” for 30 days. Again. I accept it. It is a small price to pay for being outspoken and saving lives in the process. But what I didn’t know, and I was one of the first to learn the hard way, is that the pit bull fanatics will report you for not using your real name. So one day I opened up Facebook, and with a few clicks of the button from these people, every single comment, every single picture, (yes, some of Dax that were only on Facebook) were gone. Gone forever like our son. “Mix Master Bogart” is now a Facebook page with limited capabilities for our advocacy movement. I would receive messages for months. People were angry at me for removing them from Facebook. Some thought I was mad at them.
“I didn’t say anything about pit bulls Jeff! Why did you delete me?”
I would explain what happened and we’d be fine again. This wasn’t a complete loss. At least now I could separate my DJ stuff with my advocacy. Hey, and not a bad thing to have 1800 likes either!
So here we have this Ian Haas guy sending me a message to my “Mix Master Bogart” Facebook page. The first thing I think about is “Who the heck is this guy? Why is he sending a message to my “Mix Master Bogart” DJ page?” I only had more questions after I read it:
Nov 10th, 2:42pm
I would like to preface this by saying that in no way am I trying to pick a fight, diminish your beliefs or the memory of your son. I am contacting you simply to see if you would share with me your views on pit bulls and other dog breeds in a constructive way. I am a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of MADACC and would like to discuss this with you to get the “other side of the story.” I am not looking to change your mind or argue. I really just want to pick your brain as it would appear that you are well educated on the topic by the looks of your son’s non-profit. I hope you are up to it, if not I apologize or taking your time. I am sorry for your loss and the horrible situation it has put you in. I wish you the best.
Right away red flags are going off in my head. You see, I already knew that the CBS 58 story was being aired with the interview they did with me a month prior that Monday night. And I knew that the story was going to be about the MADACC bite numbers being released that showed pit bulls jumping off the page. So when this man identified himself as a board member of “Friends of MADACC,” I thought it was fishy. But then there’s also the question of “Why is he sending this to my DJ page?” I responded as “Mix Master Bogart”:
Mix Master Bogart – Nov 10th, 2:48pm
Yes. Please email Daxtonsfriends@gmail.com to arrange a phone call.
My interest was sparked to say the least. I had already done the interview on WPR’s Joy Cardin Show that morning. I knew the CBS 58 story was coming that night, “so maybe he heard me on the air? But again, why the message to my DJ page? Why not to my profile, Jeff Borchardt?”
Now we are e-mailing each other:
I am e-mailing in order to schedule a conversation regarding your views on pit bulls. As I have stated in a private message on Facebook, I am not looking to change mind or argue. I would simply like to converse regarding your positions and what has ultimately brought you to them. I am a Board Member for the Friends of MADACC and have had ample opportunity to experience and be educated to the breed’s positives, but I consider myself somewhat of a student and as such like to hear both “sides of a story”. I would also like to hear your view on other breeds as well. Hopefully everything works out. I don’t think I would need to take up too much of your time. Thank you for your response.
I should have time after Canine Victims Awareness Week. Are there any questions I can answer via e-mail?
Here we go. I’m going to point out the answer to my question of “why did this guy send a message to my DJ page?” I want you to keep in mind what name of THE SCREENSHOT pit bull fanatics have been using against me for nearly two years was made under, “Mix Master Bogart.” I will highlight the only REAL question I believe Ian was curious about. Then we will go back and examine the rest of his questions:
Thanks for your reply Jeff. I hope you are well. The first few of the top of my head may be difficult, answer-don’t answer it’s up to you:
2) were there any special or extenuating circumstances?
3) have you or your family had issues with dogs before?
5) do you believe it is possible that there are “just a few bad apples”? Or do you believe issues to be breed-wide? I know that pit bulls have this stereotype and I just wonder if it is a natural disposition. The rates on attacks of dogs who have not been exposed to fighting are low when the total population is taken into account. Not trying to state that it’s correct or incorrect, but I have equated it in my mind to the human population of the United States. There are roughly 5.2 homicides per every 100,000 people, 16,208 last year for a total of .00005%. There are 70-80 million dogs (anyone’s guess how many pit bulls) in the U.S. and only 20-30 homicides by dogs. All numbers were gotten through the CDC.
6) I have never had a pit bull myself…many dogs, just not a pit. Why do you believe pit bulls have so many advocates? Do you believe that pit bull advocates are misguided?
7) Being a well spoken man (and affable from our conversation) are you serious when you stated some of the things I have read that you posted regarding killing animals for no reason other than your past experiences or is that just shock/posturing? (I mean no disrespect)-It just appears to me to be too drastic for a person who has an agenda and organization such as yours.
9) I’m sure you have read the studies, but I wanted to know what you thought regarding the general rankings and system for ranking regarding dog breeds and aggressive/dangerous behavior?
This is it for now. I know you have alot of people contact you that are, for lack of a better word, extremists, but I truly do wish to continue open discussion. Thanks for your time and I look forward to your reply.
