*Read to the end and find an offer for a contest where you can win a copy of this book for free!
I remember the day the story broke; watching images from a news' helicopter hovering over the property of one of the NFL's superstar quarterbacks, Michael Vick.
I had this sense of pure disbelief at first. Professional dog fighting just doesn't happen anymore — or at least not often, or not well funded. And it was equally as difficult to believe that a man with such a high grossing career and so much at stake would be so stupid as to risk all that for what has got to be one of the cruelest and stupidest past-times mankind has ever conjured up.
The more the story developed, the more my blood boiled.
One of my husband's friends' fiercely defended Vick.
“He might've owned the property, but there's no way he was involved,” he said.
But as the situation unraveled, it became clear Vick was indeed involved — in fact, intimately involved — in the operation. He admitted his guilt and was suspended from the NFL indefinitely (though he now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles).
He also paid almost $1 million dollars in restitution and incredibly, the money was assigned to the care and rehabilitation of the 47 pit bulls rescued from his property.
The story might've shocked me to begin with, but the announcement that this money would go toward saving his pit bulls was the real jaw-dropping moment.
“Oh my God, did they just say what I think they said?” I asked my husband. “There's no way; most shelters euthanize pit bulls automatically, regardless of temperament. And pit bulls involved in dog fighting are always killed, always.”
I realized then that the Michael Vick case would be a pivotal moment for pit bulls — already, people had seen the dogs as victims, not monsters. And now, these dogs would give the world a chance to see that even pit bulls involved in dog fighting can become good dogs again.
I watched the TV program about the dogs that went to Best Friends Animal Society. It was a great program and fantastic to see how well the dogs were doing, but after that, it seemed like all news about the dogs had dropped off. There were no more follow-ups, no updates or where-are-they-nows.
So when I heard about Jim Gorant's book, The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption, I knew I had to read it. And I did — in less than 24 hours, in fact.
The story begins before you even open the book. A stout little brown dog sits on the front cover, one ear cocked goofily to the side and incredibly human-like eyes peering up in such a manner that you can't help but wonder what she's looking at.
Then you begin reading the first chapter, which starts off with “A brown dog sits in a field.” On the second page, Gorant describes this dog in greater detail, adding that one of the dog's ears folds differently from the other, so it makes “her look as if she's eternally asking a question.”
Reaching that sentence, I flipped back to the dog on the cover, studying her one ear sticking out to the side.
“That's got to be her,” I thought, and I stared into her eyes. “And he's right, she does look like she's full of questions.”
The book follows this dog, Sweet Jasmine, through all she experienced, and she's not the only one. Several dogs are profiled, starting at the Vick property and following them through kennel life, adjusting to foster homes and finally, enjoying a family of their own.
With no less than a touch of genius, Gorant weaves the story of the men involved in unraveling this case and all the obstacles they overcame to find the truth and successfully prosecute those responsible, the incredible efforts of those who fought to save, protect and rehabilitate the Vick dogs and not least of all, the lives of the dogs themselves.
Only two dogs ended up being euthanized because they were too aggressive, but Gorant does not stray from the gritty details nor hide the tears that were involved with rehabilitating the dogs. And that's the beauty of having a journalist — Gorant is a senior editor at Sports Illustrated — write a novel like this; Gorant tells the tale truthfully.
It is often a heartbreaking tale, but an uplifting and inspirational one as well. Take, for instance, the tale of Rose, a sweet pit bull whose injuries were too great to save. Before Rose was humanely euthanized, she nestled into a blanket and took a nap in a sunspot — probably her first time experiencing such comfort. A photo of Rose was taken as she napped with a look of great content on her sweet, sunshine-laden face. And that photo (included to your right, courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation) is just one of many included on eight glossy pages inside the book.
As I read through the book, I couldn't help but flip back to the cover of the book and peer into Sweet Jasmine's eyes, or flip to the photo section and find the dog I was reading about.
The book was fantastic. It was hard to set it down for even a moment and when I finished the book, I just wanted to thank Jim Gorant for writing it and writing it beautifully nonetheless.
Pit bulls continue to make bad headlines and as long as there are bad and irresponsible dog owners out there, they likely always will. But stories like this show that pit bulls can be great; even those who come from such terrible circumstances.
The title is entirely appropriate — the novel is truly a tale of 47 four-legged victims, their rescue and redemption.
Thank you, Jim Gorant.
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