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Former fighter finds peace at last

Chewie of St. Louis has found a permanent home.

The scrappy black-and-white pit bull rescued from a Spokane dogfighting ring, held as evidence in a criminal trial in February, stolen and then recovered from a local shelter, and nearly euthanized before a cadre of animal welfare activists rallied to save him, has a new owner who loves him.

Spokane newspaper readers might remember a photo of an anxious Chewie leaping high in his kennel at the county’s SCRAPS shelter, a “Danger” sign warning people to stay away.

Chewie’s “look at me” leaps attracted St. Louis homebuilder Tom Revie to the hyperkinetic dog, he said in an interview Thursday.

“I like a dog with a good personality. I loved his energy level,” said Revie, 46, who first met Chewie at Stray Rescue of St. Louis, the nonprofit shelter that agreed to take him and seven female pit bulls from the Spokane dogfighting ring.

The dogs were dubbed the “Great Eight” and received major publicity after Pullman real estate broker Carmel L. Travis contacted Best Friends Animal Society. The Kanab, Utah, shelter had adopted some of former football player Michael Vick’s pit bulls when he went to prison for operating an illegal dogfighting ring.

Steve Garvin, the Spokane County deputy prosecutor who secured a guilty verdict for Peter Nelson and Alfredo Renteria in the state’s first dogfighting trial, didn’t want the dogs adopted out in Spokane for fear they’d end up back in a fighting ring.

That fear appeared to be realized when Chewie was stolen from SCRAPS over Memorial Day weekend by Ginny L. Peck, 20, who crawled into his kennel and was met with wet kisses.

But the girl and her young accomplices denied any connection to dogfighters and said they’d tried to “liberate” Chewie and save him from being euthanized after trying unsuccessfully to adopt him the legal way.

Best Friends’ Sherry Woodard and Jeff Popowich agreed to drive from Utah to Spokane, pick up the dogs and drive them to St. Louis on June 18.

The dogs got a lot of press when they arrived in St. Louis, and Revie said he was curious.

“I went down to see Chewie. He was the standout, and I decided I wanted to adopt him,” Revie said.

He formally became Chewie’s “guardian” about two months ago.

Now, Chewie has the run of his house in Clayton, an area of St. Louis near Forest Park, where he goes on walks with his owner. The dog sleeps with Revie’s 10-year-old daughter, Devin.

Chewie has shown none of the aggression first described when animal welfare officials used a pole to remove him from the Spokane Valley home owned by Renteria and rented by Nelson.

“I’d say he’s actually timid,” Revie said.

At first, he said, Revie was very careful when he walked Chewie in the neighborhood, not knowing how he’d react. But he’s learned Chewie loves other dogs and will go up to people and lick their faces if allowed.

Befitting his name, Chewie “does chew,” Revie said. “He’s gone through the occasional pillow. But my house is a mess anyway, and I can fix anything,” he said.

All of the Great Eight are now adopted except one, Hope, said Jennie Foster, director of operations at Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

Shy and fight-scarred Callie, a shelter favorite here and in St. Louis, was adopted by a single man with no other pets earlier this month and is thriving, Foster said in an e-mail.

Callie “finally has someone to appreciate her gentle nature and to assure her that she’s in her ‘forever’ home – never to be fought or abused again!” Foster said.

Hope, one of two puppies taken from the Spokane dogfighting ring, is the last of the Great Eight to await a permanent home. She’ll require a privacy fence with no other dogs because she’s dog-aggressive.

The St. Louis shelter offers “behaviorist assistance” for people who’ve adopted dogs if they have any problems, Foster said.

Contact Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or karend@spokesman.com.


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