It seems like we have always had a dog. Our current dog is named, "Shelah." She is a female three year old Australian shepherd, brown and white, medium sized, loves kids. Before we had Shelah, we had an Old English named "Jackie". She was large, gray and white, smart, kind, and loved kids. We had her nearly a decade and we grieved her passing. Our dog ownership is scientifically based. My wife is an elementary school guidance counselor, and she is convinced that kids benefit from having pets. She points to studies that show that kids with pets have higher self-esteem and improved social skills and are more popular with their peers. Somehow it is just good for kids to have a dog run to them when they get home, lick them in the face and beg to be played with.
I don't think that anyone who ever had a dog for a pet would enjoy the "sport" of dogfighting. Just the thought of Shelah or Jackie being starved and then forced to fight to the death with another dog is horrifying. Michael Vick probably did not have a dog growing up.
Tuesday, July 17, Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation. John Goodwin of the Humane Society said the manner in which losing or unwilling dogs were killed was especially troubling. "Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me, and I'm a person who faces this stuff every day - they're unnecessary and just sick."
According to the Humane Society, "Dog fighting is a sadistic 'contest' in which two dogs are placed in a pit to fight each other, for the spectators' gambling and entertainment. Fights average nearly an hour in length and end when one of the dogs is no longer willing or able to continue. The injuries inflicted and sustained by dogs participating in dogfights are frequently severe, even fatal.
Dogs used in these events often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection hours or even days after the fight. Other animals are often sacrificed as well. Some owners train their dogs for fights using smaller animals such as cats, rabbits or small dogs."
How do you think God feels about dogfighting? There are many references in the Bible where God's concern for nature is clear to see. Adam was told to tend the garden - this could be understood as a command to care for the earth and all of nature. Noah was commanded to build an Ark big enough for the animals to survive.
Moses commanded the Israelites to keep the Sabbath, so that they - and their animals - could have a day of rest. The Proverbs say that a farmer should care for his livestock. David, who was chosen to lead the people of God, had previously risked his life protecting sheep. Isaiah foresees a future world at peace where the lion will lay down with the lamb, and Jesus said that God watches over the sparrows.
Maybe the Psalmist said it best, in Psalm 148 & 150, where we read that "everything that has breath will praise the Lord." Dogs in their own way are valuable to God and they too will sing his praise.
Dogfighting is a felony in 48 states and a misdemeanor in Idaho and Wyoming. If convicted, Vick and the others could face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution. If convicted, it would be fitting for Vick to be ordered to volunteer at a Humane Society - feeding, caring for and cleaning up after abused and abandoned dogs. Maybe Michael Vick could learn to love dogs by caring for them.
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn & Mansfield UMC. Send e-mail to