Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption" by Jim Gorant

"The Lost Dogs" by Jim Gorant
First published in 2010
279 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads


The Short Of It:
This sometimes-difficult, sometimes-endearing book details the Michael Vick dog fighting investigation and the unprecedented fate of the rescued pit bulls. It's a great read for any dog lover -- and an essential one for anybody who thinks he's a fan of Michael Vick (grrrr!).

The Long Of It:
"The Lost Dogs" will sicken you. It'll make you angry. It might make you cry. It will also make you smile, laugh and cheer for the resilient group of pitbulls rescued in 2007 from a dog fighting ring bankrolled by NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

The investigation of Bad Newz Kennels -- housed on Vick's rural Virginia property -- quickly became the most high-profile dog fighting case ever. "The Lost Dogs" details the investigation and court proceedings, but the book's main focus is on what happened to the 51 dogs taken from the Vick compound.

Normal protocol for rescued fighting dogs at that time was automatic euthanasia. But some people on the Vick case wanted these pitbulls to have a chance, and they argued for a different, unprecedented tactic. Eventually it was agreed that the dogs would be evaluated individually by a panel of experts, the options being fostering/adoption, sanctuary and euthanasia.

No one could fully predict how the Vick dogs would react in the real world, but all but one were given a shot -- an amazing surprise and a huge victory for the law enforcement officers and rescuers trying to give the pitbulls a second chance. The dogs had a lot to overcome, but despite their almost across-the-board fear issues, many went on to be adopted. A handful even became therapy dogs -- and by default perfect ambassadors for the misunderstood pitbull breed.

I initially had a hard time getting into "The Lost Dogs." The first section, which tells the story of the intrepid group of people determined to bring Vick to justice, was a little dry at times and I had trouble keeping the main players straight. It was also really hard to read about the conditions at the Vick "kennels" and the horrific murders of the underperforming canines. ("Vick and friends had not simply eliminated these dogs with a cold efficiency, they'd beaten them first. This revelation added another layer of brutality to an already nasty case.") I ended up putting it down for a few weeks, but when I picked it back up I whizzed through the rest of the investigation section and then devoured the second half, about what happened to the dogs after they were taken from Vick's compound.

"The Lost Dogs" really opened my eyes to the horrors of dog fighting and I learned a lot about dog fighting in general and the Michael Vick case in specific. The author helps us feel connected to the animals by focusing on the stories of a few particular dogs, and even writing from the dogs' perspectives at times. I wish the book had been more tightly edited -- the writing wasn't terrible but it definitely could've been better, and there were a few annoying typos. Still, though, I'm so glad someone decided to tell this important story. 

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