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Vick's Psychopups

Sick? Naw, this is well beyond that, far into the lair of the psychotic sociopath

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, July 18, 2007.

When I was younger, I wanted to be Ernest Hemingway. When I went to work in Spain, I took it upon myself to go to the corrida, the bullfight, and to see many of the same matadors Hemingway had admired before he’d killed himself six years previous. I saw Antonio Ordonez, Paco Camino, and someone Hemingway never saw: El Cordobes, the last great matador before the bullfight, culturally, died.

Not to dwell upon it, but I discovered a lot about myself watching the bullfight with seats directly opposite the gate, and just behind where the matadors waited. Not three feet in front of me were the men who my idol idolized, and thought heroic in every sense. I cannot explain how excited, how anticipatory, how thrilled I was, aged 17, to be there in Malaga.

I remain impressed with the matadors, who did indeed risk death and mutilation, and I learned to respect as actual courage what it takes to willingly go in over the horns of these huge bulls to kill them. But I also learned I hated to watch animals bleed in pain, vomit blood, shriek in unexpected ways, die for the enjoyment of people not much different from me when I first sat down. Die for no actual reason, not even food, but the vanity of men. I was very different when I left. And a few years later, I’d moved on from Papa Hemingway.

I’d been raised with pets, and the admittedly anthropomorphic animals of 1950’s children’s literature, and realized having the unconditional affection of an animal is a worthy achievement and altogether pleasant relationship. There is nothing more enjoyable than well behaved dogs at public gatherings, dogs that smile and lick little kids, dogs you don’t have to worry about getting snippy with other dogs or hurting anyone. Dogs that obey and come when called. Dogs that children strange to them can pet and lean against and rather enjoy the poking and petting. Children and dogs together are civilizing, as is any peaceful interaction between species.

Nothing is worse than those who feel the need to have dogs that capture their inner man that others, somehow, don’t recognize, to have the toughest dog around. There is nothing more terrifying to children, or me for that matter, than a dog fight, unexpected and avoidable. It’s worse if only one of the dogs is fighting, and the other is torn to shreds trying only to get away. I’ve seen both kinds of fights, and when I had dogs and a house of my own, I learned to keep bags of pepper to dump on the snouts of fighting dogs of friends and neighbors.

I see that NFL star quarterback Michael Vick has finally been indicted for running a professional dog fighting operation down in Georgia, partially involving his family and some friends who he suggested had taken advantage of him, but essentially underwriting it himself on land he owned. What I’ve read of this case - that’s over a year old - makes it seem pretty clear that he engaged in this sick endeavor and paid off betting debts in cash himself.

Dogs, wolves, no animals fight for the hell of it. They fight for food, in rutting season, they fight for primacy in a pack, they rarely fight to the death, given that it probably isn’t to the pack’s benefit to be so decimated. Neither do bears or any animal without cause or reason. It isn’t energy wise. Dog fighting and bear baiting and bullfighting are all anthropomorphic visualizations of degenerate humans far more damaging and with as much validity in nature as Bambi and Thumper at the other end of the scale.

But Vick seems to have been even worse. When his dogs were defeated, they were tortured, sometimes electrocuted, beaten to death, or hung by the neck. They were as nothing, video game avatars of no worth or feeling. I’d agree that any dog trained to fight probably could never be socialized and should be put down, but that is what a gun or needle is for. To compound the animal’s agony, and again for your own titillation, is pretty grotesque. Beyond grotesque.

It’s not really surprising that animal torture by a child is the stigmata of the psychopath adult, and we’ve long known and recognized that. But adults organized and living this life of breeding fighting dogs are not excused by Hemingway’s comparatively la-di-dah Moment of Truth or the competitive, athletic nature of a healthy American male. It is further not excused by being black and the descendants of slaves, whose white owners would sometimes use as dogs, and sometimes train to fight other slaves from rival plantations for their entertainment in an early manifestation of modern cage combat. Yes, that was worse. But that was then.

This is as wantonly cruel and sociopathic as it can get, and those who would willingly attend such things are every bit as dangerous as those who, oh, attend children’s beauty contests.