If you know me, you know that I’m
mildly obsessed an avid follower of the Vicktory Dogs but truth be told, back in 2007 when the Michael Vick investigation took place, I really didn’t give much thought to “those dogs.” I’ve never been a fan of MV, but hey, whatevs. This whole dog fighting thing was foreign to me.
A common question at Best Friends is “how did you hear of us?” and the pat answer for me was through the Michael Vick thing, but really it was this article that set me on a path that has truly changed my life. That was when this gal happily plunged down the rabbit hole of Pit Bull ownership, rescue, volunteerism and became not only a fan of so many dog blogs, but of all of the Vicktory Dogs who have a public persona.
(Side note: technically “Vicktory Dogs” is the nickname for only the 22 dogs who went to Best Friends though the other roughly 28 dogs might be referred in a similar manner, I use this term both ways.)
So immersed am I in following the incredible journey of these dogs and their families that I often forget (or it never occurred to me) that some people go to Best Friends for reasons other than the Vicktory Dogs. Still countless others are completely unaware of their existence. That’s just crazy talk to me. Until I read that article about Mel, I really never saw these dogs as the victims, even though I was a dog lover. I just didn’t make the connection. That article was to change my life for the better and as a part of that, it was my hope to someday meet one of these small heroes who endured so much to come out better on the other side and who have directly effected a change in how dogs from fighting busts are handled.
I knew that there are six Vicktory dogs still at Best Friends as well as one that “works” there so it would be a pretty good bet (I hoped) that I would get to “meet” at least one of them but not in my wildest dreams did I expect what actually happened.
Ray the Vicktory Dog
Earlier this week I mentioned that we “encountered a special surprise” at Angel Village. Ray was once and always will be a Vicktory Dog, but he now enjoys not only a home of his own but he comes to work every day with his Mom who actually works at Best Friends. I knew from his Facebook page that he and his Mom walk to Angel Village every day so on Friday, our first day at the Sanctuary, after our tour ended we headed over to Angel Village waiting for lunch to begin. As we sat in the car, I saw from the mirror a familiar-looking woman walking an oh-so-familiar little dog. I may or may not have squealed at Kevin, “There’s RAY!” and then proceeded to freeze in my seat. As they completed their business inside Kevin said, “They’re leaving, you better say Hi,” and I quite literally spilled myself out of the car. I flung open the door, dropped my camera out of my lap and into the dusty dirt, spilled my purse and caused enough of a ruckus that Ray and his Mom stopped in their tracks, presumably assessing the crazy lady.
They approached and let us pet Ray who leaned against me (swoon)
as I gushed we chatted a bit and then Ray’s mom said something magical and so generous to me. If we finished with lunch early enough, we could come take Ray for a car ride. He isn’t so keen on leash walking with strangers but he will ride in a car with anyone. Naturally we made sure we were done so that we could have the honor of driving Mr. Ray about the Sanctuary. He definitely loved his car ride and effectively ignored his chauffeurs!
I’m sure you’re dying right now, right?
Lucas and Meryl were court ordered to live out their lives at Best Friends. Lucas was the grand champion and deemed to be of great value “on the street” so lived out a good life at the Sanctuary.
From Best Friends website:
“Meryl has worked so hard at Best Friends to overcome her painful past as a fighting dog rescued from the property of Michael Vick. It took a lot of effort, time and patience, but Meryl can now meet new people (staff members only) very politely. She can also allow new people near her octagon without having a panic attack. That’s tremendous success for a dog who once equated people with terrible pain and suffering. And now the student has become the teacher! She’s been paying it forward here at Best Friends. Because she has such good leash manners around other dogs, she’s been used as a model for others without the same grace. Meryl’s calm, cool and collected nature puts the other dogs at ease, so they no longer feel compelled to react when passing another dog. Meryl was court-ordered to live at Best Friends for the rest of her life.”
I was fortunate to volunteer at Meryl’s octagon and snap a few pictures of her. I called her name and she faced me with her ears perked and a friendly countenance.
She is beautiful, fit and seems like a very happy dog..
Mya and Curly
Meeting Ray and being allowed to take him for a car ride was more than I had ever hoped for. Seeing pictures hanging in tribute to Lucas in Dogtown’s headquarters was touching, spying Meryl through the fence of her run was very cool and all of those things combined could have been enough to send me home with an overabundance of the warm fuzzies. But then, there was that one last volunteer shift.
Mya and Curly live in Dogtown offices during the week to help them with their social skills but return to The Clubhouse on the weekends. The striking thing about all of the Vicktory Dogs was that they are all so tiny; none of them were taller than knee-height to me and I’m only 5’3″.
When I met the caregiver that Sunday morning and we talked about the agenda for the day and my
slight obsession interest in the Vicktory dogs he said we would try to get me some time with them. Just that glimmer of a hope was pretty cool and seeing them in their run was enough to make me happy. Mya is short and stout with bowed legs and Curly is even smaller and more compact and together their presence could be mistaken for two little shy dogs of no notoriety at all. When it was time, the caregiver, T, brought them both out on leash. His plan was that we would walk side by side and if the dogs didn’t seem too freaked, I would take a leash. I waited outside with my back turned (non-threatening body language) and he stopped next to me. Both dogs effectively ignored me as much as I struggled to ignore them so he handed me Mya’s leash and off we went for a walk. The trail for The Clubhouse like all of the others I had seen have a short version and a longer one, so the caretaker decided we would let Curly and Mya decide which way to go and to my delight, they chose the long path.
I didn’t take any pictures of them. These two brave little souls are still struggling with strangers and this big world and it wasn’t in my nature to disrupt them at all. Throughout our walk, “T” and I chatted about all things V-dog while Curly cast backward glances at me as if to insure that I was keeping my distance while Mya stoutly refused to acknowledge that anyone was on the other end of her leash, so there was no need to look around. I, on the other hand was on cloud 9.
Oh, how do I end this post? How do I end this adventure? Eventually our walk came to and end and we returned Mya and Curly to their area where they skittled away quickly and after about a 10 second try to coax them back, we respected their wishes and moved on. I walked a few more dogs and too soon Kevin came back to collect me and though I shook hands with the caregiver and left politely, inside I was kicking and screaming and refusing to leave.
We were off to the next part of our adventure and with but a small exception were both wishing we were back in Angel Canyon.
In case you’re wondering, here is a list of V dogs Facebook or other sites to the best of my knowledge and in no particular order.
Hallie and Friends
If I’ve missed any, be sure to let me know!