Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dog Fighting: Say What?

I apologize in advance. This is a disturbing topic. If you'd prefer not reading about it, let alone thinking about it, don't. I have another post following this one dealing with something much lighter.

I hear about people doing awful things and it never fails. I find myself thinking it can't get any worse than this. Then it does. So, of course, when I first heard the news about Michael Vick being charged and ultimately pleading guilty to dog fighting charges, I was flabbergasted.

Beneath the tint of my rosy glasses I wasn't even aware something so barbaric was becoming popular. Why would a person, any person, do this? What joy could someone possibly take from watching two dogs kill themselves?

Especially this guy. He should be at the top of the world. He's the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. Their face. Their star. A guy who signed a 10 year, $130 million contract back in 2004.

I don't even want to think about the cold blooded attitude it would take to train a dog to kill. And don't kid yourself. Pit bulls might be bred as fighters, but the people who do this consider it a sport. They're competetive about it. They don't just want their dog to kill. They want their dog to be the best at killing, the strongest, the fastest, the most brutal. So they can win. Apparently a lot of money.

I can't even fathom it.

So who's to blame? Obviously, first and foremost, Vick, who apologized by saying, "What I did was very immature. That means I need to grow up."

Huh? I honestly don't know what to think about that apology. I'm inclined to believe he's only sorry because he got caught. But what happens if he doesn't grow up?

What about the coaches, managers and team owners of professional sports teams? What responsibilities do they have with regard to the morality of their players?

What about collegiate athletes? The training grounds for our pros. It seems you can barely turn around without hearing about rapes, drug abuse, or other misconduct.

What about us? The fans. For turning a blind eye to our favorite team's/player's indiscretions? For requiring our sports teams to win above all else?

Basically, what I have are alot of questions and not a lot of answers.

What do you think?



Michele Hauf said...

Vick's unfeeling apology had me gaping at the TV. Where was the plea to kids, his biggest fans, not do do what he had done? To be kind to animals?

I saw a cartoon in the StarTribune this weekend that was perfect. It showed a cage of rapid dogs, and standing before it were two jailors, with Vick in the middle. They said something like "It'll only be a few years." as then intended to put him in the cage.



Helen Brenna said...

Exactly, Michele, about that apology. It seemed so lacking. Wish I'd seen that cartoon - sounds so appropriate.

lois greiman said...

Vick doesn't need to grow up. He needs to grow a soul, and some people never quite manage that.

Betina said...

I, too, was astonished at Vick's lame "apology."

What really got me was the comment about how he'd "found Jesus." (I say I've been saved and you "good Christians" out there can't be mad at me anymore.) The equivalent of "King's X" in a childhood game: meaning a mandatory time out and you can't "get" me during it. Talk about immature. Talk about manipulative. It made my blood boil.

Moments later I was genuinely ashamed of myself. Yet again. Because here's where the rubber meets the road for me, compassion-wise. If dear old Jesus were here, he'd probably give Michael Vick a piercing look that sees right through to his hardened-but-struggling heart and then go home with him for dinner.

And here I am judging the man and insisting that he can't be truly sorry because he doesn't sound sorry to me. One thing I do know is that if anyone needs the healing of forgiveness, Michael Vick does. Personally, I'm glad that forgiveness is God's job and not mine. I'd screw it up big-time.

I think that's what the whole love your enemies thing was about. . . loving those who do really awful things. . . getting past it and changing the world one act of forgiveness and loving kindness at a time. Clearly I've got some growing to do myself.

And, Helen, my opinion is that the way major athletes are protected, exempted, and "hand raised" for ever bigger and heavier competition, both agrandizes and infantalizes them. They are told they're capable of anything and entitled to everything. Then they're told where to go, when to sleep, what to eat, what to wear. . . how to sit, stand, and speak.

Many athletes in big, NFL-favored college programs never have to think for themselves or make normal decisions(like what classes to take) or confront the normal pains of young adulthood. They're "tended" all through college, then released into the privileged world of pro sports without much guidance and with few internal restraints. They've been given the keys to the candy store. If they want it, they believe they're entitled to have it. . . and that includes what some of them think is "gangsta cool," "manly," and "dangerous". . . like guns and drugs and rape and dog fighting.

I can't help thinking that as fans and tax-payers and parents we're partly to blame for the way we've let our schools and universities become muscle farms for the pro sports industry.

