Bad Dawgs

One of Vick's Dogs

It was the haulocast for pits...

We all know about the cruelties of dog fighting for sport. It is morally wrong, completely illegal, and a predecessor for violent behavior later in life. But let’s face it; we may all love dogs, but the crime goes largely unnoticed. We see the drug dealers on the side streets in those unfavorable neighborhoods. We drive by drunk drivers being arrested, or worse, drunk drivers getting away with their crime. Kidnappings include television coverage on a daily basis, and murders are counted and analyzed on talk shows every year. All of this is noticeable and accepted as the price of living in this world. Animals, however, continue to be silent suffers.

Of course, everybody knows about the conviction of beloved football player Michael Vick on charges dealing with dog fighting. We know that he drowned dogs, and electrocuted them, and picked up family pets as “meat dogs”- dogs that were not trained to fight. America hasn’t met too many victims of this cruelty because there are few owners come forward.

Even I stayed quiet for most of it.

I lived in Surry county months before they found the ring, about a half mile out from where Michael Vick’s house was found. I lived in a house right off the main road. Our house was secluded with shrubbery. It was just me, my new husband, and my beloved chocolate colored pit, “Pup-pup”. Pup-pup was about a year old when we first got him. A man was driving through our apartment complex looking for someone to adopt this dog. The guy kept telling us that he was such a good dog, and he just didn’t have a place for him anymore. And he had to charge $100, to know that he was going to a good home. We gave him the money, received a dog bed that Pup-pup “wouldn’t sleep without”, half a bag of dog food and a studded collar. We were also informed that when Pup-pup did something bad, he was called Dozer, and he would know he was wrong.

Well, we took Pup-pup into our ill-prepared one bedroom apartment (at the time). The first thing this dog did was lift his leg and relieve himself all over the dog bed. I huffed, angry at our stupidity, and threw the bed into the dumpster down the street.

Pup-pup slept between my husband and I that night, belly up, head on the pillows, and slept like that every night after. We adored that dog. We would eventually change our work schedules so that we would be off by noon- plenty of time to take him to the local riverbanks unleashed, without fear of getting into trouble. He would fetch sticks in the water, jump around in the swamp, and once he even ran deer! He was high-spirited and full of surprise. If my husband picked a large enough stick, Pup-pup would grab on and hang with only his jaws while my husband curled him like a weight set.

That dog wouldn’t hurt a fly. Oftentimes my husband would get him really excited, and he would bark and growl an excited “let’s wrestle!” kind of growl. He would never hurt my husband, except for the times that Pup-pup nipped my husband’s behind, just to be funny. When Pup-pup was all worked up, I would jump in, ready to play and wrestle, and that dog never once wrestled with me. He would lick my cheek and calm down instantly.

While we lived in that one bedroom apartment, Pup-pup was always on a leash except for one time during the day- 3am, while we were getting ready for work, we let him run. You could almost count the seconds- he would run for 10 minutes straight, always within sight of the apartment, and come right back without being called. We had never taught him these things. He always just… knew.

So we moved to Surry county in July of 2006 to a little house off the main road. There was only one little driveway in and out, everything else was forest. We let him out one cold night… and he never came back.

We didn’t put two and two together for awhile. About 20 minutes after we last saw him, we took flashlights around for as far as we could walk. We were certain he might have spotted a deer or raccoon and darted off. My husband found two fresh bootprints at the edge of the road, with dogprints right beside them. Obviously, Pup-pup got too close to the road, and a cop or ranger must’ve picked him up and taken him to the pound. We checked every animal shelter that touched Surry’s borders. He wasn’t there.

A few months later, the dog fighting ring surfaced. We had lived opportunistically close to it, and a snatch and grab on the side of the road for a friendly dog that loved people was not completely unlikely. Pup-pup had never not come home before that night. We never recovered his dead or injured body in the forest or on the side of the road. He looked vicious, but he was nothing but beauty and kindness. Everything had happened so fast that I didn’t know where to look for my dog amongst the many recovered; besides, he wouldn’t have fought. He was likely dead after one fight.

Now many say that Michael Vick paid his dues and deserves his reconciliation with the public and the NFL. I say that they should allow him to raise such a deserving, wonderful dog like Pup-pup and have him snatched away without warning, never knowing what became of him. Or better yet, one of his daughters, because Pup-pup was almost my son. I couldn’t have any children. I imagined growing old with him.

My heart still aches, four years later, for my dog. From that night to today, I wished I hadn’t let him go out alone that night. Dogs don’t have voices, but people do. There are more Michael Vicks in the world, looking for that opportunity- and there are more courts that will drop counts of animal cruelty because someone is rich or famous. Keep your dogs safe, no matter how smart and friendly they are.

If I could speak to Michael Vick right now, I would tell him that he doesn’t deserve his beautiful children or his fancy house or nice career. What society fails to realize is that if he had been drunk driving and killed a person, he would have served more time than he did, on a misjudgement- an accident of character. He planned, funded, and executed dog-fighting for multiple months. This act was not an accident. He knew the legal ramifications of his acts, and he participated in the cruel killing of animals over and over again. He was clear of head and yet he still acted. He didn’t even need the money; this was purely sport. If he was just a man, not a football player, his life would be ruined.

I am a victim. Pup-pup was a victim. Just because the victims don’t have voices, doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt, or cry, or shake with fear at his hands. Remember that when you idiolize him.

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