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I just finished watching Michael Vick lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a come from behind victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The home crowd cheered for their quarterback as he passed and ran to bring his team to a one-point victory. As the commentators expounded on Vick’s abilities I once again considered about his criminal past.
Having read the near final galley version of Jim Gorant’s book “The Lost Dogs” when I worked in the animal welfare world I was struck by two things: Vick was incredibly bad at raising fighting dogs (many refused to fight and were killed) and he possessed a barbaric attitude towards dogs.
I was not surprised by the details Gorant compiled of how Vick and others treated his dogs, I had heard of worse cases. It wasn’t until I read the following excerpt that I knew Vick’s lack of empathy went deeper than his upbringing.
How Michael Vick Killed His Dogs
“And then there was one last body that stood out from the rest. It had signs of bruising on all four ankles and all along one side. Its skull was fractured in two places and it had four broken vertebrae. Brownie had said that all of the dogs that didn’t die from being hanged were drowned, except one.
“As that dog lay on the ground fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed her front legs and Michael Vick grabbed her hind legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn’t kill it. So Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at, alternating back and forth pounding the creature against the ground, until at last, the little red dog was dead.”
It is important to go past the surface when you read this excerpt. Imagine the steps that it took to do what Vick did. Picture seeing a dog that is lying at your feet, battered and bruised. You forced it to fight and now it was wheezing for air.
We’ve all felt a dog’s ankles. Imagine grabbing your dog’s feet, lifting her from the ground. You feel the 35 or so pounds hang from your grasp. Maybe the dog kicks a little or more likely, without any energy, she hangs limp. Maybe she gives a questioning stare or a slight whimper escapes from her throat. Your partner has the other feet, only a few feet separating your hands from his.
What do you say? How do you let him know that you want to slam her to the ground? Imagine the mechanics of swinging a rather short animal up and down like a jump rope. Do you lose your grip? Is she jerked from your hands as your partner also pulls her up and down?
You and your partner my gain a little rhythm as you swing her body in a circle, slamming her to the ground. Does she struggle as she realizes you are not helping her to recover but are trying to kill her? Does she receive a shot of energy once she realizes her fate and put up a struggle? Are you forced to grab her tighter as her legs bicycle kick against your gut?
The first solid swing to the ground doesn’t kill her but you feel the thud vibrate from her body, down her legs, and up your forearms. So you do it again and again and again. At what point do you stop? Do you listen for a heart beat? Do you stop after three crushing blows to the ground to listen for breath? Is blood bubbling from her mouth? Does her flesh tear open as her skull is crushed? Is she knocked unconscious, making her head roll loose on her neck?
When her skull fractures does she yelp? Does she further struggle to kick free from your hands? Does she go limp when her vertebrae break?
What do you do afterwards? Do you get a bite to eat? Watch a little television? What is the next phone call you make? Who is the next person you shake hands with? How would you feel the next day?
Most of these things are unimaginable to us. Horrifically, they are part of Michael Vick’s memory. He can answer all of these questions with factual statements. He can also throw a ball.
Here’s a video regarding a survivor of dog fighting that was rescued by my friends at the Washington Humane Society back in 2009. It was suspected that she was a bait dog, used to help fighting dogs practice until they die or are too maimed to function. Trooper was thrown out like trash, wrapped in a garbage bag, and found in a dumpster. Give her a look before you watch an Eagles game and see who you cheer for.