A diet of gunpowder and hot sauce is intended to cause ulcers, which makes the dogs more ferocious. So does starving them and sewing razor blades under their skin. There are also those training routines of more treadmill miles than someone preparing for a marathon and hanging the animal by its mouth to ensure the jaw and neck muscles are suitably toughened for a fight that could last hours. The ears are cropped closer than normal. You know, just to avoid them getting shredded off. You know, because the more blood Rocky loses, the worse chance he has of remaining conscious and killing his opponent.
If all that isn’t disturbing enough, remember: Within factions of society are those who accept and promote such a cruel, disgusting, gutless act as dog fighting. If we are reminded of anything from the kind of light only a celebrity like Michael Vick can shine on such vicious exploits, it’s that regional separation is not limited to political ideologies.
Red and blue divide states. Civilized and sadistic divide individuals on the topic of torturing pit bulls into an aggressive nature and then wagering which will survive when matched against one another in a blood-stained pit.
It’s that simple. Presidential races are about being Republican or Democrat. Dog fighting is about being educated or evil.
“You have to remember it’s very, very accepted in parts of our culture, especially in the South,” said Richard Lustberg, a New York-based sports psychologist. “There will always be pockets that think there is nothing wrong with it and will tell you that. There is a real sadness to this, but it also allows us to speak to children about it and have discussions on it. This has presented itself as a moral, teachable moment.
“It’s a shame that Michael Vick had to become the poster boy for this topic instead of we, ourselves, endorsing as a society what is immoral and improper behavior as one species against another.”
A shame — and yet so darn predictable.
If any pit bull association out there wants to grant someone a service award, might we suggest Vick? One of the best ways to put a public face on an atrocious practice carried out by cowards in the darkness of night while protected by secret locations is to have a famous person linked to the issue.
An NFL quarterback? All the better.
The longer law enforcement investigates how much the Atlanta Falcons star knew about and participated in the level of dog fighting that obviously took place on a Virginia property he owned, the more opportunity exists to correct fallacies about pit bulls.
Forget about Vick and the standard procession of enablers that typically rush to an athlete’s side and attempt to justify even the most heinous behavior, alleged or otherwise. Such rationalization is as predictable as it is pathetic.
Pit bulls are the critical issue. The kind that Lisa Kirk of Bullie Buddies of Las Vegas receives 10 to 20 calls about rescuing daily. The kind that owners abandon in the streets and throw in garbage cans to die. The kind that receive a 95 percent passing rate on temperamental tests as compared with 77 percent for the general dog population.
The kind that is not born to fight but trained to do so.
“Pit bulls are instinctively somewhat animal-aggressive, but the instinct to fight to death is the way humans condition and train them,” Kirk said. “Unfortunately, we see wounds from fighting all the time.
“It happens here in Las Vegas. I don’t know where, but go to any shelter and you will see how badly some of these dogs are injured. I’ve treated them. Ears ripped off. Puncture wounds all over. It’s a horrible thing.”
“The misinformation about them is incredible,” Lustberg said. “If they are mean and overly aggressive, it’s due to a lack of socialization and being trained to fight and kill.
“They are not bred to be vicious attack dogs. Someone has to make them that way.”
Lustberg is correct. This is one of those teachable moments in time. Vick is just a mess of a guy who owns a level of fame large enough to bring what has been an ugly truth since the 1800s up from the graves that hold the remains of dogs killed out in small, darkened buildings behind splendid estates.
Different parts of the country vary in the practices they accept, and what one faction might consider a despicable ritual another views as competitive sport. But that hardly makes something morally correct.
If we are reminded of anything from this, it’s that we all belong to one of two groups when it comes to dog fighting.
Educated or evil.
No middle ground can be straddled. On this topic, you are one or the other.
Ed Graney’s column is published Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.ED GRANEYMORE COLUMNS