Even though Georgia is still excitable, the 6-year-old pit bull has progressed a lot after her arrival at the no-kill animal shelter north of Kanab, Utah, following her rescue from former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's dog-fighting operation.
And Georgia is not only learning social skills -- she's on the brink of stardom.
The dog, along with three other rescued pits, will be featured in a multi-part series airing on National Geographic Channel starting with a two-hour premiere Sept. 5.
''We just got back from Beverly Hills where she was getting belly rubs at a barbecue,'' said John Garcia, the assistant dog manager at Best Friends. ''She just laid around the pool.''
Michelle Besmehn, Best Friends' dog-care manager, said the dogs have made great progress since arriving in January.
''We have to meet the criteria to meet our responsibility for the dogs,'' she said.
A federal court imposed the criteria that gave the dogs to Best Friends after being rescued from Vick's Virginia dog-fighting operation.
The former NFL superstar was sentenced in December 2007 to serve 23 months in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy. He and three co-defendants raised and trained pit bulls for fighting. Poorly performing dogs were killed.
Besmehn said the dogs are slowly coming out of their shells after being treated for various problems.
Best Friends employees hope most of the dogs can eventually be adopted. To do so, animals and Best Friends staff are becoming better acquainted.
''The first several months we wanted to become more comfortable around them,'' she said.
The dogs receive a lot of attention from Best Friends trainers and became popular with the National Geographic Channel's television crews. The network began filming an 18-part series called ''Dogtown'' in May 2007.
Series producer Darcy Dennett, said this week that when Best Friends was awarded Vick's former dogs, the rescue effort dovetailed nicely with what the channel was doing.
''We were really fortunate to film the rescue from the beginning,'' she said. ''Garcia, who is an amazing trainer, traveled to the East Coast to assess the condition of the dogs and we followed him there and him bringing the dogs on a plane back to Kanab.''
Garcia said pit bulls, a mixture of several breeds including terriers, are wrongly considered vicious by nature. Instead, he said, they are no more likely to be aggressive than other dogs -- especially small ones.
''It's how they are trained that makes them aggressive,'' Garcia said.
He said that during a recent visit to Southern California, he took Georgia through the Beverly Hilton Hotel and people stepped aside to avoid the dog.
''Then I put a hot-pink collar on her and people came over laughing, saying how cute she was,'' Garcia said. ''I took her all through Beverly Hills with the collar on.''
He said the rehabilitation efforts are breaking new ground regarding how to meet social and behavioral needs of rescued fighting dogs.
''We hope what we learn here can be used to save thousands of dogs in the future,'' Garcia said.
Scripps Howard News Service