Worth the Read

Sports Illustrated’s cover story on what’s happened to the dogs that were part of Michael Vick’s dog fighting kennel. It turns out the large majority of them are living and some are even thriving, which is a miracle when you remember that even PETA thought they needed to be put down. But it should also go without saying that bringing these dogs back from the hell Vick put them in hasn’t been an easy task, which is why, as we say here in the Internet biz, you want to read the whole thing. Speaking as a dog owner, I’m glad these dogs are free and Vick’s in a cage. It’s justice.

39 Comments on “Worth the Read”

  1. Isn’t Vick scheduled to get out soon? It seems a little soon, but his career is shot and after legal fees, I can’t imagine he has a whole lot of money left.

  2. Got to see (from a distance) the setup for the 22 dogs Best Friends got when I volunteered there in June. Great stuff these folks do.

    *warm fuzzies*

  3. One of the things that interested me about this article was this bit, in the section detailing the bad p.r. or pit bulls:

    “Some contend that this hysteria reached its apex with a 1987 Sports Illustrated cover that featured a snarling pit bull below the headline beware of this dog. Despite the more balanced article inside, which was occasioned by a series of attacks by pit bulls, the cover cemented the dogs’ badass cred, and as rappers affected the gangster ethos, pit bulls became cool.”

    It’s hard not to see SI as attempting to atone for a past error, with this cover–and good for SI, if so.

  4. Thank you so much for linking this. I needed something to bolster my faith in humanity. And, of course, I’m so glad the dogs are doing well. They deserve it.

  5. ytimynona – FLORIDA – I'm a big wannabe. Wannabe a truck driver, PotUS, scientist, writer, and teacher. Well, I already am a teacher. :-)

    Dogs are my favorite people.
    I can’t believe anyone would make them fight… it kind of makes me sick.
    I’m glad that 47 of the dogs could be saved, but 4 dead dogs is still 4 too many. :-(
    I’m gonna go snuggle my puppy now.

  6. If the episode of “Dog Town” about Best Friends rehabilitating several of the Vicks dogs ever turns up again on NatGeo, I highly recommend it, too.

  7. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, with tears in his pants

    That bastard should never be allowed out. Ever.

  8. What’s interesting to me is that at volunteer orientation at the Humane Society here in hippie Ann Arbor (which, btw, is not actually affiliated with the American Humane Society, or at least they don’t get any money from them), I was told that dogs rescued from fighting rings are not impossible to rehabilitate. Far from it. The quote was something like, “dogs trained to fight adore humans, but they do want to kill other dogs…”

  9. Actually, PETA may crow about how much they support animal rights; but when it comes down to it their “solution” is almost always to put the dogs down.

    Google PETA, and “euthanasia” or “no kill shelter”, the results might be surprising to you… or not, if you’re actually aware of how hypocritical and downright fraudulent an organization PETA is.

    Note, I don’t necessarily apply this to PETA members or supporters; who are mostly just trying to good things for animals; but most of them don’t know what PETA really is, or does.

    Similarly, the rather inappropriately named “humane society of the united states” is anything but. They advocate and fund mass euthanasia for animals. In fact, a condition of funding for animal “rescue” programs supported by the HSUSA is a 7 day kill policy.

    The HSUSA are NOT, nor are they in any way affiliated with the American Humane Society, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; each of which has a more than 100 year track record of good work preventing cruelty to animals, and promoting animal rescue.

    The HSUSA is chiefly a political action organization dedicated to ending hunting, and the industrial production of animal products and meat. They are strongly affiliated with domestic terrorist groups like Earth First, ELF and ALF.

  10. Unfortunately, the ASPCA gives money to PETA. Which is why they get none of ours.

    Sorry to be OT.

  11. And I’m back, having read the article. Some friends of mine were members of BAD RAP and fostered, eventually adopting, a pit bull mix. She is quite possibly my favorite dog ever–and I don’t really like dogs.

