Monday, January 28, 2008

Meet Leo, Our Michael Vick Dog!

Meet Leo. He’s a cheerful, sweet greeter. He’s fond of cuddles and hugs. And he spends his free time sharing his affection with the sick and elderly at a local hospital (having recently passed his therapy dog tests with flying colors). He also spent the first part of his life under the dark, demeaning ownership of football star Michael Vick.

Yes, Leo is one of the fifty Vick dogs confiscated from the football player’s property late last year – although to meet him now you’d never guess at his unfortunate beginnings. In fact, it seems wherever Leo goes he garners adoring smiles and effusive compliments. What a sweet boy! Where did you get him? He’s so well-behaved! To which he responds with tail wags and dreamy gazes from his kohl-rimmed eyes. His most adoring fans are schoolchildren.

Leo doing therapy work

It’s amazing to watch, surprising to some, and yet to those who know the Pit Bull breed, not a surprise at all. Leo is the consummate example of true Pit Bull spirit – despite the life he led before with his former owner, he has made a quick ascension to stardom: ace-ing his obedience classes, playing and socializing with other dogs, and revealing himself to be a true ambassador for all canines, not just Pit Bulls. He has already begun work as a Therapy Dog with Therapy Dogs, Inc. (, and is invited weekly to a local South Bay hospital to bring comfort and smiles to the patients there. His biggest supporters aren’t just the patients either – staff, nurses, and EMTs have taken to calling him “Dr. Leo” for his healing touch.

All in less than two months.

Leo (far right & center) hanging out with his buddies

Marthina McClay, Leo’s trainer, foster mom, and founder of Our Pack, Inc., can’t get over his popularity. “I’ve worked with hundreds of dogs. People are drawn to Leo. I’ve never had a dog that was so magnetic.” She’s quick to brag on his personality, “He’s such a tenderheart. When he came to me, I was prepared for anything. But I never realized I would be meeting the Casanova of Dogs. He has this way of romancing you with those brown eyes of his - he’s truly amazing.”

Of course, if you spoke with Leo today, he would likely gloss over his accomplishments and the association that has made him famous. Instead, he would politely take a seat beside you, plop his head in your lap, gaze up at you with those dreamy eyes and talk about how he enjoys Sunday afternoons playing with his doggie brothers and sister, and how much he looks forward to visiting more people next week.

This is the true Amercian Pit Bull Terrier: resilient, people-loving, willing to please, and just so good-hearted!

(You can also read this article on our website at Article & pictures by volunteer Stephanie Lam.)


  1. You do not know me and I just happen to stumble across your site.

    There was a terrific article on the front page of our local paper about Hector, one of Vick's dog. It was a heart-felt writing and I am so glad that there are people out there, who have the sensitivity and compassion to rehabilitate these dogs back into loving homes. Bravo!

  2. I forgot to mention, that the article was in today's Fresno Bee.

  3. I am lucky enough to know Leo personally and believe me, this story only touches the surface of how he affects people he meets. Those eyes just melt you when he looks up at you. He is and will be a true ambassador!

  4. Good pit bulls are a dime a dozen, honestly. And this is proof. Hopefully more people will realize its the owner/handlers causing the problems not the dogs.

  5. Thank you for sharing Hector's story. I have learned so much from sharing my life with a rescued pitbull. Though my knowledge of the breed was fairly limited when my partner and I found Ms. Mollie at the San Jose Animal Care
    Center 2 years ago,, we have tried from day 1 to be ambassadors for the breed. This story helps make our jobs easier - I plan to share this far and wide - thank you!!

  6. Those eyes are mesmerising, who in their right mind could ever ask a dog like Leo to fight?
    Marthina, you're doing some really great work and showing people the real side of Pit Bulls.

  7. Leo is a wonderful dog. I met him last week at doggy class and I was amazed at how he ignored all the other dogs and was so sweet and gentle. Marthina has done an incredible job with him.

  8. I was fortunate to have been invited by Marthina to work with her & Leo when he first arrived "to town". Boy, were we excited & nervous, both at the same time! We spent several hours a day for the first few weeks just getting him accustomed to his new home and surroundings. We then introduced him to the other doggie members of the household. It was quite an amazing experience to see the transformation of Leo, "a Michael Vick dog" who become "Leo the Lapdog". He truly is a one of a kind. There is something so special about the way that he looks at you with those beautiful big brown eyes. And to see him now, playing with his new sisters & brother is truely amazing. And to now be "Leo the Therapy Dog," comforting people in distress is beyond touching. He truely is an "angel in disguise". I love you Leo! And I love all those dogs still left out there to fend for themselves in this sometimes cold & cruel world! I hope & pray that someday, all dogs (our Pitbulls in particular) will have a chance to live the kind of live that Leo is living now. With the help & support of each & everyone of us in the world today, we can make a difference, I truely believe this! So, put your heads up & keep your feet walking forward...Tracey Cutler