I was right there with the rest of the pet-dog-pittie-lovers out there who wanted nothing less than Vick’s nether-regions dangling as a chew toy for teething pups whilst fire ants chewed on his honeyed armpits. I was seething. Michael Vick wasn’t some poor, uneducated bumpkin trying to make a buck in a hard, cold world. He was a multimillionaire who held one of only 32 starting NFL quarterback positions in the country.
He had everything, and despite all that he still felt the need to get his kicks by watching (and betting) on dogs tearing each other apart. For his entertainment. And when they didn’t meet his needs, he killed them, sometimes in horrible ways.
At the time, I didn’t think what I felt for him would ever pass.
I sat, like so many other dog lovers, enraptured with all of the attention this particular case got. Dog fighting, as an issue, was suddenly everywhere --- on television, on the radio, most definitely on the Internet. People were holding anti-Michael Vick events, journalists were taking “inside” looks at the issue and for probably the first time in my memory people were talking about it from all angles. The ugly underbelly of one of our seedier pastimes was finally getting exposed to the light of day.
And pit bulls, a breed known for almost nothing but bad press for years, were finally being looked at in the media as victims, rather than perpetrators of crimes.
As a society, we came down on Vick with both feet. We took his job. We took his money. We took his reputation and any semblance of community standing he had. He became public enemy number one in the court of animal-lover opinion. Then we took his freedom, and although there are plenty of people who believe we didn’t take enough of that, we certainly took more from him than if he had been some guy on a street corner, or some backwoods good ol’ boy who claimed not to know any better.
Then came the repercussions of his arrest.
Now dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states. It wasn’t before Michael Vick came along that legislators decided to do what was right, no matter how many times various animal agencies tried to make it so.
Following Vick’s arrest there was a spate of other arrests for dog fighting across the country. Even here in the Central Valley, five people were arrested in
As groups like BADRAP and Best Friends took on the task of rehabilitating the Vick dogs that were initially seized, we watched as they did what was largely believed to be impossible, even by some of the largest animal agencies in the country --- they turned fighters into lovers. A number of the dogs have gone on to foster and adoptive homes. The people at Best Friends have turned them into media stars, as their progress is shown in episodes of Dogtown.
Though there are some minds that will never be changed, whether they be the minds of dog fighters or the minds of pit bull haters, there’s no doubt that Vick’s arrest and conviction got the issue out in front of more people than almost any other action could have. His arrest made people aware, it made them think and it made them act.
Now, having served his time, Vick is getting out. The mere fact of his release will provide another round of media coverage about dog fighting and its costs, to both dog and man.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. I’m not about to say that I’ve looked into his eyes and have seen his soul, and I know how truly sorry he is. Nor am I going to jump on the “he’s only sorry he got caught” bandwagon. I don’t know what’s in his heart any more than anyone else. Actions make the man, and we will all be able to witness the nature of his actions and decide for ourselves what this experience has done for him.
As for me, when all is said and done, I’m satisfied with the pound of flesh we got. Vick committed, in the eyes of animal lovers everywhere, a horrific act. He was caught, tried and punished --- and let’s be honest about this one thing at least --- punished far, far beyond what virtually anyone else would have been, had the evidence been the same.
Advances were made in legislation, education and rehabilitation of pitties, all in the name of showing Vick up. Although I’d like to think that would have happened without his crime, I surely don’t believe it would have happened so quickly. While I’m not planning to thank Michael Vick for getting caught, I do acknowledge that his arrest set things into motion that may have otherwise remained inert for a much longer period of time.
It’s time for all of us to take what we have learned and move on to the next chapter of this story. If the vast majority of the Vick dogs can move beyond the past, the least we can do is try and do the same.