Ray, one of the 50 Pit Bulls rescued in 2007 from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia, crossed the Rainbow Bridge last night.
He had babesia, a debilitating blood parasite that is common in fighting dogs, who transmit it to each other through puncture wounds. After undergoing surgery yesterday to have his spleen removed, Ray suffered a blood clot.
“I never, ever felt as if Ray were just our dog,” wrote his grieving dog dad, Kevin Johnson, on the Ray the Vicktory Dog website today. “It was as if he felt he had a mission to meet and touch as many people as he could.
“When we would be having lunch on the deck, he would watch intently for people coming out to take a seat. He’d stand, his ears would fold back and his tail would start tentatively wagging side to side. His yearning expression pulled people in again and again. I am eternally grateful for all the people who set down their plates to come over and give him a pat and a kind word. Every time that happened, it confirmed his belief that he was special and that people needed to meet and love on him.”
Prior to 2007, most dogs rescued from fighting operations were euthanized. Even Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said back then that the rescued Vick dogs would never be suitable as pets, and should all be destroyed.
But dog experts at animal welfare organizations including the Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) knew better. They took in the Vick survivors, rehabilitated them and found loving forever homes in which many of these “unadoptable” survivors thrived.
Kevin and his wife, Jacque, both worked at the BFAS Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. They had worked with other Vicktory dogs, but fell in love with Ray. After fostering him, they officially adopted him on Valentine’s Day last year.
“Ray’s a bit more challenging (than some of the other Vicktory dogs),” Kevin said in a February 2014 news story on the BFAS website. “He’s got a mischievous glint in his eye. I’ve always been drawn to dogs (like) that. He’s got spunk, and I really enjoy that.”
Since the town where the Johnsons lived imposed a breed ban, the couple packed up their pets and moved to a new home in dog-friendlier Fredonia, Ariz.
“The fact that they totally changed their living situation to adopt him was very admirable – it showed … their dedication to him,” said BFAS Adoption Manager Kristi Littrell in the news story.
“Ray Ray was one of the most reactive, bouncing-up-and-down boys when he first arrived,” wrote Angela Rovetto, the lead pet caregiver at Best Friends Animal Society, in a comment today on the Ray the Vicktory Dog Facebook page. “To read so eloquently that he could be in public laying down, see a dog and then look to a human for direction, with trust….absolute transformation due to love, patience and guidance.”
“Today I am finding it hard to even breathe,” Kevin wrote. “In the past few years I have lost both of my parents, three dogs and a macaw. And each death cut like a knife and brought waves of sorrow. But nothing like I am feeling now. No other pain has even come close.”
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