Brunson’s story; Troy native brings awareness of dog fighting


Eamon Baird

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TROY — On Dec. 12, Kristen Tilton was dropping off a check at Our Farm Sanctuary in Tipp City, where she volunteers, when a dog arrived that changed her life. Now she wants to raise awareness about dog fighting through his story.

Brunson, formally named Maximus, a 9-year-old pit bull, was brought into the animal rescue facility from the streets of Trotwood.

Brunson’s Story

Tilton, who grew up in Troy and now resides in St. Marys, described when she first saw Brunson, who weighed less than 40 pounds and smelled of rotting flesh.

“His mouth had multiple sides of abscess, where he had been trying to eat like gravel and sticks to survive. It was just horrific,” Tilton said.

She said she was wary of approaching the dog that had suffered abuse, but after crawling to get a drink of water, Brunson approached her.

“He looked around and was all hunkered down. He dragged himself over and collapsed in my arms,” Tilton said.

Tilton rushed Brunson to MedVet in Dayton, where he received immediate emergency surgery. Dr. Ken Brunson, who performed the surgery, confirmed to her that the dog had severely abscessed gums with dirt, debris, and grass, which he had likely been trying to eat to stay alive.

“I waited for five and a half, almost six hours. I had surgical team members not involved in Brunson’s case at all coming in to tell me that despite all the pain, all the trauma that this dog was in, he was back there wagging his tail and was as gentle as can be,” she said.

Tilton added that Dr. Brunson, whom she named the dog after, and the rest of the MedVet staff decided to pay for Brunson’s x-rays, blood work, and other expenses because they were encouraged by the dog’s positive attitude.

That evening, Tilton took Brunson home to get some much-needed rest.

“He slept so hard that night. I know he had been sedated, but I also felt like it was his body, and his heart just knew he was decompressing. He knew he was safe,” she said.

Brunson spent the next three days enjoying the home he’d been neglected for the last nine years. He went car rides, rolled around in the grass, and meet Stella and Lucy, two of Tilton’s other dogs.

On the morning of Dec. 16, Brunson received a new pair of Christmas pajamas that he wore the whole day.

“He would lean into me with his whole body when I was petting him because they were soft flannel, and I think he liked the warmth,” Tilton said.

Unfortunately, that night, Brunson’s condition took a turn for the worse.

“Brunson died in my arms on Saturday, Dec. 16. at about 9:45 p.m.,” Tilton said.

She talked about Brunson’s impact on her.

“People say it’s crazy because I had him for five days. But it doesn’t matter. If your heart loves someone or something, it doesn’t matter if it’s been 24 hours, five days, or five years; it doesn’t matter. It’s still love, and he deserved way more than his nine years gave him,” Tilton said.

A history of abuse

Tilton suspected Brunson was a bait dog used in training for dog fights.

The pit bull terrier dog originated in the early 1800s in the United Kingdom (UK) when terriers and bulldogs were bred. These dogs were often used in cruel, blood-fighting sports, often for the entertainment of the lower class.

Pit bulls immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s, where they were given calmer lives than their British counterparts. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, illegal dog fighting gained popularity in the United States, with the pit bull re-emerging as the ideal dog for these fights.

Because dog fighting is illegal in the United States, it operates outside the public view. Tilton warned about the signs of possible dog fighting in the Dayton area.

“If you’re concerned because your neighbors have multiple dogs on their properties and never really see their owners outside with them, and you never really see the dogs in the daylight, but you only see him at nighttime; that can be an indicator of dog fighting,” Tilton said.

Tilton added that anyone suspecting animal abuse or possible dog fighting should call the Miami Valley Animal Shelter.

“Brunson was nine years old, according to the chip the previous owner gave. You don’t live in that type of environment for nine years without serving a purpose. So, it’s not just the six months of abuse. It’s not just the immediate abuse that occurred before he escaped. It’s nine years, and I firmly believe some of those scars on his body that I have pictures of are nine years, and they’re so deep. It’s just it’s disgusting,” Tilton said.

Despite the years of abuse, Brunson remained a friendly dog until the end.

“He is proof a dog’s past does not define them,” Tilton said.

Brunson’s legacy

On Dec. 17, Tilton wrote Brunson’s obituary on her Facebook page, which has since gone viral.

“Brunson Anthony Tilton, age 9, crossed the rainbow bridge last night peacefully looking at his mommy wearing his new Christmas jammies. His heart and body just couldn’t take it, according to the emergency vet, but he was surrounded by so much love when he passed,” she said.

“You were safe. You were wanted. You were so loved. You were my boy.”

She also started a petition on asking for stronger laws and penalties for dog fighting and animal cruelty. As of Monday, Feb. 5, the petition had gained over 24,000 signatures.

She sent her petition to local politicians such as Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and State Rep. Jena Powell but has not heard back.

Brunson was also entered into America’s Favorite Pets, where the top prize is a $10,000 donation to a selected pet sanctuary.

“I’ve been thinking about Brunson’s legacy and what I want it to be about, not just the horrific tragedy and life he led; I want it to be positive. I want to use this tragedy to make changes for other animals in our community,” Tilton said.

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