TLC Book Tours: The Lost Dogs

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant

Release date: 2010 / 279 pages

Synopsis (from the jacket cover): Animal lovers and sports fans were shocked when the story broke that Atlanta Falcons start quarterback Michael Vick was running a brutal dog fighting operation… When authorities busted Vick, fifty-one pit bulls were seized from his farm, and once the media frenzy subsided, the question remained: What would become of the dogs?

First Sentence: A brown dog sits in a field.

Review:  This book is such a gift!  A gift not only to dog lovers and those of us who have first-hand experience with pit bulls, but an even greater gift for those who do not understand this misaligned breed and blame the victims of cruelty rather than the perpetrators.

I have been blessed to share the past seventeen years with a pitbull-mix I rescued from the pound.  Juno was described as a “boxer-lab mix,” probably for easier adoption, and I did not realize her true geneaology for many years.  However, what I did recognize immediately was her sweet disposition, willingness to please and passion for life.  When I started training her as a puppy, I assumed that she would be motivated by food but quickly realized that praise and attention were a much greater reward than any tasty tidbit.  She has been my loyal, faithful, friendly companion through the darkest years of my life and is still teaching me how best to live and appreciate each day of my life as she nears the end of her’s.

So, when TLC Book Tours contacted me about reviewing The Lost Dogs, I jumped at the chance.  I knew Gorant would be “preaching to the choir” as he advocated for my beloved breed.  I also knew that passages would be nearly impossible to read — fortunately, Gorant kept these to a minimum.  The media coverage of the atrocities Michael Vick committed to his dogs was wide-spread and did not need to be repeated, thankfully.  Last, I hoped to find some way to advocate for this misunderstood breed as I prepare to move near a city — Denver — that has chosen to outlaw the owning of pitbulls.  Fortunately, I will actually be moving to Golden, which does not perpetuate this injustice, but I have already wondered how I can help realign the profile of this breed to match what has been my experience — and the experience of other educated, informed pitbull owners. 

The Lost Dogs addresses how pitbulls are simply the most recent of breeds to be misunderstood.  The earliest known breed to be misrepresented was the bloodhound!  And, throughout the years, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinchers have survived similar smear campaigns.   Hopefully, Gorant’s book will help pitbulls move from the realm misinformation to enlightenment.

Of the 51 pit bulls confiscated from Bad Newz Kennels, 47 are now either certified therapy dogs and/or adored family members.  While animal advocacy groups believed the dogs should have been summarily disposed after the treatment they had endured by Vick, a few brave individuals saw the dogs’ futures differently and Gorant shares their tale.

The Lost Dogs describes the rehabilitation process of the canines — not rehabilitation for aggression, neither dog nor human-directed since this was not a problem — but of learning how to walk down stairs, how to walk on a leash, how to live indoors, and many other “skills” second-nature to dogs not accustomed to abuse and captivity.  Very quickly the dogs morphed from “Vick’s dogs” to “Georgia,” “Handsome Dan,” “Grace,” “Jasmine,” and “Zippy” — names familiar to those of us who watch Dog Town, the Discovery channel show about Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah.  Gorant understands and respects how connected his readers will become to these dogs and includes a section at the end titled “Where Are They Now?”  Here is a small sample of where the dogs have ended up:

  • “Sox” — one of the worst of the low-response dogs… She could hardly open her eyes and seemed unable to focus even when she did… Sox has babesia, a bloodborne parasite that’s common in fighting dogs. In late 2009, she received her certification as a therapy dog.
  • “Zippy” — small and fun-loving, [she] has settled into the Hernandez household, a place filled with two other dogs, and three children under the age of ten [including a toddler].
  • “Hector” — A big brown dog with scars on his chest and legs… became part of a pack of six dogs that included Scooby, a rat terrier, and Mindy Lou, a fifteen-pound toy Aussie who ran the entire house with an iron paw.  Hector aced his Canine Good Citizen test, passed the American Temperment Test Society exam, and received his therapy dog certification.  Hector now makes regular visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to provide comfort to the ailing and to educate people about pit bulls and dogfighting.
  • “Cherry Garcia” — arrived very fearful and shut down to the point that he refused to walk on a leash at first, but he adapted very quickly. Cherry went from a dog that was so visibly fearful to one that was so obviously happy. He’s adjusted well to his new life, but he does have  few quirks that make his adoptive family a little crazy.  He refuses to go to bed at night until everyone is home, and sometimes he wakes everyone up in the middle of the night because he’s up playing with the cat.
  • “Red” — arrived with scars and fear issues, but those were the least of his problems. The SPCA’s veterinarian found seven mast-cell tumors on his body.  Once he recovered from chemo, Red went to work, helping a trainer at the SPCA work with aggressive dogs. Red was so gentle and relaxed, he simply sat in the training area, serving as a calming agent, easing other dogs’ aggression by redirecting its focus and energy.

