Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: The Lost Dogs

I have referred to The Lost Dogs in this blog before, but I haven't done it nearly enough justice. Written by Sports Illustrated writer Jim Gorant, The Lost Dogs documents the recovery and rehabilitation of the dogs from the Michael Vick dogfighting case.

This is not a canned "Marley and Me" tale.

This is not a mindless, beach read.

This is not an easy read by any means. In fact, I had to put it down one night because I was literally nauseous.

Above all else, this is a MUST read. It's one that will likely make you question our celebrity-worshipping culture, our justice system, and the stereotypes against pit bulls. More over, it will make you believe in the resilient spirit of animals and the people who work to save their lives on a daily basis.

Within this book you'll find layers and layers of stories—from the details of Vick's dogfighting operation to the heart-wrencing tales of the dogs and their progress. For an overview of some of these stories, watch this PBS segment called, "The Dogs Are Alright."

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

The story that struck me the most was that of Cris Cohen, featured in the above video, who fostered a number of the Vick dogs.

Cohen devoted himself wholeheartedly to rehabilitating one dog aptly named Jonny Justice. Jonny made a lot of progress in Cohen’s care and was moved on to another foster family so that Cohen could work with a more troubled dog from the Vick case. But Cohen struggled when Jonny left.

            “Every time he [Cohen] took on a foster he gave a piece of himself away. It was impossible to do what he did without forming a close bond with the dog. The animal itself was less accepting of training if it didn’t feel a certain closeness and eagerness to please the trainer. In the past, that bond had always faded over time for Cohen. He figured the same thing would happen with Jonny, but it wasn’t. Just the opposite. He felt like he missed Jonny more and more as time went by…
He knew that taking in a second dog full-time meant the end of fostering… He would say, 'Every one I keep is one more that ends up dying in the shelter.' In other words, giving up one gave him the opportunity to save another. Giving up those opportunities to help was itself hard for him to accept.”

Luckily, Cohen found a way to adopt Jonny and still foster another dog simultaneously. In my opinion, it's people like him who deserve the NFL's MVP award this year.

On the day that I finished this book, I did two things. First, I went to the local rescue group and signed up to foster. I knew that, like Cohen said, it would mean giving away a piece of myself. And I liked that idea.

Second, I emailed the author to thank him for sharing this story and to ask for some additional information. I know that the teens who read magazines I write for need to hear this story. They literally NEED to hear it. Some of them may be thinking about dogfighting or, worse yet, may have been involved in dogfighting. Equally as important, some of them are our next generation of Cris Cohens. They need to know that this work matters. It really matters.

 If you haven’t read this book yet, please go buy yourself a copy, download the Kindle edition, listen to the audio book, or find it in your local library. Hell, I'll even lend you my own copy. But I want it back, because it's one of those staples that will remain on my bookshelf for a long, long time.


  1. Our Mama wants to read this book but she's kinda scared too! She has depression and anxiety problems and sometimes reading this kind of thing can be a "trigger"... even reading about fictional animals getting hurt makes her really upset. Maybe we'll take a peek at it though!

  2. The book is divided into 3 sections. Skip the first section [mostly about the dog-fighting operation] and read the second and third. There are still some sad sections, but the first section is really the worst.

  3. awesome review. i totally intend to read this book this year. I loved the Gorant quote they used on the PBS segment.