Best Friends Blog

Vicktory dog reunion

As most of the followers of our blog know, in 2008 Best Friends Animal Society took in 22 dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.

Something very special took place yesterday, March 11, at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary when six of the 22 dogs, who have been adopted, returned to mark five years of freedom. We call them the Vicktory dogs. Cherry, Handsome Dan, Halle, Little Red, Mel, Oscar and their families gathered at Angels Landing at the Sanctuary with staff, volunteers and visitors for what was just like a family reunion.

“We had a fantastic experience being with six of the families who adopted Vicktory dogs and had traveled here with their adopted Vicktory dogs, as well as their other dogs and their children,” says Judah Battista, Best Friends Animal Care director.

There were incredibly touching moments. Each dog has changed their family’s life as profoundly as their own life has changed. Richard (Mel’s dad) has become a very outspoken advocate of pit bulls. Handsome Dan’s family has a rescue group named after him, and they’ve been able to save many more dogs based in part on the public’s interest in Dan. It was wonderful to see all of their fans who showed up (over 150). They were all incredibly sensitive to the dogs’ needs.

“It was clear that the audience felt privileged to be able to meet the dogs and their families,” says Judah. “I know that I did.”

One by one, each of the adoptive families took the stage and shared some of the stories of their dogs. Over and over, we heard how the dogs have come out of their shells. How they have changed from the shy and shutdown dogs they once were.

Cherry joined his parents, Paul and Melissa, on the stage and lay down as if he were completely relaxed. Little Red played with the other dogs and enjoyed belly rubs from her former caregivers. Little Red was there with her mom, Susan, and didn’t even seem to notice the audience. Handsome Dan, who has a harder time in a crowd, sat in his doggie stroller, where he was joined by his three-year-old human sister.

Oscar didn’t join his mom, Rachel, on stage. He’s been in his home for about nine months and is still shy in such a public setting. Rachel mentioned that being connected to all of the other families and seeing how far their dogs have come gives her a glimpse of the dog that Oscar may one day be. Of course she loves him just the way he is.

Dog Care manager Michelle Besmehn says, “It was great for everyone to see how well the dogs are doing. It was a wonderful reminder of what we are all working for.”

John Garcia, who was co-manager of Dogtown with Michelle when the Vicktory dogs arrived five years ago, adds, “The Vicktory dogs have gone on to be amazing ambassadors for this breed and are helping save even more lives, which of course is why we are all here.”

Watch a video of the Vicktory dogs at the Sanctuary:


Gregory Castle
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Anonymous

    A story worth celebrating. So happy for all of you. Very nice video. Thanks to all for all your hard work.

  • Lorie

    That made me cry. So thankful that they were rescued, freed and placed into loving homes. Just goes to show that PEOPLE are the problem, not the animals.

  • Steph

    Lovely story! I loved seeing an update on some of the dogs I first “met” on Dogtown. Bring back the show!!! I absolutely loved it!!

  • Carole I’mhereforLexulous

    what a heart warming story. Maybe the media should be covering this along with the story about that pos m vick getting another pet (i use that term loosely when it comes to him)

  • Carole I’mhereforLexulous

    what a heart warming story. Maybe the media should be covering this along with the story about that pos m vick getting another pet (i use that term loosely when it comes to him)

  • Erica Pierson

    As I wipe away my happy tears, I just want to Thank “Best Friends” for doing such a remarkable job taking in the vicktory dogs and all the other thousands of dogs that you have rescued and saved!! It just warms my heart to know that there is a place out there that cares so much for our four legged best friends. I don’t know what I would do without my two best friends!! I love them so much! Thank-You again “Best Friends” for everything you do. Your the Best!! I hope some day I can make a trip out there to visit and maybe volunteer some of my time, to a place with so many people with”Big Hearts”.

  • Cheryl Stephens Grimes

    I agree Steph! I never thought Cherry would be this successful – it’s heartwarming to see the changes. Bring back Dogtown!!

  • Wren

    I love the pit bull dogs, and coming from an horrid situation of only knowing how to kill, or being the dog that is used to breed, or the ones that are used as bait dogs, to come and be a family pet is so awesome. I applaud all of you for taking in these dogs, rehabilitations with them, and then to adoptions and a home where they will never have to be put through that ever again. I love this story. And I wish others would stop blaming the breed of dog for what they became. That is all on those who made them that way. They can be the sweetest dogs ever. They are only dangerous when they are not socialized, and taught to kill. That is the dangerous owners that we should be afraid of, not the breed. I say you are all awesome people who gave them a chance.

  • Lorraine Files Sears

    Thank you Best Friends and adopters for helping these frightened, abused dogs find safety and joy in their lives. Heartwarming!

  • Darsha Doran

    Someone needs to make Vick watch this!

  • suzy

    After watching the video, I’m just out raged that this story didn’t make the new’s but the story of their abuser did….And the fact that he now has 2 more dog’s just make’s me sick to my stomach. I wonder how long it’ll be before Best Friend’s is rescuing more of Vick’s victims.

  • Kaitlin Jenkins

    This is so heartwarming and amazing! I follow a few of the vicktory dogs on facebook, and it has been so wonderful to see them find themselves and grow into the great dogs they were meant to be.

  • Jan Bergeron

    Very very touching. Lorie you are so right. People are the problem Vick should still be in jail. I am so happy for these wonderful dogs and the love and happiness they have now.

  • Marzipan Wiley

    I can’t get over how brave these beautiful dogs are. To see Cherry and Handsome smiling and relaxing really brings tears to my eyes. Thanks to Best Friends, and thanks to all of the people who, through Facebook, have allowed us to follow their progress :)

  • Janet Rankin


  • Keecia

    Okay, okay I’m a big cry baby! I’m glad to see these beautiful dogs doing so well in their forever homes but I would really like to know how Georgia is doing?

