Virginia Tech Uproar

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Disclaimer:  (I am finding this necessary, as not everyone appreciates my point of view).  Full disclosure:  my husband and I worked with several of the V dogs, and ended up adopting RayRay.  We have a huge stake in how the world perceives fighting dogs.  I have no right to tell others how to react to the situation….this is just how I choose to react, to preserve my peace of mind.

Animal lovers, especially pit bull terrier type dog lovers, are up in arms about Virginia Tech’s decision to induct Michael Vick into their Hall of Fame.  I’ve seen an incredible array of petitions, articles and Facebook posts full of vitriol and anger.  Unfortunately, not one of those actions is going to effect the school’s decision.

Here’s the deal: Michael Vick was probably the best athlete Virginia Tech has ever had enrolled.  He lead the school to an amazing 11-0 season, which culminated in a spot on the National Championship game.  Vick was, and in many cases still is, an incredibly gifted football player.  He had amazing skills on the field, and for many people, that is all that matters.

You also have to understand his standing in that part of the country.  In many ways, he is seen as a local boy who made good.  He has donated a lot of money to children’s sports programs.  He has worked with inner-city kids to help them increase their skills.  In many people’s eyes, this man is still a hero, regardless of what happened with the dogs.

We need to look at this through a different lens.  This sociopathic man and his appalling treatment of the dogs helped change things for fighting dogs across the nation…because he was a celebrity.  This was the first time fighting dogs were saved, and it was only because the case was front page news.  If it had just been some guy, we’d still be wholesale killing all dogs from fighting busts.  If you look at it that way, the idiot actually did something to improve the world.

Many years ago I decided that this man had no place in my life.  I refuse to give him the power to control my thoughts or emotions.  Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass about him, one way or another.  Let Virginia Tech induct him.  It doesn’t change who he is, what he’s done, or his final judgement in the here-after.

I had the chance to spend time with the most incredible dogs I’ve ever met, because Vick was a star athlete.  He really did me a favor.  I would never have loved Oscar, Layla, Squeaker or Ray, I never would have spent time with Little Red, Cherry, Handsome Dan, Lucas, Ellen, Meryl, Curley, Mya and Lance.   These dogs changed the trajectory of my life.  That’s what I need to keep in mind.

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Instead of filling my head and heart with anger, I am going to channel this feeling into something good.  Something that might help improve things for these dogs who have changed my life.

I am going to write a book that will be my personal Pit Bull Hall of Fame.  I want to write about all the dogs who have helped change the country.  The Vicktory Dogs, other fighting dogs, abuse survivors, dogs who have saved their people, dogs in public service as police dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs.

This will be my legacy to my beloved Ray, and the dogs who have followed in his paw prints.  And it’s a way to permanently thumb my nose at Michael Vick and all the people who have abused and vilified some amazing dogs.

If you know of an incredible pit bull terrier type dog (and yes, pit mixes as well) please send me a note at pitbullmom57@gmail.com.   Celebrating the dogs is all that really matters.

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38 thoughts on “Virginia Tech Uproar

  1. Looking forward to your book…..YOUR victory book! I commend you for channeling your feelings into something positive…I don’t know if I could do it…..I honor you and your work….

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  2. I love your perspective on the issue, however being a longtime resident of the area & my husband having attended tech and a huge tech fan, I’m ashamed now of any of that.
    I too am a rescuer, although a different breed but also one that’s often given a bad rap for no reason. I feel that this tragedy did pup a spotlight on dog fighting it’s now sending a completely different message to the upcoming youth and future athletes. It tells them as long as your a great athlete and become famous you can do whatever you want with no real consequences, which is wrong.

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  3. I completely appreciate your perspective and point of view, I do however, disagree. While it is true that him being famous was a contributing factor to finding those poor dogs homes, we cannot forget that he was also a contributing factor for them needing rescue in the first place.

    Is he an incredible athlete? Yes. I am not disputing that at all, I am however protesting his induction and it may do no good, but I will know I tried.

    My passion and career is Animal care. My spare time is devoted to rescue and I am a mother of two athletes. It is from that perspective that I protest the induction. In my honest opinion (and it is just that, an opinion) anyone inducted into the Hall of Fame should be someone that any parent would consider a good role model for their own little athletes. Needless to say, Vick falls very short of the type of person I would want my children to look up to or want to emmulate. This does not mean I am consumed with hate, not at all. It only means that as a parent, I feel obligated to try to make the world a better place for my children and that can be done on many scales. Some like volunteering within the community, teaching kindness and compassion or signing and promoting petitions that I support.

