Just five years ago they were "the Vick dogs," their bodies bearing the scars of life in the fighting ring, their psyches damaged by years of abuse.
Today Hector, Jonny Justice and the others, are happy, healthy, regular playful pups. Most have completed their Canine Good Citizen certificates. Some are therapy dogs
Seven bandana-wearing survivors of Michael Vick's dog fighting operation - and 125 supporters -reunited last month in California.
“They’re very forgiving and they all really enjoy other dogs, which is probably the other big surprise that came out of the case,” said Donna Reynolds, director of Oakland-based BAD RAP, an advocacy group for “pit bull-type” dogs. “In fact, dogs were a comfort to them.”
Reynolds, who spoke with ABCNews, said her organization worked with prosecutors on the Vick case in 2007 to identify dogs that were taken from Vick’s property who could be rehabilitated.
In all BAD RAP removed 10 dogs that have all found happy homes. But let us not forget that another 15 (at last count last year) of the Vick dogs may never be fully rehabilitated and remain in the care of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Among those enjoying the reunion was Hector, a brownish pit bull, has scars up and down his chest and missing teeth from his days in Vick’s dog-fighting arena.
His owner Roo Yori, said Hector just wanted to put the bad times behind him.
“Hector, fortunately, was one of the dogs that wasn’t as affected as some of the other ones. Hector, he just kind of got out of there said, ‘That stunk, let’s move forward,’ and that was it. It was very obvious he had never lived in a house; he had never been a pet dog,” Yori said.
Fellow survivor, Jonny Justice, as turned into a celebrity, appeaking on “The Rachael Ray Show” and next year will be the model for a stuffed dog made by manufacturer GUND.
“There were lots of hugs, kisses, lots of crying. When people meet these dogs, they cry,” Reynolds told ABC News. "They understand that they are little pieces of positive history.”
Credit: Mark Rogers Photography/ABCNews