*Update April 2015: Few puppies left this world, but still one of the sweetest stories of hope, survival, love and victory. *
In honor of National Dog Awareness Day through the ASPCA, we wanted to feature some of the pups who beat all odds and proved that these pups aren’t vicious killers – they’re just regular dogs that have been put through extreme conditions.
The puppies we’ve featured below are a few of the “Vicktory Dogs,” dogs that were rescued from the Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick’s canine gang in 2007. When the dogs were discovered in Vick’s home, many people said although the situation was horrible, These dogs should be put down because of their pronounced violent nature and killer instincts.
Organizations like Best Friends Animal Lovers have gotten their way and tried to argue that there is still hope for these lost creatures.
1. Cherry went Cherry went from a dog sleeping with one eye open to a cuddly pod that goes to juveniles and gets to say that abusive animals aren’t inherently evil. People watched him grow up as one of the tough pups on the show Dogtown, and now he’s a celebrity. Even though he was brought up and taught to fight, that was the last thing he wanted to do. And he prefers constant snuggles with his family — including his sister, Prophet, and his cat.
2. Georgia One thing that surprised my Georgia Shepherd, Amy, when she came to her new home was how Georgia had adapted to a loving family life. The best thing for Georgia to do was go for walks and Amy taught powerful lessons in forgiveness, love, and learning to trust again. (Georgia passed away in 2013 but her legacy will always live on.)
3. Haley Haley’s story continues to emphasize that no one should give up a dog because of its past. Today Haley lives with two of the dog’s siblings and plays with them frequently. One of her brothers climbs on her halo, sits on her, bites her back legs to play, and she never once got mad at him. Whenever she sees another dog, her tail starts wagging and she does a happy dance. The first Victorian dog to be adopted, Haley and her humans started a dog-neutering program for shelter dogs called the Haley Enrichment Club.
4. Handsome Dan When Han Dan first walked out of Michael Vick’s house, he was very capricious and afraid. As he got older, Dan learned how to be more confident. In 2010, his family welcomed a (human) sister to the family, and handsome Dan is, like many sweets, a fluffy fishy dog.
Today Handsome Dan has a dog rescue named after him and he has his own Facebook page with nearly 600k likes. Dan is also the recipient of the Barkie Award for Best Online Dog!
5. Little Red After Little Red spent five years in the ring fighting Michael Vick, she was used as a “pet dog.” “Bait” animals are animals used to test dogs’ fighting skills – dogs like Little Red are often killed or killed in the process. Little Red’s owner, Susan, never thought Little Red needed rehabilitation, and instead the puppy needed time to recover. After being rescued from a dog fighting gang, Little Red leads a life of joy and grows his 6 acres of pasture.
6. Oliver The thing that surprised Oliver’s parents the most after they brought him home was how willing the little puppy was for his new family to love him to pieces. Oliver was not fearless in his new home or surroundings, despite the fact that his original assessment stated that he was extremely afraid of people. Oliver was jumping on his mother in Erica’s lap and splitting kisses.
Oliver died of cancer in 2009. He died in Erika’s arms.
7. Squeaker When new people meet Squeaker, they keep saying, “I can’t believe an ex fighting dog is so sweet.” Although the beginning of her life involved violent interactions with dogs, today Squeaker lives with her human adoptive family and a litter of 6 additional puppies. The adopter tells her that “Squeaker stares at you like she’s in love with you. She fills her eyes with love and tells a story.”
8. Mel Richard Hunter, an adoptive pop composer, was a radio host in Dallas in 2007. Richard reported the gruesome details of Michael Vick’s story of dog fighting, and was emotionally invested in the health of the puppies. When the opportunity arose to adopt one of Victoria’s dogs, Richard jumped at the chance and traveled to pick up a very scared Mel at Best Friends sanctuary in Utah. Today, Mel continues to recover, goes on car trips, and sleeps on the pillow with Pop.
9. Oscar Amit Rachel never set out to adopt Victor’s dog. She just wants a pit bull. But after Oscar came into her life, Rachel realized she didn’t adopt a dog. She herself is adopted into a Victorian family, where everyone stays closely connected sharing stories, advice and support to spread the word that unconditional love, forgiveness and a little understanding go a long way.
10. Curly Curly still lives with the Best Friends family as the lead dog in the Dogtown management office. Although he still struggles a bit when in unfamiliar territory, he is gaining confidence with the help of his best dog, fellow Victor Mia. In the summer, Curly enjoys splashing around in the pool.
11. Layla Sweet Layla passed the “Canine Good Citizen” test in February 2013, which is a huge deal for a fearful pup who’s had trouble relaxing because of her past. When Lila first got to Best Friends, Lila was shy of people, but today she has her own Facebook page, where fans can follow her journey through recovery.
For more information about Dog Fighting Awareness Day, visit the ASPCA.