Hall of Fame

Trail Blazing Canines

After so many adoptions to wonderful homes, it's not surprising that many of our alumni have become heroes, healers, media darlings and trail blazers. Below are a just a few who've earned Hall of Fame status by being fabulous examples of pit bulls...and dogs in general! Read their amazing stories and check back often as we add more.

Banner photo: Hector in the arms of former NFL player Jarrod Cooper.


Gurdy (dog on right) first came to us as a street stray, after a Barn Crew volunteer found her on his way to the barn. She slept so hard when she arrived that we thought she hadn't slept in days and days ... But then we realized she was deaf. No wonder she didn't hear us coo-ing to her! Gurdy floored us when her delightful personality. She be so happy to see us each day that she'd run in fast circles 'round and 'round our ankles. We adored her!

We all cheered when she went home with BR alum Salvador. 'Big Sal' serves as a certified Delta Therapy dog and - you guessed it - little Gurdy does now too. Her person Jackie tells us that both dogs do especially good work with teens who find themselves in the psyche ward of a hospital they visit. A tough job - but Gurdy reminds them that overcoming challenges can be easier with the help of friends.


Many remember handsome Huckleberry as the cover boy of BR's 2011 Eye Candy Calendar. LINK. Adopter Renee Lindsay is a tutor for at-risk kids and Huck has taken on the role of teacher's helper for some of her shyest students. Renee tells us that kids open right up with questions and conversation whenever Huck attends the sessions, which encourages their learning and engages them in their lessons. We couldn't be prouder of them both. This is nine year old Malachi of Pittsburg, CA. His siblings have special needs and they look to their dog buddy for support, acceptance and FUN when it's time to learn.

Star - Esteemed Survivor

Star (the red dog in the photo) is a trail blazer of the best kind. She survived a dog fighting operation in the Los Angeles area and was the first adult dog that L.A. County Animal Services has ever released to rescue from that environment. She doesn't care too much about her past, though. Once she moved into our Rescue Barn, she got busy learning how to be a real dog. That included the happiest fun of all: The joy of having human leaders who care very much about her happiness and the friendships of the other on-site dogs. To say that this girl's life did a 180 is an understatement.

Star's life got even better when she went home to her new family. She now lives with two cats, enjoys regular meet-ups with her dog friends and is the apple of her people's eye. 

Here's some background on the case, from the angels of Found Animals Foundation who first got the ball rolling on Star's rescue. And the blog that charted her recovery. With luck, Star's stunning example will allow other dogs from similar situations in Los Angeles County to have a chance at life, too. Thank you Star.


Sophie - Esteemed Survivor

Sophie had no reason to smile when we first met her at Oakland Animal Services in 2007.  At 11 years old, she’d been living a very hard life on a chain and is still one of the most neglected dogs we’ve ever seen in our work. She was badly disfigured and blinded from a lifetime of being overbred, fought, starved and denied vet care. But despite her abuse, she is a committed optimist. She wags and smiles constantly at everyone, especially her adopters, Teresa and Ted Ramey.

We met this girl just as the Vick dogs were getting ready to come to CA. At a time when so many were telling us that fight bust dogs were beyond help, Sophie showed up to remind us all through her warm example that saving them was not only the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do. Thank you Sophie. Her first video.

Martin - Hurricane Katrina Survivor - Obedience Super Star

"Martin is a CGC star and competes in both Rally and Obedience.  His full name right now is actually 'NOLA's Rider of the Storm CGC, RN, BN.' Quite a mouthful for a little scaredy dog. The RN signifies that he has earned his title in Rally Novice and the BN signifies that he has earned his Beginner Novice Title.  He has two legs toward his RA (Rally Advanced) Title and one leg toward his CD (Companion Dog) Title. The very best compliment I get (besides how stinking cute he is, lol) is what a fine working dog he is ... What a far cry from when we first started training and he would spend most of class in his crate, worried. High praise when it comes from the Border Collie and Aussie people and a testament to how resilient these dogs are and how much they want to do what is asked of them. I am so proud of him. Trialing is difficult for a noise sensitive,  super handler soft dog. If I am too nervous, he gets worried. But he has not only sucked it up, but excelled and enjoyed it. He LOVES to be right and I love to see those little white feet flashing in my peripheral vision as he Heels in his little happy prance." - Tina Vickrey

