No matter how hard I try, I cannot fathom why, whether as a breeder or a spectator, anyone would engage in dog fighting.
The Michael Vick case is beyond comprehension.
Vick is a multimillionaire who could pursue any hobby he pleases but chose instead, if the charges against him prove true, to raise pit bulls to fight to the death while sums of money as high as $50,000 are wagered on the outcome.
Vick, according to an ESPN source is "a heavyweight" in dog fighting.
And, even more disgusting, is the Humane Society of the U.S.'s estimate that dog fighting in America is a "multibillion-dollar industry" with as many as 40,000 people participating.
The Vick story is painful for me, a dog lover from way back.
I've had dogs all my life. I've never had fewer than two at a time; once not too long ago, I had five.
Being a responsible dog owner is work. Like all other dogs, my three—Fido, Sparkle and Hoppy— have to be exercised, fed, treated at the veterinarian, let out and brought in. Most of all they need to be loved and nurtured.
Sometimes I jokingly gripe about the amount of attention they require. But when I'm gone on even a short overnight trip, I can't wait to get home.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that I owe Fido, Sparkle and Hoppy my life. Recently, when I was critically ill and in intensive care for 60 days, a nurse arranged for the dogs to visit me in the hospital. From that moment on, my health improved.
How is it possible that in the name of entertainment, breeders train their dogs to go for their opponent's throats?
Vick and his associates kill dogs that don't meet their standards of cruelty by hanging them or slamming their bodies into the concrete.
Can you even imagine it?
Our pets ask so little of us—food, shelter and love—the least we can do is provide them with it.
Dog fighting—illegal in 48 states, is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals primary target. P.E.T.A is actively lobbying for the National Football League to suspend Vick without pay.
But while the controversial group is right in the Vick case, it has unfairly focused on shutting down the great American rodeo by erroneously claiming that the bulls, horses and calves are treated cruelly.
An interesting but little known fact is that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, organized in 1936 to ensure that animals be treated humanely and with dignity has been around seven years longer than the Humane Society of the United States.
July 28th is National Day of the Cowboy. And an old Jim Reeves song, "The Blizzard," tells as much about how cowboys—and the rest of us, save for the likes of Vick—feel about our animals.
In the song, the cowboy is only seven miles from home and his wife Mary Anne. But a storm is raging and his horse Dan is old and lame. Seven miles…five miles…three miles…100 yards is all that's left until they would arrive at "the barn with the hay so soft and warm."
But Dan can't make it. The cowboy says to his horse: "I'm so weary but I'll help you if I can."
So they stop to rest only 100 yards from safety.
But the story ends unhappily: "They found him there at dawn ...He'd a made it but he couldn't leave ol' Dan ...Yes, they found him there on the plains his hands frozed to the reins ..."
A cowboy and his horse, a man and his dog, a child and her kitten—these are special relationships that we treasure all our lives.
What a shame that not everyone can experience the joys that animals bring to us.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.