One last point and then I'll hush. Pro athletes from poor backgrounds are often saddled with burdens of guilt for having succeeded. . . feel bound to help out their old friends to prove they haven't "sold out." This may be part of the trap Vick fell into. . . funding his old buddies' illegal activities to prove he's still one of the crew.

Because down deep what we all truly want is to belong.

Helen Brenna said...

Betina, sweetheart, though I agree with everything you said, you are so much more forgiving than me. I keep thinking, "Yes, but ..."

Lois, maybe there is a a soul there, but it's a soul that could use a few thousand years of life as a dog.

Betina said...

I'm not sure I'm particularly forgiving about this, Helen. I'm really struggling with it. There's a big part of me that would like to implement that cartoon. . . stick him in with a dozen of his own dogs for a few hours and see how he fares. THAT would be justice. Old style.

Like I said, I've got some growing yet to do.

Honestly, I like your idea of requiring him to spend a few hundred years in a dog's body. Talk about your growth experiences!

MsHellion said...

I'm not very forgiving.

But I agree with Betina about what has groomed this guy into the criminal he is today--and also the motive to why he did it. To belong has got to be in the top five human needs--and it's amazing what we'll do, what pieces of our soul we'll give away to get it. It's crazy.

Of course, don't get me started at how schools seem to back all those athletic programs, but they can't afford to buy the books we need to learn properly. Or if there is an award to give out for catching a ball, there is money galore to support it; but having a ceremony to acknowledge brains--well, there's no funds for that. (Okay, maybe that was my school. I told you I wasn't forgiving.)

flip said...

In my law practice, I have seen some weird stuff. You become aware of subcultures within our society. I mean weird stuff like skin heads and white aryan nation idiots. But I have never seen or heard one word about dogfighting. This must be its own subculture and it must be very tightlipped.

Actually, I think the NFL commissioner has been doing great on bad behavior by players. He is punishig them. It is a huge contrast to Bud Selig of the MLB who would just like the steriod debate go away or to the University of Colorado who ignored claims of rape by women.

Most people condemn Vicks behavior. They went to his hometown. Most people said if you do the crime, you should do the crime. Many African Americans said that they did not think Vicks prosecution was the least bit racist.

flip said...

I love sports. I think that kids should be involved in sports. Depending on the sport, they are a lot of valuable lessons. The problem isn't the sports, it is the coaches,parents, and fans who think winning is everything.

I once coached 10 year old girls in softball. I could not believe the behavior of some parents.

Helen Brenna said...

Money for sports programs at schools vs. everything else. Good point. All that funding started out as a great idea, but has somehow gotten twisted as Flip pointed out.

Yes, Flip, I do believe the whole dog fighting thing is very tightlipped. It's a felony in most states. If there's one good thing about all of this, it's brought the problem to the forefront. The Humane Society's probably happy bout that.

Skinhead and white aryan nation idiots - like I said - rose tinted glasses.

Debra Dixon said...

I'm not forgiving at all. I'm appalled that Jeffry Toobin (sp?) on CNN said he felt the apology was genuine.

I had to turn the television off when they began showing tape of dog fights again.

I'm thrilled Vick will go to prison. I can only hope it is real prison, with criminals who don't watch football.

But chances are they'll all know who he is and he'll be protected inside just as he's been protected outside.

Betina-- You are a gracious and deep soul. Me? Not so much.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Here comes Kathleen with her anecdote. When I was about 10 and we were living on Guam I overheard my parents talking about somebody going to a cock fight. I think my parents had gone to some kind of event where this was going on as part of the "entertainment," and Mama was saying that it was illegal. I'm not sure what Daddy's response was. I just know that Mama hadn't expected to run into it, and she was upset. I asked her about it. "What's cock fighting?" She told me. I remember asking why anyone would want to watch, and she said that they liked to bet on which animal would win, but it was awful to watch.

Different strokes? This was Guam in the 50's, less than a dozen years after the end of the war. Big cultural changes in the works. I also remember going to a traditional outdoor feast at which the pig was hung upside down and the throat was cut. Mama caught me and dragged me away before I saw the actual slaughter, but I heard the squealing. ("Silence of the Lambs" reminded me of that moment.) The chickens were slaughtered on the spot, too. Everyone but the Pierson kids got to watch. Later it was the kids' job to pluck the chickens, and I was allowed to take part. (Mama had plucked a few in her day.) My overall memory of the event is pleasant--a family time shared with other families who did things a little differently from the way we did.

