By DIANA WALDHUBER
I feel like a terrible liar. Especially as I said that our previous two-parter was the last one for a while. But what do you do when you come across an important DogTown episode like this? (Ed. note: we thought it important to finally write a blog about "Saving Michael Vick Dogs," the first episode from DogTown's second season.)
Do you remember Michael Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback? If you’re thinking the guy who was convicted for running a dog-fighting ring, then you’re completely and utterly right.
Yes, it is an unthinkable, disgusting thing.
Watching this episode made you furious and sad, all at the same time. It’s enough to almost make you wish you didn’t know about it, because before you found out about some of the horrible things humans are capable of, life was a little nicer. Ignorance can be bliss.
I digress. This illegal dog-fighting operation did not, as you can imagine, treat the dogs nicely, or even fairly. The dogs that did poorly were killed, or as Dogtown puts it, "executed."
When the dogs -- all of them pit bulls, a breed that gets enough bad press as it is -- were rescued and the ring shut down, they were taken into protective custody and evaluated. All those poor dogs had been abused, both physically and mentally.
Some were deemed too hurt and injured from the life they had led and were put down. Forty-seven pit bulls were rescued. Of those, twenty-two of the toughest cases were sent to Dogtown.
This episode chose to focus on the toughest of the toughest cases. Four pit bulls: Denzel, Cherry, Georgia, and Meryl.
Luckily, some of the best representatives -- and the kind of people that still give you hope for mankind -- were in charge of rehabilitating these dogs. Dogtown believed these dogs, which were trained to attack other dogs and, in turn, protect themselves from being mauled to death by other dogs, had most likely never been the recipient of kindness or love. Because of this, not only were the dogs capable of love, they had a future to look forward to.
Trainers John Garcia and Ann Allums, dog care manager Michelle Besmehn and vet Patti Iampietro all believed in the four dogs, and worked tirelessly for them.
When he arrived, Cherry was so terrified of everyone that he’d flatten himself to the ground and try and disappear. Dogtown workers believed he may have been used as bait to train the other dogs. What a horrible, horrible life to be inflicted upon an animal!
But Dogtown believed in Cherry. Working hard to bring him out of his shell, and to get him to see people wasn’t all bad -- some humans are great to be around. They slowly taught Cherry, through love, patience and lots and lots of positive reinforcement that life could be a fun, safe, and happy place to be.
They believed him to be very adoptable, but to get there, Cherry, like the rest of these rescued pit bulls, had to pass the "Canine Good Citizen Test," a program that teaches dogs how to interact and be safe with people and dogs.
Cherry had trouble at first. When placed with another dog, he didn’t know what to do, and the poor thing incurred a beat down by the other dog.
Never the quitting type, Dogtown then introduced him to Willie. And they got along well. There was even tail wagging, and to the relief of the trainers, some play. With these new developments in character, Cherry was deemed suitable for adoption -- let's just hope it’s a loving home.
Next on our list was Georgia. Bearing scars of a prized fighter, she had had all her teeth pulled to prevent her from attacking other dogs. Georgia was also forced to mate to produce numerous litters for the dog-fighting ring. Needless to say, she hated other dogs and was extremely aggressive towards them. And, as John said, "I don’t blame her."
But beneath all that anger, John could see what a good dog she was, and worked hard to get her to trust not only people but also other dogs -- in fact, she did very, very well in her evaluation, passing six out of ten tests. She failed dog aggression, but considering her history, it was amazing. Dogtown believes with enough time and love, Georgia will become a great family pet.
Tune in tomorrow for part two and learn about Meryl and Denzel!