Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Lost Dogs Found

Zeus leaps onto the bed and rolls on his back. Its 8:30 in the morning. Zeus isn't allowed to sleep in the bed and this is his version of a wake-up call. Before he can get into gear I put my hand on his chest and say "No wild dog, just snuggle time." He relents and I rub his belly and scratch his chest for a bit before rising to let out Isaac, who is whining at the back door.

As I pass through the dining room there it is on the table. The book. Its bright red cover taunting me, daring me to crack it open. I said I was going to read it this week and here I was half-way through my vacation and the only thing I'd read were the acknowledgements. I pick it up and drop it on the couch on my way by to let out Isaac, then I go into the kitchen to make coffee and feed the cat. I pass the couch, pass it again, there's the book, it stands out beautifully against the sage slipcover.

I know the story of Michael Vick and his dogs well and I've been wanting to read Jim Gorant's book ever since it hit the shelves.But now that I have it, a part of me isn't sure that I want to relive the Vick case. Finally coffee in hand, I crack the cover and begin to read.

Gorant writes well, very well and its because of this that for me at first it was tough going. The details of how Vick and his cronies tortured and killed his dogs are not new to me, yet reading it again three years later, I feel stressed and anxious just the same.Twenty minutes in I have to put the book down. I look at my dog Maddie, snoring away, fat and happy on the couch next to me. All of my dogs are rescues and although none of them were fought, each was a victim of cruelty. I run my hand down the curve of her back, kiss her on the head, pick up the book and continue on.

The details of  Surry County Deputy Bill Brinkman, USDA Agent Jim Knorr and US Attorney Mike Gill's refusal to let the case go is a triumph. Without them, there is no doubt the case would have quietly gone away and all of the dogs would have suffered and died in vain. At the time, I wondered why they accepted a plea deal from Vick, they had a ton of evidence, more than enough it seemed. But as I read the book it occurred to me that perhaps they did it for the dogs. These three men were the dog's first advocates.

Ultimately, The Lost Dog's isn't about Michael Vick, its about the dogs and the people who worked tirelessly on their behalf. Gorant tells their story with compassion and without sensationalism. The stories are heart warming and heartbreaking and Gorant masterfully weaves each tale, not telling everything all at once, but little by little, bit by bit, letting us progress just as the dogs themselves did. Their miracles didn't happen over night, but they happened and that is the joy of their story. There are many happy endings for the Bad Newz Kennel survivors and some sad ones too. 

Three of the dogs never got a chance for a happy ending. Two died at one of the shelters under circumstances that remain a mystery and one, Sussex 2621, was so damaged by her experience at Bad Newz Kennels that she could not be placed and was euthanized. She died without feeling the sun on her face, the kind and gentle touch of a human hand, she died without a name. It is her story that brings tears to my eyes and it is her story that makes my heart ache.Yet I am thankful that at least she no longer had to suffer and that her death, when it came, was compassionate, not cruel.

If you've been on the fence about reading The Lost Dogs, I encourage you to read it. If you haven't considered reading it, I encourage you to consider it. You're not a dog person? Doesn't matter. It may speak to you in a different way than it did me, after all we are all individuals just like the dogs, but it will move you, I promises you that. All you need do is see it through to the end.

Zeus leaps onto the bed and rolls on his back. This morning, I sit up and watch as he wiggles like a snake, every part of his eighty pound body in motion, feet kicking, massive head flailing from side to side, mouth open wide, tail thumping.  The wild dog dance is in full effect and as I take it all in,  I smile and say "Do that wild dog dance Z-man. Its good to be alive."


  1. Just realized I'd missed your latest post. I know I should read The Lost Dogs - I have had the same hesitation you did, that it will be too upsetting. But it is a wonderful testament to the nature of these dogs that so many of them were able to recover from their past as they have.