My name is Ray, but you probably know me as Ray the Vicktory Dog.
The first thing I want to say is that in many ways I am just like any other dog…although in some ways my story, and that of the other Vicktory Dogs, is truly unique.
In April of 2007, police executed a search warrant on the home of football player Michael Vick in Surrey County, Virginia. They did not expect to find a full dog fighting operation, including more than 50 pit bulls, training equipment and paraphernalia unique to dog fighting. I was one of those dogs.
At the time of our seizure it was a common belief that fighting dogs were beyond redemption and must be euthanized. This time concerned groups and individuals went to the court and convinced the judge to have each dog assessed individually.
It surprised everyone involved when all but one of the dogs passed their evaluation. Many of the dogs went directly into foster care or rescue. The 22 most challenging dogs, including me, went to Best Friends Animal Society’s Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.
When we arrived at the sanctuary on January 2, 2009, trainers, caregivers and behavioral specialists were on hand to begin assessing and working with us immediately. When one of the caregivers opened my crate, I was so cold, tired and frightened that I crawled up under her coat and nestled under her chin. I am so human-oriented that I turned to a person I didn’t even know for comfort.
It didn’t take long for me to get the reputation of being an overly-excitable goof. I would get so happy when my caregivers would come to see me that I would jump up and grab their clothes, or snatch the leash and run away with it. 😉 Many different people worked with me, trying to help me learn the skills I needed in order to be adopted. But it was very hard for me to learn, because I was just so very excited.
My parents, who worked at the sanctuary in the parrot department, decided to take me on as a project dog. They had worked together with other Vicktory Dogs, and were able to help them pass their court-ordered Canine Good Citizen (CGC) tests, so they could be adopted.
Mom and Dad make an awesome team. Mom’s job was to work with the trainers to teach me the skills I needed to know to pass my CGC. Dad’s job was to be the fun person. Every day he would walk and play with me without any pressure. We walked for miles; sometimes just the two of us and sometimes with another caregiver and dog to help me become less fearful. I have had some bad experiences with other dogs, and they can scare me.
Six years after I was rescued, on August 13, 2013, I passed my CGC, and was ready to be adopted. My parents had to pass a court-ordered Federal background check and meet other requirements before they could take me home. I had to be a foster dog with them for six months before my adoption was final on Valentine’s Day, 2014. I was finally home.
Now I live with a very old cat, 6 parrots and another rescued fighting dog, McCaela the Turtle. My house is noisy and chaotic…but that’s ok, because it’s home.
It has been a year of firsts, with a lot of things to learn. I needed to learn to wait to relieve myself until I went outside. I had to learn that chairs, rugs, beds and doors were not for chewing and that I didn’t need to gather up everything I could find and stash it in my crate. I learned the joy of stuffies to tear apart, marrow bones, beds, couches, and my favorite thing of all: car rides.
My parents found that I do best with a schedule that doesn’t vary much. I get up, eat, exercise, and play at the same time every day. I know that my training practice with dad happens when mom is doing dishes. I know that dad, mom, Turtle and I will take a long walk at the same time each evening. Routines make me feel safe and happy.
Weekdays I go to work with my mom at the sanctuary. I have a job of my own: to change the hearts and minds of everyone I come into contact with. I greet the visitors to the Parrot Garden. I help teach children about dog fighting and the right way to work with a dog. Each person I meet goes away with a new understanding of pit bulls and the abuse they suffer.
In July my mom and I traveled to South Dakota to help celebrate the end of Breed Discrimination statewide. I attended a ceremony on the steps of the Capital Building, and I helped show that pit bulls are dogs, just like any other dog.
The Vicktory Dogs as a whole have changed the world. We stand for so much more than what we are. We have shown that the heart of a dog can overcome the worst of upbringings…the worst of treatment…the worst that humans can throw at us. We are dogs. We are individuals…and we can love with hearts as big as the world.
Seven years ago we didn’t know the kindness of a human touch. We didn’t know about couches or beds, or stuffies, or leftovers. We didn’t know that butt scratches were the best things ever. But now we do.
And because of us, many, many other dogs have been saved, rehabilitated, and are now enjoying these wonders themselves. Instead of looking back at where we were, we enjoy each new day and celebrate how far we’ve come.
I am Ray the Vicktory Dog. My mom says I’m a naughty little brown dog but I am adored!
Parents: Jacque & Kevin
Editor’s Note: On May 14th, 2015, Ray underwent a spleen removal surgery at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. He had several issues, including anemia, high blood pressure and kidney problems. Recent ultra-sounds and X-rays showed his spleen was enlarged and mis-shapened.
Ray had a blood parasite — Babesia, often found in fighting dogs — and the spleen is the filter of the blood for this condition. More than a decade of trying to keep up means the spleen was misfunctioning. After a consultation with all of his vets, his parents made the decision to have Ray’s spleen removed.
Surgery went well but soon after, Ray decided he had enough of this life and crossed over the bridge. We are truly heartbroken as this little brown dog has proven to so many that he — and many like him — is not a monster despite what he was made to do in that sad, dark place.
Run free, Ray.