As many of you know, I am a pit bull owner and lover of the breed as a whole. I think they are misunderstood and often misguided into lives that they certainly do not deserve, but which ultimately leads to terrible stereotypes. That being said, I wanted to give you an unbiased, honest review of this book, rather than insert my own strong opinions into the review, but unfortunately, being that this is a subject so very close to my heart, it just isn't going to happen! First, I give you a review of the book in terms of detail, writing, and fact-giving, and after, you'll get my loud and ranting opinion. :)
If you are a dog lover or an animal lover of any sort, you must read this book. It will probably rip your heart into pieces, but it is such an important book, needing to be read, passed around and understood. Jim Gorant takes us through the process of investigating football player Michael Vick for his role in a dog fighting operation in Virginia, the subsequent seizing of over fifty dogs, and follows the rehabilitation of almost all of the dogs taken from Vick's property.
From Vick's early friendships from his hometown of Newport News, to his years of getting into trouble prior to being drafted into the National Football League, we are able to see the issues brewing long before his involvement in creating one of the biggest dog fighting rings in history. Gorant investigated the case exceptionally well, giving us background on the detectives involved, as well as the rescue workers that took in dog after dog, determined to give them a second chance, no matter how long and challenging the road to rehabilitation, rather than simply euthanize.
The amount of detail is staggering, especially when describing the living conditions of the animals while still owned by Michael Vick and the end some of the dogs met, but also in the manner of which each dog was actually rehabilitated. Extensive research was done into the history of the breed and the current stereotypes surrounding them. It was obvious that Gorant wanted to not only break stereotypes of pit bulls, but also to open the readers' eyes to the fact that in almost every case, no matter what has happened to a dog, they still have love to give and lessons to learn. In the beginning, these dogs were terrified of absolutely everything, didn't understand the meaning of play or toys, and often didn't want to be touched. What they ended up as is amazing family pets, loved by children and adults alike, and full of life. A gracious second chance was all they needed.
By no means an easy read, but an important one.
Now for my own, biased opinions. Ready? It is not for me to judge Michael Vick in his actions, though I do believe he should be seeking help for whatever troubles have plagued him enough to believe that fighting dogs is a normal way of bringing in money. Vick, like these dogs, has been given a second chance. He has been re-signed to play NFL football, though this current contract states that he can be let go at anytime without repercussions. Everyone, people, dogs, etc. can be rehabilitated and I just hope that Michael Vick will, at some point, take the steps necessary to right his wrongs against animals.
As for stereotypes about pit bulls and their companion breeds of American Pit Bull Terrier (which is what my Shae happens to be) and American Staffordshire Terrier, I say that it is exactly like stereotyping people for their race or upbringing. Every culture, every town, every race, every religion has bad people, but not every single one of those people are bad or unable to be rehabilitated.
"Most people have been led to believe that pit bulls are mindless attack machines, and while they can have the inclination to be aggressive towards other dogs, the reality is that free of negative influences, they're not much different than any other breed (104)."
"There are few breeds in the world that thrive more on human attention. The desire to please, to get the pat on the head, is part of what drives them to persist in the pit (110)."
All quotations were taken from a galley copy of this book. I have yet to see a published copy to check to see if the pages are the same, however, I felt they were important to include.
The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption
Review copy borrowed