Oscar the Vicktory dog makes amazing progress

Oscar the Vicktory dog makes great progress, learning to trust and interact well. He passes his Canine Good Citizen test and is ready for adoption.
By David Dickson

Parrot manager Jacque Johnson remembers well when she first met Oscar the Vicktory dog. Best Friends staffer Annik Popowich had brought Oscar over to the Parrot Garden for an outing during her lunch hour. Annik, who used her lunches this way for over a year to help Oscar, wanted him to experience new people and places. Oscar, however, wanted nothing to do with anybody at parrots. "He spent the entire time staring out the door and hoping to leave," Jacque says.

Considering Oscar’s past, it’s easy to understand why he sometimes has a hard time trusting humans. He was one of the dogs seized from the property of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who was running an illegal dog fighting operation.

Oscar, a former Vick dog, in homelike environment

After several months of outings to the Parrot Garden, circumstances actually worked out to where Oscar moved in to live there last November. The hope was to give him more exposure to a home-like environment. The main building at the Parrot Garden has a sink, dishwasher, lots of people coming and going, and so forth. The plan was that Oscar might come out of his shell a bit by being around so much activity.

Even though he’d been visiting for several months, Oscar remained too shy to connect with anybody at first. For example, it took two full months before he’d eat inside with staff members around. "It was a step-by-step process," says Jacque.

Eating in the same room as a person was only one hurdle for Oscar. Learning to seek out affection was quite another. Jacque, along with everybody else in Oscar’s life, had to take things slowly.

Then one day while Jacque was typing at her computer, she felt a gentle nudge at her elbow. Oscar had finally worked up enough courage to cross the room and ask for attention. "That about broke my heart," Jacque says.

From there, Oscar began seeking interaction more and more. These days when Jacque shows up in the morning, Oscar can’t wait to see her. "Now he runs to the gate so I can give him a butt scratch first thing," she says. Oscar has had so many people in his corner all along, from loving caregivers and trainers at Dogtown, to others around the Sanctuary who rallied around him. He knows he’s loved.

Oscar passes Canine Good Citizen test

Recently, all this hard work of so many people paid off in a big way. By court order, one hurdle Oscar had to pass before he could be considered for adoption was the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. The CGC test is a way for a dog to demonstrate basic good behavior with a handler.

After months of attending the classes with several people from around the Sanctuary, and after a few failed attempts, Oscar was ready to try again, this time with Jacque.

Jacque was extremely nervous. She knew what it would mean for him to pass and feared her anxiety might rub off. It turns out she needn’t have worried. He passed with a perfect 10 out of 10. "I burst into tears and cried," Jacque says about the experience. "We did it together."

Vicktory dog ready for adoption

Next step? Oscar’s forever home. And once that happens, Jacque and all the rest know that while they will all miss him like crazy, they’ll be thrilled for him at the same time. "All we ever wanted was for him to have a couch to lie on in a home of his own."

Socializing other Vicktory dogs

Oscar isn't the only Vicktory dog with exciting news these days. After four years at the Sanctuary, during which time they couldn't meet with any non-staff members (per court orders), seven of the Vicktory dogs are now being allowed to mix and mingle with volunteers 18 and over. They're doing extremely well with the recent change, and their tremendous fan base of volunteers couldn't be more thrilled to finally have a chance to meet them up close and personal. Watch the video.

Photos by Molly Wald