Alf didn't know how to be a dog when he was rescued from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels. The pit bull terrier didn't know how to play. He didn't know how to interact with people, rest or even sit down, said his Oklahoma-based trainer and foster owner Molly Gibb. Instead, she said Alf lived in constant fear — stubby legs poised to escape at any moment. Growing up in the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback's dogfighting operation, Alf didn't know anything beyond a world of cruelty and horror, Gibb said. But there's hope for Alf. Gibb, who lives outside Arcadia, is teaching Alf to feel safe for the first time in his short life. The 3- to 4-year-old dog will be ready for adoption at the end of this month. Gibb hopes eventually he'll serve as an ambassador for pit bulls and the Michael Vick dogs. Alf and the other Vick dogs should stay in the public eye, Gibb said. Hopefully, she said, Alf's story will help the public reject the horrors of dog fighting. "We human beings have really got to get it together,” she said. "We've got reduce this abuse and violence.”
Past remains a mysteryThe past of each Vick dog is mysterious, but Alf's is especially clouded, Gibb said. His role — either as a fighting dog or a bait dog — likely hadn't been decided when he was rescued. He doesn't show signs of fighting, such as scars on the muzzle, chest and legs. He also doesn't show signs of baiting: scars on his belly and jugular or marks around his paws where bait dogs are tied down so fighting dogs can learn how to attack. "I can imagine that at some point something worse could have happened than what had already been occurring,” said Gibb, who's been working with Alf since March. Alf's fears were typical of abused dogs, she said. He was afraid of loud noises, sudden movements and people holding objects. He was scared of things over his head, such as ceiling fans. He was terrified of doorways. For fighting dogs, leaving a room meant going somewhere dangerous, possibly deadly, Gibb said. Alf and dogs like him collapsed into a heap and had to be carried through doorways. Alf is up for adoption this month, and Gibb hasn't decided whether she'll apply to keep him. "It would be very hard imagining not having him in my life,” she said. "And my other critters wouldn't like it.” But regardless of where Alf is given a permanent home, Gibb said she believes he will be a working dog. She isn't sure what type of work will suit him best, but she said he would be an excellent dog for educational outreach.
How Alf came to OklahomaFederal officials charged former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three others with crimes related to Bad Newz Kennels in 2007. He pleaded guilty and is serving time at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. About 60 dogs were seized from the property; about 50 were pit bull terriers involved in the fighting, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Only one dog was euthanized. About half went to the Best Friends Animal Society ranch in Utah. The rest of the dogs were given to a handful of rescue organizations across the country. Alf was one of four dogs put in the care of the Richmond Animal League in Richmond, Va. One of the organization leaders, Sharon Cornett, was given two dogs that needed foster homes, including Alf. Officials contacted Gibb last September, and she first met Alf in December. Alf came to Oklahoma to live with Gibb in March.
Road to recoveryTrainer Molly Gibb uses the TTouch method, also called the Tellington Touch Method. TTouch practitioners use specific circular hand movements to awaken the body's senses, according to the TTouch Web site. Gibb pets Alf in certain ways that help him become more aware of the size and function of his body. She also wraps Alf with bandages, which helps stimulate his senses. "All of the work that we're doing with him on the physical level — like with how we touch him, using body wraps with him — are all to help him know better that he is safe and he can be a healthy, happy little dog,” Gibb said. Gibb also uses body language to help Alf stay relaxed. She blinks, licks her lips and turns her head to signal that she is not looking for confrontation. Alf occasionally works with other dogs at his side, and he often works with an Icelandic horse named Gabe.