Thursday, February 7, 2013

Little Red, a Vicktory Story

Little and her portrait by Pet Studio Art.

Little Red was rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation in 2007. Well, I guess we shouldn't call it ‘rescue’ right away, since the dogs that were taken from the ‘Vick’ property were actually placed in custody for the next several months before truly being rescued.

Little Red was one of twenty-two of the Vick Pit Bulls that was sent to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. It was here that a dedicated team of dog behavior specialists met and set up a plan for working with these pups in order to rehabilitate them to their ultimate goal; being adopted into loving homes, a place that these pups had never had before.

The 22 dogs that were sent to Best Friends were among the most traumatized of the pups. Little Red in particular was used as a “bait dog” (a dog that is used for the fighters to practice on). Many of her teeth were filed down or removed completely, so she would not be able to harm the other dogs, her body is covered in scars and she has a serious illness called Babesia, a common disease in dogs that experience deep puncture wounds during fights.

Despite all of the outward and inward trauma when Little and her friends arrived at Best Friends, the staff was determined to ensure that these pups were given the best chance at a happy life, even the dogs that are court ordered never to leave the Sanctuary are given the best care both physically and emotionally by the team that looks out for them.

Little at Best Friends.
For every animal lover in America, it was impossible not to watch the story of the ‘Vicktory’ dogs. Little’s now mom, Susan,  was no exception and enjoyed reading all about the pups in the Best Friend’s magazine, where she fell in love with Little’s smile. While she enjoyed reading about all of the dogs, something about Little Red stuck with her and during Little’s 2nd year at Best Friends, Susan stopped by to visit. Although Little was extremely shy and would not approach the fence, Susan was able to see Little interact with another dog. It was love at first glance and although she was not able to meet Little face to face because of the court order (Little Red was still not ready to interact with volunteers), she did decide to volunteer at Best Friends, even being able to work in Little's Unit and observe her in her ‘shy dog’ class; a class where staff members sit in a room and when one of the ‘shy dogs’ approach them of their own free will, they get a treat! Little loved being around other dogs and would prance and smile, it was hard not to be smitten with her.

It was after seeing Little in her ‘shy dog’ class, Susan stopped by the adoption office to ask about adopting Little. She figured it was a long shot and that tons of applications would be piling up for Little, but to her surprise, Susan was the first person to inquire about Little, she was ecstatic that she would have a chance to be considered to adopt this special pup.

Little enjoying the sun.
Since she had previously adopted a dog from Best Friends, Susan had a great history with them, but because Little Red was a ‘Vick’ dog and had a court order attached, the adoption process for Little Red would be much more extensive this time. Little had to pass her Canine Good Citizenship test (which she passed in August of 2011) and she would need to meet all of the existing dogs in Susan’s home. Susan also needed to provide information on her home, insurance, training resources, yard, fence and philosophy regarding dogs. None of this was a problem and after bringing her pups to Best Friends for their visit in September, Little moved in for the 6 month foster-trial period just a couple of weeks later!

Once arriving home, it did take a bit of adjusting for Little to start to feel at home. Little was very shy and had never lived in a home environment before, so the normal sounds of everyday life were an entirely new experience and overwhelming for Little. She was afraid of coming and going through doors and up and down stairs, she reacted with fear when the washer or dryer was turned on. Sudden noises on the TV, the dishwasher or storms terrified her. Little was even scared of wide open spaces when she first moved in with Susan, but after several months, Little was embracing her new life and learned to enjoy the open pasture at her new home.

She doesn’t play with toys, but Little loves being around other dogs more than anything. She lives with a couple of older dogs that are not as active as she is (even at 10, Little loves to play); Susan mentioned that she even gets her feelings her when the other dogs ignore her requests to play. Little loves nothing more than having a Pit Bull visitor for a play-date. She lights up and loves to wrestle and have ‘pittie play’ a special type of play that pit bulls adore. When a Pit Bull buddy isn’t around, Little’s favorite thing to do is run with Susan. She races ahead of Susan in the pasture, leaps in the air with a big grin, then doubles back to start all over again.

Little and her family.
Little Red’s adoption was finalized on March 19th, 2012. Little had been home for months, but that official paperwork truly meant that Little would never have to worry again, she would be loved and cared for, in a wonderful home, for the rest of her life. Little is a testament to the sweetness that is inside of all dogs, even those that have been hurt in the past.

The important thing to remember with Little’s history (and all other dogs that come from similar situations) is that she was the victim, not the other way around. The practices of dog fighters are brutally sadistic, these are individuals that will watch another living being kill or be killed in front of them for greed and entertainment. These people are criminals, regardless of their jobs, their family life or their views on other issues in the world outside of the dog fighting arena. People who participate in breeding dogs for fighting, watching dog-fights or even going so far as to bet on the fights are just as guilty as those putting the dogs in the pit. Dogs are feeling, thinking beings. They yelp when you accidentally step on their tail, they slink away after you catch them digging through the garbage, they snuggle with you when they aren’t feeling well. Anyone who argues that dogs don’t deserve a wonderful life should simply click the ‘x’ at the top of this screen and leave because I don’t really want those people visiting my blog.

Little Red and Cheeto.
Vick and his cronies tried to make a mean dog out of Little Red, but they did not succeed. She survived their brutality. She survived their torture. Little is a sweet, affectionate dog that adores other dogs. She suffers from PTSD, but has shown herself to be a truly remarkable dog in her recovery process. The five years that she suffered will always be a part of her past, but Little only has happy things to look forward to. She will live her remaining years with all of the things that dogs should have; companionship, love and respect.

“Dogs have always played a big part in my life. I have 5 rescue dogs and will continue to have rescue dogs for the rest of my life. Little is a remarkable survivor and she is able to forgive people – even though it was people that inflicted such horrible pain on her…. Isn’t that amazing?” – Susan, Little’s mom.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

Little loves her new life but doesn't forget about her Best Friends family. She stops by to visit!