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A Dog’s Best Friend

Garcia and his wife, Mckenzie, share their home with a cat and two dogs, including Spikey-Doo, a Pit Bull Terrier mix. “I’ve had my girl since I was 16 years old. When I first got her she was touted as one of the prize bloodlines for fighting dogs,” Garcia says. “But she’s lived with a menagerie of animals. I still have foster dogs rotating through my house very frequently, and she is one of the best role models.”

So, despite all this evidence to the contrary, why do some dogs get written off as impossible cases? It’s all about perception, says Garcia, who just finished shooting the fourth season of DogTown. “With the Michael Vick dogs we have at the sanctuary, it’s not their behavior that we have to overcome, it’s the fact that they’re pit bulls; it’s the fact they’re fighting pit bulls; and it’s the fact they were Michael Vick fighting pit bulls. They actually have three major things working against them — not their behavior.”

What those dogs have working in their favor are people like Garcia and the rest of the DogTown staff at Best Friends, who believe in every dog’s ability to overcome trauma, and whose patience and determination help them succeed.

“Really, all we do at DogTown is help unleash the dog’s potential,” says Garcia. “I’ve seen dogs come from everywhere from war zones to puppy mills to hoarding situations, where they were living with hundreds of other animals. Then you have the Michael Vick dog-fighting case, where dogs were literally put in a pit and had to fight for their lives. That is some pretty severe emotional trauma.”

And there are days when that trauma rubs off on Garcia. “It’s always a bit of an emotional roller coaster here,” he admits — especially when physically abused animals show up. But, there’s always an antidote nearby: “If I have a bad day,” he says. “I just walk into a dog run and pet a dog and it’s all better.”

That’s just part of the magic Garcia finds working with dogs. They are, he says, remarkable creatures that teach him something every day. “When they survive those horrible circumstances — and can come back and show love and respect and look to us for guidance — that is a huge testament to not only the breed itself, but to dogs in general and how resilient they truly are.”

There’s a lesson in their example for all of us, he adds. “I know people who seriously get traumatized on their way to work! Just sitting in a bit of traffic! And here are dogs who have to fight for their lives and they are not half as traumatized,” says Garcia. “They say humans are at the top of the food chain, but when it comes to resilience and living up to our full potential, I still think we have a lot to learn from dogs.”

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit www.experiencelifemag.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter.

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

38 comments

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5:31PM PST on Nov 7, 2012

thanks John, for being a hero for the dogs

3:14PM PST on Nov 7, 2012

Thanks John Garcia, for all your work and efforts. Woof Woof :)

9:22PM PDT on Apr 9, 2011

I thank-you for the interesting article. And I am thankful for John Garcia & others like him & the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. From what I just read the John Garcia's in the world have a special talent (for lack of a better way to put it) a tenacity & stamina that most lack when dealing w/ this type of situation. John Garcia & the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary are to be commended for the work that they do. They truly work from their heart while caring for these unfortunate animals. Thank-you.

4:05PM PDT on Mar 31, 2011

It's wonderful to see that Garcia is doing what he has always wanted to do. These poor lost little souls are safe. They can't say thanks, but I can. Thank You. Best Friends Sanctuary is my favorite cause. These people do amazing work. I tell everyone I know about them. michael vick (small letters for a small, small male) should't be allowed to own a guppy.

10:24AM PDT on Mar 23, 2011

Good article good man

9:15PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Bless Best Friends and Garcia. Keep up the excellent work to socialize these poor misguided and mistreated souls.

6:49AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

How good to know there's a Garcia!

9:48AM PST on Feb 9, 2011

A wonderful article. Best Friends truly does amazing work.

8:38AM PST on Dec 19, 2010

Wonderful article--all the Best Friends staff and trainers are devoted and energetic, caring people. What they do many times cannot be captured with words! It is my #1 charity......

6:21AM PST on Dec 19, 2010

Noted!!

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