Monday, April 19, 2010

Lucas: Love Champion

In my time as a caregiver at Best Friends I've worked with all kinds of dogs with all sorts of temperaments, but I haven't had too much contact with the Vicktory dogs, the pit bulls that were formerly owned by Michael Vick. There are a few I say hello to that live in staff offices and whom I see fairly often, but just haven't had the opportunity to get to know any of them too well... until a few weeks ago!

I was helping out with a transport of two dogs that needed to see medical specialists in Las Vegas. When I got in the van along with ace BF Lead Dog Tech Sarah Kubacki I discovered that we'd be transporting two dogs: Jingles, an awesomely friendly little pit bull with a mysterious eye issue, and Lucas, one of the most legendary of the Vicktory dogs. Thought by investigators to be Vick's champion fighter, this large brown pit bull has quite the impressive scar collection, particularly around his face and muzzle, and is one of two dogs compelled to live out his life here at Best Friends by order of the court. He also has a reputation for being an all-around sweetheart and nice guy and I'd met him a few times in an office where he visits sometimes and greets staff and visitors to BF. My time at Best Friends has only deepened my love for pit bulls and I was quite happy to be spending time with Lucas and Jingles!

The ride down to Vegas was uneventful and Jingles went to her ophthalmologist appointment, where she needed to stay for a while, so we continued on with Lucas for his cardiologist appointment. He's one of the BEST dogs for medical handling I've ever seen and was open and friendly as the vet did his physical exam... and then his two vet students repeated the exam, with Lucas smiling the whole time! He got the same excellent reviews from the techs who escorted him into a private room for his echocardiogram. Lucas is being monitored for an enlarged heart caused by heartworm, which was treated when he arrived at Best Friends. I'm happy to say that the cardiologist was very pleased.

We got some news about Jingles, too: she was going to have to stay overnight for a minor surgical procedure in the morning. It didn't make sense to drive all the way back to Best Friends only to have to return to Las Vegas in the morning, so we made some phone calls and came up with a plan: we would stay in Las Vegas overnight... and take Lucas on his very first sleepover outside of Best Friends! Once we were out of the vet's office with Lucas I made some reservations and found a dog-friendly hotel for the evening.

Lucas remained friendly at the hotel, but at first he didn't want to leave the bathroom! He was fascinated by the shower stall and wanted to hang out in there - obviously a little intimidated by the brand new environment. We gave him a little while to decompress and get comfy and gave him some water, and after a bit encouraged him to come out and explore... which eventually, he did. When we made it clear that he was welcome to come up onto the bed if he wanted, he did... and plopped himself down between us to watch some TV. We petted him as he watched, transfixed by the antics of Steve Carell, a real couch potato! As he grew more comfortable with his surroundings he rolled on his back for belly scratches and occasionally wandered up to give us some kisses. He was also fascinated by the pizza that was delivered! (Of course, I would never give a dog people food... y'know, except a little crust...)

We wandered out for his evening walk - he was amiable and curious and accepted the extremely blustery winds and the sights and sounds of a bustling city, so unlike what he is used to, with admirable ease. When bedtime came, he stretched out between us and slept soundly while snoring lightly, waking us in the morning with happy kisses and a wagging tail.

We had some time in the morning before we had to pick up Jingles, so Lucas came with us on an outing to the park. He did great and enjoyed himself immensely - he was particularly interested in the duck pond and was very curious about the ducks and geese! We saw some other leashed dogs at a distance and while he was curious about them, he didn't show any sign of aggression. He was loose and happy and loved walking on grass, something he doesn't have much of at the desert sanctuary! After our park outing we picked Jingles up from the vet and headed home to Utah.

Lucas is one of the most well-known of a group of dogs whom some leaders in animal welfare thought - and some still think - should be killed. They were called "ticking time bombs" and "some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country". "Rehabilitating fighting dogs", one animal group opined, "is not in the cards." As I woke up in that hotel room with a scarred, battered, happy, silly, joyous pit bull licking my face, I had only one thought: I wish that people who truly love animals but believe that pit bulls or fighting victims are somehow different or irredeemable could have the same experience I had, to spend an evening in a hotel room with Lucas and a night with him rolling over for scratches, being silly, investigating new things, and sleeping peacefully by your side - and wake up to this incredibly resilient, affectionate and forgiving animal licking your face. Lucas is a wonderful dog on his own merits, and I very much hope that one day the court will allow him to be adopted so he may have people of his own. He deserves it.


Blogger JvB said...

John, your story is very moving, and you make a compelling argument for the legal community to not only protect these animals, but to let them be rehabilitated with humans in safe environments and find forever homes. I hope they do! Good luck to Lucas and the rest of the Vicktory dogs, who are not to blame for the acts they were -forced by humans- to commit.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this amazing post! Give Lucas cuddles from a dog lover in VA, and from Snowball, Cooper, and Foster!

1:07 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

Thank you for your wonderful post. I have six rescues, three are pit bulls, and only other pit owners understand when I say the pits are the EASIEST ones in my home! So loving, so affectionate, so very eager to please. Just because ANY dog, not just pit bulls, isn't "raised right" does not mean it should automatically be doomed to death and it cannot become a wonderful pet. The key is knowledgeable and skilled evaluation and patient rehabilitation. And, of course, the CHANCE for that to happen.

It's too bad we can't just eliminate the people who put animals in such situations in the first place. I'm not at all convinced Mr. Vick's "rehabilitation" is even remotely genuine.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we write to anyone at the courts to try and get this decision reversed.... Lucas must live in a real home with a real family and have these sorts of days EVERYDAY!!!

4:14 PM  
Blogger George said...

Thank you for taking the time to care enoughfor our friends and write this article. Lucas is an amazing dog. It is about time that people stand up for this breed . They would stand up for us. We need to do what is right. Right now not later.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Greg Finnegan said...

Very, very excellent.

It is a real shame that he, who did nothing wrong, has to work so hard to show he's just a great dog, while human convicts expect parole as something they deserve.


8:07 PM  

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