From bait dog in a dog fighting ring—to victim of horrific abuse—to registered therapy dog—to daddy’s little girl!

Tamra Monahan reports
Photo courtesy of Chris Hughes

To stare into Gremlin’s soft brown eyes and see her tender smiling face, you would never know that she was used as a bait dog in a Washington, D.C. dog fighting ring. Her gentle nature belies the vicious abuse she endured during years of physical torture and horrifying living conditions. This beautiful Pit Bull’s story is filled with desperation and hope, pain and healing, loss and now love.

Gremlin and her mother were purchased by an undercover police officer in the Washington, D.C. area during a dog fighting investigation. Once the ring was busted and everyone was taken into custody, the dogs were placed in a shelter as evidence in the animal cruelty case, but, unfortunately, no charges were ever brought against the people involved in the dog fighting ring. Gremlin was scheduled to be euthanized because of all the injuries and damages to her body, but Odessa Second Chance Rescue and Rehabilitation (OSCR) in Goochland, Virginia saw the potential that Gremlin had, and rescued her. Eventually, Gremlin was adopted by Chris Hughes, founder of Rowdy to the Rescue, who embarked on the monumental task of healing this fragile, broken puppy. Chris has started volunteering with OSCR and says, “I adopted Gremlin because I knew she was going to have a tough life and was going to be a high needs dog. I did not want her going to someone who wouldn’t make the commitment to not only her medical bills, but the time it would take for her wounds to heal, both physically and mentally.”

During her time as a bait dog, Gremlin’s owners broke her back legs inward at the same spot. Chris says, “My veterinarian said this is a common thing to do which prevents the bait dog from running away while they test the aggression of the fighting dogs. She was also not able to bark, and tests revealed that her vocal chords had been ruptured. The vet explained to me that dog fighters jam the end of a baseball bat or a stick down the bait dog’s throat to prevent them from making noise and drawing attention to the dogs because the animals are tied up outside.” Sickened and angered by this information, Chris was determined to give Gremlin a new life, one without pain and fear.

After years of abuse, Gremlin could barely walk and would often not use her back legs at all. Although Chris knew getting his new Pittie to walk again was a huge endeavor, one look in her big brown eyes told him they would succeed. “The biggest obstacle Gremlin had to overcome was walking,” he says. “She had a very hard time and was getting worse and worse when I first got her. After we started hydrotherapy, things really started to look up for her and she made huge strides in getting to be a hundred percent independent. Although, for a while at night she wouldn’t use her back legs at all and would actually walk from one room to another just on her front two legs. It was like she was doing a handstand.”

During Gremlin’s long rehabilitation, Chris was very worried and said, “It often looked as though she was going to need a wheelchair to get around.” But this gutsy Pit Bull’s drive and determination allowed her to rise against the odds. Two years and thousands of dollars later, she was healed, running with her pack and into the hearts of many. Soon after, Chris says, “We started Gremlin on the basic obedience training and Gremlin received her Canine Good Citizen certification and became a registered therapy dog through Therapy Dogs Inc.” Every week, Chris and Gremlin visit Aristocrat Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for mentally unstable patients where she gets hugs and kisses from clients and staff who love their new furry friend. She also brings joy to kids in a special education class at Avon East Elementary School, and next year this perky Pittie is going to become a Pet Pal at Rainbow Children’s Hospital. "She will visit with the kids in the hospital and let them read to her or just sit and pet her which is great therapy," Chris says.

Gremlin also likes going to work with her daddy. Chris explains, “A typical day for Gremlin consists of coming to work at the tennis club we own, and she sits at the front desk with me and plays with all the kids that come in. After work we go home and she plays around with my three other dogs and any dogs we currently have in rescue.” Gremlin’s siblings consist of Rowdy, a Golden Retriever who came from a puppy mill; Quinn, a German Wirehaired Pointer who came from a hoarding case; and Sammy, a Pit Bull who was found tied up in the basement of an abandoned foreclosed home. Chris proudly states, “Gremlin also has a boyfriend, his name is Wilson Potter and she met him on Facebook! Wilson is also a Pit Bull who had a rough start in life, but now he lives like a king with his mom in Atlanta!” Both these canines spend a lot of time talking to each other via Facebook (with the help of their parents), and Gremlin is quite smitten with her little man Wilson.

Thanks to a determined police officer, a caring rescue organization, and a kind-hearted guy, Gremlin’s life of fear and abuse changed to one of love and tenderness. This courageous canine went from baiting fighting dog to educating people, showing us that Pit Bulls can be friendly companions with hearts of gold. “Gremlin is more than just a part of my family,” Chris says. “I couldn’t imagine life without her. Her mission now is to travel the country and expose the nation to the truths of dog fighting. She is the face of Rowdy to the Rescue, and our hope is that Gremlin will inspire others for years to come.”

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