Michael Vick spent Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, coming off the bench to quarterback the Eagles to a near victory against the Packers. It's the latest chapter in the image rehabilitation of the 30-year-old former superstar, who served 21 months in prison between 2007 and '09 for participating in and financing an interstate dogfighting ring. The horrors that befell Vick's dogs at 1915 Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Va.—the hangings, the drownings, the electrocutions—remain difficult to consider. In SI senior editor Jim Gorant's new book, The Lost Dogs (which originated as the magazine's Dec. 29, 2008, cover story), the author provides a definitive, unsparing account not only of that brutality but also of the larger dogfighting culture that engendered it. (For instance Gorant describes the so-called "Cajun Rules," whereby each dog owner is allowed to wash his dog's opponent prefight to ensure there's no poison on the foe's fur.)
While Dogs chronicles the investigation that resulted in the incarceration of the three-time Pro Bowler and his cohorts, at its center are the stories of the deeply traumatized animals—sometimes, rather convincingly, written from the perspective of canines such as cover girl Sweet Jasmine—and of the people who banded together to save them. A PETA spokesperson referred to the 51 pit bulls rescued from Vick's property as "a ticking time bomb," and the initial hope was not hopeful at all: Five of them, perhaps, would not have to be euthanized. Thanks to months and months of gentle and daily efforts by their rescuers, though, 47 of Vick's battered dogs were saved. Most of the creatures turned from shivering, scarred messes into well-adjusted household pets, and some even became therapy dogs. "Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust," says Donna Reynolds of BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls), one of the organizations tasked with the dogs' rehabilitation. "But [this rescue effort] showed the best." Above all, Gorant's fine book is a heartwarming tale of how the love and commitment of a community can heal even the deepest and most abhorrent of traumas.
Take This Job And Sub It
Which athletes have been spinning the wheel of reinvention?
For any number of reasons—curiosity, boredom, bloodlust—a slew of professional athletes have ditched their specialty sport lately (or at least threatened to) in favor of another occupation. Can you guess which of these eight imagined athlete-sport pairings is real?
ANSWERS: KIMBO SLICE said of his move to heavyweight boxing, where he's expected to debut later this year, "I want to see what it's like to break some ribs ... with one punch"; SIDNEY CROSBY took batting practice with the Pirates on Sept. 8 and hit a 370-foot home run that nearly cleared PNC Park; BRANDON MARSHALL said that he planned to audition for the Nuggets and the Heat—"seriously"—if there was an NFL lockout in 2011; and USAIN BOLT said he'd turn to soccer after track, either as a defensive or attacking midfielder.
THE WHEEL OF REINVENTION
ERICK W. RASCO (BOOK)
HOUND OF HEALTH Cover girl Sweet Jasmine is among the creatures saved after abuse by Vick (left).
HARAZ N. GHANBARI/AP (VICK)
[See caption above]
ILLUSTRATIONS BY JEFF WONG