Reminiscing

I admit that I’ve been feeling overly emotional for the better part of the last few weeks and although Marley’s official adoption was impactful it was also almost anticlimactic since this was the goal we had been working toward and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to have let it drag out. Also recently the Vicktory Dogs have been in the media feeds a lot.  It was recently the anniversary of their confiscation from the chains that bound them at the house on Moonlight Road and to commemorate that a private mass tree planting ceremony took place on those grounds.  The photos from that day evoke a sense of hurt and healing that I can’t even fathom feeling.

 

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Pictures of Lucas hang in the Dogtown lobby.

Also this week The Champions was released on Netflix and of course I had to watch it. While I expected to feel a sense of sadness and certainly renewed outrage over what these dogs had been through, I surprisingly felt much less of both than I expected.  While I hesitate to use the phrase because of all of the stalker-y connotations, I feel like a Superfan of these dogs.  I haven’t exactly followed their story from the beginning but after having read this article, I can honestly say my mission and the course of my life have been dramatically and irrevocably altered. I follow every known Facebook page of the former V dogs and can probably recount snippets of information that should have long sunk in the depths of memory.  I also have a small collection of pawtographed prints and other items from past auctions that I still haven’t found the proper place to display and toy often with the idea of donating them back.  But I digress.  Viewing The Champions with my own Ray-Ray snuggled at my side felt more like watching home movies of people and dogs that I’ve come to love and admire. “Oh, look Ray, that’s Georgia!  Oh look! Lucas’s picture!  Look there’s Meryl!  Oh that’s Donna Reynolds talking.  Aw, look, it’s Jewels!”  Yes, some of it was heartbreaking to watch but it really was so well done.

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Ray the Vicktory Dog

 

It also came to my attention that today is the first anniversary of the passing of Ray the Vicktory dog. Ah, the little brown dog.  For several years I had had it in my mind to visit the Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah and hopefully meet a Vicktory dog.  It was they who inspired me and without their story I most likely wouldn’t be an adopter, foster, advocate, protector, defender, dog mama, volunteer, rescuer, or any other tag that might fit and because of that I wanted to just meet them, see them, pay tribute to the way in which the direction of my life changed because of them.  When Lucas passed away I snapped out of my want to-wish to-hope to phase and sprang into action planning our trip as 2007 was fast fading and these dogs weren’t getting any younger.

 

Remember those snippets? I knew that Ray and his mama went to get the mail everyday at Angel’s Café, so I made sure Kevin and I were parked outside as early as possible after our volunteer shift and we waited in our rental car for the pair to arrive. Arrive they did and I watched, petrified, as they disappeared into the building and sat fidgeting as they were inside and then sat again terrified as I said, “There they go.”  Kevin immediately told me to get out of the car and I sprang into action by flinging open the door, dropping my camera in the red dust and falling out of the car causing the pair to stop and stare at me in shocked silence departing the car in a calm manner and asking if that was, in fact, Ray.  Jacque was very nice and as we gently stroked Ray’s back and ears we chatted about Ray’s small size and the smallness in general of all of the V dogs.  I was struck by the normality of Ray.  He was a quiet little dog who leaned against me as I stroked his soft hair and absorbed the attention. He wasn’t standing there as One Of The Dogs Who Changed The Lives Of Many Former Fighting Dogs, he was just Ray in the sunshine. We were invited to come back to Parrots and pick Ray up for a car ride which was both thrilling and terrifying in the responsibility of transporting this dog but in the end, we didn’t wreck the car at the 5 miles per hour rate of speed, we didn’t get lost and returned him in one piece.

 

There’s no special point to this post exactly, just a bit of melancholy and a bit of reminiscing and a need to relive that day in my mind.

Vicktory Ride

Over the weekend the world lost a little brown dog. If you had ever happened to see him out and about, you may not have realized that he was a game changer or a trail blazer. You might have mistaken him for just another little brown dog.

  

To the thousands of people who followed him, Ray the Vicktory Dog was an inspiration and a true hero. A little dog who survived Bad Newz Kennels, was rescued and along with roughly 50 others helped change the way we see former fight dogs and pit bulls in general. He overcame numerous hurdles and became a beloved family dog. As we mourn the physical loss, we will celebrate the life and legacy of Ray the Vicktory Dog.

As it happened, we had been in contact with the shelter from which Bentley was pulled and had planned for another pull on Saturday. Allen County SPCA was gearing up for a large Tent Event and we knew from experience that by the end of the day Saturday many dogs would be resting in the comfort of their very own new homes so I was planning to collect five dogs that we had “earmarked” for the SPCA. When I arrived, we had to do some readjusting due to adoptions (Yay!) but quickly set about filling the crates I had loaded into the Pittie Van.

  

While the transport was previously scheduled, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a good tribute to Ray. What better way to honor the memory of a rescued and adopted dog who loved car rides than with a transport.*

In the back of my mind I was hoping there would be an opportunity to name one of these dogs in Ray’s honor, but it turns out that fate already had that taken care of. The little pittie girl who made the transport had recently been named Mya.**

I thought that was very fitting.

*While the sending shelter is doing really good things, they are less visible than the Allen County SPCA which enjoys a very robust adoption rate.

**The name of one of the Vicktory Dogs still living at Best Friends.

The Vicktory Dogs

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.

Part of my collection.

Part of my collection.

(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?

Meryl

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.

Meryl

Meryl

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.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

Oscar

Cherry Garcia and Cherry Garcia 

Handsome Dan

Vicktory Dog Mel

Vicktory for Layla

Squeaky Jean

Little Red

Stella and Crew

Ginger Girl

Shadow 

Jhumpa Jones

Jasmine’s House

Gracie’s Guardians

Hector the Pitbull

Audie’s Journey

Hallie and Friends
If I’ve missed any, be sure to let me know!