Dogs of Vick ring healing

SMYRNA - Seven will always bear the physical scars from her time at Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels, the Virginia dogfighting operation busted last year.

But the pit bull's emotional wounds are on the mend, said Daron James, the man who hopes to adopt the dog soon.

"It blows me away how forgiving these animals are," James said Friday at a news conference in Smyrna, where three of the 47 dogs rescued from the dog-fighting organization were introduced. With the sentencing Friday of the last defendant in the now infamous case, the judge's gag order on the dogs was released.

"I really don't think it's about Michael Vick anymore. It's about the rehabilitation of these

animals and making sure they can live the best lives possible," James said. "From this point on, this dog is going to get nothing but love."

James named the black pit bull under his care after the former Falcon's number, but he hopes to erase all the pain from Seven's connection to Vick.

Of course, she's also "lucky number Seven," for surviving the ordeal, said Brandon Bond, a tattoo artist who is the founder of Atlanta Pit Bull Rescue.

"In a way, we're grateful to Michael Vick. I know that sounds crazy," Bond said. "It was a great opportunity for us to show these dogs aren't vicious and heinous. They are lovable puppies. ... I think a lot of good can come from this."

Bond, who has four pit bulls of his own, said he knows that dogs just try to make their owners happy, even if that is by engaging in fights.

"It's really a sad state of affairs. The dog is just trying to show off for its owner," he said. "We try to live in the solution. We can't save the world, but we can save the dogs we work with."

Bond is fostering Makaveli, a big tan pit bull who cowered in front of cameras. Bond said the dog didn't even know to wag his tail when he was petted when he arrived in Suwanee last month.

"He had never gotten anything but hatred directed toward him," Bond said, adding that he had never met a pit bull that couldn't be saved. "It's easy. You just love 'em and feed 'em and play with 'em, and eventually you've got a great dog on your hands."

The third dog delivered to Suwanee's Georgia SPCA rescue group is Chuckie. The Staffordshire bull terrier wore a green striped sweater Friday to protect him from the cold. Foster owner Julie Warnat said he immediately took to his temporary home.

The three will begin training at an obedience school next week and will be available for adoption after that work is completed - although Seven has already been claimed.

Because of a monetary trust set up as part of Vick's sentence, training for the dogs will be covered for their lifetime, and the new owners will be able to take lessons with them.

Joan Sammond, the director of Georgia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said she isn't sure if the dogs will be appropriate for homes with children, but she said she believes they will be just as safe as other breeds.

"Pit bulls get a lot of bad publicity, but they are just as loving as other pets. We're really glad these guys are going to get a second chance," she said. "We're glad we're going to be a part of their happily ever after."

For information about the dogs and the rescue groups, go to www.georgiaspca.org and www.atlantapitbullrescue.com.