A few months ago, the world learned Michael Vick legally owns a dog. As of yesterday, we know she’s a female Belgian Malinois named Angel. And thanks to a website called Crossing Broad, we have photographic proof that Vick and his family are taking her to training classes at a New Jersey PetSmart.
For the purpose of this post, I’ll refrain from completely reiterating my positions on Vick’s previous actions and the public response, including but not limited to: Vick’s sincerity, his partnership with HSUS, his off-the-cuff remarks, his attitude and actions toward his former dogs, his defense of getting a dog for the sake of his kids, and the fact that he’s permitted to own an animal at all. The reality is, he has one, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Assuming that this dog is here to stay (we can’t remove her from his home or find her a different family), Michael Vick taking her to training classes at the local PetSmart just might be one of the only acceptable outcomes of the situation. (Mind you, I’m writing from this planet, not some hardly-parallel universe where Vick fully acknowledges his wrongs and devotes his life and wealth to animal welfare.)
Sure, even this move may be staged or PR-driven. But the fact that he’s committed to six weeks of appearing in person — in a setting in which he’s not the center of attention and may even be subject to criticism — speaks louder than any statement his PR team releases. Whether it’s genuine or not, this is what his kids — and any kids who look up to him — need to see.
It’s not just the time commitment or the appearance. Working with dogs can be humbling, especially to a guy who’s been told all his life that he naturally excels. (I remember my first training classes — it takes time and practice to look like you know what you’re doing.) And yes, perhaps public classes are all part of a careful choreography to improve his image, but if he were paying for private lessons, one could find fault there too, saying he’s using his money to hide away at home with a hand-picked, sympathetic trainer.
Don’t get me wrong. Michael Vick taking his dog to training classes is not heroic. It’s not remarkable. Heck, at some shelters it’s not even optional — you have to take classes if you’re bringing home a dog. But because his other obligations have been made so comfortable and relatively painless for him, and because they’ve been so rehearsed and protected, his sincerity and motivation is understandably questioned by animal advocates. Showing up with your family for dog training classes is different — a real live dog is actually benefiting from the effort, and so this lone act may be the one to make a difference.
Noteworthy? Ok, maybe even that’s a stretch, but do I hope the media continues to cover it. No “look what a great guy” angles — he’s certainly not earned that yet. But I am ok with pointing out how important it is train your dog, to make it a family affair, and to send the message pro athletes can’t be excused from the exercise because they already have all the answers or know-how.
And no, it won’t erase the agony he caused nor negate the years of terrible suffering he orchestrated. But for all his horrific wrongs, none of which I feel he’s adequately addressed or genuinely tried to make amends for, this small step is right. So the best I can hope for? Somehow this dog called Angel will reach Michael Vick in a way he wouldn’t allow the others to do. And he will realize the magnitude of his actions. And he will truly pass on an enlightened perspective to his kids, his fans, and anyone who will listen.