Uba The Lionheart
I've recorded a five minute audio about special little Uba, but you can read it below instead if you prefer.
To learn more about the Vick dogs check out this link
Below Uba lives on on the cover of JAHVMA this Spring. Way to go Uba!
More photos of the carving here.
Early last October, Letti de Little talked with us about it being time to say goodbye to her best boy Uba, another of the dogs from the infamous Michael Vick dogfighting case. He passed on a couple days later and Letti and we were in no hurry to announce it publicly, but thought we would by the end of the year. The week I planned to do this post in late December also became the week dear Frodo and Jonny Justice passed on as well - making these three boys the last survivors from the case.
This week Uba made it onto the cover of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal, so it’s definitely time to tell you a little about the boy-wonder that was Uba.
When I think of Uba a couple of words immediately come to mind - feral and lunatic. Donna’s best descriptor for him - feral, because among other things he made it high up onto our fireplace mantle once (we still can’t figure out how), and Letti’s - lunatic, for too many reasons to list now, but the word 'resilient’ sticks. The word is used fairly often these days, so I looked it up to be clear on its meaning, because I don’t want people thinking he was Teflon - he wasn’t. I found a great quote from Dr. Katie Hurley, LCSW who said: "Resilience is not a trampoline, where you’re down one moment and up the next. It’s more like climbing a mountain without a trail map. It takes time, strength, and help from people around you, and you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. But eventually you reach the top and look back at how far you’ve come.”
I feel like this describes Uba and his canine journey pretty well. Things did take time with him and he did have little setbacks when life became too scary, but he also had help from the people around him who loved and cared for him so much… and he became strong.
Uba’s adopter, Letti, took him into her home in east Oakland with her other dog, Lulu, a female pit mix, and her two cats - and that’s where his new life began. Life in the big city where things can get noisy and surprising - like climbing a mountain without a trail map. It wasn’t easy for him to adjust, but he was out of the VA shelter where he’d been stuck for six months, and out of our home where he’d spent his first couple months of quasi freedom.
Letti took him to our weekend training classes regularly and he made big improvements, even earning his CGC title, but the smartest thing she did was enroll him in nose-work classes. He excelled. This gave him something concrete to focus on, which helped start to lessen the PTSD that he and nearly all the others from the case surely had. It made him curious, which is the opposite of fear, and gave him something to look forward to once he got into a schedule and a routine. Dogs need and love routine.
Uba was so good that he started winning ribbons. He knew the game well and would sometimes instantly go to the scent spot - no messing around. Before long he earned his NW1 - K9 Nosework Title. We were all so proud of the little guy. Teaching her dog to be curious was Letti opening the doorway away from his anxiety and to his true terrier nature.
A little later, Donna and I borrowed Uba to take him to an AP English class in an east Oakland high school - they had read The Lost Dogs and were writing research papers. Their instructor roped us into the class and we fully expected Uba to show his shy side, being indoors and around a couple dozen students he’d never met. Instead, he started following his nose and made the rounds in the classroom, stopping where he found it interesting and then moving on with a mission. His curiosity took over and he took control of his surroundings, going where he wanted and then checking back in with us before taking another trip through the maze of chairs and students. We were floored and the students were touched by this little creature that had gone through so much.
The kids went from bored teenagers to fascinated fans once they heard about the trauma he had experienced as a youngster - something some of them related to. This was one of our most memorable moments with these dogs and it surely left a mark on us. Uba wasn’t just a show and tell piece, he was a living example of resilience - of surviving a troubled past - and the progress he made was just remarkable.
Uba did reach the top of the mountain he had climbed for so long and now I feel like we are the ones looking back at how far he came - and it was a long, long way.
I think Uba's story describes something true about most of the dogs from this bizarre dogfighting case, and their story of resilience has changed the perception of this breed for so many on this planet. Now they are on their way back to being the beloved dogs they once were not so very long ago.
Correction to "Resilience" Quote
The "Resilience is not a trampoline..." quote on the audio portion was given to Amit Sood, however the quote belongs to Katie Hurley , LCSW from an article for EverydayHealth.com.