So what does this have to do with dog fighting? It's an awful practice. It's illegal (thanks be to God). There's no excuse for Vick's behavior, and he should pay a steep price. Publicly, so that the young people who look up to him see this particular behavior for what it is--cruelty. I hope he'll tell them so himself.

But why is some of this stuff okay and some not? What about this aerial shooting of wolves I read about in the paper last week? What about hunting on a "game farm"? How can that be a sport? How about bull fighting? We've had a few matador heroes in our romances.

How about boxing? And football itself. I just saw a special about all the head injuries these modern gladiators of ours suffer, and we never hear about them because most of them are the tackles and the linemen who don't get paid as much as Vick and don't make the sports headlines.

And what about show dogs? Do we realize how much damage "dog lovers" have done to these animals by breeding for traits that get them points in shows? Eye problems, breathing problems, heart problems. Hip dysplasia is rampant in some breeds. You can hardly find a German Shepherd in this country without it, and it's because they get points for that low-slung back end. A vet told me that square-hipped breeds like Boxers don't know anything but pain, and that after a show they go back into the kennel on a dose of painkiller.

Mind you again, no excuses for Vick's behavior. His case is calling some national attention to an entertainment issue that's a little more important than how many minutes the starlets spend behind bars. (Okay, the drug and alcohol issue is very important, but that's not the part we're focusing on, is it? They're doing prescription drugs, and when they get drug and act like drunks, it makes such good TV.)

Public outrage is a good thing. I hope it makes us question a broad rage of activity and realize that dog-eat-dog competition is something our society encourages. And maybe we need to take a serious look at where that particular value takes us.

Just some random thoughts.

Helen Brenna said...

Deb, ditto on the prison.

Kathy, I don't think some of this is okay and some isn't. To me, most of what you desribed is inhumane. Splitting hairs.

I don't think, though, that you can fairly compare dog fighting to boxing or football.

Dog's have no say in the matter. People choose to box and play football.

Christie Ridgway said...

I keep erasing what I write here. I'm so mad that animals would be treated in such a fashion!

I'm going to go hug my dog right now.

Keri Ford said...

This whole thing has been just terrible. My husband told me about it the other night and made the comment he was glad to Vick going to jail. Apparently, Vick had been involved several unsavory things in his day and because he's famous, he always got off.

It is so sad how there are helpless animals out there subjective to this kind of treatment.

flip said...

I just heard on Espn that Vick has hired a big time PR firm.

Somehow, I don't think the federal judge sentencing Vick will be moved by his PR firm.

Helen Brenna said...

My kids are always saying things like, I wish I was a dog. And I'm always thinking, you have no idea.

Keri, I didn't know Vick had a history of trouble. Sounds like someone who deserves everything they throw at him.

Flip, I've been thinking that apology and all his cooperation is spin. He's scared to death he won't be able to play ever again. There's some talk he won't be out of prison until he's 29. But I'm guessing the only way any football team will touch him is if there's a PERCEPTION he's sorry or has changed. I'm not buying it.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wow. Just looking back at my comment. Way too long. Sorry.

Helen, I didn't mean to say that YOU think some of this stuff is okay and some not. But some is socially and legally acceptable, and I really don't understand why.

Animals really have no say in any of the sports we sign them up for, do they? Huskies like the cold and they seem to be happy to pull sleds for hundreds of miles, but have any of them ever said they wanted to do this? We say it's in their nature, and maybe it is. The truth is, dogs will fight to the death in nature. My daughter's Giant Malamute nearly killed our old Aussie one day, and our s-i-l nearly got chewed up in the process of pulling the 200 lb pup off the dog that had been, until that minute, the alpha of their little pack. No warning, no rhyme or reason, just instinct. Malamute suddenly decided Old Aussie's reign was over and went, literally, for the jugular.

No, I'm not in any way saying that dog fighting is acceptable or natural. These dogs are bred to perform--as are other breeds--often to the detriment of the dog's health. And never does anyone ask. More than any other animal, dogs seem happy to do whatever people ask them to do.

