Mel never barks, except in his sleep. He shakes with terror when strangers enter the house. He has good reason to be fearful. Mel's previous owner was Michael Vick.
Mel's detailed history is unknown. However, it's clear that he was used as a kind of dog-fighting training dog. He has the scars on his back legs to prove it. Yet, today, Mel adores other dogs. He especially relishes when puppies pile on him.
"When we first got Mel, whenever a stranger came to the house he would stand with his back to a corner, and shake for at least an hour," says Dallas reporter/radio host Richard Hunter, who with his wife, Sunny, adopted Mel from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Konab, Utah, over Labor Day weekend 2009.
"Now, Mel stands and shakes for only around 15 minutes," Hunter said.
Mel smothers family members with kisses.
"I never had a strong opinion about pit bulls (Mel is actually a mix generically dubbed a pit bull)," Hunter said. "Mel is so sweet and so loyal. He just loves us unconditionally. It's not the fault of dogs; they can't choose their bad news owners."
Speaking of which, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who operated Bad Newz Kennels in Surry County, Va., was in Dallas for the Super Bowl and an event to honor him called Super Teen Saturday was held Feb. 5. Hunter was among local press invited to the event, at which Vick was scheduled to deliver a positive message to high school-aged students.
Hunter accepted the invitation, hoping to ask Vick some questions about his past involvement in dog fighting. No doubt, many reporters wanted to do the same.
"The event was held at a bar, which is rather strange for a press event," said Hunter. "There were vodka ads posted on the walls."
Hunter says he's not sure if the event was sponsored by a vodka company, or if the ads are just part of the bar's decor.
Vick was introduced and offered less than a minute of remarks, according to Hunter.
"His message was to stay in school and choose friends wisely."
Then Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway presented Vick with the key to the city. Minutes later, Vick headed for the door. Hunter spoke up as Vick and his entourage of about six was departing.
"You said you care about the dogs, Mike (referring to an interview in which Vick did say he cared about his former fighting dogs)," Hunter said. "Now is your chance to talk."
Hunter held up a newspaper story with his dog Mel's photo and added that he has one of "your dogs."
The response, according to Hunter, came from a member of Vick's security detail:
"Nothin' man. How many times I'm going to tell you. I'm going to tell you to get the ---- out of my face."
On the YouTube video, Hunter was clearly not in anyone's face. However, one of Vick's handlers was manhandling Hunter.
"Press was invited to ask questions. They couldn't have been surprised to hear reporters ask questions," Hunter said. "Were these security people or thugs?"
Before walking out, one of Vick's security staff chimed in, "We don't care about the dog."
"I wasn't so naive as to think Vick would break down and cry and ask me to sit on a park bench with him," Hunter said. "I just wanted a comment, and I wanted him to know that the dog we had is doing well. I am now convinced Michael simply doesn't care about the dogs."
Like most Americans, Hunter was incensed when he first heard that the NFL star was fighting dogs. Hunter talked about the topic a lot on his radio talk show. After watching a piece on TV about some of the Vick dogs going to Best Friends for rehabilitation, then interviewing a Best Friends trainer, Hunter and his wife applied to adopt one of Vick's dogs.
"Maybe if Vick's response was different, I would feel differently," Hunter said. "But I know if Vick wasn't caught, our loving Mel and dogs just like him would be dead. He (Vick) wants a family dog. You're kidding me? Vick (according to various media reports and substantiated by court records) actually placed pets in the ring against Bad Newz Kennel pit bulls at least twice, and reportedly Vick delighted in watching the pit bulls cause serious injuries. What kind of person does that?"
Following the press event in February, Dallas city officials and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert distanced themselves from the actions of the mayor pro tem. Others agree that Vick should never have been given the key to the city.
"The fact that Vick fought dogs and participated in torturing dogs is beyond unacceptable," said Hunter, who currently hosts an Internet radio show and is a regular guest on a Dallas radio station.
"But even more diabolical is including family pets. Personally, I believe Vick knows he is supposed to feel remorse, but I don't believe he does."