Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sports Illustrated redemption

Sports Illustrated has been credited by many as a major contributor to the bad reputation of Pit Bulls. In 1987, they published an edition with a fierce looking Pit Bull on the front cover with the headline "Beware of this Dog" over the photo. How much of an affect this had on the pliable American psyche is debatable but a few months later Pit Bull type dogs became mainstream media's favorite dog villain and gangsta wannabes started lining up for their very own four legged status symbols.

Now more than two decades later, someone at SI has had a change of heart and is maybe even feeling pangs of guilt over the misery to the thousands of dogs they helped to cause. This morning with their online edition they've published a follow up story on Michael Vick's dogs aptly titled What happened to Michael Vick's dogs. For most people who have been keeping track of the Vick dogs, the article may not be providing a lot of new information but in terms of revising general public misconceptions about Pit Bulls, it does a great deal.

Here are some excerpts:

Refering to Zippy, a rescued Vick Pit Bull: [Zippy] leaps onto the couch where Vanessa's nine-year-old sister, Eliana, is waiting. Vanessa joins them, and over the next 15 minutes the two girls do everything possible to provoke an abused and neglected pit bull who's been rescued from a dogfighting ring. They grab Zippy's face, yank her tail, roll on top of her, roll under her, pick her up, swing her around, stick their hands in her mouth. Eliana and Zippy end up nose to nose. The girl kisses the dog. The dog licks the girl's entire face.

[Zippy] arrived from the rescue group BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls) in October 2007, "she was afraid of her own shadow," says Berenice. Loud noises made her jump, and when she entered another room she'd crawl through the doorway on her belly. That lasted about six weeks, but once Zippy got comfortable she took over the house. She races from room to room, goes for runs with Berenice and plays in the yard with the other two dogs: the family's big blue pit bull, Crash, and another foster dog, Roller, a bulldog-pit mix.

One rescuer refering to the first time they met the Vick dogs: We were surprised at how little aggression there was," says Reynolds. Many of the dogs had all but shut down. They cowered in the corners of their kennels or stood hunched with their heads lowered, their tails between their legs and their feet shifting nervously. Some didn't want to come out. As far as they knew bad things happened when people came. Bad things happened when they were led out of their cages. One dog was so scared that even the confines of her kennel offered her no comfort. Shelter workers used a blanket to construct a little tent inside her cage that she could duck under. Remembering that dog, McMillan says, "Jasmine broke my heart."

"Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this rescue showed the best," Reynolds says. "I don't think any of us thought it was possible to save these dogs - the government, the rescuers, the regular people - but we surprised ourselves."

Some interesting background info on the article can be found on the Bad Rap site here.


Joanne said...

The vast majority of society, unfortunately, buys straight into what the media tells them... As Caesar Milan said..in the 70's it was German Sheppards, in the 80's it was Dobermans, in the 90's it was Rottweilers and now it is pit bulls. Too bad someone else always has to suffer for our gulibility. We always have to have someone or something to fear in order to bolster our feelings of superiority. Vis a vis the genocide that has occurred in the past. When are we going to get it? That goodness I had the opportunity to know how wonderful Dobies are before they were demonized. In my blissful ignorance I had four of them who were absolutely wonderful dogs.

Donna said...

Redemption, indeed!

The editors surprised us all. May the rest of the media will take notice: It's perfectly ACCEPTABLE to write about pit bulls without condemning the breed or their owners.

Thanks for sharing this news with your readers, One Bark.