Friday, January 7, 2011

Why They Love the Monster

People cheer for the monster. They reward it with piles of money and fancy cars. They put it on television and worship its glory. They hope, dream and pray that it vanquishes its opponents. The President of the United States has praised its new employer for giving it a second chance.

A second chance... Yeah, that must be nice. Of course, if you are a dog that the monster abused, forced against your nature to fight another dog that was equally abused, and you had the audacity to lose... you did not get a second chance. You got lynched, drowned or smashed into the ground... maybe all three... until you were dead. Painfully dead. No second chance.

Of course, if you won, then you did get that second chance. A second chance to once again fight your canine brother or sister for the sick pleasure of the monster. You just had to be sure you did not lose. You were fighting for your life. You lose. You die. No second chance.

Obviously the monster I am referring to is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and vicious dog killer Michael Vick. I refer to Vick as "it" because I cannot bring myself to recognize Michael Vick as a man. A man does not abuse helpless animals. A man does not kill a creature that knows only loyalty and trust. A man does not do the things Michael Vick did.

So why do people cheer for the monster? Why did the Eagles hire it and why would anyone want their business or product associated with it? Why would anyone want to see it succeed in anything? Why does President Obama think it deserves a second chance?

Part of the problem (and yes, this is a problem if we are to ever truly be a civilized society that values life and has any hope of living in peace with one another) is the misconceptions about certain breeds of dogs. The media focused on Vick's pit bulls, so a large part of society just looked at it like the monster was just letting pit bulls be pit bulls. But this is not what pit bulls do.

What pit bulls do, when raised as they should be with love and gentle kindness, is protect those they love, give companionship to their masters, play with anyone willing to spend a few minutes tossing a ball around, and basically give back ten times the love they receive. They do not attack. They do not fight other dogs (unless protecting their loved ones). They never intentionally cause pain.

Another reason is some people do not care at what price victory comes. The monster is a great football player. No one denies that. The monster wins games. The football fans who support it want it to win games. So they just ignore what it has done. They rationalize that the crime had nothing to do with football. They just want to win.

They do not realize, or at least do not think about, the suffering the monster caused the dogs that were not winners. They do not realize that justice would be for this animal to be put down the first time it lost a game, the same as this vile creature did to the animals that lost for it. Most of all, they do not realize what the world has lost when a dog is turned into a fighter, is killed because it did not develop the killer instinct, or dies in a fight with another dog.

Every dog is a potential beloved companion to someone who desperately needs a sincere friend. Every dog has an immense amount of unconditional love to give to someone deserving or even less than deserving. A dog never demands perfection and willingly gives unlimited second chances. Every dog can become not just a pet but a beloved part of a family.

Dogs are intelligent creatures. They may not be able to multiply fractions or write best-selling novels, but they can figure out what is expected of them. Dogs have a desperate desire, an undeniable need, to please their master. When treated with kindness, a dog rewards the master with dedication, loyalty and friendship. This is truest of some of the breeds that are most feared by those not familiar with them -- rottweilers, dobermans... and pit bulls.

Because of the misconceptions about these breeds, many people see these dogs as less deserving of humane treatment than some other dogs that may be considered more cute and cuddly. But these breeds, pit bulls included, are as loving and ready to snuggle as they could possibly be. They do not just enjoy it. They practically live for it. And indeed, these dogs deserve to live for it.

I am a sports fan. I can forgive Pete Rose for betting on baseball games. I can forgive John McEnroe for all his antics on the tennis court. I can forgive all the players in various sports who used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. I can even forgive boxer Mike Tyson for biting off Evander Holyfield's ear. Well, almost. But I cannot forgive a monster that kills loving, caring beings that had so much to give the world.

I would like to recommend two books for both dog lovers and anyone who does not understand how special a dog is. The first is The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant and it is about the dogs Michael Vick and its cohorts abused, now known as the Vicktory Dogs. It describes what their life was like chained in an open field and forced into a life of aggression as well as what they have become once freed from that horrible life. It is, as the cover states, a tale of rescue and redemption.

The book has a happy ending but I would only caution those who read it not to become too elated thinking this is the fate of all dogs rescued from dogfighting rings. In fact, this is the exception as the more common outcome is that these innocent creatures are euthanized even when rescue organizations volunteer to take them on because judges do not understand that these animals can be saved.

Shockingly, even the Humane Society of America and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals inexplicably usually support putting down the animals in these situations without first trying to rehabilitate them. Fortunately there are people like Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, one of the organizations who took in many of the Vicktory Dogs, who understand these dogs can be saved and are doing what it takes to do so. Hopefully their success will help bring change so that more dogs can be saved.

The second book I would like to recommend is A Big Little Life, a memoir of his dog, Trixie, by Dean Koontz. He tells Trixie's story not only from the time he and his wife adopted her until her passing years later, but also he discusses her life prior to coming into his home. She quickly became a part of their family, a treasured companion and much like a daughter to them, but Trixie was a special girl even before she met Dean Koontz.

The golden retriever was a retired support animal having previously helped a disabled lady until medical problems ended Trixie's career early. She was trained from birth to meet the special needs of her human companion and from all accounts she loved the work and did a great job.

It is impossible to read this book without realizing just how special a dog can be. Not only was her younger years dedicated to serving her special master, but her later years filled the lives of her new family with joy. But I warn you, in the end when Trixie passes, though you know it is inevitable, it will break your heart.

No one should be allowed to treat a dog the way the monster did. And yet out there in this cold hard world, there are other monsters just like Michael Vick. They are looking at this monster and thinking maybe what they are doing isn't so bad. People cheer this monster. People give him big rewards. Nobody seems to care about the dogs who were murdered by the monster. They are just dogs.

Yes, they are just dogs. But dogs are something special and they deserve to be treated with respect, kindness and caring. Michael Vick can never make up for what he did to those dogs so he can never truly pay for it. A few months in prison is hardly punishment for brutally taking the lives of those dogs that did not survive and the pain and torture endured by those that did.

Why do they love the monster? The only answer I can find, as much as it pains me as a human being to admit, is that they love the monster because the monster is them. Or at least a part of them. And that is a very scary thought indeed.

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