What is Hapening to the Vicktory Dogs?

Some time ago Gram and I did a story on Michael Vicks, the ex-NFL Star and 22 of his fighting pit bulls that were taken to the Best Friends Sanctuary in Kenab, Utah last December.

In Gram’s most recent issue of the Best Friends magazine there was an interesting article talking about the success the sanctuary was having in their efforts to heal the dogs of their emotional trauma and prepare them for their forever homes.

Dr. Frank McMillian, a veterinarian who specializes in animal mental health at the sanctuary has been working with these 22 dogs and their caregivers on a monthly basis.

It is interesting to note the time and effort that is being put into helping these dogs become socialized instead of being social outcasts.

Three times a week the caregivers meet and discuss their dog’s current behaviors. The areas that are touched upon are six particular characteristics such as; confidence, fear, energy, interest in people, interest in their own world (toys, games, treats, etc.) and their overall enjoyment of life.

They also discuss how the dogs interact with other people that they have come to know.

Once a month, Dr. McMillian watches each dog, as they react to a person they do not know. This person will do various things like put on a leash, pet the dog all over and/or walk them. This helps to determine the different traits that show up when interacting with a stranger such as; friendliness, calmness, fearfulness, aggression, excitability and submissiveness.

In approximately 75 percent of the dogs, the caregivers are seeing good overall improvement, a few of the dogs are just beginning to see the light and are responding and two dogs, just have not realized that they can have a good life, if they will cooperate.

If you are wondering why they go through all this trouble on a weekly basis, it is because they feel by just casual observation, you can lose sight of certain psychological changes, that you may not notice until months later.

These dogs have suffered severe psychological trauma and are very slow to warm up to new people, however, once they know you, they bond very easily.

These dogs are genetically predisposed to bond with people, but due to the inhumane treatment they received at the hand of Michael Vicks and company, they have a fear of people. The purpose of the one on one handling and comparing notes is to help the dogs unlearn their fears, so their the natural bonding traits can come to the surface again.

The one mystery here is that the black dogs seem to be the most fearful. They have been the slowest to respond. Dr McMilian feels that there might be a genetic basis for the behavior. Since these dogs are a mixture of many different breeds and the sanctuary does not have their breeding histories, they are planning on doing some DNA testing.

Dr. McMillian says people look at a pit bull and think a pit bull is a pit bull and that is not necessarily so. Some of the dogs taken from Michael Vicks look more like Boston terriers than typical pit bull terriers.

Medically speaking some of the dogs have infections that seem resistant to medical treatment and this too, remains a mystery. Maybe it is due to stress, maybe it is due to breeding and the other possibility maybe drug use that was involved in the training and fighting they were subjected to.

The whole purpose here is to prepare these dogs for a forever home if possible, and to help other veterinarians by documenting the diagnosis and treatment of these dogs. It is an effort to apply the same level of science to the emotional and mental health care of animals, as the veterinary profession has brought to the physical care of animals.

Gram and I just want to tell you that in our estimation of all the animal care facilities that my Gram supports, she loves this one best. It is her special wish that one day, she will get to go there and volunteer for a few weeks caring for some of their animals.

Gram also had a great idea, if you are so inclined to see what Best Friends is all about visit their site at Best Friends Animals Society.

Until next time, I remain

Your Sadie

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