    If the thought of him being inducted makes me wonder what is wrong with the world and I do nothing, then I become part of what is wrong with the world today.

    Just a different perspective.

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    1. I can appreciate your perspective as well. And I can see how the fact that he is being honored for his sports achievement might upset some animal rights activists and other people like me who have taken numerous rescues into their home. But I also know that he was sentenced to 23 months in prison — more than the 12 to 13 months recommended by the prosecutor. He also was forced to pay nearly one million dollars for the care of 47 dogs recovered from his horrific ring (yes, he should pay that!). He also lost a very lucrative contract. Obviously all that pales in comparison to what the dogs suffered. Not even comparable. But he paid the price that was given him by our legal system. And the premise of our legal system is that once someone pays the price, they can start anew — that they will not be tried again and again for past crimes for which they paid. Because if they are, then we as a society are in danger of crossing the line into vengeance. Just my perspective, but I think that rather than protesting Vick’s induction into the hall of fame, our energy is better served by championing educational programs that teach youth compassion and empathy and how to properly take care of animals, so that maybe we can prevent future Michael Vick types from developing. In other words, if we can find a way to undermine the culture that thinks dogfighting or cockfighting or any other form of animal cruelty is okay. And of course taking care of the animals that do get hurt and giving them a new home.

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      1. Very true. Our justice system does allow for a person to serve time for the crime committed, and then essentially start “over”. I wonder though, can someone who never admitted guilt to charges of animal cruelty, who didn’t actually serve time for animal cruelty actually start over? How does one start over from something they were never truly held accountable for? Something they show no remorse for?

        I think animal advocates all over would find this easier to let go if time had been served for cruelty charges. How many dogs lost their lives because of him? How much time is a life worth? With amost 50 dogs confiscated (countless others that we may never know about), Vick spent less than a month in prison per dog subjected to abuse beyond imagination and many, death.

        With a plea bargain, he never admitted guilt to animal cruelty. His conviction was of bankrolling a dogfighting conspiracy and he served 18 months for that charge.

        He served zero time for the death and cruelty to animals.

        With that in mind, I simply cannot support a “fresh start” for him. Cannot support an induction into the Hall of Fame, especially with one of the requirements being that the person be of good character.

        I will continue to protest what I think is morally wrong, just as I will continue to teach my children compassion and empathy…and that forgiveness is possible, if one truly admits their wrongs and tries to make them right.

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        1. I am no expert on this topic, but at least according to the website of the Humane Society of the United States, Michael Vick did in fact express remorse and subsequently worked with them in their anti-dog fighting campaign. From their website:

          “Did Michael Vick approach you or did you ask him to help you?
          When Vick was close to finishing his prison sentence, his representatives approached HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, who dismissed their first appeals. Later he agreed to meet with Vick, after considering the potential that Vick had to reach the estimated 100,000 participants in urban street dogfighting. If there was a chance that Vick could save one dog from suffering the same abuse he inflicted, the proposal was worth our consideration.

          After meeting with Vick and hearing him express his remorse, Pacelle consulted with The HSUS’ board of directors and staff. Despite our utter disgust with what Vick did and our leading role in making sure he was convicted and punished for his crimes, we decided that shunning Vick forever would do no good for any animal. Vick paid $1 million for the care and rehabilitation of the dogs at Bad Newz Kennels. Now he contributes his time and his voice to attacking the problem by reaching out to inner-city youth.

          Has Michael Vick acknowledged that what he did to dogs was wrong?
          Yes. Over the course of several face-to-face meetings and during public appearances, Vick has apologized and acknowledged the suffering he caused to animals. He has expressed his remorse and his desire to help more animals than he harmed by being an advocate for the humane treatment of animals. We only agreed to give him an opportunity to speak with kids if he was committed to the goal of ending dogfighting and to publicly acknowledging that his past actions were cruel and unacceptable.”

          If this information is in fact correct, it would seem that he has changed at least some. That does not in any shape or form undo the suffering he inflicted on those dogs nor does it bring back the poor dogs who died. And when I see the pictures of the dogs hurt by him, it enrages me. And no, I personally cannot forgive him. But if he did or could make a difference with inner city kids exposed to the dogfighting culture.

          From 2011 NPR Interview with Humane Society CEO:
          Pacelle acknowledges the difficulty of really seeing into someone’s heart to know their underlying values — especially when they’ve engaged in something as terrible as dogfighting. But Pacelle says he hopes Vick can learn from his past.

          “I think Michael has changed,” Pacelle told Weekend Edition host Scott Simon. “And he was jolted by this public shaming by his time in jail.”

