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Baltimore’s “Vick dog” lands on SI cover

Jasmine — the pit bull who went from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation to life with a young family of four in suburban Baltimore — graces the cover of this month’s Sports Illustrated.

One of three Vick dogs turned over to the Baltimore rescue organization Recycled Love for rehabilitation, Jasmine ended up in the home of Catalina Stirling, a 35-year-old artist and Recycled Love volunteer who, upon first meeting Jasmine, crawled into the cage where the dog cowered beneath a blanket.

The Sports Illustrated article looks at what has become of the 51 dogs seized from Vick’s Virginia estate — dogs that even some animal welfare organizations were saying had been so brutalized that euthanasia, not rehabilitation, was the only solution.

Jasmine was likely born at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels and, because of her youth, was a “bait dog,” used to provide practice matches for the fighting dogs, spending the rest of the time chained to a car axle in the nearby woods.

During evaluations of the Vick dogs, Jasmine was being considered for sanctuary with Best Friends in Utah, where the most severely traumatized dogs were sent, when Recycled Love volunteers went to see her and the other dogs being held at the Washington (DC) Animal Rescue League.

Stirling, seeing the dog under the blanket, crawled into the cage and began massaging and whispering to her, and Jasmine seemed to respond. The dog was turned over to Recycled Love, then sent to live with Stirling, her husband, two young children, two other dogs and a cat.

For months, Jasmine sat in her cage in Stirling’s house and refused to come out. “I had to pick her up and carry her outside so she could go to the bathroom,” Stirling says. “She wouldn’t even stand up until I had walked away. There’s a little hole in the yard, and once she was done, she would go lie in the hole.”

It was almost four months before Jasmine would get out of the cage by herself. Visits from another Vick dog living in Maryland, Sweet Pea, helped draw Jasmine out of her shell — enough so that after six months Stirling could finally take both dogs for a walk in a park near her house.

Jasmine is still fearful, the article says. She almost always walks with her head and tail down. She won’t let anyone approach her from behind, and she still spends most of the day in her pen, sitting there quietly, even thought the door is open.

In the end, 47 of the 51 Vick dogs were saved. Two died while in the shelters. One was destroyed because it was too violent; and another was euthanized for medical reasons. Twenty-two dogs went to Best Friends. The other 25 have been spread around the country. Ten went to California with BAD RAP. Fourteen of the 25 have been placed in permanent homes, and the rest are in foster care.

(To  learn more about the Vick dogs, you can check out ohmidog!’s earlier incarnation, Mutts.)


Comment from Mary Schmidt
Time December 31, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Kudos to Sports Illustrated for the cover story, for giving good information about pit bulls to the public, for telling a story of hope about most of the Vicktory dogs.

A mainstream publication like Sports Illustrated has the potential to educate large numbers of readers.

The tragedy of pit bulls is that the breed has attracted morons who see dogs as deadly instruments, morons who should never be responsible for the care of any living creature. The breed definitely needs better PR. Last Thanksgiving, my sister told a story about watching a woman walking three pit bulls. Both of my older parents heard “pickles” instead of “pit bulls” and needed a moment to understand the story. Since then, my relatives have been referring to pit bulls as “pickles” and I have to tell you, there’s no way to view a dog called a “pickle” as a fearsome creature. The nickname is just too silly.

Among my many other wishes for 2009, I hope the year brings much better information about pit bulls to the public and perhaps dog lovers should develop a better term for the “breed,” too.

Comment from bluhawkk
Time January 1, 2009 at 8:15 am

Brava Catalina Stirling for crawling into that cage with Jasmine.

She deserves a cover of her own.

Kudos the those in the legal system that made the decision to have the evaluation undertaken and to have Vick foot the bill.

And kudos to all who have chosen the responsibility to restore and heal, to adopt and to foster these damaged beings.

Would gentic testing ascertain any relationship between Jamine and Sweet Pea?

Comment from sandi
Time September 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm

His only hope is an honest redemption of his heart.