Survivor Of Michael Vick's Dogfighting Ring Passes Away 10 Years After Rescue

Little Red changed so many hearts and minds.

Little Red's face was white. Her body was scarred.

These two facts together tell you a lot about this beautiful dog's life: She'd been rescued out of the most famous dogfighting bust in history. And she survived, for a long time afterwards.

Little, as she was known, is one of the 50-something dogs rescued in 2007, from former NFL star Michael Vick's brutal dogfighting operation. She was around 5 years old at the time, and was - as it's described - "shut down." She'd clearly been bred. Her teeth had been filed down.

Back then, the standard outcome for Little and the other dogs would have been death. It was thought by many that dogs rescued out of fighting were too damaged, too dangerous, to be saved.

A dedicated group of advocates, including Best Friends Animal Society, believed these dogs deserved the chance to prove otherwise. They convinced the federal judge overseeing the case that the dogs should be individually evaluated, and - where safe and appropriate - rehabilitated and adopted into homes.

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In the end, just one of the dogs was euthanized for aggression. One was euthanized due to poor health.

The others were allowed to live.

In 2008, Best Friends took 22 of the most difficult dogs to the group's sanctuary in Utah. Little was one of them. These dogs became known as the "Vicktory dogs." In Utah, these dogs were given all the time and training and love it would take to let them thrive.

It took Little three years to be ready for a home.

She was adopted in 2011. Little went home with her new mom, Susan Weidel, and five other dogs on six acres in Laramie, Wyoming. There she learned to relax. She learned to smile, nubby teeth and all.

Little's blissful life with Weidel was featured in The Champions, a documentary about the Vicktory dogs.

The film chronicles the dogs themselves, their inspiring stories - their Vicktories - and how they have changed the world for the better. The dogs have dislodged harmful, untrue stereotypes about pit bulls, and about dogs rescued out of fighting. They've proved once and for all that having been forced to fight should not lead to a dog's death sentence.

The Vicktory dogs also gave people hope for their own lives; if these dogs could overcome such horrors, such struggles, then maybe we can make it, too.

"It has been such a privilege to be involved in the lives of these dogs and the families who adopted them. These dogs suffered unimaginable abuse and with time, patience and care learned to trust again," Darcy Dennett, The Champions' director, told The Dodo in an email. "I think it's a remarkably inspirational story that most of us can probably relate to and learn something from."

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The law and society haven't completely caught up - pit bulls are still widely discriminated against; 10 states still have laws that stigmatize dogs rescued out of fighting - but there's been progress.

That's at least in part thanks to Little. Because Little lived so well, and we were lucky enough to witness.

"She loves her home and her life," Weidel told me a little over a year ago, when I interviewed her for a feature about The Champions for Best Friends' magazine. "She has blossomed like a flower."

Little died at her home on Sunday evening. Her body scarred, her face white, and - for a long time now - her life very good.

Weidel said in an intensely moving post on Little Red's Facebook page that after not feeling well in the morning, and a visit to the vet, Little Red spent her last day at home - dozing, going for "short walks in her pasture," while "surrounded by her pack."

"At 10 pm, she took her last breath. She was sleeping peacefully and simply slipped away," Weidel wrote. "It has been my privilege to care for Little for over 5 1/2 years and to share her life with the many, many people who loved her and admired her strength and gentle nature. She is at peace, and I ask that you send her your love as she begins her journey on the other side."

We send you so, so much love, Little Red. Thank you for sharing this side of your journey with us. For letting it be our journey, too.