Louis, Montgomery, AL

Hi! I’m Louis Vuitton and I’m a pit bull with one heck of a story to tell.

In my previous life, I was “Cain” and I lived with a very loving family and a pit bull sister named Angel. I lived happily for about four years until the day when several people who were hanging out in my home started “rough housing,” causing us dogs to be excited…and Angel nipped at one of them.

This person got angry and complained to the landlord that there was a “vicious” dog on the property. My family was told that we had to get rid of Angel. Unfortunately, this was during the Michael Vick scandal and all the bully rescues were full of the Vick dogs — none could take poor Angel and my family decided to had Angel euthanized so they could keep me.

But the disgruntled person was not satisfied and continued to complain. Heartbroken and determined not to have to put down another pet, my family found the Daniels family who wanted to take me so I went to live with them on June 4th, 2007.

My life was about to drastically change.

Around 8:30 in the morning on September 7, 2007, in a fit of rage at his mother, Juan Daniels (who was 20 at the time) tied me to a fence and began beating me with a stick. The stick soon broke and he picked up a shovel and began hitting me with the blade allover. I had cuts to the top of my head and nose from the side of the blade.

He then doused me with lighter fluid and lit me on fire! The fluid ran down my back and puddle on the ground beneath me where it became a pool of flames. I was tied so I had no way to escape the flames!

My back left leg was totally engulfed and the pain was so intense I tried to bite my leg off. The pads of my feet and toenails were all burned off as well as my ears. My nose, eyes and forehead were badly burned, not to mention my entire underside where the flames were the most intense.

Fortunately, the 13-year-old sister was in the backyard and witnessed the horrific scene. She ran into the house and called 911. The Police and Fire Departments responded to the call. A Humane Officer from the Montgomery Humane Shelter was contacted by the 911 operator as well and arrived soon after because he happened to be 3 minutes from the scene. When he got in the backyard, the flames were out and I remained chained to the fence with my little body smoking.

The Humane Officer’s name is Matthew Cooper and he gently removed the collar and led me to his waiting van where he would take me to a local Veterinarian to be euthanized, hoping all the while that I would not slip into shock before I could be delivered to Golden Animal Hospital for relief from the unimaginable pain.

Matt sped across town as fast as possible and found that each time he would look over his shoulder at me, I would respond by wagging my tail. He called ahead and Dr. Holladay Simmons and the technicians were all waiting for me. When I was led in the backdoor by Matt, the first thing they all noticed was that, even in excruciating pain, my tail was wagging.

I was placed in an exam room and Dr. Simmons did a quick exam and went to prepare the medication to euthanize me. She came back into the room and my tail, again, was wagging. She left, composed herself, then went back in but my tail was still wagging…

Tears flowing, she left the room again, regained her composure and went back in to find her tech sitting in the floor with me in her lap. With full-thickness burns over 70% of my little body, I looked into her eyes with hope and determination.

At that point, she made me a promise that she would fight to save me as long as I would fight to survive. We formed a tremendous bond! That was the day that my previous life and “Cain” died, and “LOUIS VUITTON” was born.

My recovery was slow and, as with any burn patient, excruciatingly painful. Along with daily treatments and sloughing of dead skin, there were many skin grafts. I suffered deep muscle injuries to my back left leg from when I tried  to bite it off. With no skin on the pads of my feet, walking was very painful and because of the severe burns to my little belly and sides, it was too painful to lie down. The wounds were so raw many nights the staff at Golden Animal Hospital went home in tears because they feared I would not survive the night. But each morning I met them with my tail wag.

Gradually, I began to show improvement. I was also transported to a Vet in Auburn, AL, to have a canine tooth removed because the tooth was split straight up into my jaw bone from one of the shovel blows.

My story was not released to the media for the first two weeks because my survival was in question and the Shelter wanted to wait until I began showing some improvement. All the while, Juan Daniels was “on the run” and law enforcement officials from all over the State of Alabama were searching for him.

During a pledge luncheon for the Montgomery Humane Shelter, a letter was circulated asking for donations to help with my tremendous veterinary expenses with a small black and white photo of me that in no way revealed the extent of my injuries. Everyone was overwhelmed with anger toward my abuser and their hearts hurt for me.

Then my story was released to the press and daily updates began appearing on the nightly news. It was reported that I was being treated at an “undisclosed location” but one lady who attended the luncheon also does volunteer work with the Shelter so she knew that Golden Animal Hospital was the treatment facility.

Each night when she and her husband would watch the news and see my face, she would say “I WANT THAT DOG.”  Each time he would say “But we don’t NEED that dog” and her response was always, “BUT HE NEEDS US!” At the time their laps were already filled with 6 dogs and a cat, but there was lots more room in their hearts!

The first week in October, 2007, she contacted the Shelter director and asked if he would clear the way for her to visit me at the hospital. With his approval, she set up an appointment for her first visit the following Monday. What she didn’t realize was that her husband had already gone by the Vet’s office and bribed them with Krispy Kreme Donuts and was allowed to meet the now-famous me! (He was very pleased with himself. :-))

He kept trying to discourage her from meeting me because he said it was so heartbreaking he was worried about her. Of course she didn’t listen and Monday morning she struck out for the Hospital with leftover barbequed chicken, hash brown casserole, and doggy treats. She’d been told by the staff that they were letting me eat ANYTHING I wanted because the burns had sapped so much protein from my system that I was skin and bones and they were trying desperately to put weight on me.