There you have it folks, the answer to my question. The pit bull fanatics have been following me around on any news story that I’m mentioned in and using THE SCREENSHOT. That is what led Ian to my DJ page. THE SCREENSHOT! “Oh my God! In this man’s 2nd stage of grief (anger), he said something he regrets. This man wants to kill every pit bull in the world!” Give me a break people. What do you care anyways? How is it the VICTIMS and VICTIMS ADVOCATES fault when you fanatics fight BSL tooth and nail? You know BSL? That little thing that would PUT AN END to 3000 pit bulls being put to sleep in American shelters and replaced by backyard breeders every day, all day, for ten years? You know BSL? In other words, it is that thing that would PREVENT THE DEED instead of waiting for a tragedy? Yes, I know you think I’m a “hater” and “want to kill every pit bull”, but that is not me. As I clearly stated in the CBS interview, “No birth = no kill. I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about that.” You would think mandatory spay/neuter would be something both sides of this debate could agree on. But that would mean we live in a logical world where we’re not told that “pit bulls used to be nanny dogs” or “coconuts kill more people.”
I appreciate your interest in my “side of the story”, but am very busy with other engagements at this time. I receive a great deal of mail from many individuals and organizations requesting similar information or with the intent of “educating” me. Please feel free to view the Daxton’s Friends website at daxtonsfriends.com. It will most likely answer all your questions.
I wish you and The Friends of MADACC the best.
I realized that Ian did not have the best intentions and viewed me as one of his “enemies”. All of his questions except the one he really wanted to know are answered on DaxtonsFriends.com. His perception of niceness was really a facade. All he wanted was to try to penetrate into my thoughts to destroy me for his cause. He is not the first one to try to do this and certainly won’t be the last. I realized a few months ago when Daxton’s Friends really started to pick up steam that I could not spend time arguing, even passive aggressive arguing, with people like Ian. I wasn’t going to change his mind and he sure wasn’t going to change mine. I’d rather focus on honest questions from folks who really wanted information to help make the best decision for their family.
The only other part of his e-mail questions that really bothered me was…
“There are roughly 5.2 homicides per every 100,000 people, 16,208 last year for a total of .00005%. There are 70-80 million dogs (anyone’s guess how many pit bulls) in the U.S. and only 20-30 homicides by dogs. All numbers gotten through the CDC.”
You know what Ian? I’m going to be respectful towards you because you were respectful towards me. (In a deceptive kind of way) My first question back to you was going to be, “Do you have any kids Ian?” I only would ask you this because of your words “ONLY 20-30 homicides by dogs.” I did go to your Facebook page Ian. And it looked to me like you have a wonderful family. I saw that you and your wife have a very beautiful daughter. And let me tell you something right now Ian. I would NEVER, EVER, throw those statistics in your face if your daughter was suddenly and brutally mauled to death by one of those fighting/gripping breeds that you think you’re doing the world a favor by saving. Not even in my stage 2 of grief. It is a mistake to think that just because I am raising awareness about canine related fatalities that I don’t care about homicides or any of the other million causes of death that pit bull activists throw in my face. I wouldn’t tell the parent of a deceased child due to a drunk driver that “guns kill more people.” I personally don’t want anyone killed by anything at all! I would never, ever wish the pain of losing a child onto any parent. I would never, ever minimize anyone’s death from any cause. Your heart is in the right place Ian, but you are totally misguided.
Hug your child tonight Ian. Because I envy you and your family, sir.
The second and final straw to me finally deciding to address THE SCREENSHOT, came from a phone call I received the Tuesday morning after the CBS 58 interview. The call was from another friend of mine and fellow advocate, Jennifer Scott. Jen’s Golden Retriever, Ruby, was attacked unprovoked and viciously by two pit bulls while on her morning walk. Jennifer and I connected right away since we live so close to each other. She’s another one of those friends that will talk to me during those nightmarish “alone minutes.” She called me up to tell me that one of her friends that is “on the fence” regarding this issue, said that she really sympathizes with us but she saw THE SCREENSHOT and was a little turned off. Yep. The pit bull fanatics had once again followed me around to show people that I want to kill all pit bulls because of something I said in my frustration and second part of my grieving process, anger again.
I’m going to wrap this up now. But before I do, I just wanted to say that life has dealt me these cards. I didn’t choose this path, this path chose me. I blame myself every day for not listening to my instincts when it came to fighting and gripping breeds. The result of the bully breed’s deadly heritage targeted my son’s fragile body on March 6th, 2013. This tragedy has forced me to take steps and dedicate myself to further my understanding of this crisis, which we are now faced with. Our tragedy has given me this task and I have embraced the cause although reluctantly. I don’t know if it’s because there is a higher power that has given me this most difficult task, or whether it is helping me through the grieving process. A friend explained to me that the grief stages are not lockstep. Each phase must be resolved or you will return to it again when faced with a new crisis or in my case, a new death. My life, at times, seems like a roller coaster through these stages as I face the surge in the number of new fatalities. I cannot fail as future victims are at stake.
Lord knows I have made some horrible choices in my past. My life didn’t change even when Dax was born. He changed me when I made him smile for the first time. His happy life changed me, transformed me. My love for him has made me want to be a better person. Honestly after he died, a part of me died with him. Now, I am transformed and have found purpose in life that I could never have imagined. Given this heavy burden, gift, calling or whatever you want to call it to saving so many more like our son. Did Dax just save my life twice by showing me God? Life is doing the right thing and recognizing the signs when it slaps you in the face. I could have a total meltdown tomorrow. You just never know. But I’ll be dammed if I’m going to let THE SCREENSHOT derail me from my new mission.
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. – C.S. Lewis”
Jeffrey D. Borchardt
Daxton’s Friends For Canine Education & Awareness