Salvation for Michael Vick’s Dogs – “The Lost Dogs” by Jim Gorant

November 3, 2010

I’ve written before about the dogs of Bad Newz Kennels run by Michael Vick and must draw your attention to the excellent new book by Jim Gorant, The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and their Tale of Rescue and Redemption. Gorant is the reporter who wrote the Sports Illustrated cover story  (December 29, 2008) about this case and so was ideally positioned to do the extensive follow up in this book. That cover story generated more letters and emails than any other SI story that year, a measure of the outrage and controversy surrounding this case. A very few saw the attention paid here as disproportionate, or in the extreme, racist. I find it hard to sympathize with those views.

Of course, when a third of the world goes to bed hungry at night you can make the case that the sympathy and attention these dogs received is the luxury of the haves as opposed to the have-nots. Our indifference to human suffering can be appalling, but the fact that we cannot solve every problem should not prevent us from tackling the ones we can solve. And it’s hard not to see these pit bull and pit bull mixes as the unwilling, unfortunate victims of a callous blood sport.

That football itself is a brutal, violent game that generously rewarded Michael Vick for his skill says something else about what we value in our culture. But, as far as I’m aware, we don’t electrocute, hang, drown or shoot unsuccessful NFL players. (We do permit some of them to suffer massive head traumas that leave them with cognitive problems like memory loss, confusion, speech impediments, early onset Alzheimer’s, nausea, depression, blurred vision, headaches, the inability to concentrate and other neurological problems. However, 1.) Your average NFL player is not nearly as cute an adorable as your average American Staffordshire Terrier and 2.) They make a choice about their profession that pit bulls clearly do not).

The uplifting part of this story is that of 51 dogs recovered 47 have received second chances for a better life, the overwhelming majority of these dogs are now in loving homes as treasured companion animals. A few were too damaged to make the transition to pets and have been placed in animal sanctuaries. But when you consider that initially both PETA and the Humane Society called for all of these dogs to be destroyed, the recovery detailed in The Lost Dogs is simply amazing.

The capacity of a dog to accept kind treatment from the same species that brutalized them should be a lesson to us all about forgiveness and the capacity to change.

You’ll get the entire story of the investigation and subsequent trial of Michael Vick and the efforts of prosecutors, rescue groups and individuals who rose to the challenge presented by these damaged dogs. There are many heroes and a few villains (Gerald Poindexter, commonwealth attorney for Surry County in Virginia is certainly a candidate for that title).

One outstanding rescue group you’ll read about is BADRAP, Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls. For some compelling images of the Vick dogs, go here on their site.

Anyone who cares about dogs should read this book. It’s a gripping story and Jim Gorant has done an excellent job in bringing the entire cast, canine and human, to life in these pages. You will get to know some of the Vick dogs quite well and, if you possess any compassion whatsoever, their journey from abuse to safety will haunt you long after you finish reading. The dog owners among you will probably also want to hug your own dogs, tightly.


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