As anyone who’s been in grad school knows, it is hard to get the gumption to read ANYTHING over break. I had planned on reading several books over my Christmas break but ended up only being able to start one:

I am about halfway through and have already been brought to tears several times.

To read about these dogs who have been through so much and experienced the worst humanity has to offer just breaks my heart.

I got especially worked up when I looked down at Turk who was curled up next to me while I read.

Here’s the thing about Turk:

On the way home from the shelter

When I adopted Turk, I had no idea he was part pit bull.

This was what the shelter knew: he was emaciated, quiet, very shy, and missing a chunk of his rib (not sure why). They assumed he had been a stray with his sister for the first 6 months of his life. The shelter called him “John Boy.” I named him “Turk” (after a character on Scrubs).

Such a sweet face...

When we got home, the shy and well-behaved dog disappeared. He was super hyper and constantly pooped & peed in the apartment. He completely destroyed shoes, pillows, blankets – anything he could get a hold on. After a few months, I was starting to worry that he might be too much for me. I’d never given a dog up before but I was so worried that we weren’t right for each other.

This was the look he gave before he got zoomies

In a last ditch effort to understand his behavior, I took Turk to the vet. I found out that his incontinence issues were due to a severe case of worms and a urinary tract infection that he probably had developed while at the shelter. The vet told me a double ear infection explained why he was acting so hyper and crazy. Turk was in severe pain and just didn’t know how to let me know.

Once he was on medication to treat his various ailments, his behavior improved significantly. He still had some issues (like going crazy on a leash) but we took some training classes, developed a routine, and set some “house rules.” I realized that Turk craves rules and guidelines. He aims to please his humans and loves us fiercely.

He even lets me dress him up.

When we moved from the Kansas side to the Missouri side of Kansas City, we switched vets and were laughed at when we tried to put “corgi/rat terrier mix” for Turk’s breed. Our vet stated: “Turk’s a pit bull or at least part pit bull.” I disagreed wholeheartedly with his assertion. Pit Bulls were vicious, scary, ugly dogs. Turk was beautiful, loving, and I never once felt unsafe around him. It was only when I began researching pit bulls that I realized just how different the reality was from the perception of the breed.

Also, I realized that Turk was most definitely a pittie. I realize now that the shelter may have fibbed on his breed to give him a chance at getting a family. Shelters across the country are overrun with pitties and pit mixes because people are fearful of the breed. Also, my vet on the Kansas side may have neglected to say anything because of the breed specific laws in Olathe and Overland Park (where we lived). Regardless, I’m thankful that I didn’t know because I probably wouldn’t have adopted him had I known, and I can’t imagine my life without Turk.

Turk will put up with anything.

All of this to say that while Michael Vick’s dogs experienced awful atrocities, so many have gone on to become great family dogs. What a wonderful testament to the breed that these dogs who were raised to fight have come back from the brink to become loving family pets and even therapy dogs!

When I hear these stories, I think of Turk and how I was so afraid in the first few months that he was a “bad egg” and how thankful I am that I stuck it out with him. Everyday he spends with us in a warm home, eating good food, and being loved on by us is just a small way we can make up for the first 6 months of his life when he was homeless.

Baby boy!

I hope the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s kennels will soon completely forget their life with him and only know the love and care they now receive with their new families. I hope more people will realize what wonderful dogs pitties and pit mixes can be. I hope that people turn to shelters when they are looking to get a dog instead of buying from pet stores or puppy mills.

Mostly, I just hope that after you read this, you go find your dog or cat and give them a big hug.