Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The dog in the picture above is a trained Killer. Not a natural born killer -- a "trained" one. His name is "Hector" and he is one of the more than 50 fighting pit bulls rescued last summer from the "Bad Newz Kennels" operation owned by former Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick, now serving 23 months in prison on convictions for animal abuse and staging dog fights.

Federal agents who raided Michael Vick's kennel estate found Hector and his fellow gladiators in cramped cages or chained to buried car axels. All were malnourished. Many were injured, scarred from fights on which Vick and his customers had bet large sums of money as they enjoyed the illicit privilege of watching the animals rip each other apart. Some of the dogs had nerve damage, others bore the marks of chemical and electrical burns. These were "Killers" who had been horrendously tortured in an effort to make them more vicious and lethal.

Among the items seized on the property were pry bars used to open the jaws of fighting dogs, treadmills on which they were trained and 'rape stands' where female dogs were restrained to be forcibly bred. Most of the female dogs rescued had had their teeth pried out so they could not bite during breeding.

Initially, the captured animals were taken to pounds and shelters as material evidence, with most of the investigators figuring they would soon have to be destroyed. After all, everybody knows what Pit Bulls are like. And these had been especially trained to be even more mindless and brutal.

But before they could be euthanized, several animal welfare organizations came forward appealing for the opportunity to try and rehabilitate the dogs. Their pleas found immediate sympathy with the investigators, for instead of holding what they thought would be aggressive animals, the arresting officers were encountering terrified and traumatized dogs, who seemed eager for some kind of humane contact.

Within hours of being removed from their fighting kennel, Michael Vick's dogs were proving that far from being a danger, they were desperately in need of love and understanding. One of the toothless females, named Georgia, went out of her way to lick anyone who approached to show her friendliness. Others took any opportunity to play. A few, more traumatized by their ordeal, shied away in fear, completely defeated and expecting to be punished or killed.

Eventually, the dogs were put into the care of eight different rescue organizations across the US such as "Bad Rap" in Oakland, California and "Best Friends" in Kenab, Utah. Evaluated individually for their responses to obedience training, child and animal friendliness, Mike's dogs were categorized from those the rescue workers felt could one day become family pets to those who would need a great deal of therapy but could still enjoy a happier life. Only one animal was destroyed as being beyond recovery.

In their new shelters, the dogs were provided not only good food and clean water, but other items they hadn't had at "Bad Newz" -- their own beds, squeaky toys and full time caregivers, one of whom curled up with them at night.

While many people fear Pit Bulls, these dedicated rescue workers knew that most aggressive dog behavior is born of fear and that Mike's Dogs could be taught to trust again and therefore lead normal, happy canine lives.

Less than six months after his rescue, Hector is one of the first to find himself living life as a "pet"; sharing a home with two humans and three other dogs. He's given to raiding his human companion's underwear drawer and gallops around the house with the other dogs, engaging in all their games without incident.

His new owners have discovered he loves to snuggle his blanket at bedtime, has a peanut butter fetish, is mesmerized by classical music and whimpers with joy when he is hugged.

In short, Hector has become pretty much anybody's idea of the family dog; living testament that the evil one man tried to instill in him has been undone by the kindness of another. He's still socially inept at times. What dog isn't. Now and then, his humans will notice him lost in thought and wonder what terrible memories he may be reliving. But then Hector turns to them and wags his tail, letting them know the trained killer is no more.


Anonymous said...

What an inspirational story. I actually cried while reading this >.< It's so great that the dogs are now well taken care of, hopefully they will all be in good homes soon. Thanks for posting this :)

Cunningham said...

Damn you, Henshaw.

How the hell am I supposed to maintain my mad pulp bastard rep when you post stories like this?

Now I have to get a tissue.


Brandon Laraby said...

I was raised around pit bulls from the age of 8 on, by far they're my favourite breed. My dog, innocently named Chloe (my mom's idea), was the picture of the noble protector.

When she was with us, we would know no fear. Never once did she attack any human being - she growled at a few postmen but never attacked. She was an intelligent dog who loved us fiercely.

When I was 12 or so we had to move away but we couldn't have pets at our new place. Heartbroken my we gave her to a friend whom we thought would take care of her.

How stupid we were.

About a year later my mom was walking along the street and she heard a dog whining and yelping. To this day she says she doesn't know why she went to investigate, only that something told her to.

She came to a disheveled backyard and was horrified to see Chloe tied to a tree with a thin chain wrapped around her bare neck. She'd been struggling against it so hard that it'd cut into her flesh. She was malnourished and sick and the moment she saw my mom, she started straining even more against her bonds. My mom - who is on disability for a bad back - jumped over the fence and untied our dog.

If anyone was there, no one tried to stop her.

When my mom returned home with Chloe she was so excited to see us that she actually threw up, but being the lady that she was - unable to get outside - she ran to a corner and afterwards tried to hide us from it, as if she were ashamed.

Together we all helped love her back to health and slowly the truth about what had happened to our dog came out: Our 'friend' had traded her to a drug dealer for a bag of weed. That dealer had used Chloe to breed puppies which he'd sold for cash - apparently he'd gotten two litters out of her before we'd found her. Some time later he was arrested - and he told no one about Chloe. She'd been out there, tied to the tree for days when - somehow - my mom stumbled across her.

With our love and constant attention she soon overcame her torture - though there were nights when she'd be asleep on the floor and we could tell, we could see that she was having nightmares. And every time, every single time we saw it, we made sure to wake her up with a hug.

For the rest of her days, Chloe lived with us and I know that she was happy.

Though, even to this day, I cannot understand how it seems that in the end it is the Humans who end up acting like animals.

Thanks for that great post, Jim! I wish I could have adopted some of those dogs myself...

jimhenshaw said...


That's an incredible story!

The interesting coda, however, is that because you live in Ontario, you wouldn't be allowed to adopt one of Mike's dogs as Pitbulls have been banned here.

For those who don't know about our bizarre cure for animal attacks, the current population has been "grandfathered" into being muzzled in public and not allowed to breed by a government that finds it easier to punish abused animals than the people who misuse them.

Aaron Cook said...

It always angers me to see how some people treat (mistreat) the animals of this planet. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. :)

And hopefully, Hector won't come up against a bad situation and revert to the old behaviors that those scumbags had forced and instilled into him.

Great coverage on this story. Hopefully we'll see many more animals rescued like this. :)

Shine on,