Vick Dog Adoption Stories: A Star Settles Down

August 10, 2011  

As first posted on Dogtime

Dog: Jonny Justice

Humans: Cris Cohen and Jennifer Long

Fellow pets: Lilly the rescued pit bull

City: San Francisco

When BAD RAP handed Jonny Justice over to Cris Cohen and his fiance Jennifer Long for fostering, the game plan was to help him learn to be a family dog, teach him some basic skills, and send him on to a good, permanent home–but not to adopt him. “We’ve done a lot of fosters over the past few years, and I’m very practical about it,” says Cris. So when Jonny was transferred to another foster family after six months, Cris simply settled in and waited for the pangs to go away, like they always had.

Only this time, they didn’t. “A month later I wrote Tim and Donna [co-founders of BAD RAP], asking if Jonny was spoken for yet,” says Cris. “They emailed me back: ‘Sucker. He’s yours.'”

As one of the most outgoing of the Vick dogs, Jonny has become a bit of a poster pooch for the group. He appeared on dog-lover Rachael Ray’s segment on the Vick bust, on Fox News, in People magazine and in other press.

Everywhere he went, the small, wriggly, dispenser of kisses shattered conceptions of what pit bulls–and pit bulls taken from fighting operations in particular–were supposed to act like.

But according to Cris, fostering Jonny has been similar to fostering other dogs who’ve come out of the shelter system. He has his fears–running water, loud noises, and some particularly feisty stray cats who live nearby. But with slow, steady training and desensitization, he’s gotten better and better. “Everything that I can throw at him in small doses helps him,” says Cris. “Then I give him bigger and bigger doses and pretty soon, he’s fine with it. That’s the thing about Jonny.”

Along with getting accustomed to life as a family dog, Jonny’s learned a roster of tricks and basic manners that would make just about any dog owner proud. He no longer bounces along on leash like a four-legged jumping bean, and he’s learned stay, heel, leave it, off, and other commands. Like Uba, he laps up training with enthusiasm; Cris says their weekly training classes rival the beach as Jonny’s favorite outing. He just passed a temperament test from the American Temperament Test Society, and Cris is confident he’ll soon have his Canine Good Citizen certificate too.

“One reason it’s important to let him achieve all these rewards and certifications is where he came from,” says Cris. “There are a lot of people who believe he shouldn’t be here.”

In the future, Cris says maybe Jonny will return to the limelight with those rewards and certifications and help show the world what a fight bust dog can be. But for the moment, he wants the focus to be on Jonny the dog, not Jonny the Vick dog.

Not that Jonny seems to mind the attention. “People walk up to him, and his tail starts spinning like a propeller,” says Cris. “It amazes me, all that’s done to these dogs and they still love people.”

Watch a video of Jonny Justice.

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One Response to “Vick Dog Adoption Stories: A Star Settles Down”
  1. skreidle says:

    Jonny’s always been one of my favorites. 😀