Ten years ago, 51 pit bulls were rescued from NFL quarterback Michael Vick's Virginia property, where they'd been subjected to cruel and despicable torture in the form of forced dog fighting.
At first, the dogs' futures were uncertain. Traditionally, fighting dogs have been held as evidence until the trial is over and then euthanized, and many people considered the survivors of Vick's fighting ring a threat, according to The Dodo. Sadly, some of the dogs did pass away-two dogs died in care shortly after rescue, and one was humanely euthanized after being deemed "too emotional and physically damaged" to save, according to the Huffington Post. But the remaining 48 dogs were given one more chance to fight-this time, for a chance at life and love.
While many of the dogs were able to enter foster homes immediately, others needed a little more time to heal. Best Friends Animal Society in Utah took 22 of the dogs who needed the most help and attention, and several others went to BAD RAP in California, an animal rescue group that's devoted to caring and advocating for pit bulls, according to The Dodo. Today, the dogs are happy and full of love; their scars aren't keeping them from a bright future. Here's where a few of them are today.
Cherry was one of the first dogs to be adopted, according to Best Friends. When he went home with Paul and Melissa Fiaccone in 2009, he became the "heartbeat" of their family. When he's not at home playing with the Fiaccones' other dog or two cats, Cherry's out on the road with his family as a spokesdog for Best Friends, sharing his incredible story of survival."Regardless of Cherry's history and background, he has changed my life and our family's life forever," Paul told Best Friends.
Handsome Dan used to be afraid of his own shadow when he first arrived at Best Friends from the Vick estate, but since 2010, he's been with a loving family and inseparable from their daughter Josephine from the time she was a toddler. Dan often helps out his human, Heather, who is a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, in teaching good behavior to at-risk dogs. "At its core, everything I have learned I have learned for Dan, in an effort to be better for him and dogs like him, to be worthy of him. All of us are better for having him in our lives," Heather said.
Mel still gets nervous around new people-he'll often sit in a corner with his back to the wall so no one can surprise him-but he's come a long way from his days in the fighting ring. Today, he likes long car rides where he can watch the outside world race by, safe from behind a window. He lives happily at home with his human, radio host Richard Hunter, along with two dogs and five cats.
Little Red has been living quietly and happily with her owner in Wyoming and her several other dog friends. Her precious face has grown white, her eyes cloudy, and her bones more fragile with time, but her owner Susan calls the transformation beautiful. "She has grown from a young and badly abused dog to a graceful and quiet senior," Susan said. "She has taught me the virtues of forgiveness and redemption, and that love is earned through the small acts of kindness that can touch and heal a broken heart-both hers and mine."
"The remaining 48 dogs were given one more chance to fight-this time, for a chance at life and love."
A new documentary from filmmaker Darcy Dennett takes a deeper dive into the lives and struggles of these adorable pups, according to Best Friends. Showing not only the dogs' journeys but also those who fought for the dogs to keep their lives, The Champions is an emotional exploration of prejudice, resilience, and the relationships humans have with animals. You can download the film for $5 on The Champions' website or purchase the DVD for $25 at Best Friends. Watch the trailer for the documentary below.
(h/t The Dodo)
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