Second chance for a suspected bait dog

One pitbull mix who was likely used as a bait dog in a dogfighting ring overcomes her painful past, showing her resilience and the power of forgiveness.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Except for some scarring, a slight limp and a bottom lip that hangs down in an endearing pout, Trinity shows no signs of her painful past. But when she wandered onto a fire cleanup site in California a few months ago, it was a miracle the poor girl was still alive.

On that day, the pretty, blue-eyed pit-bull-terrier mix was so badly injured that she looked nothing like the healthy, happy dog she is today. Though she’s now thriving, if she hadn’t gotten help when she did, she probably wouldn’t be here. Luckily, the workers at the burn site where she turned up stepped in quickly to help her. They got Trinity to the local animal control department, who then transferred her to a veterinary hospital. It was from there that she found her way to Best Friends.

Trinity the pit bull terrier mix, who was likely a former fighter bait dog, with Leslie

Suspected bait dog is a lover, not a fighter

No one knew for sure what had happened to Trinity or how long she’d been suffering. She was only about two years old, but her body told a sad story of long-term abuse. She had old scars and newer infected wounds on her legs and chest. The skin on her face was torn and swollen. Veterinarians who examined and treated her felt that her wounds matched those seen in the blood sport of dogfighting.

People involved in illegal dogfighting often use weak or submissive dogs as bait to train stronger, more confident dogs to participate in vicious dog fights. Trinity’s injuries looked very much like those that a bait dog in dogfighting would suffer. Her body was battered and she was in pain. But, like many of the dogs featured in The Champions, a documentary about the pit bulls rescued from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s brutal dogfighting ring, she showed no aggression toward anyone and was the perfect patient.

Learn more about 'The Champions'

Trinity the pit-bull-terrier mix asking Leslie for a belly rub

Stronger every day

After Trinity had surgery to help clean and repair her wounds, her physical healing was well underway. She got stronger every day. Her recovery, at least on the surface, was easy to see. But there was no telling how much care and recovery she would need before she could overcome her emotional wounds and be placed in a home.

Even when she was ready to take that step, it would have to be a very special home — one with someone who truly understood what she’d been through, who would keep her safe and love her for the rest of her days. To make sure she would find that kind of home and that she’d get all the support and care she needed to get there, Trinity came to Best Friends.

“The epitome of extraordinary”

Dogtown caregivers and trainers began working with Trinity right away. What they saw in her eyes and in her heart amazed them. The good news was that she showed none of the deep-seated fear that is common in dogs used as bait. She did not seem to have the emotional damage or baggage that dogs rescued from brutal dogfights or dog baiting situations sometimes have.

“Trinity needed a little help settling into Dogtown those first few days,” explains Dogtown manager Chris Vergallito. “On Mondays, I select a dog to join us at the manger's office. When I walked in with Trinity, she was hesitant at first. It didn't take long, though, for her to come out of her shell and work us all for treats. I knew right then and there, this dog was the epitome of extraordinary.”

Even after all she’d been through, Trinity held no grudges against anyone. All she wanted was comfort, safety and love. And she was willing to offer people her trust.

Leslie getting kisses from Trinity the pit-bull-terrier mix and Chance

The power of resilience and forgiveness

At the Sanctuary Trinity quickly transformed into a happy, outgoing dog who loves nuzzling her head into Dogtown caregivers and volunteers. She didn’t just make friends with the people who helped to socialize her. She made them fall in love with her instantly. The feeling was mutual. “She gets so happy, she practically blushes every time a new person comes in,” says one of her caregivers.

Trinity was soon kicking up her heels in the red dirt and playing ball in her yard. It might have been the first time in her life she was able to run around and be a dog. The fun, playful puppy hidden inside of Trinity finally got the chance to see the light.

A heart and home full of love

Because Trinity’s past trauma could have involved other dogs, Dogtown caregivers and trainers were slow and careful when introducing her to other dogs. But Trinity made it clear that she loved making new doggie friends. She had truly left her history in the past and showed the power of resilience and forgiveness that dogs like her are capable of. There was no reason Trinity couldn’t go home, if the right person came along.

Within weeks Trinity found that person. It was love at first sight. Trinity walked up to her, gently climbed on her knee and gave her sweet kisses. Now, with a heart and a home full of love, Trinity’s past is fading away as quickly as her scars, and she’s having the time of her life.

Help bring hope and healing to more animals like Trinity

Photos by Molly Wald