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August 21, 2008

Animal Planet Special

Animal Planet is now sending me DVDs of upcoming specials, the next of which is Animal Witness: The Michael Vick Case. I watched it last night and I recommend tuning in - if you can tolerate the graphic scenes of dog-fight violence of which the disclaimer  warns.

The show examines the case from minute one to minute now, which happens to be Vick's bankruptcy filing. As he sits in federal prison - still facing state charges in Virginia - he's lost about $140 MILLION in earnings, endorsements and fines. And he threw away his NFL career AND his fancy real estate AND most of his human dignity.

The story is told through the police investigator who thought he was tailing a drug suspect - a Vick hanger-on - and ended up discovering a hellish kennel and fighting-pit complex where pit bulls mauled each other to death, or nearly so. The rescue scequences are heartbreaking, but the (relative) good news is that of 53 pit bulls, only two had to be destroyed.

Now here's the hidden blessing: Most of the dogs - billed as the most vicious curs in America - were meek, humble and sacred to death. But after months in cages, held as evidence, they were sprung after Vick plead guilty. They turned out to be sweet, loving, playful and desperate for affection.

Many - after socialization training and careful obsercation - found homes with families.  Some will stay at sanctuaries, and one - her facial scars a poignant reminder of the abuse she endured - is a gentle, calm therapy dog bringing joy to sick people in hospitals and treatment centers. Those scenes will make you weep.

The show is partly a defense of the pit breed, which has been unfairly maligned because sick, cruel jerks like Vick have corrupted them for their own sadistic pleasure. It's also an enlightening glimpse into the bloody world of dog fighting, which, though illegal in all 50 states, flourishes in an Internet-connect netherworld that's nearly impossible to penetrate. A New York Times reporter spent a year trying to infiltrate, and offers sharp insights.

It starts airing on Sunday, 10 p.m. Click here for the Animal Witness/Vick Case site.

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