Let me start by saying that I am a dog trainer. I have trained dogs professionally for the better part of seven years, and I use strictly positive reinforcement techniques. When the news came out about Michael Vick’s dog fighting, it was nauseating to my entire industry. In no way do I excuse his behavior. But.
Today, Vick was quoted as saying,
“I understand the strong emotions by some people about our family’s decision to care for a pet. As a father, it is important to make sure my children develop a healthy relationship with animals. I want to ensure that my children establish a loving bond and treat all of God’s creatures with kindness and respect. Our pet is well cared for and loved as a member of our family. This is an opportunity to break the cycle. To that end, I will continue to honor my commitment to animal welfare and be an instrument of positive change.”
An instrument of positive change.
While this quote may just be the result of good PR folks, it forces us to stop and think outside of ourselves and our emotions, and consider the opportunity that is in front of Michael Vick, and also in front of us all.
When the news of Vick’s dog fighting came out, the levels of anger experience by the dog-loving world were out of this world. How could someone who is normally so worth of the public’s attention be caught stooping to such an unthinkable low. I recall hearing a lot of gasps in response to the news when it was first revealed.
But, it happened. He was an incredibly terrible example of a human being, disrespecting the very animal who is said to be “man’s best friend”, reminding us all that some serious ugliness is still out there in full force – often where we least expect it.
And now it’s over. He’s been caught. He’s served his time. We’ve all thrown up a little over it. And now he has a dog.
In some ways, this represents a very special moment – something like finally getting through a quiet night’s sleep after being plagued with recurring nightmares. To me, it represents a certain peace, or a hope for peace, where it’s possible that Vick may be in a very unique position to speak to others who are where he once was in their lives and their misunderstanding of the importance of our relationship with dogs.
Maybe Vick is in a position that none of us can hold, and because of that, it’s in our best interest to trust him, undeserving as he may be, and let him fulfill this new position to the best of his ability. From this position, he may have a special opportunity to set an example for others and to inspire them to learn a new way to view our relationship with dogs. Maybe he will take the time to quietly learn how to properly train and care for a dog, and perhaps his family and friends will learn too. Maybe he will raise a happy, well-adjusted dog who is doted on by his children. Maybe he will raise children who have learned to respect dogs and pass that respect on for generations to come. Maybe the cycle really will stop.
It’s my hope that Vick’s dog will become a vessel for this information. As the public is allowed to “meet” the dog, and as Vick and his family’s interactions with the dog are revealed, this new dog may be exemplary to more people than we know.
Maybe this dog will silently go about, working his doggie magic, just by learning and growing as dogs who live in loving homes do, saving folks from themselves and saving dogs from these folks.
And maybe that’s worth the risk.