Little Man - Florida Change Maker

Hillsborough County Animal Services was not adopting out pit bulls when we met Little Man in their overwhelmed Tampa Florida shelter in 2007. His bright smile from behind the kennel bars seemed to be telling us that a huge change was about to take place, not only for him, but for the shelter and the partners who were working together for the first time.

Of course he soon ended up in BADRAP's adoption program in CA, but just as encouraging was the partnership he signaled between BADRAP, Animal Farm Foundation, the ASPCA and Little Man's struggling shelter. Flash forward to now: HCAS has a thriving pit bull adoption program that is viewed as a model program by other shelters.

Like so many other dogs, Little Man seemed to show up to tell us that change was in the air, and the time to help the dogs was NOW. Thank you buddy. We'll always think fondly of you and your many lessons. ASPCA article on the Man. Hillsborough's new pit bull ambassador program: Link.

Callie - CGC Star, Education Dog

Callie was a shy lass when she was pulled from a local shelter. She moved through our Pit Bull Hall program and was adopted to Roxanne Alden, a committed educator in the north bay. One of Callie's favorite jobs is to help kids learn about pit bulls during humane education summer camps at Pets Lifeline. We understand she's very good at what she does!

Stella Polari - Famous Transplant, CGC Star, Media Darling

Stella came home with us after an animal welfare conference in Michigan. She was confiscated during a big dramatic drug bust by the Michigan Humane Society and had some stories to tell! Her body was worn out from too many litters and a very rough life, but foster care suited her fine and she cleaned up into a lovely lass. Just as her adopter was helping her earn her Canine Good Citizen certification, the shelter that once housed her started adopting out pit bulls for the very first time. We love knowing that Stella was there for the start of this important shift for MHS.

Her star power continues - Stella recently showed up with her very own page in Bark Magazine, smiling big and bold for all to see! She seems to be extra happy now that she has a growing family with a new (human) baby to help care for. Life is GOOD. We love ya, Stella!

Hector - Former Vick Dog - CGC, ATT, Therapy Dog Star

Hector survived the Bad Newz Kennels with an amazingly optimistic attitude. Covered in deep and damaging fight scars, he's been one of the most celebrated examples of a dog who left his painful past behind him. Shown here in his new home, Hector has been friendly with dogs since we first met him during evaluations in Viriginia, throughout his fostercare in CA and on into his adoptive home in MN with Clara and Roo Yori.

Hector's resume is long and impressive (Canine Good Citizen, Certified Therapy Dog, ATTS star), but his biggest claim to fame is probably his ability to charm fans with his famous Hector flop.  Boasting dozens of media appearances since his rescue, Hector's adopters are committed to educating people everywhere through his example. This boy has certainly transformed from victim of cruelty to media darling. Visit this webpage for just some of headlines that brought Hector and his yardmates to America's living rooms. 

Salvador - Therapy Star

Sal showed up as a limping, street weary stray in Oakland, and found a quick spot in our Ambassadog Program. As luck would have it, he appeared just as Jackie was starting her search for a four legged partner for therapy work. Kismet! He's a special guy and his adopter is one special lady. She's devoted herself to improving the lives of people through therapy dogs and helps direct the Delta Society so the amazing gifts of therapy dogs can be shared around the country. She and Sal just completed their final task to serve as one of ten teams in Sacramento allowed into UCD Medical Center Hospital. Sal's known for his ability to "work a room" says Jackie, and for "smiling at everyone, snuffing and snuggling with people who ask, happy to be hugged and kissed, and standing very still on his stool so that neuro-rehab clients could touch him." What a guy. Shown here getting acquainted with I.M. Sheffield III, father of Barn Crew teammate Ingrid Sheffield.