    I’m glad to see that these dogs were for the most part rescued and it’s nice to see the media actually realizing that pits are not inherently bad dogs. Now if only someone could convince governments of that…

  12. Ha. PETA are such losers and this only confirms it. It’s nice to see a magazine with such a large readership pointing out that these dogs are AMAZING with people, and that you ban the DEED, not the BREED.

  13. I think it’s interesting the PETA is getting more hatin’ in this thread so far than Michael Vick.

    I also don’t particularly think this is the thread for a PETA pile on.

  14. Thank you for the link, sir. At this time of year, we honor the birth of a Teacher who taught love and peace, and I can’t think of a better story for the season.

    Please pass on some skritchies to your own furries.

  15. One last PeTA bash: “which is a miracle when you remember that even PETA thought they needed to be put down” also applies to burlap sacks full of kittens. :(

  16. Mr. Scalzi, I believe you hold undue influence over me. I just voluntarily read a Sports Illustrated story for the first time ever. And enjoyed it. Fie on you and your evil ways!

  17. Without in ANY way criticizing the marvelous work that BAD RAP and the other groups in this story did saving these dogs – I wish all the abused or abandoned animals in our shelters got so much help.

    I live in a ridiculously wealthy part of the country and our local animal shelter is well-funded. We get animals sent here from all over the state, because the shelter can keep animals for a long time and they are adopted out pretty quickly. The shelter folks tell me that they have a huge influx of pets, particularly dogs, because people are losing their homes and being shipped off to Iraq and have nobody to care for their animals.

  18. I have a rescue dog: A german sheppard/lab. She might have more in her–some have suggested Pit bull. When our trainer worked with her on some “assertiveness” issues, I told her I was worried about the pit bull angle and the trainer said: “So what? Pit bulls are loveable dogs. They’re also smart enough to be trained to be killers. Or lovers. It’s not an instinct, it’s intelligence. And, by the way, ANY dog can be violent and bite. ANY DOG.”

    My husband’s best friend had a pit bull and she was the most loving dog, wonderful with adults, other pets, and kids alike. And smaaaart.

  19. ANY dog can be violent and bite. ANY DOG.

    Quite true, but that’s not really the valid objection to Pit Bulls. The problem is, they were bred for fighting – they have unbelievable muscular and especially cranial structure. If you try to make a Pit Bull let go of your kid’s arm by hitting it in the head with a hammer, it’s just gonna bounce off. Pit Bull are essentially biological weapons.

    I think the best solution is for the breed to be allowed to die out. If dog people want a pit bull-like creature (looks & personality; they’re apparently pretty great when they’re not trying to kill you), they should have to recreate the breed, like was done with Siamese Cats years ago. I can’t say I’m a big fan of having a pet that has the capability of killing me, or mauling the face off a neighbor kid.

    I’m at the top of the food chain, and I intend to stay there.

  20. @ Tumbleweed, what exactly is this breed called a pit-bull that you refer to, as far as I am aware the pit-bull/pit-bull type designation has been found to cover between 20 to 35 different breeds.

    Taking this fact into account (and manipulating statistics for my own purposes) I could argue that this therfore means that the 118 deaths in the USA (over 20 years!) attributed to pit bull types in the much quoted CDC study should be reduced to between 4 and 6 deaths over 20 years for each of those breeds the type covers.

    This means that it can be said that the Mastiff, Boxer, Collie, Chow Chow, Doberman, Saint Bernard, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, Akita, Sled-type, Pit bull-type, Rottweiler, German Shepherd Dog, Husky-type, Malamute, Wolf-dog hybrid and Mixed-breed are all as, or more, dangerous than any of the individual pit-bull breeds.

    In fact there are probably more people killed by their trousers each year in the USA than are killed by the pit-bull type.

    According to the FBI Black people commit over 50% of murders in the USA but according to the US Census Bureau only make up around 10% of the population, is it your suggestion that the best solution is for the black race to be allowed to die out? Or would your suggestion be that through improving living conditions, fairer distribution of resources, combating discrimination and education people try to change that situation

    I have to admit to a potential conflict of interest in that my dog (a jack russell / staffordshire bull terrier) would fall under the pit-bull type umbrella, in fact I live in North-Staffordshire the home of the Staffie.

