Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bookshelf: Jim Gorant



*****

When I was in eighth grade my parents decided to send me to a private high school and since I was very much against it my mom bribed me with a dog. His name was Tosh and he was a bearded collie. He passed away last March, but in his thirteen years he experienced a lot of things other dogs don't necessarily get to. Like having an owner who doted heavily on him (my mom, not me, although I did love him very much), getting to hang out with his doggy daycaremates and take really long romps through the woods with them every day, getting lots of treats and regular meals, and constant back scratches (his favorite from me). He and I did have our ups and downs, mostly because he was always barking when I wanted him to be quiet and there was that one time he bit my foot. But honestly that was my fault for juggling his soccer ball with my bare feet. And I forgave him after the teeth marks receded from my pale skin a few minutes later. But unlike Tosh who was openly spoiled, there are millions of dogs in the world that are without simple comforts. And worse than being homeless and scavenging for food, there are dogs bred into dogfighting. And that, in my opinion, is the worst fate a dog can endure.
I remember hearing about the Michael Vick case in 2007 but only in passing. Maybe I overheard it on the news or saw mention of it online, but I didn't delve further into the details and prior to reading "The Lost Dogs" I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything other than Michael Vick had apparently been into dogfighting. So for all of you out there who have or ever had a canine pal and were/are ignorant like me about this case you need to read "The Lost Dogs".
Jim Gorant, Senior Editor at Sport Illustrated, sheds the spotlight on dogfighting and misconceptions about pitbulls in "The Lost Dogs". He imagines what was going on inside the head of one of the Vick dogs before the first raid that saved fifty-one other canines as well as explaining all the evidence in a storylike manner. The book is broken into three sections, pre-raid, during the case, and post trial. In the first section he describes the test fights that Vick and his partners put the dogs through to see if they were agressive (the desired reaction). Unfortunately for Vick's dogs, most of them weren't of an agressive disposition and so they were drowned, hung, shot, beaten and tortured. As an animal lover it was extremely difficult for me to get through this part of the book. I just can't understand how a person can bring harm to an innocent being. It makes me sick.
The second section of the book detailed the case, from obtaining the warrant, meeting resistance in the county (due to Vick's popularity as an athlete and local hero), processing the evidence, getting confessions from the guilty parties, and bringing the trial to court. Gorant presented it all in such a way that I kept turning the page, needing to know if they were going to be able to get enough evidence to convict or if the county commonwealth attorney was going to be an obstacle. And finally, the third section of the story is about trying to rehabilitate the poor traumatized animals into pets.
Gorant litters "The Lost Dogs" with his own research in a way that you don't realize you're learning something until you pause and go huh, I never realized that. For example, Pit Bulls have only had their "scary, agressive, dangerous" tags for the last forty years. Before them it was the bloodhound, the doberman, and the german shepherd that each took their turns as being the banned breed. Prior to receiving their moniker in the 1970's pit bulls were known as fantastic family dogs, one of the friendliest and most loving and they were bred to be farm animals. But overpopulation and breeding purely to find the most agressive lines for underground fights has given them a bad name. Dogfighting isn't natural. It goes against canine nature. Dogs are pack animals and only get agressive when they are scared or threatened. Tosh would snap and growl at times when he was scared (he had a very odd fear of feet being too close to his head when he was lying down). The same can be said of any breed and yet we have allowed the mistakes of some (and by that I mean the disgusting people who continue to bet on and take place in dogfights) to turn an amazing breed into an outlaw.
I have dreams of in the future being able to adopt dogs (when I one day own my own place) and I would without a doubt consider adopting a pitbull. Truth be told I'm obsessed with westies and mastifs but I could probably fall in love with just about any canine. However, due to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) depending on where I live I may not even be allowed to own a pitbull. It just goes to show how misconceptions create widespread fear unnecessarily.
Sports enthusiast, animal lover, avid reader who needs another great read, whatever your reason you shouldn't hesitate to pick up "The Lost Dogs". And if you'd like to check out video, pictures and more infortmation about the author, the dogs, the wonderful people who put their lives on hold to help out these small victims, click here.
And now, back to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"...
Happy reading!
~Stephanie
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