Handsome Dan

April 25, 2012  

Handsome Dan was a StubbyDog of the Week on Facebook, in Jan. 2010, here is his story

(Photos by Aleksandra G Modern Portraiture)

by Heather Gutshall

Handsome Dan is one of the 22 dogs who came to Best Friends Animal Society from the estate of NFL quarterback, Michael Vick after he was arrested and charged with, “conspiracy to engage in dog fighting in violation of the animal welfare act.”

The dogs were taken from the Vick compound to several local shelters where they awaited their fate. Historically, animals seized in a fighting bust were humanely euthanized. Sadly, the long months in quarantine took their toll on the dogs while the courts decided their fate.

Then an amazing thing happened, for the first time in history, these dogs were allowed to be evaluated as individuals! They were the victims of cruelty, and deserved to be treated as such! While Dan was extremely fearful of people, he was great with other dogs and not dangerous at all. He would be given a second chance at life.

Handsome Dan, AKA Dansome, AKA The Danimal, was among the bottom third of the group when evaluated by Tim Racer, Founder of Bad Rap and Rebecca Huss, court appointed guardian to the dogs. He was shut down to the point where he would sit as far back in his run as possible and stare at the wall. He shook when evaluators came close. During the initial evaluations Tim granted him his name. He thought Dan needed a confidence-boost so Handsome Dan it was.

After some long months in quarantine in Virginia, Nicole Rattay, Founder of Just A Dog rescue, was able to get Dan comfortably outside into the shelter’s exercise area to loosen up. He was still not running and playing as some of the others in the group were, but he would do his famous “fly-bys”, where he would trot just close enough for her to pet his side.

The dogs found to be ready for foster placement were settling in to their new lives and it was time for the group of 22 to go to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah where they would start the healing process. Two of the dogs were going to need to live out their lives at Best Friends, but for the rest of the dogs the long term goal was a family of their own.

With the around-the-clock care of Betsy and Damien and tons of others at Best Friends, Dan was feeling the love. Trainers Ann Allums and John Garcia were making progress and Dan was starting to see that not all of human kind was bad. He was even making a few canine friends. Vicktory dogs Cherry and Little Red became frequent playmates as he learned the joys of a soft blanket, warm sand under his paws and toys! Dan and Little Red became the first two Vicktory dogs at Best Friends to graduate to a shared run. They would play all day and snuggle together all night.

Mark and I were the second family approved to adopt one of the Vicktory Dogs as we made the trek with our 14-year-old son, Cam, out to Best Friends. The application process was very long but appropriate and we were excited to meet the dogs and find our new pup. We met Handsome first, and it was love at first sight. We took him back to the hotel for an overnight and the decision was made. We had to leave him in Kanab but he would follow us a week later back to our home in New England escorted by Best Friends trainer Ann Allums. His learning curve was going to be steep, but both him and we were up for the challenge.

The six month court mandated foster period flew by as Dan settled into our home. He was as snuggly and gentle as they come. He was instantly friends with our other two dogs, Story, an older Golden Retriever and Ocean, a Cattle dog. He seemed to be experiencing his lost puppyhood and we were loving every minute. January 1, 2010 Handsome was officially adopted into our family.

In April, Dan helped us welcome our new daughter Josephine to the family. Josephine and Handsome became fast friends and Dan is never far from Josephine’s side. He even sleeps next to her crib while she naps. No wonder pitties are known as Nanny Dogs in the UK.

Danimal will likely always be a fearful dog, but has come so far since he was rescued from the Vick compound. The amazing people he has met along the way have shown him that human kind can offer love and care and worked hard to earn his trust.

While Handsome Dan’s confidence continues to grow, he will likely never be up for public appearances like some of the other Vicktory Dogs. He generally greets the outside world with extreme caution. New people and situations cause anything from stress to full-out panic. Dan is happiest being with his group of friends, family, and familiar settings. Even though Dan may not meet you in public, he would love to have you follow his progress on his Facebook page, which he dictates to me on a regular basis from his bed next to my computer.

Handsome was featured on National Geographic’s DogTown in January 2010.

« « Victory for Cherry | Bella’s Journey » »


3 Responses to “Handsome Dan”
  1. AWESOME story! He gorgeous and I love the picture which opens your story. What a beautiful smile Josephine has

  2. NuriaRodriguez says:

    Wonderful story about an amazing dog and equally amazing people.

  3. JenniferCaldwellNoice says:

    What an awesome story!  And a truy amazing pup!