Saturday, February 02, 2008

What's Become of Michael Vick's Dogs

When Michael Vick's vicious pit bull fighting ring was exposed last year, I assumed that the hapless dogs would all be euthanized because they had been trained to fight to the death and could probably never be rehabilitated.

I was so wrong. As chronicled in Juliet Macur's article, "Given Reprieve, N.F.L. Star's Dogs Find Kindness," in today's New York Times, each of the 48 pit bulls was individually evaluated and only one was found to be beyond salvation.

A few have actually already been adopted, but most are in the care of a few specialist Rescue organizations such as the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, which is currently caring for 22 of the former fighters, all of whom are carrying deep physical and emotional wounds.

Most poignant of these survivors is Georgia, whose 42 teeth were brutally removed, presumably to render her incapable of biting male dogs during repeated forced breedings.

“I’m worried most about Georgia,” said the Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Frank McMillan, an expert on the emotional health of animals, who edited the textbook “Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals.” “You don’t have the luxury of asking her, or any of these animals: ‘What happened to you in your past life? How can we stop you from hurting?’

“So here we are left with figuring out how to bring joy to her life,” he said of Georgia, known to lick the face of anyone who comes near. “We want to offset the unpleasant memories that dwell in her brain.”

I don't know whether or not Best Friends, or the other caregivers of the former Vick dogs, has enlisted the services of an animal communicator, but it certainly seems like it would be a good idea.

According to John Garcia, the assistant dog care manager at Best Friends:

“The biggest job we have with these guys is teaching them that it’s O.K. to trust people. It may take months or years, but we’re very stubborn. We won’t give up on them. . .These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us,” Mr. Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. “But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are.”

This is a must-read article, along with the accompanying slide show, narrated by Garcia.

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