          In his new book Bond, Pacelle speaks to the connection he sees between humans and animals. Vick’s bond with animals took a sinister turn, he says, and “fascination turned into exploitation rather than love.”

          Even if Vick’s reasons for becoming involved with the Humane Society come from self-interest and a desire to attack his public perception as cruel and heartless, Pacelle sees the positive side of having such a powerful motivator for his actions to do better.

          “There is a utility for the animal protection cause in having him out there speaking, especially in communities where we have not had a very strong voice,” he says.

          Pacelle in 2016 interview with the Oprah Network:

          But then, Pacelle began to reflect on himself and his mission.

          “I said, ‘What am I about at the Humane Society?’ I mean, am I not about changing people for the better? That people who are doing the wrong thing start to move and do the right thing?” he says. “That’s what I do. I’m not just talking to people who are ‘of the faith.’ If I’m doing that, that’s just an echo chamber.”

          Pacelle reconsidered Vick’s proposal not just for this reason, but for another powerful benefit as well.

          “I also thought, ‘What if Michael Vick put boots on the ground, sort of talking to these kids in communities where they’re getting pit bulls for the wrong reasons … and told them about the evils of dog fighting?’” Pacelle says. “From a campaigner’s perspective, that’s going to allow me to reach tens of thousands of kids that I would not have an audience with.”

          Ultimately, Pacelle adds, he hoped that working with Vick would also send a signal to society that would make people become more conscious of their own behaviors regarding animals, whether that’s through their fashion choices or eating habits.

          “I’m sending a signal that we’re all sinners when it comes to animals,” he says.

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        2. I’m in agreement. Everyone says second chances but forget that he fought dogs before his illustrious career and continued that behavior. Yes, getting caught brought the spotlight on dog fighting but because he had money, he suffered no consequences. Many sports fans and children aspire to him just because he is an accomplished athlete. What morals are we teaching?

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  4. As I was reading the comments I saw reflections of my own conflicted feelings. When the NFL decided to let him play I was just sickened but then again we’re talking about an entity that has just now decided that maybe domestic abuse isn’t such a “little thing” either. But that being said his fame DID bring light into the darkness of dogfighting. And all of you and the Vicktory Dogs have made such a positive impact on this terrific breed. Now if we can get the press to stop blaming all dog attacks on pit bulls these dogs can take back their rightful place as beloved family members. Thank you so very much for all you have done.

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    1. It’s important to remember as well that his plea deal allowed him to get away with claiming that he never placed bets or received money from bets, which is just a ludicrous claim but even more essential to being able to EVER play again and recoup his career than his sham attempt with working with HSUS to clean up his image regarding the dogs (there has been little evidence that he cared one bit about the dogs he tortured or finding out what happened to them, etc. that makes it impossible to believe his claims of remorse were truly sincere). Had he been convicted of gambling, as he should have been, his career would have been over and this would not even be up for debate. Torturing dogs, okay with the NFL though. And apparently a lot of football fans too (for the record, I am a Tech alumnus and horrified to hear they are doing this).

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  5. I do not agree with you on this matter. Okay, i get that because of his popularity light was shed on a horrific thing which, in turn, resulted in a positive outcome for these dogs. But, I am filled with anger that you would insinuate this monster did ANYTHING good. What he did was despicable and should not be spun in any other direction. To be given credit for a better life for these dogs is beyond belief, for me. These dogs are not better off because of him….only a person consumed with evil would make the choices he made. He should not be held to some elevated place of esteem; rather he should be seen for what he is. I am disappointed in you.

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    1. I may have given you a mistaken impression. This man is scum. He should not have any awards. He should not walk free. He should never be allowed to touch an animal again. I would run him over if he stepped in front of my car. But I can’t let that dictate my emotions or my efforts. The dogs are what matter…this idiot does not.

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  6. I wonder what exactly it would take for Virginia Tech to disqualify someone based on their own written criteria: … “Must be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way”…

    Below the dotted line/===== is apparently what Virginia Tech considers to be “GOOD CHARACTER AND REPUTATION/NOT A SOURCE OF EMBARRASSMENT TO THE UNIVERSITY IN ANY WAY.”
    ======================================
    “As the little red dog lay on the ground fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its hind legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn’t kill it. So Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground, until at last, the little red dog was dead.” ~ The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant

    From PhillyMag.com – Victor Fiorillo:
    “The fact is, Vick admitted that he personally killed at least six underperforming pit bulls, using methods that included hanging and drowning. He also admitted that he put up the money to fund the interstate dogfighting business. During a raid on Vick’s property, more than 50 pit bulls were rescued, and investigators found the remains of several dogs. They also found walls stained with dog blood.”

