The spotlight is once again on Michael Vick, who said in a recent interview that prison made him a better man, and that owning a dog will assist him in his rehabilitation (CBS News, December 15).
Even President Obama has walked into Vick's spotlight, claiming that Vick is receiving the second chance he deserves. While Obama condemns the animal abuse that led to Vick's imprisonment just three years ago, he stated that he does think "that individuals who have paid for their crimes should have an opportunity to contribute to society again." (CBS News, December 27).
While Vick is prohibited from owning a dog until 2012, his desire to bring a dog into his home once again (for his kids, he claims), so soon after the horrific treatment of the dogs at his Bad Newz Kennels, is causing outrage on both sides of the argument.
While one may confer benevolent blessings on Vick's turnaround (and his return to public life and its attendant millions of dollars), I still cannot forget that there are innocent dogs who did not get a second chance.
I'm afraid I am having a problem showing complete forgiveness. Maybe I have a psychic connection to dogs in pain.
A man convicted of child abuse ought to have trouble adopting another child, especially if the injuries suffered by the children he abused were as heartbreaking as those suffered by Vick's dogs. For Vick to publicly claim that he loves these animals makes me feel helpless and angry.
At the Buddy Foundation, we conduct a complete screening of any prospective owner who wants to adopt a dog. We make sure the new household is a safe and welcoming environment, with plenty of space, and enough resources to guarantee the dog's care; we ask that other pets are brought in to "meet" the prospective adoptee, to make sure that other animals in the home will get along with the new pet. If, incredibly, the shelter discovers a history of previous animal abuse by the new owner, the adoption would be halted.
If Michael Vick thinks he is ready to bring a new dog into his home, he should prove his mettle by volunteering (unpaid) at a dog shelter for a year.
He needs to spend time with desperate, lonely dogs; endure the barking and whining; clean the excrement; break up fights that can occur naturally between confused dogs; maybe even get bitten by a frightened dog....without striking back, showing complete forgiveness for the animal that injured him.
He needs to walk dozens of dogs in pouring rain and bone-crunching cold. He needs to sacrifice a few nights with his family, or even a banquet or two, to feed animals, or wash blankets, or give medications to reluctant dogs, or comfort a barely conscious animal who has just been spayed or neutered.
He needs to do all of this and then publicly talk about it, to tell the world how passionate he is for this kind of duty.
He needs to cry for a dog that is beyond help...and do it in the spotlight of his own making.
Maybe then I could begin to forgive him.