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Old 01-05-2011, 10:08 AM
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Default Best animal book of 2010 tells story of Vick's 'Lost Dogs'

Best animal book of 2010 tells story of Vick's 'Lost Dogs'

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...scol010511.DTL



By Christie Keith, Special to SF Gate

Wednesday, January 5, 2011





The Philadelphia Eagles must be happy they took the chance on signing convicted dog fighter Michael Vick. Protests and boycotts by animal lovers never gained much traction. Just last week, President Obama personally thanked team owner Jeff Lurie for giving Vick a second chance.

When Vick told an Atlanta newspaper that he wanted to get a dog, the head of the country's largest animal welfare organization said he thought that might be a good idea.

And, of course, he's doing a great job on the field, which I guess is what a lot of people mean when they say he's redeemed himself for his past crimes. I don't know, because I don't care about Michael Vick's second chance, no matter how many football games he wins. And here's why:

"As that dog lay on the ground, fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its back legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn't kill it. So, Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground until, at last, the little red dog was dead."

Those words were written by Sports Illustrated editor Jim Gorant in "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption," the best and most important book about animals written in 2010.

Two years ago, Gorant wrote a cover story that garnered more response than anything else Sports Illustrated had printed in the previous two years.

Called, simply, "What happened to Michael Vick's dogs," it introduced readers to some of Vick's victims, like Sweet Jasmine, a dog so traumatized by her life at the football star's Bad Newz Kennels that she had to be carried out of her crate to go to the bathroom in her adopted family's yard. Once there, he writes, she wouldn't do anything except lie, frozen, in a little hole she'd dug to hide in, until someone came to carry her indoors.

"The Lost Dogs" grew out of the magazine article, with its focus expanded to include the investigators, judge, veterinarians, trainers, shelter workers and rehabbers who were involved with the case. It also gave readers a disturbing look at the dogs who didn't survive, based on testimony from investigators and witnesses in the case against Vick and his co-defendants.

If, like me, your tolerance for reading about animal suffering is slight, it's a painful, even agonizing read. I put this book down more than once, and like many other dog-lovers, will never be able to get many of its passages out of my head, however hard I try. But I kept going back.

Partly it was because Gorant is no mean storyteller, and reveals so much detail about a story I thought I knew. He takes us from the raid on Vick's Virginia property in 2007, covering how close authorities came to walking away from the whole thing both before and after the raid. Football stars, it seems, do these things; best not to notice, seemed to be the attitude of local law enforcement.

Then we get an inside view on what led to the startling decision by the judge to see if any of the surviving dogs from Bad Newz Kennels could be saved, and to make Vick pay for their evaluation and rehabilitation, if it were possible, or euthanasia if it were not.

Of the 51 dogs who came out alive, 47 were saved. Two died in shelters, one was euthanized for an untreatable health problem, and one -- only one -- was put down for aggression. Gorant writes that many of the rescuers involved with the case were stunned by this success rate.

"I don't think any of us thought it was possible," he quotes pit bull rescuer Donna Reynolds of Oakland's BAD RAP as saying. "(Not) the government, the rescuers, the people involved. We like to think we have life figured out, and it's nice that it can still surprise us, that sometimes we can accomplish things we had only dreamed of."

If you think "The Lost Dogs" was written by a diehard pit bull lover with an agenda to push, you're wrong. Gorant, who has made his career writing about sports, has said that he didn't know anything about pit bulls before he started investigating the Vick story, and what he learned while doing his research surprised him.

"You cannot accurately assume that all the dogs saved from a fight bust are biting machines waiting for their chance to attack," he writes. Raised without "negative influences," he said, "the pit bull was simply a dog, imbued with all the positive and negative attributes of its kind."

What taught Gorant that lesson was not the words of the pit bull advocates he interviewed, but the surviving Vick dogs themselves: Leo, Hector, Jonny Justice and the rest -- some living now as family pets and dealing with greater or lesser challenges from their traumatic past, some so triumphantly rehabilitated that they're working as therapy dogs and even helping children learn how to read.

I'm a dog lover and this is a pet column. I'm neither a sports fan nor a social worker, and I freely admit that that I care more about his victims than I do about Michael Vick.

But unlike many dog advocates, I don't want to see him put back in prison, denied his right to vote, kicked out of the NFL, beaten, kicked or bashed in the head. I certainly don't think he should be executed, as right wing pundit Tucker Carlson suggested on Fox News recently.

I just think his defenders should read this book before deciding what they think about Michael Vick's big comeback.



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...#ixzz1AApXw7WD
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