The Lost Dogs is a really interesting look into the Michael Vick dog fighting case. I have taken a lot of interest in the case of the last while because of my work with animal rescues. Most of my interest comes from the negative stereotype associated with pitbull type dogs, and the number that were saved. Only one of the dogs from the operation was put down. She was bred to the point that she was aggressive towards humans.
Jim Gorant does a good job of telling the facts without much if any bias, and has extensive research documentation to back up what he’s written. That is one of my favorite thing about the book. For dog lovers and many sports fans this is a touchy subject and many things from the case could easily be sensationalized for one audience or the other, so it’s nice to see something that’s not skewed for any one audience and focused on presenting the facts. The only thing that isn’t based on fact in the book is when Gorant tries to tell portions of the story from the dogs perspective.
With all the information in this book the thing tha surprised me the most was actually in the introduction. Gorant is talking about the original article he wrote for Sports Illustrated, and the ~488 letters the magazine received about the story.
The second complaint was more troubling. In its simplest incarnation it usually went something like this: “Why does it matter, they’re just dogs?” The more verbose in this camp might elaborate: “People are dying and starving every day and we’ve got bigger problems. No one cares if you kill cows or chickens or hunt deer. What’s different about dogs?”
The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant
I can’t understand this line of thinking, but I’m not the average person. I’m around anywhere between 3–10 dogs at any point in the day and usually sleep with 2+ in my bed at night, but I think that Gorant does a great job answering that question.
The answer, cobbled together from all those readings and conversations, took me back to the beginning. Men first domesticated dogs more than ten thousand years ago, when our ancestors were hunting for their meals and sleeping next to open fires at night. Dogs were instant helpers in our struggle for survival. They guarded us in the dark and helped us find food by day. We offered them something, too, scraps of food, some measure of protection, the heat of the flames. In an article about the origin of dogs that ran in the New York Times in early 2010, one expert on dog genetics theorized that “dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter-gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from their hunter-gatherer predecessors.”
Certainly, as man rose in the world, dogs came with us, perhaps even aiding the advance. They continued to guard us and help with hunting, but they did more. They marched with armies into war, they worked by our side, hauling, pulling, herding, retrieving. We manipulated their genetic makeup to suit our purposes, crossbreeding types to create animals that could kill the rats infesting our cities or search for those lost in the snow or the woods.
In return we brought them into our homes, made them part of our families. We offered them love and companionship, and they returned the gesture. From the start it was a compact: You do this for us and we’ll do that for you.
Our relationship with dogs has always been different than it has been with livestock or wildlife. The only other animal that comes close is the horse, which has undoubtedly been a partner in our evolution and a companion. But a horse can’t curl up at the bottom of your bed at night, and it can’t come up and lick your face when you’re feeling down. Dogs have that ability to sense what we’re feeling and commiserate. There’s a reason they’re called man’s best friend.
The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant