Sports Illustrated covers the Michael Vick dogs

When most people think of Sports Illustrated, they think of the famed annual Swimsuit edition. So this month the double-takes as people pass the newsstand are understandable – yes, there’s a girl on the cover but she’s no Giselle. Her name is Sweet Jasmine and she’s one of the 51 Pit Bulls seized in April 2007 as part of the notorious Michael Vick dog fighting ring bust. And what a beautiful dog she is! 35 pounds of lean muscle with a sweet face that would never hint at her tragic history.

The article gives readers an updates on the the pit bulls that were rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennel, from the gentle but deeply traumatized Sweet Jasmine; to happily rambunctious Zippy who loves her family’s young kids; Jonny Rocket who is a certified with Paws for Tales and helps kids who get nervous reading aloud in class practice their skills by reading to him; and Leo, a certified therapy dog who spends two to three hours a week visiting cancer patients and troubled teens. In addition, two other dogs are also therapy dogs, and two more are in training. A total of six have earned Canine Good Citizen certificates from the American Kennel Club.

The Sports Illustrated article reminds readers of what the dogs endured at the hands of Vick and his degenerate dog-fighting circle, and goes some way towards addressing the anti-breed hype that the magazine admits to fueling with their provocative 1987 cover of a snarling pit bull below the headline BEWARE OF THIS DOG. They concede that the breed has an image problem – people think of Pit Bulls as vicious killers when in actual fact experts agree that, with training and proper socialization, Pit Bills make wonderful pets, in no small part because of their unparalleled ability to bond with people and their abiding loyalty. Unfortunately the Pit Bull’s greatest strength is also their Achilles heel – they will do ANYTHING for their human.

The Michael Vick dogs have been recast and, as such, are helping to re-position their breed in the public eye – it is clear that they are no longer weapons, but are actually the victims in this scenario, and as such were entitled to the almost million dollar restitution paid out by Vick for their care and rehabilitation. Their high profile also ensured sufficient public outcry to save them from automatically being written off as a lost cause and euthanized.

Overall the article is touching, heart breaking, and ultimately optimistic. “Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this rescue showed the best… I don’t think any of us thought it was possible to save these dogs—the government, the rescuers, the regular people—but we surprised ourselves.”

Read the full article online: http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1150095/index.htm

Link to cover:  http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/11038/index.htm

The Infamous 1987 cover: http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/9073/index.htm

To support animal-care groups cited in this article, go to their respective websites: http://www.aspca.org, http://www.badrap.org, http://www.bestfriends.org. and www.recycledlove.orgTen of Vick’s pit bulls were taken to the BAD RAP rescue group in Northern California.  BAD RAP chronicles their progress on the charming and frequently-updated Vick Dogs Blog.

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