When she arrived, she was met with “questioning” looks by the protective staff as if to ask “Who are you and why do you want to see OUR dog?” She was given a briefing before she was led to my suite: No direct eye contact, no sudden movements and someone would be standing just outside the glass door to make certain that I didn’t feel threatened by this stranger’s visit.

Within seconds she was sitting in the floor with me and hand-feeding me all the leftovers she had brought and emptying the bag of treats! 🙂 I took each bite so gently and I allowed her to stroke my sides and head on places that were not burned. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind about my gentleness! After that visit, she was on top of the world and more determined than ever to have me as a part of her family!

She began visiting me on her lunch break a few times a week. She would bring me two hamburgers without onions and we would eat our lunch together while we visited. This made her my favorite person!

Her husband would join us most days too and after our hamburgers, they would take me out to the side yard and let me play with some of the many toys I was receiving daily from all over the country!! (The Vet’s Clinic was filled with get-well cards, doggy toys and treats, one huge dog bed, and a very special blessed cross on a beautiful purple ribbon, all on display on a long shelf in my suite.)

As I improved, I was given the run the office and spent much of my time in the front office with the staff.  I began to steal snacks from the counters and raid the trash cans in the employee’s lounge and, of course, that was deemed “absolutely adorable” by everyone there. I KNEW I was special! 🙂

The couple with the hamburgers continued to visit regularly and told the Shelter Director that they wanted to adopt me when I was ready to be released. Although there was a list of about 30 potential adoptees, the staff at Golden knew that this couple loved “their” boy as much as they did and the Shelter received almost 50 letters from people who knew them and their love for animals supporting their efforts to adopt me. As soon as I was ready, they became my foster parents!

I spent my first night in their home on November 8, 2007. My foster parents said I fit right in with all my other four-legged family members.

For the next three months, my parents took me to the hospital to spend the day with my friends there while they were at work. (They called it my doggy daycare.) I was also still receiving laser treatments which helped my pain tremendously. I was given over 100 laser treatments and I absolutely loved them. (It helped that I was treated to wieners and other treats to keep me still while the technicians did their work. :-)) This was one of the first times that lasers were used on a burned dog and they had amazing results. I loved my daily visits and ran in the door each day as if I had not seen my friends in weeks! Sometimes I would “dress-up” for the occasion in winter scarves, fleece coats, etc. All the giggles from the staff just made me wiggle that much more!

By this time, the local law enforcement had been contacted by the U.S. Marshal’s Office to assist in locating Juan Daniels. Within days, the Marshal’s located him hiding out in Tuscaloosa. He was arrested and brought back to the Montgomery County Jail where his bond was immediately increased. It would be 16 months before he decided to plead guilty to Animal Cruelty.

On January 30, 2009, Juan Daniels was sentenced to 9-1/2 years in the Alabama Department of Corrections. Alabama’s Gucci’s Law carries a maximum of ten years for Animal Cruelty. This was the first case to be sentenced under Gucci’s Law. We were ecstatic!! We had huge turnout for the sentencing and once again, I was all over the news!

From the press conference at the Courthouse, we went to the Montgomery Humane Shelter for the “official adoption.” Family and friends came and brought presents and goodies to celebrate and my mom said I was an absolute ham! Not only did my parents sign the adoption papers, but I put my paw print on papers adopting THEM!

In August of 2010, my parents were notified by the Alabama Department of Pardons and Parole that Juan Daniels came up for Parole and a hearing was set for August 24. My parents could not believe that this would even be an option for that monster. It was all over Facebook and the Internet as soon as it was posted by the Parole Board.

An incredible lady in Chicago named Stacey Paige had started an online petition to stop Daniels’ parole. The first time my mom went to the petition site it already had over 5,000 signatures from all over the world! She could not believe so many people were aware of my case. She was contacted by Stacey who was hoping to drive to Montgomery for the parole hearing. Unfortunately, she was unable to come, but there were others who drove down from Boston, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Birmingham and more.

The Parole Board was flooded with so many letters against the Daniels’ parole they had to assign a full-time clerk just to handle all the correspondence! As is the case with a parole hearing, the victim is allowed to appear before the Board to express opposition, in this case our local District Attorney and Attorney General’s Office had it cleared for me to appear before the Board — the first time in U.S. history that a dog appeared as the victim!! My parents said I was PERFECT! I knew it was something serious and was on my very best behavior.

All the news crews were there, including Associated Press. The story of a dog appearing before a Parole Board went worldwide — literally! It was reported on news broadcasts all over the world! My parents were so incredibly proud of me.

Needless to say, parole for Juan Daniels was denied. However, he is scheduled to be released on January 20, 2013. My parents say what a horrible day for society that will be! People have asked them many times “What do you think Louis would do if he saw Juan Daniels again?” and their response is always the same…“He would lick his face.”

