A farewell to Tug, the Vicktory dog

By Gregory Castle

I am deeply saddened to be the bearer of the news that Tug, one of the dogs who thrived at Best Friends after being rescued from the property of Michael Vick, has passed away. Like many dogs rescued from fighting cases, Tug suffered from the blood disease babesia, and the toll on his body from the parasite was just too much. He was humanely euthanized this afternoon, surrounded by many of the caregivers and friends he had come to know over his years in the safety of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Tug was a dog who loved to be hugged. Bow-legged and friendly, he had an unforgettable welcome dance. Despite all he’d been through, he was a sensationally happy dog who loved golf cart rides and spending time with his friends. We’re so glad that a dog who had been through so much had a wonderful life in the end. He will be sorely missed.

It’s quite remarkable to think that the investigation into Bad Newz Kennels began more than nine years ago. The youngest of the Vicktory dogs, as they came to be known for their triumphant spirits, is now nine years old, and we’ve had to say goodbye to a few. Babesia has been one of the causes.

Babesia is a terrible disease. It is passed through blood, and is therefore more prevalent among fighting dogs. (Many of the Vicktory dogs, including Lucas, suffered from it.) It’s a stubborn disease that presents itself differently from dog to dog. Babesia can be managed but not cured, and it was not something our medical staff had encountered very often until the Vicktory dogs. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about how to manage it, but the complications and recurring flare-ups, combined with age, were just too much for Tug to handle.

We know how important the story of the Vicktory dogs has been for dogs rescued from fighting rings everywhere. As documented in the film The Champions, these dogs have forever changed the perception of pit-bull-terrier-like dogs in general, as well as dogs specifically from dogfighting cases. Everyone at Best Friends will be forever changed from having known this particular group of dogs, and when it comes to Tug, I asked some of our staff who knew him best to share their memories.



“Tug was just always the special one. He was loved by everyone and he didn't have to do anything special for that, but just be ‘The Tug.’ He would dance for us at his gate with his bow-legged front legs. He had obsessive-compulsive quirks, like laying his tongue on a pole, like the kid in Christmas Story, and just look at us with his tongue on the pole. When you went into his room and sat with him, he was content to just sit on your lap. The world just stood still when you were sitting with The Tug. Nothing else mattered. He had a heart that wouldn't stop and I loved him with all my heart.”
– Terry Tate, Dogtown caregiver





“Tug was an easy dog to fall for. He was always so happy to see you. He was up for anything. He was happy going for a walk, going for a ride in the car or the golf cart, or just cuddling in his room. Basically he was just a happy dog. It's amazing that he could come from such circumstances and still remain the biggest love. Tug had a great life here and I only knew him to be happy and loving. Today when we had to say our goodbyes, the room was full of people who've known Tug for years and people who have only known him for a short time. He was surrounded by love. Angel Lodges will not be the same without him.”
– Julie Tasch, Dogtown team leader






“Tug was an amazing boy. He tried so hard to pretend that he was a tough guy, but as soon as he was out of his room, he was a melty pile of mush! He loved his caregivers so very much. It was his trust of them that allowed us to care for him medically. I will always remember him barking his meaty head off at me from his room, then him being taken out and spinning between my legs so his whole body could be enveloped by me in the most awkward of hugs. He was the best. There are no words to describe the hole his passing leaves in our lives.”
– Betsy Kidder, veterinary technician


Rest in peace, Tug.



Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society