Doghouse 15 - Aija Gillman

Aija Gillman of Pinckneyville, Ill., pets Tia, a homeless dog, in front of a 2006 Chevy Aveo. Gillman won the vehicle after being chained to a doghouse during a competition that raised awareness of chained canines.

Though Don McKendree did not win a two-week competition, his dog did.

McKendree – owner of a husky that has spent most of its life chained to a doghouse – was himself chained up with nine other volunteers at Leidy Park’s ballfield.

The purpose: Calling awareness to the lives of chained canines and freeing them from their cooped-up lives outdoors.

The prize: A 2006 Chevy Aveo.

Though contestant Aija Gillman of Pinckneyville, Ill., ultimately won the contest and the vehicle, McKendree’s dog, Nikki, might have been the big winner.

McKendree welcomed Nikki back into his Richland Township home.

He said he had time to reflect during the competition. “It just crushed me inside to think of the animals that are out there suffering,” he said.

“My puppy was chained because she had issues in the house. She’ll never go back on it again.”

Tammy Grimes, a Tipton resident who founded Dogs Deserve Better four years ago, traveled home with McKendree and said she will provide a fence for his property.

“Our success with Don is just amazing,” she said. “To me that made the entire thing worth it.”

An emotional Gillman said contestants participated in elimination rounds – including getting a soy hot dog out of a bottle without using their hands. And they had little human contact.

“We endured a lot of weather,” she said. “To know you are on a 15-foot chain is a little difficult.”

Gillman said she now realizes what dogs go through – being tied up without knowing when they will be freed.

Grimes has spent up to 33 hours in chains in past years but this year the organization expanded the event to get publicity.

“It’s really bringing the issue to the forefront,” she said.

Recommended for you