  • ninjacb

    these dogs are angels on this earth and i am forever grateful to best friends for their tireless efforts to free these dogs from the mental and physical torment they endured.

  • Janelle

    I’m near tears right now, I love reading the updates on the Vicktory dogs. THANK YOU Best Friends… Michelle, John, and the Dogtown team… you gave these Vicktory dogs life again. After reading “The Lost Dogs” I have such an appreciation for your work. Thank you profoundly for giving these and all dogs a chance!

  • caw485

    That was cool…thank you for sharing!!!

  • Kathleen Wissenz

    Beautiful! This made me cry happy hears for these wonderful dogs!! May they have many more happy & loving years to come.

  • Katrina

    This is so cool! I remember a few of the dogs when I came and volunteered. It is neat to see them so happy!

  • Katrina

    This is so cool! I remember a few of the dogs when I came and volunteered. It is neat to see them so happy!

  • Eb Icious

    People are ALWAYS the problem and can certainly be the solution. I would hope for stricter laws on dog fighting and very harsh punishments for those that break the laws and are convicted of any kind of animal abuse/neglect.

  • Kathy

    I will never be able to understand the mentality of dog fighting. These precious dogs are in a happy place now thanks to all the wonderful people who have rescued these dogs and those who support them. I would love to be able to hug each dog tightly but I’ll just ask each owner to do that for me!

  • Sarah Dandelles

    Totally crying at my desk. Thank you for doing all that you do! I know there are terrible things and people in the world, but these animals got away to safety and life, thanks to so many wonderful people. Hooray for the Vicktory dogs!

  • Gloria

    My husband and I attended the reunion and left with a feeling of satisfaction almost spiritual. God bless the humanity of Best Friends and the adopters of these brave dogs.

  • Kim Fleck

    Awesome :) xo

  • Therese Hunt

    Truly awesome. It is great to see how much they have changed since seeing them on Dogtown.

  • terrimerritts

    I am disturbed that Michael Vick has been allowed to have another dog and mad that he did not receive the death penalty, officially or unofficially, for his heinous abuse and MURDER of dogs. Why is he permitted to breathe like the rest of us? He has no remorse. He’s not good enough to be a dog parent. I am in love with all of these dogs and have been following them for years. They deserve the best and it looks like they are getting it.

  • Tanya and Socks( Pittsburgh)

    I am so very happy to see these six beautiful Pitt bulls doing so well! I have owned 4 so far( at separate times of course)! The first two died of old age. The third one had cancer, and passed on. Now I have my fourth, a beautiful brindle jacketed female named Socks! ( Her paws are white)! It is so good to see them! God bless all of you at Best Friends, the adoptive families, and of course these beautiful, wonderful dogs!

  • Tanya

    Somehow I don’t think he would care

  • Tanya

    I agree. He should not be allowed any type of animals, nor should he be allowed to play football, but since he is , I think at least half of his salary should go to this wonderful rescue group, and any other Pitt bull rescue groups!

  • Lea Mohr

    Just finished the Lost Dogs book. It was great! Thank you for all that you do!

  • Beagle lover


    As a Pet-Sitter and rescuer of our two Beagles I know people are the problem! Praise for these rescuers! Best Friends gave us our wonderful Bagel Beagle 6 years ago…we are eternally grateful!!

  • Gina

    As grandmom of Oscar’s pal Squeaker I am pleased to read about this event. However I very much regret that Squeaker could not be part of the happy reunion.

  • Deb

    Best Friends ROCKS! Love this story.

  • Bonnie Bradshaw

    God Bless all of you involved in saving and helping these poor dogs…there is a special place in heaven for you all…I have no doubt…

  • Jennie

    How wonderful to read such amazingly good news! This touches my heart and soul. A true victory! Thank you!!!!!

  • Karen

    Great…now my mascara is running!!! So happy for all the dogs and their families. XOXOXO

  • Sarica

    Absolutely beautiful story. I’m absolutely crying. I am thankful for Best Friends Animal Society and the loving people that took the Vicktory dogs into their homes.

  • emeraldlizard

    Lovely! Everyone is so happy and content! What was once a heartbreaking story has turned into pure joy! Nice to see Michelle and Betsy again!

  • emeraldlizard

    I agree, Steph; Dogtown was one of my favorite shows!

  • Rhonda

    Thanks SO much for sharing that reunion! I am still shedding happy tears after watching them all together. Thanks, too, to the families who gave these special dogs their forever homes. Now I am going to go kiss my three rescues (2 cats, 1 dog) and thank them for saving me.

  • Rhonda

    I enjoyed the show too and miss it a lot.

  • Rhonda

    My thoughts exactly regarding Georgia.

  • Rachel Johnson

    Google “Vicktory Dog Reunion”. The story was all over the news, including a live interview with CNN Head Line News.

  • ADF

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to you all. Staying so positive and loving throughout the process with these awesome dogs means everything I am going to post this to my personal page. I do (also) wish that THIS reunion made the national news. It truly shows the difference b/t love and hate and the impact that has on animals and people. I absolutely wish that those who caused the PAIN and devastation were involved (and could learn from kindness instead of greed.)

  • Linda

    Made me cry too. So happy for those precious dogs to get such loving families.

  • Crystal Sigmon

    The staff and volunteers at Best Friends are incredibly wonderful people! Thank you for all that you do to ensure these dogs will be able to learn what love and affection are and to live their lives in a safe, happy home

  • bean

    Just absolutely beautiful!! Love what Best Friends has done! Great job and keep on doin it!