Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

After several tissues and my emotions under control, I sat down to write my review of The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption, written by Sports Illustrated senior editor, Jim Gorant. The cruelty that these dogs endured was heartbreaking, but their will to survive was amazing. I have some knowledge of dog fighting and familiar with the Vick dogs–Cherry, Georgia, Meryl, Denzel, and Mel–after watching the Best Friend’s Dogtown episode that featured the Vick dogs (Best Friend’s Animal Society took the 22 dogs that had been categorized as the “most challenging” cases).

Despite my knowledge of dog fighting and the abuse the Vick pups were subjected to, I was still shocked by the details that Gorant shares with us in The Lost Dogs. These dogs were not only made to live in cruel conditions, forced to fight, and never exposed to affection, but some dogs were killed in terrible ways (electrocuted, drowned, and hanged; one little, red dog was slammed repeatedly to the floor). The suggestion of letting the dogs that showed no fight potential free was vetoed by Vick and ordered to be killed.

The Lost Dogs begins with an introduction to the Sport Illustrated article Gorant wrote about the Bad Newz Kennels dogs and the public’s reactions to the article. One of the complaints about Gorant’s piece was, “What does it matter, they’re just dogs?” This was the same response I received from a person about my article covering the Dogtown episode about the Vick dogs.

And that is how the Vick canines start out in The Lost Dogs: just dogs. They are described first by coat color and then referred to by the numbers given to them in the animal shelters. Eventually, the pups are given names. Then we learn about Sweet Jasmine (the brown dog on the cover of the book), Little Red, Jonny Rotten, Leo, Rose, and Handsome Dan and the struggles they experienced during rehabilitation.

I wondered if Gorant began the book with the dogs as nameless creatures to prove the point that the Vick Pit bulls were seen as just dogs in the fighting ring. But given the chance of rehabilitation, the world could witness how the dogs were living, breathing beings with feelings and scars and how each one possessed a unique personality that was reflected in the names given to them. Those who believed that the Vick dogs were ”just dogs” can learn from reading Gorant’s book they are more than animals and are incredible creatures with much potential.

Gorant takes us on a journey that described the life at Bad Newz kennels through the eyes of one brown dog, Sweet Jasmine, the events and players involved in Vick’s arrest and conviction, and the dogs’ lives after they were rescued from dog fighting, and their obstacles on the road to redemption. Throughout this journey, the Lost Dogs’ story includes the history of dog fighting, details of the three levels of dog fighting (the basic level, the pastime level, and the professional level), and the background of the Pit bull and the other dog breeds that some people believed were dangerous beasts.

It was interesting to read about the legal and law enforcement players that made Vick’s arrest happen, the animal rescuers involved in rehabilitating the Pit bulls, and the hardships they endured as they struggled with the dogs’ residual trauma. Despite the damage from dog fighting, these pups were able to work past the scars and their resilience was extraordinary.

Gorant’s telling of the Vick dogs’ journey to redemption is touching, compelling, and it informed us about what it takes to rehabilitate a fight dog. It is a story that should be read by all. This book is not just for dog lovers, but for all people, because society is responsible for eradicating the dog fighting culture, and in order to rid our society of this cruel practice, we need to be educated about the organizational structure of dog fighting and what these canines endure.

Of the 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels, two were euthanized. One black and white dog had lost her mind due to the abuse. The poor pup was a champion fighter and was forced to breed numerous times. Spending day after day without any love and surrounded by fear and death, it is understandable how this dog was unable to hold on to her sanity. The other euthanized dog, Rose, had injuries that she had acquired from the abuse at Bad Newz Kennels. The amount of time that Rose spent in pain was unknown, but despite the cruelty she was subjected to, she was friendly and just wanted to have fun.

The Lost Dogs dispels myths. Sweet Jasmine, Little Red, Jonny Rotten, Leo, Rose, Handsome Dan, and the rest of the Vick Pit bulls showed us the real nature of this breed. Given the chance, these Pit bulls proved how even fight dogs can deeply affect human lives, how people and animals bond, and how canines can enrich our lives.

Some of them became therapy dogs, others became family pets, and a number of them demonstrated that Pit bulls have a calm temperament by passing the Good Canine Citizen’s test. Their loving natures and their accomplishments confirmed that humans make dogs mean; fight dogs are not born vicious. Despite the cruelty to which Vick and his friends subjected on these Pit bulls, the dogs proved, through their rehabilitation, that fight dogs are worth saving.

No comments:

Post a Comment