I recently got into a heated conversation with a friend of mine. About pit bulls.
I was talking about how I want to adopt a dog one day soon, and while my husband and I will probably just walk into a shelter and ask for the dog nobody else wants, I’ve always had an affinity for staffies/bullies/pitbulls.
My friend’s reaction, in all honesty, shocked me.
“CALVIN & SUSIE BLOGGER! (that’s what all my closest friends call me), that is just DANGEROUS.
Those dogs will just SNAP at a moment’s notice and attack you! Haven’t you heard of all those pit bull maulings? Why do you think cities ban them? And if you ever plan to have children, that’s just IRRESPONSIBLE. You don’t need something with locking jaws going crazy one day and attacking someone…your children maybe!”
Needless to say I was horrified. And being the person that I am, my first inclination was to yell and scream and spout out every piece of factual knowledge I have concerning pits. But aggression rarely wins a battle of wills.
I think that, working in the pet care industry, I forget that many people aren’t exposed to certain breeds on a daily basis, and do not have the chance to form an educated opinion. I have to chalk it up to ignorance, as with many kinds of bigotry, as opposed to genuine hostility.
I think most of our readers are pretty well informed pet parents. So I will not go on a rant as to why my dear friend’s assumptions on pit bulls are incorrect. Instead, if you would like to read further on pit bull facts you can check out here, here, and here. (The last link has a great bit of info about families and pits!)
Look, pit bulls are “just dogs”, not sharks. . That is, they need proper care, training and socialization to be a contributing part of society. Any dog, from the tiniest fluffy Chihuahua, to the most happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever, to a lumbering and regal Great Dane can become dangerous when provoked or abused.
I digress. After my friend said those baffling words, I took a deep breath and basically relayed to her all of the above information. To her credit, she listened, but I could tell that her opinions and fears were still bubbling at the surface.
This is where “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tail of Rescue and Redemption” by Jim Gorant comes in.
I recommended this book to my friend. I believe it has the power to change minds.
This is the story of the dogs who were rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting kennel. This is the story of the people who fought to keep these dogs alive. This is story of 51 pit bulls.
I’m not going to lie, this was maybe the hardest book I’ve ever endeavored to read. I wept through most of it. I put it down so many times because the imagery and honesty of storytelling put me right there behind those dogs’ eyes- it was often too much for me. But I believe, and I still believe that everybody should read this book.
This book will break your heart yet lift you up as few animal books can do. In a very basic way, I believe this book comments on dominion- the human responsibility, as harbingers of society, to treat creatures put under our care in a humane and respectful manner.
The state of a human’s intellect is most accurately gauged by a person’s ability to feel empathy for other beings – animals, children, the sick – in a weaker position than themselves. Ghandi puts this best: “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. This is what this book made me consider.
The plot of the book is very simple. The author takes the reader through the stakeout, raid, arrest of Michael Vick and rehabilitation of the Vick pit bulls. Unlike many “crime” exposes I’ve read, what I found remarkable about Gorant’s narrative is that, like I said, he takes you behind the eyes of the dogs. Some of it is dramatic assumption, but for a while you see what they see- the fear, the hope, the kindness, the redemption.
The majority of the book, thankfully, focuses on the rehabilitation of the dogs. Of the 51 dogs seized from the Vick compound, 47 were saved. The dogs who had to be euthanized were essentially driven mad by the brutality they endured. Even just four dogs…I’m crying now at the computer.
But the story of the surviving dogs is indeed uplifting. The phenomenal ability for dogs to forgive, trust and thrive amazes me. Their resilience is a lesson to us all.
“The Lost Dogs” is a story of tolerance and a creature’s ability to change their heart and mind. The people who fought on the Vick Dogs’ behalf, have them rehabilitated instead of destroyed, are heroes, but the people who changed, the ones who CAME to believe that the dogs were capable of rehabilitation, they are truly remarkable.
In the end the book is not only about the dogs, but also about how dogs make us better humans. It’s that simple.
Some may say this book is propaganda, that is unbalanced, tipped toward idealizing a breed. To that I respond that when a group- dog or human- has been condemned merely because of stereotype and cruelty, don’t they deserve a time to shine? To re-educate? To prove that they are not so different?
I hope you will read “The Lost Dogs”. Though I already loved the breed, this book opened my eyes and cast away many stereotypes that I didn’t know I harbored. Plus, it made me a better advocate for pit bulls.
Thank you for reading!
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger