A Vick dog goes on to share the love | News | Mountain View Online |


A Vick dog goes on to share the love

Leo the pit bull now visits cancer patients at Camino Medical Group

One year ago, Leo the pit bull was destined for the cruel life of a fighting dog. But today, he pads the halls of Camino Medical Group, lifting the spirits of cancer patients as they undergo chemotherapy.

Leo was one of 50 dogs seized last summer from an illegal dog fighting ring on the Virginia property of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Vick, who was kicked out of the NFL, is currently serving a 23-month prison sentence in federal prison.

All but one of Vick's dogs were rehabilitated, and Leo's story led him to Marthina McClay, a Los Gatos dog trainer and president of Our Pack, a Bay Area advocacy group for pit bulls.

"Leo is a love dog," McClay said. "The entire time his tail is wagging."

McClay says Leo (who under Vick's ownership was called Bouncer) was "conditioned" while living on Vick's property. After hearing about the dog fighting ring, McClay contacted the shelter where Leo was living, and eventually brought him to California.

She said once Leo was here it was easy to teach him to sit, lie down and perform other commands crucial for passing the test for potential therapy dogs. After five weeks of training, Leo was certified as a therapy dog, and began visiting local rest homes and hospitals, including Camino Medical Group -- the Mountain View facility operated by Palo Alto Medical Foundation -- where he spends Friday afternoons with patients in the Cancer Infusion Center.

His turnaround life has made Leo a celebrity, and People and Fox News both did stories on him.

McClay dresses Leo in clown collars or silly scarves before heading to the medical center. Once there, she walks Leo around to visit each patient.

"He quietly and calmly brightens spirits," said Cynthia Greaves, a spokesperson for the medical center.

Once McClay puts Leo in his therapy dog vest, "he knows it is time to work," she said. He is very gentle with all the patients, but approaches them differently depending on their response to his presence. Since the patients are often hooked up to IVs or infusion tubes, it is important the therapy dogs are calm.

McClay said all the patients love when her dog comes around. "If he misses one week the patients all ask, 'Where is Leo?" she said.

For more on Leo, visit www.ourpack.org/leo.html.

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3 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Leo is clearly an extraordinary animal. Congratulations to his new owners and trainers, and special congratulations to Leo himself!

3 people like this
Posted by Ellice
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Congratulations to the courageous Leo on his new life and selfless contributions to others. And much gratitude to McClay and Our Pack for providing a beautiful legacy for maligned breeds. Too many misinformed people believe that only certain breeds of dogs are agressive. I thank all who work so hard to prove these people wrong. Keep up the good work! And bless all the rescued dogs.

3 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2008 at 11:07 am

Isn't it just great? If a dog like this can be rehabilitated, one has to wonder why it doesn't work for the human species. I saw another article about the "Vick Dogs" in our local paper in Gardnerville, NV. and would like to hear more about some of the others. Hope we will be hearing more soon.

3 people like this
Posted by Donna
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2008 at 6:57 am

How is it possible that any dog that has shown aggression to another dog or person becomes a therapy dog? Would someone have to lie on the application???

3 people like this
Posted by Maria Dobbs
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2011 at 10:11 am

Reply to Donna:
I want to reply to your comment on how has a previous aggressive dog allowed to become a therapy dog. The poor mistreated pit bull was given a second chance & trained to become a therapy dog. All he needed was a kind human to show him how & to love him. Thank you for posting this wonderful article on such a special dog named Leo! He is bringing joy to a lot of sick patients.

3 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

Are you talking about the dog or Michael Vic, now returned to professional football and providing mind-numbing therapy to the masses who could care less about his morals?

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