The Washington Times-Herald

September 9, 2012

Thank you Michael Vick

By Dennis Glade
Washington Times-Herald

WASHINGTON — I want to thank Michael Vick. Those are words I never thought I would say.

As an animal lover, especially a dog lover, I am predisposed to carry a healthy disdain for the polarizing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, but I didn’t always feel that way. When Vick was a star athlete for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team in the early 2000s I was a big Vick fan. However, that all changed in August 2007. In that August five years ago Vick pled guilty to federal felony dog fighting charges stemming from his Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting operation in Virginia.

I, and the rest of the sports world, was stunned and appalled as the information came out day by day. There was one positive that came out of this dreadful situation. Pitbull awareness has increased a great deal and that brought me my new best friend, Toby. Prior to 2007, I, like a lot of people, thought that pitbulls were inherently mean spirited, but I have realized that nothing was further from the truth. With the help of my wife, Monika, who I met in August 2008, I have become quite knowlegable on what a great addition a pitbull terrier can be to any household.

Over the last two years I have had many discussions with Monika about the next pet we get being a pitbull. We already had two dogs, Maximus and Roxy which were dogs Monika had wanted for a long time. After we moved into our home here in Washington, I began to look into finding a pitbull puppy. I was able to find a pure bred pitbull terrier breeder in Indianapolis and on the evening of Aug.18, I picked up 8-week-old Toby.

While I have experienced unbridled joy during the last two weeks, not everyone has been happy to see Toby. I have run into countless people on walks with Toby that initially think he is very cute until I reveal that he is a pitbull and they inform me that, “he is going to get mean.” This myth of pitbulls being inherently mean is just misguided. Pitbull terriers, like any other puppy isn’t born with a mean streak. That mean streak that people have experienced or read about in newspapers is formed from years of abuse from cruel people who take advantage of the dog’s breed and the strength that they form as adults.

Since his release from prison, Vick has adhered to requirements of his parole to engage in outreach work in the community aimed at stopping animal cruelty. I can’t go as far as some to say Vick is a role model, because he committed these crimes in the first place, but his notoriety through his exploits on the football field and his presence in the community is a step towards quelling dog fighting in our communities.

Dog fighting is a cancer in this country and it is largely ignored by law enforcement. Vick’s operation killed and abused countless pitbulls and other dogs, but he only received a 21-month prison sentence. People often say well they are just dogs and that sentiment makes me cringe.

Dogs are some of the most selfless animals a person can come into contact with, and they display happiness at all times. To abuse this happiness is a flaw in our society. Gandhi said it best when speaking about what animal cruelty says about us as a people.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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When not writing sports for the Times Herald, Dennis Glade is taking care of his three dogs. E-mail him at dglade@washtimesherald.com.