Frodo - Former Vick Dog

Frodo was just a pup when he was confiscated from Vick's dog fighting operation. The rough beginnings and months spent in a substandard VA shelter were hard on this young dog's psyche, but he showed an impressive desire to connect despite his obvious fear issues. When he first came to BR, he was too shy to even take treats from our hands and he sat stiff as a board when he was held. Months of gentle coaxing helped us see the real Frodo underneath the scaredy-cat. This dog has a big lust for life and a heart the size of Texas. His natural sense of optimism has been helping him to get to the other side of his fears - one boogie man at a time. Foster mom turned adopter Kim Ramirez has been Frodo's biggest life-line to the real world. With her help, along with the example of dog friends who remind him how to be brave, Frodo has made incredible strides and has become one of our favorite all-time success stories. Bless you, Sweet Frodo!


Jonny Sue - Healer

We met Jonny Sue at one of our Shots Fairs in East Oakland. She'd been abandoned in a backyard and neighbors were trying to find her help. Such a tender and connected dog, it ached to see how much she must've suffered without human companionship for so long.

Her adopter came to us looking for a special soul who could fill the bill as favorite friend as well as helper in her therapy practice. Matching them together was a natural. Jonny Sue now lives the life we all wanted for her, and when one of Gussy's clients needs a little help or support, she's immediately at their side, offering the most gentle and authentic gestures of comfort and empathy. 

Jonny Justice - Former Vick Dog, CGC and Therapy Star, Media Darling

Jonny Justice was one of 49 pit bull type dogs confiscated from NFL player Michael Vick's dog fighting operation. All that's behind him now. Jonny's been adopted to Cris Cohen and Jennifer Long in San Francisco and lives with girl dog Lily. 

He's been showing up in lots of media, thanks to his good looks and his gift for encouraging kids to read as a reading assistant dog. Fans can spot him in the in PBS special, The Dogs Are Alright, the CBS Morning Show report on The Lost Dogs and see him on the Rachael Ray Show.

True to form. Jonny earned his CGC (Canine Good Citizen certification) and passed his evaluation with the American Temperament Test Society. He's not done! Keep your eye on this little rascal as he continues to win hearts and break down stereotypes.

Photo credit: Laura Moss for the 2011 Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar

Bailey - Disaster Survivor turned Healer

We met Bailey back in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Unclaimed by her  owners, she came home to live with a foster home who introduced her to therapy dog work. Bailey was a natural and earned her certification, but she sat for months without a nibble of interest. The same day we shifted her to our kennels at 'Pit Bull Hall,' she met a woman who runs a camp for autistic kids. Kismet.

As you can guess, Bailey is now a proud family member as well as designated mascot for Andy's work with children. She tells us that some of the kids who have the had the hardest time communicating have found their voice through their connection with Bailey. The highlight of her first summer on the job was going on a camping trip with the whole group. What a pleasure for Bailey, as well as the kids! 

Bailey's example is not so unusual. Pit bull type dogs are well known for their ability to connect with children with autism. We're so proud to have been able to make this adoption match and watch it turn into something wonderful for so many.

Audie - Former Vick Dog - CGC, Nose Work Star and Agility Hopeful

Audie was one of 49 pit bull type dogs confiscated from NFL player Michael Vick's dog fighting operation. All that's behind him now. He's been adopted to gifted dog trainer Linda Chwistek and her husband Bill Long, and shares his home with two other pit bulls.

Audie inspired a children's book with important humane education lessons, entitled 'Saving Audie' and written by accomplished author Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. (Info and lesson plans for Saving Audie linked here.) He now does public presentations to tell his story to audiences young and old.

Linda found a super star in Audie. He's starting to compete is agility trials and nose work trials and is proving to be quite the contender! The Saving Audie facebook page keeps track of many of his successes and appearances.