    http://monogram.hokiesports.com/recognitions/hall_of_fame.html
    Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame
    The Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame was organized in 1982, to honor persons who have made great contributions to Athletics at the University.
    Criteria:
    Out of school for 10 years or more;
    Nationally recognized athletic, coaching, or administrative ability;
    Must be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way;
    Candidate must have graduated/or not, in good standing/with good graces of university officials;
    Candidate must receive 6 out of 8 votes of the members of the Hall of Fame selection committee;
    The career of the person outside of athletics will not have a bearing on the selection unless that person is otherwise qualified.

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  7. Years from now my hope is that people don’t remember him for his contribution to the game of football, rather “Isn’t he that guy that did those horrendous things to those dogs? The past will always catch with him. His accomplishments will always be tarnished with what he did, and I have made a commitment to change my way of thinking after reading such a powerful post. It has brought me to tears. Thank you.

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  8. I want to say thank you for sharing another way to view Michael Vick. The thought of what he did to these dogs STILL makes me absolutely sick to my stomach and brings tears to my eyes everytime I see a picture or read an article or hear his name. It is truly amazing these dogs still had the capability to trust and love humans after what they had gone through. Thanks to people like you, these dogs lives changed for the better and everyone’s eyes were opened to what the truth really is about this breed.
    I have a pit mix that came from a bad situation and he is the light of my life. Rocco is amazing. I dont know what I would do without him in my life.
    I still pray that Vick will someday get what he truly deserves…..nothing short of exactly what he did to those dogs!!!! Nothing will change that feeling about him in my heart.
    In my mind, I know he has earned a place in Virginia Techs Hall of Fame based on his football playing skills. So be it!! It doesnt change who he really is.
    I CANT WAIT TO BUY YOUR BOOK!!!
    Bless you and THANK YOU AGAIN FOR HELPING THE BREED AND FOR ALL YOU DO TO TELL THE “REAL” TRUTH ABOUT THE PIT BREED AND EDUCATE PEOPLE, AS WELL AS FOSTER AND LOVE THESE WONDERFUL, OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD DOGS!!

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  9. Thank you for this perspective! What a wonderful way to honor those dogs. I’ve been a volunteer shelter dog photographer for six years, and since I volunteer for two large municipal shelters, the majority of the dogs I photograph are pits or pit mixes. I love them! I look forward to seeing your book.

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  10. My Pitt girl was a breed dog for fighting. Usually when they are breed out they are destroyed in the ring. She was tossed out like garbage at 13 to bear more puppies and a loss eye. She was deemed unadoptable. But we saw life in this old sad girl. She’s fostered back and forth with me another. Her name is Naninelsonhartley. She has her own Facebook and has shown people how she loves. She rescued us. Minutes from being euthanized to a wonderful life. Thanks to a lot of caring people. She’s our hero.

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  11. I just want to say, how can anyone defend or honor this evil person just because he’s an athlete. This doesnot excuse his abuse on animals. Thats like defending a man for killing people because he’s a doctor. This is nice what your doing for the dogs but as far as this vic goes he doesnt deserve to be in any place in the hall of fame. He’s a disgrace

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    1. I agree..he shouldn’t be honored. But he has been. Not much I can do about that, except let the hate eat me alive. So I’m finding a better way to deal with the situation…..at least for me.

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  12. I applaud you for the way you think and I do agree. My heart and my emotions get the best of me when I see anything positive happening for this man. The man who inflicted so much pain and fear in the hearts of these dogs. Please write your book, it will be an amazing tribute to all dogs who suffered at the hands of humans and applaud the people who came to love them and have them join their families. Thank you for being the voice of reason for me ❤

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  13. As a pit bull mom I applauded your stance on Vick. He is nothing more than a vile, disgusting creature to me. I rejoiced at the triumph of these dogs as they overcame the horrendous hand dealt to them by this monster. They positive light that these survivors put on their breed prompted me to adopt my first pitbull 3 years ago. We now have two Pits that are the center of my life. I was extremely bitter and hateful towards Vick to the point that I forbade my husband to watch his childhood football team, the Eagles when they took him on as their quarterback. I to am a diehard football fan and swore if my team picked him up (He was in talks with them at one point.) that I would burn every item I owned with their logo and send the ashes to the owner with my letter of protest against the hiring of that demon Vick.

