Monday, August 17, 2009

Michael Vick, My Dog and Second Chances

puppy, happy, abuse, animal, michael vick, eagles, crime,
As you have no doubt heard, unless you've spent the last few days waiting for Lassie in a well, Michael Vick has been signed by the Eagles. And, unless you've spent the last few years in that well, you also know that Michael Vick tortured and killed innocent dogs for entertainment. Some people call it "sport", I call it torturing and killing innocent animals that just want to be your friend.

All of the pictures in this post are of my best friend, Muggsy. (I didn't name him.) When I brought Muggsy home, he was between 1.5 and 2 years old. His tail never wagged and he didn't grin like that. He did pee himself anytime someone raised their hand, or their voice. Muggsy bit me the first time I tried to put a leash on him. He cried when I tried to pet him. Because someone like Michael Vick thought it would be fun to put out cigarettes on Muggsy's skin. Because someone like Michael Vick thought it was perfectly fine to choke, kick, beat and pour boiling water on a dog. On my sweet, cuddly friend.

It took a long time to get Muggsy to trust me, to understand that I was never going to hurt him, ever. He lacked any kind of "manners": didn't know "sit" or "stay", had never walked on a leash, was barely house trained. I trained without punishment by highly praising behavior I wanted, and punishing bad behavior with lack of attention. It took a while, and some modification of my own behavior*, but it worked.

Now I have a best friend who follows me around like a big, furry shadow. Muggsy can't bear for me to be out of sight, even for as long as it takes me to pee. He'll lay on the floor, nose pressed to the gap between the bathroom door and the floor, and sigh while he waits. When I return, whether from the bathroom or from work, there is celebration. He jumps and dances, tail wagging so hard his whole body wiggles, mouth wide open in a big smile. Muggsy sleeps as near me as he can get (I don't let him on the bed or other furniture), and wakes up to check if I'm still there. Sometimes he'll wake me up in the middle of the night to see if I want to play. Muggsy knows when I'm upset or in pain and his cure is always the same: pet my soft fur, you'll feel better. I always do.

So you can imagine how I felt when my favorite team signed Michael Vick. How dare they! How could anyone give that monster a million dollars? What message does this send about the severity of Vick's crimes, and the children! What message does this send to them?

Then I heard about second chances and regret. Muggsy got a second chance with me- the shelter wanted to put him down. They didn't have the resources to deal with a dog as traumatized as he was. So why shouldn't Michael Vick get a second chance? Maybe Vick was as traumatized at some point in his past as Muggsy. I don't know. Muggsy bit me out of fear and pain, maybe Vick's motivation was much the same.

The honest truth is, I don't know. On the one hand, I want to believe that Vick is truly remorseful, that he really can change. I want to believe that people can learn a lesson and better themselves instead of just sinking further into the muck. On the other hand, I haven't seen too many people who really have changed. Am I influenced by wanting to believe the best about the Eagles? Sure. Am I influenced by my desire to poor boiling water on the person who hurt Muggsy, and really, Vick'll do in a pinch? Absolutely. My motivations are too muddled, my anger too deep to evaluate this situation rationally.

We'll have to see, I suppose.

*I can't leave food out, I have to empty the garbage immediately after placing meat or bones in it, and Muggsy will not bark or otherwise alert me if he needs to go out. He'll just stare at the basement door. If I'm in another room, I can't see that. So, if I haven't seen him in a while, I have to go find him. Sometimes, he's just sleeping. Oh, and he recently figured out how to make the icemaker in the fridge give him delightfully cold and crunchy icecubes, so I have walk across the kitchen floor carefully.


  1. I like your post, because it shows how issues like these are not all black and white, and compassion is important.

    I take a more agnostic (or apathetic?) approach with Vick getting signed: our judicial system deemed he should be allowed out of jail. If he needs to continue to be punished he should be put back in jail. If not, he should be allowed to play for the Eagles, if he plays great that is. ;^) I guess I am trusting that our judicial system has handled things adequately, but that's where I'm agnostic -- I don't know if they have or not, and figure they are the experts in this not me.

    All that said, I sure hope he has trouble sleeping at night because of the horror of what he did and doesn't only regret facing the consequences.