Parents and teachers can find the book 'Saving Audie' and lesson plans here. Photo credit: Bill Long at the Martinez Public Library.


Honky Tonky - CGC Star, Media Darling - 2001-2012

This unassuming boy played a large role in the organization. He schmoozed every media person who stopped by to cover a story about pit bulls and worked to socialize nearly every new foster dog that found his or her way into BR's program. Being deaf certainly helped him ignore distractions, but Honky always had a talent for knowing how to soothe whoever needs to be soothed. He died of cancer in October 2012 and left a huge hole in our hearts.

Shown at left with Natialie, the daughter of Christine and Rob Allen as photographed by Laura Moss for the 2011 Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar. Below, with John Glionna, who was working on a story about pit bulls for the Los Angeles Times.

Zippy - Former Vick Dog, Media Darling

Zippy was one of 49 pit bull type dogs confiscated from NFL player Michael Vick's dog fighting operation. All that's behind her now. She smoothed right into the lively Hernandez home with kids and a dog buddy named Crash. She helped her people raise two tiny babies - Francisco, shown here, and Tatiana, a brand new little sister. 

She made a splash in Pulitzer Prize photographer Carol Guzy's photo essay on the Vick dogs in the Washington Post. And she has the proud honor of having peed at the feet of Jim Gorant, author of the celebrated book, 'Lost Dogs.'

Photo credit: Deanna Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated.

Iggy - Former Vick Dog - Celebrated Family Member

Iggy was one of 49 pit bull type dogs confiscated from NFL player Michael Vick's dog fighting operation.  Although he'll be forever stunted by his difficult past, the exceedingly shy Iggy is famous simply because he survived in a era when victims from dog fighting cases were typically condemned. Most importantly, he's won the role of cherished family companion in the home of Nicole and Steve Rattay. 

Nicole first met Iggy when she went to live in VA to care for the Vick dogs while they waited to be transported to new lives. Her experiences inspired her to start a compassion-based pit bull education/advocacy/rescue group in San Diego called Just a Dog Rescue.

Readers can learn more about Iggy and the other dogs that came from the case from the celebrated book Lost Dogs.


Ernie (former Vick dog) - CGC Star

Ernie was one of 49 pit bull type dogs confiscated from NFL player Michael Vick's dog fighting operation. During evaluations, Ernie was so dog friendly that he was used by evaluators to sort out the other dogs' limits with dogs.

Now a happy resident of California, he's been happily adopted to Andy and Sasha Gibbs and lives with a pit mix female named Hannah. Ernie earned his CGC (Canine Good Citizen certification) and seems to have forgotten all about his sad beginnings - as he should. Ernie has always been a reminder that dogs live in the present. 


Photo Credit: Deanne Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated

Uba (former Vick dog) - CGC Star, Media Darling

The world first met Uba when he appeared in a New York Times article entitled 'Menacing Dogs Await Their Fate.' Instead of a menace, we saw a worried little guy, hoping for a friend. Most readers know the story: Within days of this terrible article, BR Reps were in VA as part of an ASPCA-led evaluation team, and the rest is history. Uba was one of the first dogs we evaluated and instead of taking our fingers off, he went into a full-blown happy play bow when he saw another dog.

Fast forward to now: The little bust dog started out shy and ungrounded, but has since bloomed into a real dog. Under the tutelage of adopter Letti de Little, he's earned his Canine Good Citizen award and is now enjoying the dog sport of Rally-O and nose work. He lives with a cat, a dog named Lulu and now helps newer foster dogs get their bearings. When he's not in the media (Sport Illustrated, ESPN, Animal Planet), he's giving good hugs to his friends and reminding us all to trust our hearts instead of sensationalistic newspaper headlines. Welcome home Uba - Indeed!

Visit Uba on the Vick Dog Blog and read his story at the East Bay Monthly.


