Vick dog finds happy home in Dallas

I never expected our adventures would include Ace riding in the back seat of a car with a former Michael Vick dog.

Then again, I never expected we’d be hanging out in a strip club, either.

But our visit to The Lodge in Dallas led us to meet Mel, a still meek and fearful, sad-eyed, mostly black pit bull — small in stature, short on confidence, and sweet as pecan pie.

Mel was adopted from Best Friends by Sunny Hunter, manager of VIP services at the swanky Dallas gentlemen’s club, and her husband Richard Hunter, a talk show host whose outlook on life isn’t as bleak as his goth appearance may lead you to think — especially since Mel came into their lives.

Meet Mel and the low esteem in which you may already hold Michael Vick — and, yes, we know he served his time — plummets even lower.

For one thing, you see — in his fearful eyes, his tentative stride — the effects of the torture Vick inflicted; for another you see a true innocent; a mild-mannered dog whose lack of killer instinct led him to be designated a bait dog, a living chew toy.

But you also see a dog who, despite all that humans did to him in his first year of life, seems to hold no grudge against the species.

Mel was only about a year old when he was seized from the Vick estate in Virginia. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah.

He spent nearly two years at Best Friends, where trainers worked to help him overcome his fearfulness and eventually pronounced him adoptable.

Richard and Sunny already had an application in by then — starting off a process that would take more than a year. Sunny had grown interested in adopting a Vick dog after seeing a documentary. Richard had one of Best Friends’ trainers on his talk show.

The couple waited for nine months, then underwent a criminal background check, and a home visit. Finally, they were invited up to Best Friends to spend a week living on the grounds and getting to know Mel. They brought their dog Pumpkin, a terrier mix, along as well.

Pumpkin immediately became friends with Mel, and became his guardian — a role he continues to fulfill.

Last fall, the adoption having been approved by the same judge who sent Vick to prison for two years, Mel was delivered to the Hunter’s home in Dallas by a Best Friends trainer and caregiver, who stayed in town for a week, visiting daily.

Richard describes the adoption process as “daunting,” but worth it. Mel slowly came out of his shell, and though he still quivers at first when strangers show up, or when he’s in new surroundings, he’s getting more used to meeting people. It used to take three visits before he was comfortable with a stranger, now it takes only 20 minutes or so.

Pumpkin, who is 13, has been a huge factor in his transition.

“At home, when a new person shows up, Mel sits in the corner with his back to the wall, like a statue. Pumpkin gets in front of him and screens him. Pumpkin has been instrumental in getting him to relax,” Richard said.

Mel has never barked, or made any sound, in the time they have had him. At night, if Mel needs a trip outside, Pumpkin takes note of him standing by the door and barks for him.

Mel seems most comfortable when he’s in a car, Sunny and Richard said — so we decided that’s how we all should meet. We greeted Mel and Pumpkin through a window, then loaded Ace into the backseat with them — a tight fit, but no one seemed bothered by it. Pumpkin shielded Mel the whole time, allowing him to be sniffed and petted, but never leaving his side.

After a spin around Dallas, we all got out and sat in a patch of grass outside The Lodge. Mel skulked and quivered at first but within a few minutes grew at ease.

Richard says Mel was used as a bait dog, due to his small size and mild temperament. He was likely muzzled when he was thrown into the ring with other dogs being trained to fight. He was not one of those that Bad Newz Kennels terminated — sometimes by drowning or hanging.

“Most people really didn’t take the time to look at the details of the case – the jumper cables, the hanging, the drowning, the distance throwing contests. That’s just bizarre. It’s diabolical,” Richard said. As for Vick’s return to the NFL, he said, “It was very disappointing to me that the American public stood for it. He’s psychopathic, like a serial killer.”

While Vick’s dogs were, in most cases, rehabilitated, Richard is among those who doubt the same was truly achieved by Vick, despite his appearances in an anti-dogfighting campaign.

Mel’s tail, which was broken in his youth, stayed between his legs for the first few months, Richard said. “Now, he smiles and he walks with his head up. His tail was broken, so it doesn’t really wag.”

“When he plays, he plays in secret,” said Sunny. “At first he would just sit there and shake. Now he waits on the couch for me and gives me a kiss when I come home.”

“His resilience is amazing to me,” Richard said. “He really has changed my life. It’s amazing to me that he’s willing to love us — that he’s still able to judge people individualy when for the first year of his life, if he saw a human being, it meant something terrible was going to happen to him.

 “We just want to make him as happy as can be.”

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42 comments for “Vick dog finds happy home in Dallas

  1. Eighteenpaws
    July 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

    What an precise, intimate look and incredible story. I have read twice and I am still crying. I’m sure that it will become an important and memorable experience for you and Ace. Thank you for this perspective!

