EXCERPT: 'Rescue Ink'

But Ribbon also needed a home, and that was a far bigger problem. The humane society's executive director, Kathy Hodge, was at a loss over what to do with the obviously abused creature. Her shelter had no expertise in abused pit bulls, and she was reluctant to adopt him out. She also did not want to euthanize him if there was any possibility of getting him the rehabilitation he needed.

Kathy had no idea what Ribbon's story was, and probably never would. She knew that police had busted up a dogfighting ring in a nearby county. Perhaps Ribbon had been turned loose from there. Either way, she had no leads and very few options. So she sent an urgent e-mail out to four reputable pit bull rescue groups that she trusted and respected. One, in Tennessee, forwarded the e-mail to Joe.

"I got the e-mail with the pictures and called Mary," Joe remembers. "I told her to call these people and tell them we would do whatever they needed. Mary said we have no money to give them. I told her I would get it even if I had to steal it. I know what it feels like to be in this dog's situation, left for dead, and not know where to go and who you can turn to. I told her, I want this dog here. I will go pick him up even if I have to drive there by myself." When the rest of the guys read the e-mail, and saw the pictures of Ribbon, there was an instant connection. He was a survivor, a tough dog who didn't fold. But while he looked more than a little rough on the outside, wore the scars of where he had been and what he had seen, they hadn't changed his basic good nature. He still loved life, and people, and other dogs. He was a walking billboard for both the forgiving, loving nature of pit bulls and the atrocities of the fighting ring.

The challenge was getting him up to New York. A few weeks before, at a fund-raising rescue benefit in New Jersey, the Rescue Ink guys had met representatives of Animal Rescue Flights, or ARF, a nonprofit group that transports rescued animals, many of them facing death row at kill shelters, to other parts of the country where loving homes await. Ribbon sounded like a perfect candidate, and Mary immediately got on the phone to arrange for his transport to New York.

G and Joe got some sleep after their late-night arrival with Ribbon. Then they headed to the clubhouse, where everyone had assembled to meet the dog they had heard so much about. When the amber-eyed dog walked into the clubhouse, there was an eruption of elation, curiosity, and for some, relief.

"I was afraid I wouldn't be able to look at him," Eric admitted, as Ribbon wagged his tail furiously at him. "He's going to be really good when we go to the schools. I'd like to see these smart-ass kids laugh at him. You can show all the pictures you want, but when you have an actual dog like this to show people what dogfighting is all about, there's no comparison."

The dog's ears looked terrible, with each ear canal so swollen its sides touched. Still, this was a huge improvement over what Ribbon had looked like when he'd been rescued two weeks before. "The ears were so infected," remembers Kathy Hodge, "that when the volunteer drove over to pick him up, he got in the car, shook his head, and pus flew all over her car. She spent the rest of the day cleaning it off."

The closer the guys looked at Ribbon's wounds, the more disturbing his story became: There were thin cuts around his muzzle and legs, suggested that he had had his mouth tied shut and been hogtied.

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