Tuesday, September 9, 2014


If you were paying attention at all back in April of 2007, you might have heard that NFL quarterback Michael Vick got busted for running a dog-fighting operation.  Dog-fighting is highly illegal, which it definitely should be, because it is cruel and horrible.  So Michael Vick had all his dogs taken away from him, and he ended up going to prison for a while.  A lot of stuff got written about the Michael Vick dogs, but I'm only going to talk about one of the dogs today.  If you want to read more, you can get a very good book called The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant.

Anyway, the pit bull I'm going to tell you about is named Audie.  At least, that's his name now.  He was only a puppy when he was rescued from the Bad Newz Kennels.  At first he was just called Chesapeake 54902.  He and the other dogs that came out of those bad conditions had to first spend five months isolated in shelters, so that they could be evidence against Michael Vick.

In the past, when dog-fighting rings were broken up, the dogs were put to sleep after they weren't needed as evidence anymore.  This was because people thought that pit bulls who were bred and trained to fight were all vicious, and that they could not ever be family pets.  But in the Michael Vick case, a bunch of rescue groups, including BAD RAP in San Francisco, asked to have the chance to prove that all the old beliefs about pit bulls were wrong.

So nine temperament-testers worked with the dogs to find out how they acted in a bunch of different circumstances.  In the end, only one of Bad Newz dogs had to be put down because of a bad temperament.  After several months of tests, seventeen dogs were allowed to leave the shelter with people from BAD RAP, who had driven all the way across the country to get them.  One of these dogs was Chesapeake 54902, who was now given the name "Dutch."

But the couple who fostered Dutch didn't like his name, so they changed it to "Audie," in honor of the World War II hero Audie Murphy.   Audie had an amazing amount of energy, and he was very much focused on people.  His foster parents realized that he might make a good agility dog.  They also knew of someone who was looking for a new dog to train for agility, Linda Chwistek.  And even though Audie was full of nerves and crazy energy when she first met him, Ms. Chwistek said, "I could tell, deep down inside, he just really wanted to please everybody.  I think inside he had a rock-solid temperament, and there were just some environmental things he had to go through.  He's really just an ordinary dog who came through an extraordinary situation."

Linda Chwistek and husband, Bill Cook


At first, Audie was afraid of everything.  He didn't know how to go up stairs.  He ate weird stuff such as cigarette butts, and he had to have surgery because he swallowed a sock.  Later, he needed surgery on both knees.  While he was healing up, his mom spent a lot of time with him, teaching him to sit and do some other basic commands.  When he could go out again, Ms. Chwistek would take Audie down to the waterfront, where people got on the ferry.  At first, he was very nervous to be around all those people, so they had to sit a long ways away.  But they gradually moved closer.  It took about two years before he got used to all the activity and started making friends with people.

Audie was also afraid of dogs he didn't know.  If he heard a dog barking, he couldn't tell if the dog was happy or if it was about to attack him.  When Augie went to agility training, the other dogs in the class had to hide at first while Audie took his turn.  But finally he got more comfortable being around other dogs and people.

After two years of training and getting Audie used to everything, Ms. Chwistek registered him in the AKC's Purebred Alternative Listing program as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Then they started competing.

Audie has now earned a bunch of agility awards, plus his first title in the new sport of nosework.  Also, he earned his Canine Good Citizen® award.  In the future, Ms. Chwistek hopes to compete in obedience with Audie and maybe also do therapy work with him.

A woman named Dorothy Hinshaw Patent published a kids' book in 2011 about Audie.  It's called Saving Audie:  A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance.

Audie also has his own Facebook page, which is where I got the photos for this blog entry.  Anyway,  I guess you could say that Audie has really "arrived."  Who would have ever though he would have a life like this, knowing how he started out?

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