    Reading your article has enlightened me. Showed me that challenging my negativity towards Vick into something more positive is much healthier. As for induction in to Virginia Tech’s Hall of Fame, so be it. I, and the rest of the world knows that that induction comes with a big ugly asterisk. He will one day have to face his maker and and I hope he begs mercifullessly for forgiveness.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Vick. What a beautiful way to look at all that has happened. You are right as much as what he did was pure evil, had it not been for his fame the world would not have had the chance to know of these beautiful dogs and their capacity for love and forgiveness. We would not have had the chance to cheer for them, too pray for them, to love them from afar and most importantly learn from them. Learn how to be better humans by opening our minds and hearts to what is possible if we take a chance on those deemed “too damaged”. They have united many to fight against the label and discrimination. Each one is a true hero and that is what we must talk about when we here or see Vicks name. Thank you for this article and a much better perspective. This is how I will remember all that has happened.

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  15. Well said. As a pit bull mom and advocate, Vick is nauseating to me, but I do not have room for him in my life either. Being in the Hall of Fame doesn’t change the person that he is or was. He performed inhumane acts against animals and hopefully he will rot in hell for it.

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  16. what you say is exactly right …..and I wish with all my heart I could let go of the hate of have for that evil scum…all the good things he did just don’t minimize all the bad .other people can forgive him or look past it..i just cant seem to do it, I need to pray more about it, i’m sick on my stomach at thought of him being glorified…..in the meantime i’ll scream loud for all the dogs he abused and tortured and killed ….I love your post ,I guess I need prayers

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  17. You are 100% correct,thank you for putting this into better perspective.You have shown me a different,much better way to deal with my anger & frustration that this person is still seeking attention & even if it is negative attention,he doesn’t deserve it.I will concentrate on the dogs I can save & not give Vick one more second of my time.

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  18. Thank you. You are of course 100% correct in giving him no power by not acknowledging him. I however see that smirking face and lose my cool entirely.

    Please write that book. I for one am already looking forward to it with great excitement.

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  19. Your words ring loud and true, as usual. I am in agreement, but didn’t realize it til I read your post. It’s far better to focus on the good that came from such horrific acts of cruelty, because you are correct, good DID come from it. Look at the property now- it’s not only a wonderful sanctuary, it’s now a living memorial to all the dogs who suffered , and those who survived, there.
    I feel similarly about a popular National Geographic dog training icon. I may not agree with his methods, but I have to give him credit for the publicity that has caused people to really pay attention to their dogs. And the positive attention he has helped pit bulls receive.
    No, I don’t want people to train their dogs his way, but I do want them to learn to observe body language and know their dogs better.
    I do hate Michael Vick. But I would rather spend my energy promoting more positive views of pit bulls, than waste my energy carrying on about Vick.
    Thank you for your frequent voice of reason. Ray was so lucky to find you.

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  20. NO disclaimer necessary – you do NOT need to explain you are on the right side of this!!
    and this DOG KILLER’s only claim to fame is the HALL OF SHAME !!!!!

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  21. I would love to write you a novel and tell you how much I look up to you and all the pitbull lovers all across the world! I really and truly appreciate you sharing your wonderful, lovable, Ray with us! Because of the Vicktory dogs, my whole liked has changed! Thank you, Thank you!

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  22. well said….I won’t ever forgive him (or HSUS for standing against these dogs) but the turn that courts have taken to give them a second chance is amazing. seeing these dogs as victims and not criminals did require a “public” trial of sorts…and that was done when he was arrested.

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  23. I’ve struggled with that same mindset for so long and am happy (and a bit relieved) to see it in writing. I’ve always been a big football fan and never have been a fan of him but because of his “celebrity” I too have had a change in my life’s focus. I am the mom of two amazing Pit Bull type dogs, I volunteer for and serve on boards of two wonderful animal rescue organizations and have made the pilgrimage to BF and have had the honor of meeting some of the true heroes, including you and Ray. Of those two organizations I work on, approve applications for and place Pit Bull type dogs in loving homes. Indirectly because of his “fame” 400 more dogs in this area are in homes. Indirectly because of his exposure all of the animal rescue organizations in this county are BSL free and here dogs are dogs are dogs.

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    1. How dare anyone even say the name Michael Vick. He’s evil personified. He has no remorse….and the people that enjoy him, honor him should live in a house of shame. It’s obvious that these people also don’t care about our voiceless innocent animals either and this frightens me.

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      1. you couldn’t be more wrong. I detest the man. It kills me to think what my boy endured at his hands. But I can’t let him get in the way of what I’m doing….working every single day to save these dogs. He doesn’t exist in my universe…….

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