Today Marks the 10-Year Anniversary of Our Purchase of Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound; Would I Do It Again?

The look on my face at the loan signing for the property.
Yeah, I should have been even MORE afraid than this.

Should I Have Done That?

The Eternal Question…

At the age of 57, I often feel like I exist in a state of bewilderment. I vowed never to be as out of it as my mother was, but now I realize that’s not as easy as it seems when you’re in your mid-30s. Poor Mom had no idea of current fashion, trends, slang, or, God forbid, the internet.

I remember when a lesbian couple moved in down the street from her. She called them “The Sisters,” while whispering to me that she knew they weren’t actually sisters, but she felt too uncomfortable with the truth, so “The Sisters” it was.

That was progress for her.

Today I feel more empathy for my mother of 20 years ago, as well as for the me of 10 years ago, taking a big leap despite the fear I was obviously feeling in the above photo.

The ME of today would hug that scared woman if I could. And probably whisper “Don’t Do It!” just for good measure.

Ten years to the day that I signed the paperwork as CEO of Dogs Deserve Better—a nonprofit that freed dogs from chains—to purchase Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound and transform it to a rescue facility, I’m left pondering if I’d do it all over again.

Truth is, there are a few pivotal moments in a person’s life. Those moments you take that leap of faith, or decide the risk is too great to move forward.

That day I took a leap, and as a result would give up the last vestiges of my belief in a free and fair world.

My foster dog Sloan at the signing. I loved that boy and ended up adopting him.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “How could you believe in a fair and free world anyway, lady? Are you that naive?”

I wouldn’t have thought I was. But we each hold underlying beliefs that we only see more clearly in retrospect, and I believed if you were doing something with good intentions and bringing positive outcomes to the world you would be supported by the universe.

Duh. They hung Jesus from a cross, if the Bible is to be believed. Derp.

So, for better or worse, I leapt. I began a four year journey, one where I learned the depths of cruelty that can exist beneath the surface, where there are people content to support dog fighters and destroy dog rescuers and still pretend to be saintly, and where up appears to be down and down up.

You know, similar to the last four years under the former guy.

But I can’t just see the negative. There was overwhelming amounts of good, too. There was joy in the overcoming, there were smiles on the dogs’ faces as they played and on the faces of staff caring for them.

There were dogs freed from horrible lives, and brought into a haven that taught them that not all humans are bad, not all humans will hurt them, and not all humans will leave them to die at the end of chains.

I worked with people with hearts of gold, who describe that time with great nostalgia for a magical period where we worked together to bring a dream to fruition. I would never want to deprive those friends of that experience.

Or myself either, truth be told.

Like so many experiences in life, I will probably weigh the positives and negatives for my remaining days and ponder whether I should have done it or not.

The bewildering answer is I still don’t know.

If you’re interested in reading the full story and seeing hundreds of photos of the transformation, my book It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups” is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook, kindle, and e-Pub. You can find all the links on this page.

For now, I’m choosing to be kinder to myself about that time and the things I beat myself up for. Maybe if I had known, had understood what I was up against, I would have been able to fight stronger, harder, and longer.

There are people involved in that story who I will probably never have a charitable thought about. I ain’t no Jesus. But time has a way of blurring the edges of the worst and allowing the best to shine through. I’m thankful for that.

For today, I shall celebrate the good and leave the bad. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the happy photos of the many dogs we were able to bring joy to. Thank you to everyone who supported me through those four years. I’m grateful for you.

Sloan on closing day
The dogfighting sheds were super eerie

Dog caretakers walk the dogs through our fenced field.
The dogs played and played in the field. Who wouldn’t smile?
One of the many puppies we cared for
Our trainer working with a group of rescues
They were finally FREE!
We want breakfast
One of my favorites!
Cheerful babies enjoying their day, as they deserve
Me with Sampson, one of my most memorable rescues
Sampson in his new home laying with “his boy.” This photo still makes me tear up.
We took him from the worst and gave him the best. We did that.

If I hadn’t bought the property, Sampson could have died at the end of his chain without rescue ever coming for him. He might never have felt the loving touch of a caring human. He could have missed out on “his boy” and a home of his very own.

For him and the others who were saved…

One thought on “Today Marks the 10-Year Anniversary of Our Purchase of Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound; Would I Do It Again?

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