Forgive me for tip-toeing over into dog territory, but I think most of you will understand.
I love animals and I detest those who do wrong by them. Michael Vick’s case was especially heinous. Vick raised fighting dogs sheerly for blood lust, committing unspeakable acts against those who did not win in the ring.
The Humane Society of the United States (the HSUS) has embraced Vick, praising his rehabilitation. I call BS on that. Vick is a sociopath intent on preserving his lucrative NFL career.
Just last week, a close friend of mine also commented on the success of Vick’s “turnaround.” I was apoplectic. It was as if she were suggesting that Ted Bundy was just misunderstood and needed a few counseling sessions to get his life back on track. Turns out, she only knew that Vick had been involved in dog fighting, and was not involved in it any longer. She knew nothing of the mutilations and the murders of hapless dogs just for the thrill of beating them to death.
I assume that at least a few of you have had similar encounters.
So here is a recent column by Tamara Deitrich in The Daily Press that bears reading (and forwarding) if you care anything at all about animals. Whether they bark, yowl, neigh or cock-a-doodle-doo, we are their caretakers, and it’s a sacred pact. It’s impossible to convince me that Vick and his ilk deserve a second chance.
Let me describe where I was the morning I read that Michael Vick was getting wistful about owning a dog again.
I was sitting on my couch with a whippet name Victor a sort of toy greyhound, no bigger than a cat curled at my side. I was taking care of Victor for a few days while his owner, my neighbor, was out of town.
Victor was dressed in an adorable one-piece fleece body suit that his owner had sewn by hand to keep him warm. He came well-stocked with a whole wardrobe of them, along with instructions on how to get him in and out of them, and how he loves to sleep buried under the bedcovers.
Victor trembles around men, even around my 16-year-old son. Victor’s story is that he was abused by the boyfriend of his previous owner. That’s why he ended up in the shelter where my neighbor found him.
At my feet was my own shelter rescue, Sam, who’s a Rottweiler/shepherd mix and a big, sweet lummox of unknown age. Sam doesn’t have the same neurosis as Victor, but he is one needy mutt.
I love dogs. They improve our lives, and lengthen them. They make us happier people.
Who doesn’t deserve that?
As one animal lover/activist told me recently, “Nobody should be denied the companionship of a loyal pet.”
But that same animal lover/activist also has this bumper sticker on his vehicle: “Help stop dog fighting. Neuter Michael Vick.”
Harsh? Only if you forget the deeper, sordid picture of Vick’s Bad Newz dog fighting ring in Surry County, which wasn’t just some gentleman’s sporting club where wagering was committed as well-muscled, athletic pit bulls tussled in a ring together, and may the better dog win.
This was a blood sport emphasis on “blood” in which dogs were maimed, crippled and ripped apart.
And, if they lost in the ring, they still had to face Vick.
Vick the dog owner and his crew committed unspeakable acts against those dogs. Shooting them, drowning them, hanging them. One that survived his hanging was picked up, slammed into the ground over and over and left to finally die.
This wasn’t a no-nonsense farmer putting a quick bullet into the brain of a nuisance or sickly animal. It was as if Vick and his buddies were thinking up ever more creative ways to inflict pain. As if death were simply a byproduct.
But there’s more.
Vick didn’t just savage his fighting dogs. According to federal investigators, he threw a family pet into the pit with a fighting dog. A fighting dog, by the way, that in any other household could have been a loving and loved pet, but which he and his crew had meticulously conditioned to kill or be killed.
Then, as the fighting dog went after the defenseless family pet, Vick laughed.
This was not some mistake. This was not some error in judgment.
This was a mindset.
Since his stint in federal prison, his temporary suspension from professional football, his public mea culpas, Vick says he’s a changed man. His NFL career has taken off again, and mazel tov.
A judge ordered him not to own a dog while he’s on probation, but apparently Vick has begun to reflect on how wonderful a family pet can be.
“I think just to have a pet in my household,” said Vick in an interview with NBC News and The Grio.com, “and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals, I think it would be outstanding.”
His advocate, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, thinks so, too.
“I have been around him a lot,” Pacelle told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner.”
Maybe Pacelle believes it. But maybe a bit of that optimism is wanting to justify the decision to use Vick as a poster boy. How would it look, after all, if they aligned themselves with someone they consider an irredeemable dog killer?
Unless Pacelle is willing to give Vick his own personal family pet with no conditions, oversight or reservations then forget it.
Sure, it’s a pity Vick’s kids won’t know the childhood joy of a dog in the household, but when they’re adults, they can get their own.
Right now, the only dog I’d trust with Vick is Cujo.
Contact Dietrich at 757-247-7892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.