Frodo the pit bull, last of Michael Vick dogfighting ring survivors who helped change how rescues are treated, dies at 15
Frodo, a shy black pitbull whose long ears graced Sports Illustrated, and the last surviving pooch of a dogfighting ring financed by former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, died Saturday.
Frodo, a shy black pitbull whose long ears graced Sports Illustrated, and the last surviving pooch of a dogfighting ring financed by former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, died Monday surrounded by his adoptive human family and after gobbling a final steak meal. He was estimated to have been about 15 years old.
While Frodo’s likes — fast zoomies in his yard, car rides, and cuddles — may not seem particularly noteworthy, they add up to a powerful legacy for a dog once seen as beyond help and rehabilitation because of the abuse he’d endured.
“Sweet Frodo — How we loved him,” read an online death announcement by BADRAP, an animal welfare group and advocate for the 47 dogs rescued and relocated in 2007 from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia.
“He was one of the bravest survivors we’ve ever met.”
In another life, Frodo would have been sentenced to death after his rescue. At the time, groups like PETA thought the more humane thing for animals who’d been forced to fight was to end their suffering. The thinking went that these abused animals could never lead normal lives.
As Washington Post reporter Emily Giambalvo described in a 2019 interview with NPR, the success animal welfare groups and adoptive parents had in rehabilitating dogs like Frodo made it so future dogfighting rescues were treated less like evidence in animal welfare cases and more like victims.
Frodo, one of the younger rescues, would indeed have an uphill battle to normalcy. BADRAP described him as initially “shut down,” a pup who wouldn’t look his rescuers in the eye, even as they tried to feed him treats.
Kim Ramirez would adopt Frodo and take him to sunny California. When Post reporter Giambalvo caught up with them in 2019, Ramirez described how Frodo used to experience nightmares and cry at night, prompting her to mask outside noises using a TV or fan so Frodo could sleep.
But, like so many other Bad Newz Kennels rescues, Frodo “blossomed into a cheerful dog,” posing for Sports Illustrated and going on PBS, according to BADRAP.
Of the 51 dogs saved in Virginia, most would live healthy lives — one was euthanized for being too aggressive, another was put down for health issues, and two died before they could be relocated. Owners would share photos of the dogs once bred to kill, wearing tutus, birthday hats, or basking in a patch of flowers.
Vick, once the highest-paid player in the NFL, would also get a second chance. Serving 18 months in prison, Vick would express remorse for his actions and later become a prominent animal rights spokesperson. Vick would be able to play football with the Eagles, winning comeback player of the year in 2010.
Now an NFL analyst on TV, Vick has said he wants to continue his advocacy for animal rights.
Frodo’s second act, as described by BADRAP, was full of pampering thanks to his adopted family.
“You really beat the odds,” wrote Dominique Ramirez, Kim’s daughter, on the BADRAP post announcing Frodo’s death. “It has been a true honor being [a part] of your story & I promise to keep it alive.”