  2. The difference between Vick and your dog, is that your dog was the victim not the oppressor. Vick grew up in a culture that celebrated the abuse of animals. Personally, I would not give him another chance at football. He gets another chance at life, that is why he was let out of prison. I honestly don't see the purpose of giving him a platform again. I knew it would happen, people are enamored by athletic skills.

  3. I'm also an Eagles fan and had serious mixed feelings when they signed Vick. But I figured someone would sign him, I just didn't expect it to be the Eagles.

  4. Does Vick deserve a second chance after what he did?

    The only reasonable answer is: I don't know.

    It all depends on whether or not he feels remorse. That's all that counts to me. If he does sincerely regret what he did and the harm he caused those poor animals, then despite my understandable lingering resentment for what he did, he does deserve absolution.

    But personally, I'm inclined to think he'd happily do it again if he didn't fear getting caught a second time. It's a basic truth of the human condition that few people ever change, and when they do, it's only because of passing though significant or extreme events.

    As for the Eagles signing him up: frankly, even though I don't care about sports, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest. It's very simple: Vick's a good football player, and a team likes to have good players to win matches. Simple equation. Vick gave his "I'm sorry" stuff already, and obviously the team is banking on people accepting it and believing that he's indeed not the monster he was portrayed to be.

    I was very saddened to hear about your Muggsy's troubled past. Nothing pisses me off, or breaks my heart, quicker and harder than animal abuse. At least he now has a loving owner who would sooner slice her arms off than hurt him (or so I presume).

  5. it's the remorse thing for me, too. is he truly remorseful, or is he faking remorse to gain support? i don't know, and neither does anyone but vick. i dunno, but i wouldn't leave him alone with my dog.

  6. It seems like you can be forgiven anything if you can throw a football.

    On another note, the way you teach Muggsy sounds a lot like the punishment-free parenting approach I use with Little Man :)

  7. I love Muggsy!!! Such a cute dog!!!

  8. As a vegan, I am absolutely disgusted by Michael Vick's actions. As an animal abolitionist, I feel dreadfully sorry for the dogs we breed in huge numbers that end up in situations like what Vick did or worse. As both, I commend you for rescuing your dear friend and for giving him/her a good life. I do think people deserve second chances. Perhaps Vick will change. It'd be nice to see him do some animal protection work or something.

    Till every cage is empty and we breed no more animals! Take care. (:

  9. I commend you for treating animals with compassion and respect- as they deserve to be treated... I am so glad YOU have the opportunity to rehab Muggsy. I know he returns your love! Great job!! : )

  10. If you were raised in the shoes of Michael Vick, you would have done exactly what he did. Think about that. You can be mad at him if you want but it is a waste of time holding him morally blameworthy because he (and you) have as much free will as a monarch butterfly heading south in the fall. That is not meant to suggest that we do not do want we want. However, our wants are wholly caused (unless you believe in the supernatural). The simple fact of the matter was that the punitive measures Vick was aware of and other circumstances leading up his eventual arrest were insufficient to dissuade him from chossing the path that he chose. The only point is now publicly flogging him is to dissuade him from repeating the conduct in the future or dissuading others from repating the conduct in the future. However, don't waste time thinking that he could have acted otherwise - he couldn't and didn't. I repeat - under the same circumstances, you would have done exactly the same thing.

  11. @The Atheist Missionary:
    Saying anyone in Vick's position would have done the exact same thing is ridiculous, and even offensive, considering the horror of what he did. That implies everyone is the same, with the same views and biases, the same ethics and morality, the same personality, etc.

    It's a simple truth that everyone is indeed different, just as we were told again and again as kids, and that if introduced into the same scenario, they will make different choices leading to different results. You cannot put anyone in anyone else's shoes and expect them to act in the exact same way – that's just lunacy. They may act similarly, perhaps, but never will their footsteps match anyone else's perfectly.

    I understand what you mean by "he couldn't have acted otherwise", and yes, I believe that. People are what circumstance sculpts them into. But you cannot discount the massive variable that is individuality, or that everyone is different at a core level, unaffected by experience and events.