The only bad memories I seems to have of my previous life are people in “hoodies” and sometimes people in ball caps. It doesn’t take long for me to get past those though and will ultimately end up in that person’s lap.

Now a little bit about me and my new life with my family:

I’m one of 9 dogs in my family (my parents are active in dog rescue and most of my siblings are rescues). They all view me as “the big brother” and they all absolutely adore me. I don’t mind it when all my little sisters pile on top of me and start licking my face and teeth. I love to roll around in the floor and play with them!

When I came to live with my parents, I was still on two kinds of antibiotics and one medication for pain. I can be a difficult patient because I refuse to take any medicines unless I’m forced to. I know all the cheese, wiener, Vienna Sausage and Pill Pocket tricks so they don’t work. Since my whole underside is very tender scar tissue, it tends to get irritated at times so I love having my tummy and back leg all lotioned up and I will expose everything to be sure you cover it. 🙂

I absolutely love lying out in the sun but I don’t want to be slathered down in sunscreen. My parents have to cover my head, ears, back leg and other smaller scars on my side where no hair will ever grow. I still have the streaks from the where the lighter fluid stayed on my fur and burned through. Those have to have sunscreen too. I have no hair around my eyes and when my parents try to coat the skin around them, my mouth waters. My mom says I’m a funny boy.

My parents love to see me having fun. I ADORE chewies and I take on the responsibility of getting all the chewies softened up for my little fur-siblings. I’d hold down one end of a rolled chewy and pull the other end with my teeth and unroll it into a large flip chip!

I’m a “goer and doer” and I will not let my parents out the front door without an attempt to go with them — and most times I DO go with them. When my parents travel to other cities to visit family, I always go with them (I’m expected to!). My favorite place is Aunt Linda’s place on Logan Martin Lake. I LOVE the water! I love to jump off the pier with the kids and my mom usually has to go into the water to make sure I don’t just absolutely wear myself out! I will stay in as long as my parents let me. My mom says I look so silly in my yellow life jacket because it makes me look like a big yellow Armadillo!! 🙂

I love to ride on the Pontoon boat and the fishing boat. The faster the better! Aunt Linda always has ice cream cones in the freezer for me as my special treat and I remember that. The night before we leave to go, my dad starts talking to me about the trip. We talk about the “lake,” “Aunt Linda,” “boat,” “ice cream” and I understand every word!!

In May, 2011, I was the Ring Bearer in my parents’ niece’s wedding. I wore my tuxedo and, once again, took my responsibility very seriously. I was perfect and everyone tells me I was SOOOOO handsome. Since I handled that responsibility so well, I served as Ring Bearer again in my parents’ nephew’s wedding at the lake. It was a blast!!

I ride with my dad everywhere. Most days we ride to “Publix” to get a “newspaper.” All they have to say is that “take this puppy” and I’d start jumping around. When they ask “Where’s your leash?” I’d run and grab it and bring it to them. Of course it quickly becomes a game of tug-of-war to get it out of my mouth and around my neck.

My siblings are: Molly (14-yr-old Llewellyn Setter), Little Jerry Seinfeld (a rescued Lab-Chow mix); Newman (a portly red Dachshund); Lizzie (a rescue from a breeder); George (a loud mouth, very miniature Dachshund); Chubs, Trixie and Gracie Lou (all rescued puppies from a wild dog that my parents have been trying to catch for a year and a half) and Lucee Cat (a rescue). There’s never an empty spot in their laps or on their couch.

Our king-sized bed hosts my parents, me, Lizzie, Newman and George. Jerry and Chubs sleep under the bed and Trixie and Gracie Lou sleep in their crates in another bedroom. People ask my parents ALL the time “How do you sleep with all those dogs in your bed”.  The answer is “We CAN’T sleep without them!” After all, they are the “momma” and “daddy” and we are all our babies. ♥

I’ve made several appearances to help raise awareness of animal abuse and have helped to raise funds for Shelters and Rescues. Sometimes my mom feels like a stage mom because she doesn’t want my story to be forgotten. My parents say I’ve brought so much joy to their home, their lives and to the lives of so many.

I have an enormous number of friends and admirers and I love every minute of it. My parents do their best to ensure those who love me get to meet and kiss me. We encounter people daily who know my story and express their joy that I have a wonderful new life. I’m quick to offer kisses and tail wags to everyone that looks at me!!

My parents love every minute of their lives me and I with them! I will be 10 on November 11, 2012, and my parents plan to have a big party to celebrate this milestone!! (They didn’t know that I know about the party! :-))

Thank you for reading my story!

~ Louis

Parents: Dee & William

Note: Gucci’s torture case in Mobile in 1994 led to passage of “Gucci’s Law,” which made animal cruelty a felony in Alabama. Because the circumstances were so similar between Gucci and “Cain,” it was only fitting that “Cain” should have a “designer” name as well, thus “Louis Vuitton.” Not only were the dogs similar, but Gucci’s Law would play a major role in Louis’ future.

Some photos are courtesy of Associated Press Photo / Dave Martin and David Bundy