  2. Eighteenpaws
    July 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

    What an precise, intimate look and incredible story. I have read twice and I am still crying. I’m sure that it will become an important and memorable experience for you and Ace. Thank you for this perspective!

  3. July 28, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Thank you for this amazing story! I’ve met a few of the Vick dogs in person as well but during the rehabilitation and never got to witness such a happy ending first-hand. Beautifully written testament to the forgiving and resilient spirits of our wonderful dogs.

  4. July 28, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Thank you for this amazing story! I’ve met a few of the Vick dogs in person as well but during the rehabilitation and never got to witness such a happy ending first-hand. Beautifully written testament to the forgiving and resilient spirits of our wonderful dogs.

  5. debbie
    July 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I concur with eightenpaws comment, word for word.

  6. debbie
    July 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I concur with eightenpaws comment, word for word.

  7. kathryn
    July 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    As I sit with the picture of Mel and Richard and Ace, I know in my gut that Ace is sending Mel his silent blessing and that Mel, with his silent ways, is receiving it too. Great story, well done.

  8. kathryn
    July 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    As I sit with the picture of Mel and Richard and Ace, I know in my gut that Ace is sending Mel his silent blessing and that Mel, with his silent ways, is receiving it too. Great story, well done.

  9. Jenni
    July 28, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Amazing, beautiful, inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much to the writer, Best Friends, and to Sunny and Richard.

  10. Jenni
    July 28, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Amazing, beautiful, inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much to the writer, Best Friends, and to Sunny and Richard.

  11. Cami
    July 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  12. Cami
    July 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

    What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  13. Maria Tomasetta
    July 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I needed this story today, I am so sick of that big fat slob, Ried forcing that dog killer down our throats. There are plenty of people in this area not excepting him back in the NFL. How about the state of Virginia, pushing the whole shooting under the rug. I thought it was illegal to shoot someone, this smells like cover up to me. This scum bag is laughing his ass off every night at all the people he has fooled.

  14. Maria Tomasetta
    July 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I needed this story today, I am so sick of that big fat slob, Ried forcing that dog killer down our throats. There are plenty of people in this area not excepting him back in the NFL. How about the state of Virginia, pushing the whole shooting under the rug. I thought it was illegal to shoot someone, this smells like cover up to me. This scum bag is laughing his ass off every night at all the people he has fooled.

  15. Maria
    July 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for the wonderful story. What great people there are in this world.

  16. Maria
    July 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for the wonderful story. What great people there are in this world.

  17. LIsa
    July 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I am so happy for Mel, but I am equally happy for his family. It is a unique experience to help bring a dog out of it’s shell and watch him/her bloom as their confidence grows. I have to formerly feral/shy/people are unbearably scary dogs that I adopted from Arizona (not far from Best Friends – I also have a Best Friends dog). They were babies when rescued from near death, I got them at age 2. I’ve had them for almost 1 yr and the other (littermates) for 1 1/2 yrs. It has been the most enriching time of my life.

    God bless you all and especially Mel and Sweet Pumpkin (Dogs are SO smart!)

  18. LIsa
    July 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I am so happy for Mel, but I am equally happy for his family. It is a unique experience to help bring a dog out of it’s shell and watch him/her bloom as their confidence grows. I have to formerly feral/shy/people are unbearably scary dogs that I adopted from Arizona (not far from Best Friends – I also have a Best Friends dog). They were babies when rescued from near death, I got them at age 2. I’ve had them for almost 1 yr and the other (littermates) for 1 1/2 yrs. It has been the most enriching time of my life.

    God bless you all and especially Mel and Sweet Pumpkin (Dogs are SO smart!)

  19. Is this realkly true??
    July 29, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Simply question – if that dog was a ‘bait’ dog, a living chew toy, then where are all the scars ???

    That dog looks like its never been bit by anything in its life!

    • July 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

      Well, we did mention a broken tail. As for any wounds that have healed and scars that were left, beyond the obvious emotional ones, we did not perform a full physical.
      John/ohmidog!

  20. Is this realkly true??
    July 29, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Simply question – if that dog was a ‘bait’ dog, a living chew toy, then where are all the scars ???

    That dog looks like its never been bit by anything in its life!

    • July 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

      Well, we did mention a broken tail. As for any wounds that have healed and scars that were left, beyond the obvious emotional ones, we did not perform a full physical.
      John/ohmidog!

  21. Mary
    July 31, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you for giving Mel a loving home!

  22. Mary
    July 31, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you for giving Mel a loving home!

  23. Sam
    August 1, 2010 at 9:21 am

    That makes me cry, in a happy way though. I’m so glad we have Best Friends and people like these who take them time to care.

