Against odds, Vick's champion fighter goes out peacefully


Lucas, a toffee-colored pit bull, cheated death many times.

First he had the misfortune to end up as one of Michael Vick's fighting dogs.

Fortunately for Lucas he was successful in the fighting ring.That meant he lived to fight another day. 

With each win, another dog likely lost his life, as we know from Vick's own admission that he killed his losing dogs in ruthless, bloody ways.

Then he was rescued from Vick's compound during a raid in 2007. But that almost certainly would have led to his immediate destruction as was - and is still often - the case with fighting dogs.

He got a reprieve when Best Friends Animal Society stepped in to take 22 of Vick's fighting dogs, including Lucas.

Still, there would be no traditional forever home for Lucas.

A judge, learning that he had been a grand champion fighter, declared him "unadoptable" and ordered that he live out his life at Best Friends sanctuary in Utah.

Many animals spend their days contentedly at the spacious shelter as Lucas did. In fact, far from a lonely life in an isolated kennel, Lucas bonded with his caretakers and enjoyed socializing with staff every day in the main office.

Still, his career in the fighting ring took its toll; he had more brushes with death. Lucas suffered from babesia, a treatable but incurable parasitic disease transmitted through bite wounds (another Vick dog had, at one point veterinarians had to remove his spleen.

Through it all, scars and all, he displayed a winning personality. Of all the Vicktory dogs, as they came to be called, Lucas was the most social, his caretakers said.

As Jim Gorant reported in his haunting book about the Vick dogs, "The Lost Dogs," Lucas loved his toys and his two-acre grassy dog park. He was unable to live with other dogs, but had a girlfriend, also a pit bull, who licked his face through the fence.

Finally, last week at about 13, Lucas told his caretakers it was time to go.

As Best Friends spokeswoman Barbara Williamson put it, he could "no longer do Lucas things."

In a memorial tribute to Lucas on the Best Friends blog , the organizations' CEO Gregory Castle says he and the those who knew him will remember a dog of great character who won hearts and showed no malice toward humans despite his horrific early life.

Writes Castle:

Just as Lucas embodied an indomitable and gentle spirit, he also embodied the tragedy and abuse that the worst of humanity imposes upon the best of our animal friends. It was never possible to escape the sad reality that behind his heavily scarred muzzle and intimidating reputation of a grand champion fighting dog was a sweet, affectionate, regular dog who wanted nothing more than to be around people – to love and to be loved.