    My dog is the most loving little animal (though not when it comes to squirrels rats and rabbits), she is incredibly people orientated but I trust her no more than I would any other dog because when it comes down to it they are a WOLF one of the more efficient killing machines out there. This is something that the parents of babies killed by Yorkshire terriers or chihuahuas wish they had remembered.

    Try getting to know the dogs before you decide that genocide is the only option.

  21. @ Tumbleweed

    If you don’t want a pet that has the capability of killing you, you shouldn’t have any dog. Even chihuahua could (and have) ‘mauled the face off’ of children.

    Come to think of it, most pets are dangerous in some way. If you’re that worried about the small chance that a medium-sized terrier is going to bite you, I’m hoping you never own a cat. Much greater risk of injury.

    I personally couldn’t be happier with the story of the Vick dogs. Well, the only thing that would make me happier is if it really did help dispel some of the ignorance and breed-hatin’ that goes on out there.

  22. Tumbleweed, you’re not at the top of the food chain. Unless you’re also proposing that we wipe out wolves, lions, hyenas and any other predator you can’t fend off with a carpenter’s hammer?

    I don’t have any clue what you mean by ‘recreating the breed’ wrt Siamese cats. Are you thinking of Russian Blues?

  23. Hi! First off, thank you for the article – I had thought that Best Friends had taken all the dogs, and none were going to be allowed to be adopted out.

    But I always have mixed feelings on cases like this, because it becomes a number issue. For the amount of time and money spent to find these dogs a permanent home, how many easily adoptable dogs with great social skills died in a shelter waiting for a home?

    Also, Speaking of dogs and aggression, The Chihuahua is usually at the top of the list for biting because they tend to be high strung and very often poorly socialized, due to the popularity plus backyard breeding. Labs are also big on biting due to poor socialization, no training, and backyard breeders. All dog and child/stranger interactions should be carefully monitored, in almost every case of a dog bite, especially in children, you find that the dog and child were not supervised. All it takes is a stepped on tail, or pulled ear, for a dog to automatically bite – the dog almost always regrets his action.

  24. A lot of people seem to complain that the resources that saved these dogs could have been better spent elsewhere. This is not quite accurate; the court ordered Vick to pay for all of this. The money is coming from the evildoer, and no shelter is getting less due to these programs. As such, resources aren’t an issue. Besides, shouldn’t the volunteers handling these dogs be the ones to choose how to use their own time?

    Anyway, great story, thanks for the link. Also, the only breed of dog that I have personally found to be almost always vicious is the Chihuahua. For all dogs, though, people make the difference.

  25. If you substituted baby/kid instead of puppy/dog, this story would have gotten a lot fewer replies and compassion. Yes, I know this a story about dogs, but I just wanted to throw this out as food for thought. And I am glad that most of the dogs are doing better. Thanks!

  26. If you substituted “baby” for “dog,” it wouldn’t make any damn sense, since no one starts a baby-fighting gambling ring.

    Let’s not stretch ourselves to make a point that doesn’t need to made, okay?

  27. John, what are you talking about? They’re called “Pre-Schools”. (Ok, ok, I’m done being inappropriate.)

    Anyway, I just got back from vacation, and am catching up on stuff, so I only just saw the article. Thanks for posting it. I’m glad to hear those dogs are in loving homes.

    The description of Jasmine at the beginning of the article was haunting. I am certain that dog was beaten, repeatedly. A friend of mine adopted an abused greyhound (another breed commonly in need of rescuing). Zulu only let me pet her once in the eight or so years I knew her. Jasmine’s behavior is a dead ringer for Zulu’s. Zulu would trust other people–my friend, her rescuer–but not me: Zulu was beaten by a guy with facial hair, and I usually walk around bearded.

    It is horrible, and I am glad Vicks went to jail and had his life destroyed. He got what he deserved. Dogs feel pain, and they can be emotionally scarred just like people. Zulu was a hard dog to be around, because the best I could do for her was stay out of her way and leave her in peace.

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