Reclaiming vicious dogs

Given all the heartbreaking stuff that’s going on with our dog this week, I’m rather grateful to John Lehrer for pointing me to this uplifting article about the dogs abused by the evil and despicable Michael Vick.

It turns out that that bastard didn’t end up leaving all his dogs so vicious that euthanasia is the only option or too vicious to be reclaimed. Through love and hard work, most of the dogs have been saved:

Of the 49 pit bulls animal behavior experts evaluated in the fall, only one was deemed too vicious to warrant saving and was euthanized. (Another was euthanized because it was sick and in pain.)

More than a year after being confiscated from Vick’s property, Leo, a tan, muscular pit bull, dons a colorful clown collar and visits cancer patients as a certified therapy dog in California. Hector, who bears deep scars on his chest and legs, recently was adopted and is about to start training for national flying disc competitions in Minnesota. Teddles takes orders from a 2-year-old. Gracie is a couch potato in Richmond who lives with cats and sleeps with four other dogs.

Of the 47 surviving dogs, 25 were placed directly in foster homes, and a handful have been or are being adopted. Twenty-two were deemed potentially aggressive toward other dogs and were sent to an animal sanctuary in Utah. Some, after intensive retraining, are expected to move on to foster care and eventual adoption.

It’s a story that made me smile, even now. I only wish the writer could have curbed her tendency to insert some woo into it:

Witness Sweet Pea, a compact cinnamon-colored dog with a pleat of wrinkles above her eyes who was hiding under the desk of the Frederick animal acupuncturist trying to treat her for anxiety. Fred Wolfson dimmed the office lights. Soft Native American flute music wafted through wall speakers. Wolfson held out his hand for Sweet Pea to sniff. When she would not budge, he sat on the floor and took his bowl of needles to her.

Sweet Pea began to pant.

“She pants when she’s nervous,” said Stacy Leipold, who volunteers with the Baltimore-based animal rescue organization Recycled Love and is fostering Sweet Pea in her home. “I thought for a very long time she was just a hot dog.”

As Wolfson rubbed the dog’s head and felt along her spine for the proper relaxation points, Leipold explained that Sweet Pea was little more than a lump when she came to her home in December. She rarely left her crate. If she did, it was to hide under a desk. She had to be carried outside to do her business. Over time, with Leipold meticulously tracking her behavior, Sweet Pea began to pace in a circle and wag her tail when she realized it was time for a walk. And she seemed to take comfort in Leipold’s other dogs, a Jack Russell terrier and a Great Dane. Still, one of her favorite places is the landing on the basement stairs. That way, up or down, she has two routes of escape.

Five needles and 12 minutes later, Sweet Pea stopped trembling.

I’m guessing that 12 minutes of dimmed lights, soothing music, and gentle palpation of the spine went much further to make Sweet Pea stop trembling than did sticking needles into her. (Sticking needles into her probably slowed the relaxation process, if anything.) I could also have done without the credulous quoting that ERV pointed out, not to mention confusing the Humane Society of the United States with a real animal welfare agency.

Still, I’m glad that these dogs have recovered for the most part. It would have been a shame for them to be further victims of Vick.