In fact, I remember a psych prof saying that the dog is the only animal that actually prefers the company of individuals of another specie (species?) to its own. All too often that trust is misplaced.

But I do think it's fair to compare sports like boxing and football with dog fighting on some level. People who chose to get involved in those sports are generally young and impressionable, and very often, as Betina mentioned, they come from poor economic backgrounds. The risk of serious brain damage is a given, but that's not what they're choosing. Like dogs and gladiators of old, they're looking for a chance to dominate. They're socialized for it. They get drugs to maximize their chances and drugs to quell the pain. All for the entertainment of the masses.

Okay, so I'm not a fan of football or boxing or hunting for sport. Bottom line--the financial part has become insane. But I do like basketball, and I know too many of those guys are way overpaid and lack character these days.

I miss Kevin Garnett!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Flip, the PR firm is the name of the game these days. Heard on the news that the diapered astronaut stalker hired a PR firm. Poor woman, that monitor thing is chafing her ankle and making it so inconvenient for her to go swimming! (Innocent until proven guilty, I know, but she's not in jail, and it seems that she just might be a threat to the other parts of that lovely triangle.)

I wish I could afford to hire a big PR firm. All I want to do is promote my books.

Helen Brenna said...

I'm totally with you on the KG side, Kathy. Minnesota's going to miss him!

Michele Hauf said...

Oh boy, on that 'I found Jesus' comment Vick made. I heard that on the TV, turned to my husband and said "Really? What if Jesus was one in one of those dogs?" And probably was. It's very sad.


Ktzmom said...

Michael Vick is scum. He hung dogs who didn't fight well and if that didn't work he held their heads under water until they drown. Sick sick sick. Five years isn't long enough for this scumbag.

Cindy Gerard said...

The truly sad thing here is that the 'sport' of dog fighting is huge in this country and many others. Sadly, Vick's prosecution will not slow it down for long if at all. And frankly, I don't care what kind of a background Vick came from. The man is scum - sorry Betina, you're a better person than I. I can't forgive any part off the brutality Vick and his cronies inflicted on these defenseless animals.
And Kathy, sweetie, while I understand your dislike of sports in general and do appreciate your arguments, I've seen how wonderfully positive organized athletics can be for children. It's when gung ho competitive drive gets involved that things sometimes get ugly. That's where parenting comes in - to insure that the games remain games to be played for the fun of it.

Helen Brenna said...

Can't wait to see that vigilante movie Jodi Foster's in that'll be out soon. I think it's called The Brave One. Lot of people feeling that way these days, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I think Michael Vick should be banned from all professional sports for life. If he gets 5 years it will be no where near enough time for his crimes. Dogs should be cared for like pets, not killed because they don't try to kill other animals. I know he had a rough time growing up, but you can rise above your troubles and choose to be a good person. As for him saying he "found Jesus", I hope he has and it isn't just to try and get people to feel that he suddenly has changed. He might not have placed any bets on the fights, but by raising, training, and killing those dogs he will have to do more than say he has "found Jesus" for me to believe he has changed. Sorry for all the rambling, but it just makes me so mad.


Betina Krahn said...

I've been thinking about this all day and I really think I'll hate the NFL forever if they let Vicks come back to play. Lots of people say he can be "rehabilitated" whatever that means. Fine rehabilitate him. . . somewhere far, far away from a game that influences impressionable youths. He's forfeited his right to that kind of influence and success.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wow, Helen, you hit on something we all want to talk about. Thanks for the venting post! You've inspired me to make a contribution to the Humane Society. I'm going to check to see whether I can do it easily online.

Cindy,I don't dislike sports in general. Far from it. Lots of athletes in our families. But I'm not a fan of the more violent aspects of some sports. Mind you, my brother played football and DH did a little boxing in high school. (I much prefer wrestling to boxing.) #1 son played midget football and later coached jr hi football when he was a teacher's aide. So, yes, I know it can be a good thing. But in my lifetime, I've seen a steady migration toward the extreme "on so many levels." These are games and should be regarded as such.

As for dogs, we human beings have a way to go to become worthy of the kind of loyalty and trust they give us unstintingly.

Helen Brenna said...

Ramble away, Liza. I think most of us agree wholeheartedly with your assessment.

Betina, your claws are showing!

