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Vick has a dog? Might be just what's needed to break the cycle of cruelty

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Vick says he understands the public outrage that stems from his family owning a dog. (US Presswire)  
Vick says he understands the public outrage that stems from his family owning a dog. (US Presswire)  

Michael Vick owns a dog, and some of you are mad. Some of you are more than mad. Irate is a word that applies. Appalled works. Disgusted.

You love dogs, which is why you feel that way.

It's also why you should know better.

That dog is going to work its magic on Vick. That's what I believe. By the time that dog is done with him, Michael Vick will be more devastated than ever about what he did -- the life he lived, the person he was -- back when he was funding a dog-fighting ring. That's what I hope, but it's also what I believe.

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Dogs are special. You know that. A person that would knowingly raise dogs to fight, to tear each other apart just so the real animals -- the ones outside the cage -- can wager a few bucks? A person who would do that is a criminal, and Michael Vick was that. He went to prison for it, as you recall. He lost almost everything but his athletic ability. Very few mourned for him, because he got what he deserved.

But since then he has done everything right, and I mean everything. This isn't a story about his football career, so don't tell me that he hasn't done everything right -- the fumbles, the interceptions, etc. This is a story about something more precious than football. It's a story about a human being, and a dog, and redemption. And before we learned last week that he owned a dog, Michael Vick had done everything right.

He said the right things, which was easy enough to do. He spoke for the right causes, which was also easy enough. But this? Owning a dog?

Man, this is going to be hard.

That dog is going to weasel its way into his heart. Probably already has. Vick says he got the dog for his kids, because "it is important to make sure my children develop a healthy relationship with animals." But you know how dogs are. They don't care which member of the family "owns" them. They're going to jump on your lap or lick your face, whoever you are, because that's how they are.

And it's going to be hot coals on Michael Vick's soul.

I helped fight these beautiful animals? I hurt them? I killed them?

It's going to be emotional torture for Vick, but it will be more than that. It will be healing. That dog's going to make him a better person, and when someone as influential as Michael Vick is a better person, the effects ripple outward.

They started years ago, really. Vick has filmed public-service announcements for the Humane Society, turning his back completely on his dog-fighting past and the people in it. That's no small accomplishment for a man of Michael Vick's background, but he does it in spots like this one, which starts with Vick saying, "You know who I am. You know why I'm here."

Michael Vick, the most notorious dog-fighter of our lifetime, will do more to stop the spread of that evil than an army of Humane Society or SPCA volunteers. There is value in that, just as surely as there was horror in the life he used to lead. Is it a fair trade, all the dogs he helped kill in exchange for the ones he has since helped protect? I don't know. I only raise the point to say I don't want to go there, that it's too awful a mathematical equation to consider.

But as you can tell, I'm on board with this version of Michael Vick. That one, the one who went to prison? I despised that one. As I wrote in 2008, "Let God forgive Vick. Me, I'll hate the man forever."

Four years ago, if you'd told me that Michael Vick would own a dog in 2012, I'd have been sick. But that was a different Vick, and that was a different me. People change, you know?

Lots of you, people who felt as I did about Vick in 2008, you haven't changed. And listen, not only do you have that right -- but you're not alone. As recently as March, deluged by complaints about its relationship with Vick, the Humane Society put out this thoughtful Q-and-A to defend Vick, and itself.

Because in March 2012, people were still livid with Vick for the life he had lived years earlier. Hey, Vick gets it. When word leaked last week that he owned a dog, Vick addressed the outrage in a statement:

"I understand the strong emotions by some people about our family's decision to care for a pet," he said. "Our pet is well cared for and loved as a member of our family. This is an opportunity to break the cycle."

Break it, Michael Vick. Break it into so many pieces, your children's children will be mortified to learn that Grandpa Mike once ran a dog-fighting ring.

Meantime, the mortification will be yours. Every time that dog does its dog magic.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. More importantly, he is 4-0 as an amateur boxer, with three knockouts. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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