SALT LAKE CITY — A pit bull named Hector, rescued from NFL quarterback Michael Vick's illegal dog fighting operation in 2007, is now a certified therapy dog that makes visits to hospitals and nursing homes.
He and owner/trainer Roo Yori also made a visit to Glendale Middle School on Monday to teach kids how to interact safely with animals.
"What do you do if you want to pet a dog?" Yori asked students. "Ask if you can pet it. The most important thing is to ask if you want to pet the dog. Not all dogs are as friendly as Hector, unfortunately."
The "friendly" moniker might be unexpected for a dog rescued from a dog-fighting environment.
In the case of the 51 dogs saved from Vick's illegal fighting operation, Yori said 47 were either sent to rescue sanctuaries or adopted instead of being euthanized.
"Every dog coming out of that situation handled it differently. Hector came out of that situation pretty much like this," he said, pointing to a docile, friendly dog that gives high-fives, rolls over on command and wears a vest that reads "Ask to pet me -- I'm friendly."
Hector needed the usual socializing skills once Yori and his family adopted him -- he needed to learn not to jump up on the dining-room table or chew on the furniture. That successful socialization is also part of the work Yori promotes in his role as director of care and enrichment at the Animal Farm Foundation.
"He's got scars all down his chest (from fighting). He's got scars down his leg. He's got a missing notch out of his tongue," Yori said.
But Hector settled down quickly once his environment changed. "We promote the idea that all dogs are individuals," he said.
Football star Michael Vick was quarterbacking for the Atlanta Falcons when he was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy and running a dog fighting ring. He served time in federal prison and remains highly controversial among animal-rights activists since being signed with the Philadelphia Eagles one year ago, less than one month after his release from prison.