You're right, Kathy. This does seem to be a topic that resonated. And you're so right about the loyalty and trust of dogs. They just want to please us.

My mom told me about a prayer she'd heard once - "God, please help me be as good a person as my dog thinks I am."

Samantha Hunter said...

Hey folks -- busy writing day and coming in here late, but wanted to add a comment.

I've been following this from the start, and think Vick should have the book thrown at him and worse -- but the Feds and other law enforcement will hopefully start addressing the dog fighting problem more generally -- there have been good strides in making laws for animal cruelty more severe, and upholding those laws -- but dogfighting is often a back alley practice that needs to stop.

Now, that said, I feel particularly strongly about this as I am the owner of a pit bull -- excuse me, American Bull Terrier -- mix and I love her. She's the sweetest, gentlest thing in the world, and I adopted her from a rescue when I fostered her and her sister. She loves my lab, our kittens, and has been a wonderful part of the family. She has a protective streak, yes -- but so does our lab.

A clarification. Pits were NOT bred to fight -- they were bred to work on farms, much like sheep dogs, etc. They did get used in fighting because of their strength, their intelligence, and ironically, their sheer loyalty to their owners -- they will do what they are asked to do, because they are unhaltingly loyal. So while people breed them for this purpose now, it is not their "purpose" -- also several other types of dogs were taken from Vick, and are used in fighting -- PBs are just the most popular.

Do they have aggressive natures? Sure. But most dogs do -- the two times I've been bitten was by a poodle and a spaniel. I've been seriously scared by a Golden Retriever. Abuse ANY dog and it will be violent if it is trained to be that way. Or if it has not been trained at all, and doesn't understand how to behave. Dogs need love, they need a pack, and they need to be trained.

But American Bull Terriers, which we now know as Pit Bulls, are suffering a horrible fate right now, at the hands of media, abusers, etc, and part of that is the undeserved stigma associated with them. Frankly, as much as I love my lab, my husband I agree we will always own pits. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful this dog is.

So, if you are donating, please consider pit rescue. These dogs are in terrible trouble right now -- up to 50 of them may be euthanized from Vicks's kennels alone (these were the saved ones, adoptable, but there are too many). The SPCA and other rescue agencies are overloaded with them, and also have to be so careful about who adopts them, so it gets to be complicated, and wonderful dogs are often put down.

If you are considering adopting, please feel free to email me at samhunter@samanthahunter.com if you want more info.

Sorry for the longwinded post, but needed to get a word in for the dogs...


Kathleen Eagle said...

Sam, thanks for the info. We've had a dog-bites-human story in the paper just about ever week recently, and it's scary. Am I waxing nostalgic again, or did others not grow up with this going on all around them? I was bitten once on the hand--Boston terrier that was tied up--and I learned. I have a theory that people aren't teaching their kids how to behave around dogs the way they used to. Nowadays cops go into the schools and give talks about it, but that's one of those things you have to learn by being around dogs.

And the truth is that not all dogs like kids, especially if they haven't been around them much. Kids can be scary. And not all dog bites are the result of dog abuse. And not all dog bites should be cause for a lawsuit.

Can't we do unto others--be they two- or four-leggeds, winged or no-leggeds--as we would ... well, you know the rest. (I don't go around announcing it on TV, but I found Jesus a long time ago.)

Samantha Hunter said...

It's true, people don't always control their children. It drives me crazy. We walk our dogs on a public trail every day, and there are kids there. For the larger part, children or parents always ask if they can pet our dogs. Usually I say no, because while they're friendly, my dogs are big and get really exuberant around kids, and could knock them over or scratch them easily.

I had one woman, one day, who had her children *running* at us -- screaming -- my dogs were freaking out, straining at the leash, and I was yelling -- and I do mean yelling -- at her to call her kids back. She refused until I took on a very nasty tone. She said "they're just running and playing" -- I said, "didn't you notice the 180 pounds of dog I'm trying to control here?" She was such an idiot. I was shaking by the time I got the car. My dogs wouldn't have attacked the kids, but they would have run back at them, and likely bowled them over or gotten very worked up -- and then this idiot woman would have blamed us. The dogs are very well trained, they heel off lead for the most part, though I always collar them when we pass other dogs and kids. I don't take chances. But it's amazing how many people don't think.

I am always very clear to compliment children and parents who behave properly around our dogs.