Book Review: The Lost Dogs

We went to California again in March, and I won’t lie; it was wonderful.

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While my husband was in class for his work, I spent a lot of time at the beach (our favorites were La Jolla and Del Mar), soaking up as much sun as a pale skinned person such as myself can, and reading. While there, I finished the book “The Lost Dogs” by Jim Gorant, but I’ve been putting off writing this post because I’ve been so busy with school and work. However, I’m making time for it tonight because I think it’s a wonderful book. So, here’s my review of “The Lost Dogs”.

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“The Lost Dogs” is the story of the dogs rescued from the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting ring, which Michael Vick participated in and funded. Regardless of his talents, the decisions Michael Vick made with the dog fighting ring were wrong and inhumane. “Vick showed the worst of us, the bloodlust, but this [rescue effort] showed the best.” (Gorant, XI)

Jim Gorant tells the story of the dogs from pre-rescue, throughout the rescue, and afterwards as they began their new lives. Some dogs ended up with loving families, some were sent to animal sanctuaries, and out of the entire 51 dogs rescued, only Sussex #2621 (she was not given a name) was aggressive enough during evaluations–due to being overbred and the abuse she endured, indicated by her multiple scars–to need to be euthanized. 1 dog out of 51; it’s amazing. There’s a perfect quote from the book that addresses this:

“That of course has been the point from the beginning of the effort to save the dogs–sweeping generalizations do not apply. From the start the rescuers argued that it was wrong to look at the group of fifty-one pit bulls saved from Vick’s yard and simply say, ‘They’re irredeemable, do away with them.’…You cannot accurately assume that all the dogs saved from a fight bust are vicious and unstable or that all pit bulls are biting machines waiting for their chance to attack. It may be easier and less expensive to think that way, but it’ not true.” (Gorant, 279)

I was already in the pitbull fan club before reading this book (I have a 5-year old pitbull who is nothing but a big snuggler) but this book made me fall in love with the breed even more. Most of the dogs who were rescued were beaten, fought, thrown down flights of stairs, and more, and yet they were able to be rehabilitated. Some will never be suitable for a life with other dogs, and some only trust a handful of humans, but, with the exception of Sussex #2621, they never fully lost their desire to love and be loved. Some of the dogs who had the hardest time pulling out of their fear turned out to be the best dogs in the bunch; they just needed a little extra love and affection. There’s an excerpt from the book about one of the tougher dogs, who had been a “good fighter” at Bad Newz Kennels, and it reminds us that dogs are tough cookies, like humans, and with the right amount of positive interaction, affection, and understanding, they can be rehabilitated:

“If he was still alive he must have been successful in the pit, which meant he’d received a lot of positive reinforcement…it was mindboggling. He clearly had to have been a fighter, but here he was now, playful and gentle as a poodle. He liked people. He liked other dogs. He responded appropriately to each in a variety of situations…Dr. Z’s team of experts thought the scarred dog was a rock star.” (Gorant, 119)

I like this book not only because it challenges pitbull stereotypes, but also because it shows the great kindness that humans are capable of. The author tries to present the story with as little animosity towards Vick and the Bad Newz crew as possible, while also doing a great job at showing the contrast between the cruelty of the dog fighters and the kindness and compassion of the rescuers and all those who helped the dogs rehabilitate. Some people probably think those people’s talents would have been better used elsewhere and that the dogs should have just been put down, but how can you say that when you see where the dogs are today? It’s a great lesson in compassion that can applied to humans as well. Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance or a chance to rehabilitate and change?

I would highly recommend this book even if you’re not a dog lover. As I previously stated, it’s a great story of kindness, compassion, and second chances, and I think almost anyone can appreciate those things.