    Sam

  24. Sam
    August 1, 2010 at 9:21 am

    That makes me cry, in a happy way though. I’m so glad we have Best Friends and people like these who take them time to care.

    Sam

  25. Shane
    August 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Lmao @ that dog being a bait for anything. There’s not one scratch on him. You people are idiots.

  26. Shane
    August 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Lmao @ that dog being a bait for anything. There’s not one scratch on him. You people are idiots.

  27. Shane
    August 1, 2010 at 10:41 am

    A broken tail? Is that the best you can come up with??? That could have been the result of many things. What a joke!

  28. Shane
    August 1, 2010 at 10:41 am

    A broken tail? Is that the best you can come up with??? That could have been the result of many things. What a joke!

  29. Christine E Cairns
    August 9, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Thank you for giving Mel a chance at a new life. You are very special people.

  30. Christine E Cairns
    August 9, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Thank you for giving Mel a chance at a new life. You are very special people.

  31. August 10, 2010 at 11:53 am

    What a wonderful story. Thank dog for the Best Friends Society. When I saw the episode of Dogtown on National Geographic that introduced the Vick dogs and their stories, my whole outlook on pitbulls changed. I had been a dog foster parent for about 2 years and had only taken in small dogs, never considering a pit bull. After seeing the show, I started doing some research and found 2 organizations in my neighborhood that advocated for and re-homed abused and abandoned bull breeds. http://www.hugabull.com and http://www.bullybuddies.net Within a month, I had my first pitt bull foster. His name was Spunky Doodle which didn’t seem fitting for the 100 pund mass of dog that he was. Spunky had been kept in a crate at almost all times and had sores from rubbing against it as well as bloody feet and tail from them due to extreme seperation anxiety. With a lot of love and patience, Spunky healed and began to trust and relax. He was eventually adopted and now lives with a fantastic family and is living the life he deserves. I have since fostered 2 other pitts, both with issues, both full of love, cuddles and deserving of stability and protection and constant respect and care. I doubt I will ever foster a different breed again. I have never felt more love from a dog than I do from the pitts. Thank you for standing up for Mel and giving him the love he so deserves.

  32. August 10, 2010 at 11:53 am

    What a wonderful story. Thank dog for the Best Friends Society. When I saw the episode of Dogtown on National Geographic that introduced the Vick dogs and their stories, my whole outlook on pitbulls changed. I had been a dog foster parent for about 2 years and had only taken in small dogs, never considering a pit bull. After seeing the show, I started doing some research and found 2 organizations in my neighborhood that advocated for and re-homed abused and abandoned bull breeds. http://www.hugabull.com and http://www.bullybuddies.net Within a month, I had my first pitt bull foster. His name was Spunky Doodle which didn’t seem fitting for the 100 pund mass of dog that he was. Spunky had been kept in a crate at almost all times and had sores from rubbing against it as well as bloody feet and tail from them due to extreme seperation anxiety. With a lot of love and patience, Spunky healed and began to trust and relax. He was eventually adopted and now lives with a fantastic family and is living the life he deserves. I have since fostered 2 other pitts, both with issues, both full of love, cuddles and deserving of stability and protection and constant respect and care. I doubt I will ever foster a different breed again. I have never felt more love from a dog than I do from the pitts. Thank you for standing up for Mel and giving him the love he so deserves.

  33. Chelsea
    August 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    This makes me so happy and breaks my heart at the same time. Mel has such a sweet face, how anyone would want to hurt him amazes me. He looks so much like my Kobi. He’s so very lucky to have an amazing family raising him! It makes me so happy that people were willing to stand up for them and protect the ones they could and give these dogs a second chance.

  34. Chelsea
    August 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    This makes me so happy and breaks my heart at the same time. Mel has such a sweet face, how anyone would want to hurt him amazes me. He looks so much like my Kobi. He’s so very lucky to have an amazing family raising him! It makes me so happy that people were willing to stand up for them and protect the ones they could and give these dogs a second chance.

  35. Thee_N
    August 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Truly great article!

    @ Shane: Go f*ck yourself.

  36. Thee_N
    August 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Truly great article!

    @ Shane: Go f*ck yourself.

  37. Maureen
    August 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    How about if we use Shane for bait next time?

  38. Maureen
    August 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    How about if we use Shane for bait next time?

  39. dana
    September 5, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Mel really has a sad look in his eyes for a pitbull. And sorry, I really hate Vick’s face when I see his pics. I’ve seen his dogs. Jezzz.. And well, Shane can go to a pitbull fight and make him the referee, if the dogs need one.

  40. November 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

    That was an amazing story. That proves that you guys know how to change the life of a dog even though they can’t understand what you’re saying to them. You showed Mel the love wants and that’s what he’s showing to your family in return.

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