Gorant understands that “Certainly, if you raised put bulls in an atmosphere of hostility, frustrated and angered them, honed their aggressiveness, and then put them into a situation where they felt challenged, some of them would fight, but so would most other dogs. The Vick dogs showed that even under those circumstances many of them still did not prefer to fight, and even when they did, the simple fact that they were pit bulls did not guarantee that they would be good at it. The truth, in the end, is that each dog, like each person, is an individual. If the Vick dogs proved nothing else to the world, theis would be a significant advance.”

To end my review, here are the parting words of the author: “The most important legacy of the Vick dogs may be the idea that all dogs must be evaluated individually. Not as Vick dogs, or fighting dogs or pit bulls, but as Jasmine and Alf and Zippy. In this regard, those forty-two dogs that remain from the Bad Newz family may no longer go anywhere near a pit, but for each of them, just as it does for all of their kind and the people who advocate on their behalf, the fight continues.”

Interested in learning more about this wonderful breed?  Drop me a comment and I will choose a winner this weekend!

For other reviews, check out the following sites:

Monday, September 20th:  Daydream Believer

Thursday, September 30th: Book Club Classics!

Tuesday, October 5th:  Simply Stacie

Wednesday, October 6th:  A Novel Menagerie

Thursday, October 7th:  Lesa’s Book Critiques

Thursday, October 7th:  Animal Blawg

Monday, October 11th:  Rundpinne

Tuesday, October 12th:  Bookworm’s Dinner

Wednesday, October 13th:  Our Hen House

Thursday, October 14th:  Dog Spelled Forward

Friday, October 15th:  Book Reviews by Molly

Monday, October 18th:  In the Next Room

Tuesday, October 19th: Life With Dogs

Wednesday, October 20th:  Life in Review

Monday, October 25th:  Luxury Reading

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8 Responses to TLC Book Tours: The Lost Dogs

  1. Linda says:

    As a dog lover whose dog recently passed away, I’d love to have a chance to read this book–please enter my name into the drawing.

  2. Tamara says:

    I’m not a dog lover myself, but this book sounds intriguing. Please enter me in the draw.

  3. Theresa Cain says:

    I know so very little about this breed of dog and have no first hand experience, personally. So I would love the chance to hear this story and learn more about this breed you have such fondness for. Thanks for the opportunity!

  4. diana mack says:

    i just finished this book and don’t need to be entered….
    it is really a fascinating book and besides the points you mentioned…one thing i appreciated is that the focus is on the dogs…not michael vick….he is kept to a minimum
    i would have liked for the author to address if anyone is keeping tabs on whether michael vick is following the court orders and not having any pets
    great great book!

  5. Lisamm says:

    Kristen! Excellent review, and what an incredible story!! Also, Juno sounds like an amazing companion.. Thanks so much for being on the tour.

  6. Kristen says:

    I’m really enjoying reading the comments today — thank you, everyone!! I’m sure you can tell that I feel strongly about how pitbulls are (mis)represented…

  7. Pam Castle says:

    Thanks so much for the wonderful review of THE LOST DOGS. I am going to add this to my library’s collection with my next order (I run the Artesia Public Library). I see so many “macho” guys walking around town with a pit bull on a chain way too big for anything but an elephant. Maybe it would help to have a copy of this book in the library.

  8. I’m a dog lover/owner also. I just got done reading this one last weekend and it was great! I totally agree with everything in your review! I know it’s changed the way that I look at the Pit Bull breed. I have a new saying “there are no bad dogs….just bad owners.”

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