Vick dog adoption stories: A shy boy comes out of his shell

Dog: Uba

Humans: Letti de Little and Jamel Freeman

Fellow pets: Lulu the rescued pit bull and two cats

Town: San Francisco

Letti and her boyfriend Jamel first glimpsed Uba on TV shortly after Vick’s bust, when leaked footage of the small black and white dog with the worried face flashed across screens throughout the country. He caught their attention instantly. “There was just something about him,” said Letti, “We thought, what a cute, smart-looking dog–we hope he makes it out alive.”

As luck would have it, Uba and several other Vick dogs wound up in the care of BAD RAP, the pit bull rescue and advocacy group that Letti has volunteered for over the past two years. And when BAD RAP was looking for families to foster the dogs, Letti and Jamel offered to be one of them. They got Uba.

Seven months later, Letti says the shut-down dog with the horrific past is now full of energy and excitement at his new life; the Uba we filmed last winter isn’t the Uba of today.

“Every few weeks, he’s doing better,” says Letti. “You know how dogs wander around the house wagging their tails? He’s started doing that lately. We didn’t even notice it was missing until he started. It’s so nice to see him getting to be more and more of a normal dog and coming out of his shell.”

As one of the shyer dogs rescued by BAD RAP, there were some hurdles to overcome. Uba hit it off with the other resident pit bull and got along with the two cats, but he was scared of black men–including Jamel–as well as busy streets and crowds. By slow exposure to small doses of what scares him, Uba has gradually been getting over these fears.

Like Cris Cohen, the adopter of Jonny Justice, Letti notes that the Vick dogs seemed to go through the puppyhood they never had once they arrived in real homes. “Uba’s mostly over it now, but at the beginning they wanted to try everything,” says Letti. “They wanted to know, can I chew the floor, can I leap over the stairs?”

Also like Jonny, Uba relishes the training he’d missed out on in his earlier life and learns fast. Letti describes him as one of the smartest dogs she’s ever met, laughingly recounting how she caught him scaling furniture to get to an out-of-reach stuffed animal, and how he figured out how to unlatch his crate with his tongue.

Letti doesn’t downplay the time and effort it takes to heal a dog who lived such a deprived life, but she says Uba’s getting there. “I woke up at last night and he was lying in bed right next to me, belly up” she says. “He’s not supposed to be in our bed, but I just laid there and thought how far he’s come, when just a year ago, he was living on a chain.”

Next adoption story: Jonny Justice