Shining stars: a visit to Handsome Dan’s rescue

Last weekend while our foster Stevie Wonder was busy powerwashing the deck with her dad, I snuck away to Providence, RI, to visit my good friend Handsome Dan and his lovely family.

When Handsome Dan was picked to be in American Dog Magazine, his momma kindly invited me to come up for the weekend and photograph Dan, his parents, and their pit bull rescue for the article. Since Dan is rather shy and I had met and photographed him before, his mom thought her coy darling might be more comfortable with me than a stranger with giant photo gear. And since we had been planning a visit for months anyway, American Dog gave us the perfect excuse.

For those of you who don’t already know Handsome Dan, he is one of the Vicktory dogs — the 22 dogs seized from football star Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation that was deemed too emotionally traumatized to go into a regular rescue or foster home. These 22 dogs went to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where they received boundless love and intensive rehabilitation. Some of the dogs — like Dan — have been eventually released to foster and adoption, while others are still at Best Friends.

American Dog will be featuring a piece about the beautiful rescue operation that Dan’s family runs, specializing in fostering and rehabilitating pit bull dogs seized from fighting operations or extreme cruelty cases. Dan’s mom is a savvy and experienced trainer, Dan’s dad runs a daily park trips program to socialize and exercise the dogs, and baby sister Josephine helps fosters get adopted by showing the world how good they are with children.

Baby Josephine rules the roost. In background: Handsome Dan, Heather, Story, Mark, and Ocean

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was getting to meet all of Dan’s former foster siblings: Gozer, a handsome fawn boy who suffered from behavioral issues at a young age, Betsy, an oversized beauty who had been confined for a long time in a cage so small that her entire paws were stained and infected from urine, Maddy, a tiny, adorable puppy who was scheduled to be euthanized while still a tiny baby, and Kermit, a still-adoptable energizer bunny seized from the recent large-scale dog fighting bust in Philadelphia. They all came to have their photo taken with Dan and his parents!

left to right: Dan, Heather, Betsy, Mark, and Gozer

Gozer and Betsy: now best friends and siblings, love to play bitey-face and snuggle on the couch together.

left to right: Mark, Kermit, Maddie, and Heather

adoptable Kermit and Maddie: best buddies

Something I notice right away every time I watch Heather and Mark interact with the animals is the amount of calm tenderness that they have to offer. Dogs — especially young ones who have never had a real home — can have a lot of frenetic energy, but Heather and Mark have a gift for calming them and helping them to really shine. Just look at the love in their interactions with their fosters and their own Dan:

Look for Dan in the next issue of American Dog magazine. If you live in Southern New England and are interested in adopting Kermit-the-dog, check here for more info.

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30 responses

  1. Looks like you had a wonderful visit.. Dan is a handsome boy for sure, and I think Kermit looks pretty darn good too. Looks like they really have a special connection with these pups.
    So you will be published huh? looks like challenging indoor conditions huh? Great job
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

  2. Dan is gorgeous. I am amazed how you manage to pose these dogs for pictures. I am currently babysitting two dogs, and have desperately tried to pose them for pix. Believe me, your job is safe!

  3. i did not know about handsome dan (i love dog names that are people names)! i haven’t been reading that long though. i enjoyed this update- so impressed with people in the rescue world who do things like this, the really tough stuff. i just read michael vick is on the hill today.

    and, of course, your photos are great! and they are going to be in a magazine!! (unless, this is like normal for you. in that case, carry on..)

  4. Lovely photos, lovely dogs, lovely story of love. The Vicktory dogs have taught us so much: with the right conditions and support system we can overcome anything, it just takes time….

    • Yeah….so cute! But I can just see from the energy in their eyes that I couldn’t keep up with those guys even if I wanted to.

  5. What a bunch of beautiful pitties! I absolutely love the breed and have foster a few mixes as well. I hope that Rufus, my grumpy gus, will accept a pittie permanent or temporary sibling someday (soonish!) :o)

  6. The whole family is breathtaking! What a wonderful time you must have had hanging out with such cool dogs and the humans who have given them a second chance.

    When you mentioned Handsome Dan yesterday, the name sounded familiar but I didn’t think anything of it. Now I remember the whole story and I super jealous you consider him a friend.

    Thanks for sharing these special photos!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing these! And for taking some awesome photos of our pups with their first family! We are so fortunate to live near Heather and Mark so the pups get to see them all the time- they love it there and they LOVE Heather and Mark SO much!

  8. What beautiful pups and people!! This is so heartwarming. I swear Kermit is smiling in his picture with Maddie! Thank you for sharing!!!

  9. What wonderful pictures! We love hearing the stories of the Vick dogs. Hector lives near us, but I haven’t gotten a chance to meet him yet!
    -Corbin

  10. It’s so great that you get to go visit Handsome Dan and his family. His story really shows how resilient dogs are. Love the photos (as always!).

  11. Wow, shining stars is right! Thanks so much for sharing this- very inspiring and of course, cute dog pics never hurt either.

  12. I don’t think I’ll ever stop getting choked up when I read about the Vicktory dogs (and those like them) who made it out of the system and are living normal, happy dog lives. The people who make this happen, like Mark and Heather, have my undying admiration.

  13. Pingback: Ready for baby mini-series: Curious baby-made matters « Love and a Six-Foot Leash

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