  12. Joé, I think you are misinterpreting my point. I am not implying that everybody is the same and perhaps pillorying Vick will result in others making a different choice. My point is simply that it is the height of hypocrisy for those who are not familiar with the prevalence of the dog fighting culture in low income black neighborhoods to think that Vick had the free will to make another choice. He didn't. He committed the crime and has served his time. He should now be free to earn a living. If you or others want to picket Lincoln Financial Field, that's fine.

    As far as the suggestion that "everyone is different at a core level, unaffected by experience and events", so what? Just because genetics renders us different and perhaps bestwos different propensities to commit crimes, how does that change the fact that the crimes are caused by circumstances outside our control?

  13. @TAM:
    I'd rather not derail this thread into a debate of our own, so I'll try and be brief. All I'm saying, is that you cannot rationally say that Vick had absolutely no choice. You always have a choice. Claiming that Vick couldn't have acted any other way simply because he was raised in poverty and a culture that didn't demonize dog fighting as it should, is basically denigrating all the poor Black youths (or youths of any other ethnicities) from equally crappy upbringings who actually did make it out and do good things, rather than harm innocent animals for money and entertainment.

    Also, Vick was already more than wealthy enough from being a football star when he undertook his dog fighting activities, so it's not like money was a prime, valid reason for it, which it usually is in the case of dog-fighting. Easy money and all that.

  14. I would also put forth this thought: For those that are outraged by Vick's actions, and rightly so, I hope this will motivate you to get outraged by the unnecessary beatings and cruelty heaped upon animals that humans raise for food. Think about those dogs the next time you eat meat. And then think about the abuse that cow suffered. Then ask yourself...what's the difference?

  15. i'm a vegetarian, actually, for just that reason. although i do eat fish. do they abuse fish?

  16. @PF: Yes. As the trawlers target certain kinds of fishes the "by catch" as they call it ends up being dragged along in their nets and or long-lines and die. Hundreds of dolphins, whales and unwanted others die so that we can have the targeted ones. Check out and her podcast called Fish Consumption and By-catch. Rock on veg people!

  17. Oh give it a break already. At least he didnt kill someone. Donte Stallworth can't say the same.

  18. @JD: I find your response disturbing. As if murdering someone is the only time people should be truly outraged by anothers' actions. It could be argued that those who live suffer more and longer than those murdered did before they died. At least...they're dead and suffer no more. Vick's dogs and the thousands of other animals and human beings that are the victims of abuse will carry those scars all their lives.

  19. @Granamyr/Danielle:
    Not that I mean to stir shit up, but ... just take a quick peek at his profile, and which blogs he follows. That explains much.

  20. Ok GD, which is worse, killing a person or killing some dogs? Or are they about equal? If so, how many dog deaths equal one person? For the purposes of this discussion, we can assume that the "person" in this equation comes from a culture that regularly kills and eats dogs.

    How much time did Vick serve?

    How much time did Stallworth serve?

  21. OK, I heard yesterday, (consider the source) 2 dee-jays were talking on the radio re: Donte Stallworth. They stated that the accident he was in could have happened to anyone. The person stepped out in front of him abruptly and if he didnt have anything in his system, he wouldnt have faced charges. Just sayin'.

  22. JD, the whole point is:

    Stallworth was driving drunk and hit a guy. Regardless of whose fault it is or what specific details came into play, the thing is Stallworth didn't intend to kill someone. He also sure as hell isn't feeling happy about it, both for being caught and sentenced, and for actually being responsible for someone's death.

    Vick, on the other hand, operated the dogfighting affair for over five years. He sure as hell knew what he was doing, he was acutely aware of all the pain and horror he was inflicting on those poor animals, and he certainly never showed any remorse for it, until – what a coincidence – he was caught and sentenced.

    It all comes down to:
    Stallworth: did something stupid but overall, it was an accident.
    Vick: had dogs killed knowingly and deliberately, just for his own personal gain and/or amusement.

    That's the bottom line of this case. And that's why even if Stallworth killed a human and Vick "only" killed dogs, Vick's crimes are exceedingly worse. No-one with a conscience can reasonably say otherwise.

  23. And note that when I say "had dogs killed", I also mean mauled, butchered, tortured (physically and psychologically), etc.


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