(This is part of our series on books about dogs. Have one to recommend? Let us know.)
When the Vick dogfighting case first broke, I tried to avoid the news coverage. What little I heard horrified and disgusted me, and I couldn’t handle any more gory details.
But when Jim Gorant’s new book, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption” came out, I had to read it. Maybe it was knowing that at least a few of the dogs had a happy ending made it easier to handle. Whatever it was, once I picked up the book I couldn’t stop reading.
The book is written mainly as factual narration, sprinkled with stories written from the perspective of some of the dogs. Those parts give the book a completely different feel than if it was simply a book-length article on the Vick dogfighting case; the imagined accounts from the dog’s eyes make it more real and heartbreaking, and put the rest of the book in better context. The dogs’ story is told in 3 parts: Rescue, Reclamation and Redemption.
In Rescue, Gorant – a dog lover himself - spares us some of the nastiest parts of Vick’s dogfighting operation. Still, there’s enough to make a sensitive reader’s stomach turn. But even from this section, which is heaviest on the abuse, there’s an underlying theme of hope starting with the men determined to rescue and get justice for these dogs.
One thing that made the Vick case unique is that the dogs were evaluated individually for their potential to be adopted, rather than considered as a group like in most dogfighting cases (which usually leads to euthanasia of all the dogs). Reclamation details the outpouring of support from across the nation and how the team of experts, rescue groups and dog lovers that would determine the path for the Vick dogs came together. Again, the theme of hope runs deep as the team looks for the best future for the dogs.
Redemption very realistically looks at the ups and downs of rehabilitating abused dogs. It follows the journey of a few dogs in detail, showing the variety of circumstances the dogs came from, even within the same dogfighting ring, and how drastically different the paths could be for each one. Some are now family pets; some live in sanctuaries; some are therapy dogs. The majority of the Vick dogs are now happy and healthy, something very few dared hope for at the start. The amount of love poured into this work by volunteers is astonishing; the desire of these dogs, after all they’ve been through, to love and be loved is inspiring.
Though some parts of the book are difficult to get through, the book is a must-read for dog lovers. It highlights the best of dogs – their love, loyalty, the joyful spirit that draws us to them – and gives us hope that even horrific circumstances can produce beautiful results. It is a great read.
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