I have been moving book reviews (especially about animals) to this, my new website, from Examiner. The review for “The Lost Dogs” was one of my first Examiner.com book reviews. I am showing it as new because with Michael Vick back playing football, it’s relevant to revisit just what he did and why people are so shocked that he’s back as if nothing happened. This book is beautifully written with horrible truths. It’s a must-read, if you haven’t already read it, really.
Rating: 5 stars
The Lost Dogs is a book about many things. It is about how perseverance and caring can triumph over millions of dollars and heartless bureaucracy. Most of all, it is the story of the resilience of a much-misunderstood and much-maligned breed, the pit bull.
This book about the Michael Vick dogs is divided into three sections: Rescue, Reclamation and Redemption. In Rescue, the story of the investigation and its accidental beginning is interspersed with the story of a little brown dog and a little red dog. This first section is the most difficult part of the book to read. It details the inhumanity of dog fighting and dog fighters. It shows dog fighting not as a glorious “sport” but as a cruel and illegal activity that is closely linked to drugs and illegal weapons. There is no glory in dog fighting. It is bloody and savage, and it dehumanizes those who participate in it.
The rest of the book is about the fight to save the dogs. Reclamation details the events that created the miracle: the dogs were not all euthanized. Even respected animal welfare groups thought that the Vick dogs should all be euthanized. (They have since publicly changed their minds.) A small group of dog-lovers fought long and hard for the chance to treat the VIck dogs, which included former fighters, dogs which had been used as bait and dogs which had not yet begun to fight, as individual dogs who each deserved a chance to show their true temperament.
From the start, the rescuers had hoped that 10% of the dogs, around five dogs, would pass the test they devised. Jim Gorant’s excellent writing enables the reader to feel the joy and excitement when the first two dogs tested passed. Of course, there was the dog who was so terrorized that he vomited when someone tried to pull him out of the kennel. Gorant describes the testing process so completely that the reader feels the heat of the Virginia summer day and can easily picture the sights and smells of the dogs.
Redemption is the part of the story where the reader meets the individual dogs. Appropriately, this ending third of the book is the most hopeful. Here is where the reader learns about the former fighting dogs who now read books with toddlers. About former fighting dogs who visit hospitals and nursing homes to bring love to the residents there. About the former fighting dogs who live happily and gently with other dogs, children and cats.
There is a message in Gorant’s words. If dogs can be subjected to the worst conditions, terrorized for years both emotionally and physically, and still transform into loving companions–essentially forgiving us as a race for those acts of violence–then perhaps we can hope to follow in their footsteps and be as capable of forgiveness and love.
This is a book that every dog lover–every animal lover–should own and display proudly on their bookshelf–next to a box of Kleenex.