Ted - Former Vick Dog - CGC Star

This lughead came from the infamous Bad Newz Kennels and smoothed right into a foster home with toddler Sam, who promptly named him 'Ted Baby' or 'Teddles.' (Story here) He was so happy about his newfound fate that it was hard at times to contain his enthusiasm - Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, he'd run in joyful circles around the house as if furniture was just an inconvenience. Young Sam learned to hug the walls during his zoomies.

We just love that Cindy Houser - the home that stepped forward to adopt him - had no idea he was a 'Vick dog,' and no one in the group remembered to mention it until far into the adoption. Oops! Cindy just shrugged. She loved him for his charms, not his celebrity. Together they mastered Ted's fear of trains and scary sounds and he went on to earn his Canine Good Citizen certification. He's still a big baby and one of our favorite dogs from the case. Look for Ted in Melissa McDaniel's fabulous new photo book that celebrates pit bull type dogs. The Photo Book Series.

Buzz - Humane Education Star

Buzz, like so many of the dogs that inspire and change us, had a larger than life personality that once brought as much headache as glory. He started out as a leash reactive bad boy when he first came into our program, but under the tutelage of his fosters-turned-adopters Jaime and Ron, smoothed into a fabulous ambassador for all dogs including pit bulls.

He went on to educate thousands of school kids with lessons in humane education as well as empathy for pit bulls. He was Jaime's right hand man at Humane Society Silicon Valley and charmed everyone he met. Buzz left us too soon to liver failure but will be remembered fondly always. More photos of Buzz at play and work.


Elvessa 'Missouri 500' Survivor - Certified Therapy Dog

Vessa was whelped in makeshift box that literally doubled as a fighting pit. After a multi-state arrest that netted her abuser along with 29 other soon to be convicted dog fighters, she was shuffled to an Oklahoma shelter in what is being called the largest dog fighting operation sting in our country. Vessa flew home to CA on the lap of BR rep Tim Racer after he evaluated her and her friends at the shelter. She grew up in a foster home that prizes obedience work (VIDEO) and then went on to join a team of therapy dogs with Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services, thanks to her doting adopters, Bruce and Alven.

She now follows her pit/mix brother Tahoe's paw prints by visiting nursing homes, facilities for disabled or seriously ill children, hospital rehabilitation wards, the Children's Shelter and psychiatric facilities in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, CA. 

You've come a long way from the fighting pit, little Vessa! 

Nemo - Famous Flyer

Nemo came to us as a badly paralyzed victim of cruelty in 2004. With stubborn infections and a crushing spine injury, veterinarians gave the young adult just a few weeks or months to live - but Nemo had other plans. Suited to a doggy wheelchair, he showed everyone that disabilities are just a state of mind. His adopters, Don and Chris Chapo, were devoted to his special medical needs, but never treated him any differently than their other dogs. He was a dog who loved to run, and so he ran. Flying by at the speed of light, Nemo turned heads wherever he went. He finally passed on in the summer of 2011, but he made an indelible impression on everyone he met during his many years of defying the odds and breaking all the rules about what's possible.


Frida became an internet celebrity when we introduced her grizzled face on our blog and lamented the challenge of finding her the right home (recap). Friends watched the trials and tribulations of our search. She was divine with people, sassy with dogs and just a little more weathered than your average dog. Not an easy dog to place, but the BR volunteers who cared for her saw her inner glow and worked hard to make her every bit as desirable as the younger dogs who kept stealing her homes. Video. After all, Frida certainly believed in Frida - so should we! We cheered when she finally found that perfect home with - surprise! - another dog. She's best known through the wisdom of this popular blog post, which explains the ins and outs of introducing a sassy diva to a canine love affair: Driving in the Slow Lane. This post is referred to constantly and continues to help dogs everywhere. Thank you, Frida.

Sadly, our favorite redhead died in March 2011 after nearly two years of love and happiness in her new home. Before she left, Frida taught us all that life should be lived deeply inside every single moment, without fretting the future. Good lessons from a gem of a dog!



Securing the future of America's 'blocky dogs' as a cherished family companions.