Freedom for man’s best friend

Published 1:00 am Sunday, January 29, 2012

Freedom for Friends volunteers Donna and Tim McLaworn and Kathy Bell put the finishing touches on the organization’s first project Saturday. Yogi (inset) was the first recipient of a Freedom for Friends fence built by the local nonprofit so that Yogi’s owners will no longer have to keep him chained to a tree in their yard. (WDN Photos/Vail Stewart Rumley)

Yogi is 3 years old. Like most young dogs, he has tons of energy and loves to play.
Until Saturday, the mixed-breed pup expended all his energy running circles around the tree to which he was tied. Thanks to a growing local nonprofit organization, for the first time in his life, he’ll be free.
Chocowinity resident Brenda Rogers has a mission: to free dogs that spend most of their lives chained to fixed point by donating the money, materials and time of a slew of volunteers to build 25-foot-by-25-foot enclosed pens for the confined animals.
On Saturday, Yogi became the first recipient of one of those pens through Freedom for Friends, Rogers’ nonprofit. At 10 a.m., 11 volunteers arrived at the Paige residence on Charlotte Street in Washington with the tools and supplies to build Yogi’s new pen.
Rogers, the coordinator of computer-support services at Beaufort County Community College, is clear on why she’s decided to use her spare time building pens.
“Chained dogs are not happy dogs,” she explained. “They want to be in the house with their people. But for whatever reason, some people can’t have that — I understand that. But this way, (the dog) will have a place to run around and where their guardians can play with them.”
For the Paige family, that reason was a child terrified of dogs. When Rogers approached Yogi’s owners and offered her services, the response was immediate.
“I had been praying for something like this,” said Mona Paige. “(Freedom for Friends) is something good. It’s had a good impact on me and my family. We didn’t like the fact that we had to keep Yogi tied.”
The free pen does not come without conditions. Recipients like Yogi must have a full veterinarian’s check-up, with up-to-date shots, and be spayed or neutered, all of which is provided by Freedom for Friends.
“Beaufort County doesn’t need any more puppies,” said Rogers, who explained the reasoning behind the proviso: the high euthanasia rate at the county’s animal shelter.
“You could easily say that 80 percent of the animals that go into the shelter are euthanized,” she said.
Rogers landed on the idea for Freedom for Friends through research, which led her to the Raleigh organization Coalition to Unchain Dogs. Through it, she learned what she could do in her community.
“They were invaluable,” said Rogers of her experience with Coalition to Unchain Dogs.
Coalition members invited Rogers to build a pen with them and do outreach, in which volunteers knock on doors and speak to the owners of chained dogs.
“I learned the do’s and don’ts, what not to say,” Rogers said of taking a nonjudgmental approach to the owners. “It’s not about the people. It’s about the dogs.”
Rogers says that Freedom for Friends’ end goal is to have an anti-tethering law in place in Beaufort County. Similar laws exist in Raleigh and Durham, where dog owners may only leave a dog on a chain unsupervised for 45 minutes.
For now, Rogers and the other volunteers have two more pens lined up. And the lucky dog, Yogi, has some new toys and a yard of his own.
For more information on, visit the Freedom for Friends Facebook page or email