On April 26th, 2007, law enforcement officials descended on a sprawling white-brick house at 1915 Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Virginia. The home belonged to Michael Vick, who was the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons and one of the highest paid players in the NFL. Although the police were there on a drug search, they quickly found evidence of what appeared to be a large, well-financed dog fighting operation.

Fifty-one pit bulls were seized from the property and they sat in local shelters for six months as the ensuing investigation played out, leading to guilty pleas from Vick and his partners in an operation known as Bad Newz Kennels. In most cases, that would have been it for the dogs. Considered a public hazard, they would have been euthanized. But a tidal wave of public outcry inspired government officials to at least consider the possibility of saving some dogs. 

The startling string of events that followed included a landmark legal decision, a never-before assembled team of expert evaluators, a leap of faith and a selection of rescuers who were willing to do whatever it took to help. At the heart of it all was a group of dogs that wanted desperately to overcome what had until then been a life of violence and deprivation. 

Taken together, these tales showcase a resilience, dedication and commitment that have the power to alter the way society views pit bulls and to reinforce the essential nature of the human-animal bond. The Lost Dogs, for the first time, tells the behind-the-scenes story from the day of that initial raid until today.    

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Mel's I've Known

The name Mel has a few instant associations for me. Foremost is probably the corrupt cop from Scarface, who Tony does in with the 286th most quotable line of the movie, "Manny, choot dat peesh a chit." Then, of course there's the crusty proprietor of Mel's Diner in Alice, played by the late Vic Tayback, who will forever live in my memory angrily telling Vera to, "Stow it." And there's Mel Torme, whom I once had the pleasure of seeing perform at Michael's Pub. 

Now, too, there is Mel the dog. He was one of the group that initially went to Best Friends. He was in pretty bad shape emotionally when he arrived but he progressed well and was eventually adopted. I think this story contains a bit of hyperbole in some of the assertions about Mel's past (the only people who know for sure aren't talking), but all-in-all it's a good piece and it brings us up to date on what's happening with Mel today.

Lullaby of birdland, that's what
I always hear when you sigh
Never in my woodland
Could there be words to reveal
In a phrase how I feel


References (2)

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  • Response
    Fast forward to now. Today. You can meet Jim Gorant on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show on September 27, 11 am EST. "Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is the lightning that does all the work." Mark Twain
  • Response
    Response: hoisting equipment
    JimGorant.com - LOST DOGS - Mel's I've Known

Reader Comments (4)

From the moment I read "A brown dog sits in a field" I sensed that finally and truly a miracle was happening. After reading the first three paragraphs I knew for sure that miracle was real. In their voices and walking in their paws a poet had come to tell the story of the four-legged beings whose lives began in the Bad Newz kennels. In Choctaw Jim Gorant's name would be Walks with Great Spirit. One voice counts.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha Laine

C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s o n N Y T i m e s l i s t i n g.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha Laine

I have your book but am having a hard time reading it. I own three dogs and love them with all my heart. The thought of someone hurting them the way Michael Vick treated his dogs makes me sick. People, who say its just dogs get over it, have no idea what they are talking about. I live outside of philly and hear them talking about Vick like he was the second coming. I cannot stomach to listen to it. What he did to those beautiful creatures is unforgivable. Dogs are loyal and loving until death. Vick showed that he is inhuman. No empathy or compassion for the feelings of another living being. I will not forgive or glorify him just because he can throw a football. Dog fighting in philly is actually up not down since Vick came to town. There isn't enough lifetimes for him to make retribution for what he did to those dogs. I think he is only sorry he got caught and lost his money. I am also tired of being called a racist because I loathe him. I don't care what color he is. If Tom Brady did this, I would feel the same way.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrugbymom

God bless these dogs, they been through so much, and I really cannot understand why Vick is back in football. If you are capable of hurting an animal, then you are capable of hurting a child. Wonderful book, what wonderfu breed pitties are.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJo Ann

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