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Harrisburg owner’s book tells former bait dog’s story

By Lisa Thornton
Correspondent

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The callous person who dropped the pit bull off at the side of the road on a hot May afternoon must have assumed the dog would die that day.

He had fresh bite marks upon the scars of old bite marks, and only three functioning legs. The fourth just dragged. He was emaciated, and his spirit was just about as broken as his body.

But for every bad guy in the world, there are still plenty of good people. The lady who pulled her car off the side of the road, wrapped the battered canine’s body in a blanket and took him to the nearest animal rescue started a chain reaction of goodness that has since faithfully carried on like a dog with a bone.

These days, it’s often carried on by Gunny, the dog, himself.

He has taught lessons to full auditoriums about tolerance for those who look different. He has educated whole communities about the horrors of dogfighting. He has even encouraged kids to do their homework who normally wouldn’t.

Now, he even has a book. “Gunny and the Magical Pack,” written by his owner, Amy Cranmer, shares the story of the castoff dog who’s been lucky enough to have a happy ending.

Story needed telling

Cranmer, who lives in Harrisburg, knew five years ago that Gunny’s story needed to be told. The realization came shortly after she began nursing the abused dog after the surgeries he needed to repair the damage he had endured during his first two years of life.

Gunny had all of the signs of a bait animal: the gentle or weaker dogs, and sometimes cats, used in dogfighting rings to train competitors into ferocious and merciless beasts.

Although Gunny was found on a road in Greenville County, S.C., the problem of dogfighting is just as prevalent in Mecklenburg County.

In February, police busted a massive dogfighting operation, seizing 27 pit bulls in a backyard arena near Harrisburg Road in Charlotte. In January, they seized 15 pit bulls in a dogfighting ring in northwest Charlotte.

Dogfighting is a felony in North Carolina for both spectators and operators, punishable by up to 10 months in prison, but it’s difficult to catch. Because it’s illegal, matches are held in secret arenas.

The book idea sat dormant for years, until Cranmer had a conversation about dogfighting one day with children in a Charlotte neighborhood. The conversation made her realize how little some people understood about the cruelty of the activity.

“Some of the kids were like, ‘But that’s what they do in my neighborhood,’ ” said Cranmer. “Literally, when a boy came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t know dogs had feelings,’ that was the start.”

Gunny helps teach

More than 100 copies of the book have been sold since it was published earlier this year. A few of them have made their way into school libraries, where teachers have used them to drive lessons in tolerance, perseverance and compassion. Gunny often makes special appearances during character education assemblies to reinforce those lessons.

Because Gunny’s injured leg was amputated, leaving him different from other dogs, he’s become a perfect example to show how differences shouldn’t be singled out or used to define someone. That’s a valuable lesson on the schoolyard.

Teachers at Lebanon Road Elementary School in east Charlotte, where Cranmer works as an occupational therapist, even have discovered that when they use Gunny in math problems or writing assignments, they consistently have 100 percent of their students completing the work.

All are added bonuses, said Cranmer.

“The original goal of the book was for more kids to hear the story and then take from that story how to be a good owner and how to be an advocate,” said Cranmer. “It just went from there.”

Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer.
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