The Redemption of Michael Vick’s Dogs
by Liz Ozaist
Published on September 26, 2011
While Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick complains about the unfair treatment he’s been getting from officials on the playing field, a book about the cruel treatment he doled out is now available in paperback — The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.
We caught up with author Jim Gorant to find out how Vick’s former fighters are doing — and whether Vick’s jail stint changed the way society views the NFL player and his penalty-worthy mistreatment of animals.
Q: How has your book been received? Have you gotten feedback both from people who find Vick’s behavior abhorrent as well as those who support him?
A: Jim Gorant: “Generally, the book has been very well received, although I would say it has reached dog lovers and animal rights people much more than it has sports fans. The animal people love it, and they are less than thrilled to see Vick thriving. The sports fans are divided: Some have dropped the Eagles or the entire NFL; some still root for the team, but not him personally; and many have taken the attitude that ‘he’s paid his penalty; it’s time to move on.’ On both sides, the book seems to generate a lot of passion.”
Q: Did anything surprise you in relation to the response to the book?
“Lots of things. I was surprised how well it did, for starters. I never really dared to hope it would become a best-seller, but it did. I’m also taken aback by the impact it’s had in the world. I don’t want to overstate it or sound self-congratulatory, but I’ve received notes from shelter workers and rescue volunteers who’ve told me that they’ve been reinvigorated in their work, as well as from people who say they’ve been inspired to adopt a dog or start working at a local shelter. That’s awesome.
And then there are the kids who are part of an at-risk program in Southern New Jersey who’ve used the book as a way to address their own histories of abuse. One of the great things about the paperback is that I got to tell their story in the new afterword.”
Q: Do you have recent updates to share about any of the Vick dogs?
“The one that gives me the biggest thrill is that Little Red, who has a major role in the book, has passed her Canine Good Citizen test, which she had to do before she could be adopted. Last I heard, she was meeting with a family who was interested in taking her home, and it looks like it’s going to work out. Also, Jhumpa Jones earned her certification as a therapy dog, which is as great as it is surprising, because she had a really tough bit of luck.
At the same time, Jonny Justice, a true rock star and another of the lead characters in my book, has dropped out of a reading program for kids because one of the libraries involved bans pit bulls. It just shows that, for all the progress that’s been made in changing the perception about these dogs, there’s still a long way to go.”
Q: Has the view on dog fighting evolved at all since the publication of your book?
“I know that this case was the first time that dogs were viewed as victims, and the book helped reinforce that point and spread the word. I also know that, in the last few years, more dog fighting incidents have been reported. That’s not because there is more dog fighting, as some initially feared, but rather that more people who see or hear of it are taking action. In the past, they might have ignored it, assumed there was nothing that could be done or thought it wasn’t even wrong, but they’re not standing for it any longer.”
Q: Vick spoke before Congress this summer supporting legislation that would penalize people who attend dogfights as well as those who allow minors to attend them. Do you know the bill’s status?
“I don’t know the current status of that bill, but I think it’s a great initiative. I saw and read a lot of what Vick said that day, and the thing that stood out to me was when he said, “I want to be part of the solution.” That’s something I hadn’t heard from him before, and I think it’s really the best we can hope for. He can have tremendous influence, and if he dedicates himself to helping, it could have a real impact.”
Q: Aside from his revived NFL career, what’s the latest with Vick’s work with animal welfare causes? Do you feel he’s sincere about making good on past mistakes?
“As I understand it, he continues to work with The Humane Society of the United States, appearing at schools around the country to talk to kids about the ills of dog fighting. I’ve been told that, in the off-season, he does two sessions a month. Wayne Pacelle has said that the talks Vick gives are helpful because he reaches an audience the organization would have a hard time connecting with otherwise.
Only Vick knows how sincere he may or may not be, but either way, he’s doing the right thing and helping to address the problem in a positive way — and that is what’s important.”
What do you think? Do Michael Vick’s efforts help the animal welfare cause? Do you think he is personally rehabilitated at all? Tell us what you think in the comments.