Lucas’s claim to fame is one no dog would ever want — not only was he was one of the surviving dogs confiscated when authorities raided Michael Vick’s Virginia dogfighting compound in 2007, one of 47 dogs transferred out to rescue organizations; Lucas was one of the 22 dogs considered “most challenging” to rehabilitate.
And why was that? Because Lucas was Vick’s champion fighting dog, the dog who performed best in the “kill or be killed” ring. Every time Lucas won, another dog inevitably lost his life, and in some of the most gruesome ways, the investigation showed.
But not long after his rescue, it was clear that Lucas was meant to be a lover, not a fighter, and that it was his human captors who were the real monsters.
As the scarred canine faces of Vick’s illegal dogfighting operation, Lucas and the rest of the “Vicktory Dogs,” as they were dubbed, became ambassadors for former fighting dogs, proving that even the most badly damaged dogs could be rehabilitated.
“These dogs represent a real watershed moment,” Best Friends Animal Society Media Relations Manager Barbara Williamson tells PetProductNews.com. “This was the first time the courts allowed these [fight dogs] to have a second chance.”
The way Lucas lived his life since being seized from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels, with such unwavering positivity, is a testament to the importance of that second chance and how Lucas, who passed away last week, will always be remembered.
After battling a number of health issues, including Babesia, an incurable blood parasite condition contracted through the many bite wounds he suffered in the ring all those years ago, his quality of life began to decline rapidly. June 19, after consulting with veterinarians, his caretakers made the difficult decision to say goodbye. Lucas was estimated to be around 13-years-old at the time of his death.
Lucas is the fourth “Vicktory Dog” to die since the dogs were rescued from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels. Nearly a year ago to the day, former Vick dog Ellen passed away at the Best Friends Utah sanctuary.
Because of Lucas’s status as Vick’s most prized fighter, a judge deemed the scarred toffee-colored Pit Bull Terrier unadoptable. Though he would never know what it was like to live in a traditional forever home, Lucas found a devoted family in the dedicated staff and volunteers at the Best Friends Animal Society, where the dog spent the remaining years of his life.
Best Friends’ Gregory Castle will never forget how Lucas fully lived his role of ambassador, jumping into peoples’ laps to give them a friendly lick hello.
“Ironically, of all the Vicktory dogs, the one who could never be adopted per court order was the most social and well-behaved of them all around people,” Castle wrote on the Best Friends Animal Society Blog last Thursday, a day after Lucas’s passing.
Lucas’s presence was a reminder of both his tragic past and how far he’d come since, as Castle explains.
“It was never possible to escape the sad reality that behind this heavily scarred muzzle and intimidating reputation of a grand champion fighting dog was a sweet, affectionate, regular dog who wanted nothing more than to be around people—to love and to be loved,” Castle remembers of Lucas.
“He showed us the resilience of canines, something we humans need to learn,” Garcia says of the late Lucas. “Bottom line, he was the king. He changed people’s perceptions worldwide about who fighting dogs were and what they could become.”
“I think it’s time not to be sad, but to celebrate his life,” Garcia adds. “He lived a happy life at Best Friends and Lucas saved thousands of other dogs’ lives just by being who he was.”
“Lucas nuzzles his head into the crook of my elbow. He darts over to greet my husband, all kisses and play bows,” Smith wrote. “It’s hard to imagine a dog being any friendlier, and we fall all over him in return. He’s irresistible.”
But let’s hope he never forgets Lucas, his battle scars, his unwavering trust in humans, or the lessons he taught the world about dogs who, like him, were pulled from the darkest situations and yet still managed to live happily by the wag of their tails.
Let’s hope Vick never forgets Lucas. Because none of us ever will.