April 7, 2015

Silver's Heart of Gold: Labrador Overcomes Life of Dog Fighting

In honor of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day on April 8, we are bringing you the inspiring story of a black Lab who was rescued from this horrific form of cruelty—and who went on to become a beloved family pet.

Nancy and Rick C. were making dinner plans one November evening in 2013 when they got a phone call from Charleston Animal Society (CAS).

Young man sitting on bench holding black lab

“They asked if we’d be willing to foster a dog seized in an animal-fighting case,” says Nancy. Without hesitation, they packed up Buddy, their three-year-old black Lab, and headed to the shelter for a meet-and-greet.

The dog, an 11-year-old male Labrador/Shepherd mix, was known only as No. 205. He took to the sweet-tempered Buddy instantly, so Nancy and Rick took both dogs to their favorite restaurant—one with a popular dog patio—and ordered a basket of sweet potato fries to share with their new foster.

Dog patios and sweet potato fries were a world away from the life No. 205 had previously known: living in a filthy, wire pen in the middle of a sun-baked yard where dogs were chained and trained to fight. When No. 205 was rescued, his fur was missing in patches and he tested positive for heartworm and tick-borne diseases. He was also underweight and had no access to fresh food or water. His silvery-gray muzzle made it clear that he’d spent most of his life trapped in that terrible place.

“His name is Silver, but I also call him Silver Bear,” Nancy says lovingly. After fostering Silver for nearly a year, she and Rick adopted him.

Though Silver seemed eager to forget his painful past, it was clear that the senior dog had been through a lot in the first decade of his life. “At times he would cower—like he had been kicked or mistreated, or grabbed by his collar—but he’s much more confident now,” says Rick, who takes Silver on long walks at a nearby park. Silver also enjoys the couple’s lake house a few hours away, where he chases ducks and revels in new smells, along with Buddy.

“His past is still with him,” says Nancy. “But the bottom line is we love him.”

Silver was one of 367 dogs that the ASPCA helped rescue during the second-largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history, which took place August 23, 2013. It is believed that Silver belonged to one of the 10 defendants, most of whom are now serving time in federal prison.

Aldwin Roman, Director of Anti-Cruelty and Outreach for CAS, says that all 12 of the dogs transported by the ASPCA to CAS following the raid have been adopted—some, like Silver, by their foster families.

In the past two years, Silver has settled in to his happy new life. An oversized, stuffed red chair is his favorite spot for lounging, and he’s the only dog ever allowed to sleep on Rick and Nancy’s bed.

Older couple poses with two dogs

“He’ll lie in the sun sometimes, wander just a little in the backyard, and then come back inside,” Nancy says. Now weighing 60 lbs.—up from 45 when he was rescued—he gets a daily dose of fish oil to keep his silvery-black coat shiny.

“We are just so happy he found us; he’s brought us great joy,” Nancy says, adding that although the first part of Silver’s life was torturous, “We want his last years to be his best.”