by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Red Côte Rosé, 7 Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars)
There’s not much of a connection between wine and Michael Vick as a general matter. But that’s not true for me.
One of our labels, Sly Dog Cellars, is named after my dog, Georgie. My wife Beryl was driving down Wooden Valley Road (where we live), and saw this dog wandering along the side of the road. Wooden Valley seems to be the locale of choice for abandoning animals. She stopped and got out without closing the door, in order to ask some people walking down the road if the dog was theirs. It wasn’t, so she walked back to the car, only to find the dog happily sitting on the passenger seat, wagging its tail, as if to say, “I’m home”. And I guess she was.
We tried to find a home for her, but to no avail. She’s a pit bull, and pit bulls are hard to place. So she ended up our dog. I have absolutely no regrets on that score, as one couldn’t ask for a better friend.
The “sly dog” part comes from our discovering that as harvest approached, she’d sneak out into the vineyard and eat grapes right off the vines. I’ve since learned that grapes aren’t good for dogs, but she’s never seemed to suffer any ill effects.
When people come over for the first time, often they are frightened at the prospect of meeting up with a Pit. Generally, a couple of minutes of Georgie’s licking them to death is enough to convince them that she’s not a menace, even if she might be a total nuisance.
So that brings us to Michael Vick. I do believe that once someone has “paid their debt to society”, as the saying goes, they should be free to get on with their lives. I just have a really hard time getting my head around that concept when it comes to Vick. Setting up often lethal dog fights for entertainment, and executing the ones that don’t measure up, is, for me, about as bad is it gets. Taking pleasure in the suffering of some poor animal isn’t just a passing transgression of youth—it’s vile beyond words. Georgie, instead of lucking out to find a good home, could have lucked out the wrong way and ended up at Bad Newz Kennels. My forgiveness can’t go that far.
I can’t see any use to Vick spending any more time in jail. At the same time, I have an ever harder time imagining that after what he’s done, he can go on to fame and fortune for his ability to pass a football. If he shouldn’t have to spend the rest of his days in prison, then a future as a free man doing something less rewarding (maybe cleaning out latrines) seems more just.
Money buys a lot of PR, and the money behind Vick is fashioning a story of his repentance, that in turn is supposed to warrant our forgiveness. I’m not buying it. Someone who would do what he did is missing something basic to what it is to be human. I don’t think he can suddenly resurrect an empathy that simply isn’t there. Maybe to that extent, it’s not really his fault. But I can’t help but believe that his “repentance” is the feigned repentance of the sociopath.
Pits have a bad reputation, much of it the result of the Michael Vick’s of this world. Take a dog and train it to fight, thrown in a certain amount of abuse along the way, and you’re going to end up with a mean dog. So Michael Vick is responsible not just for the dogs he killed, but indirectly thousands of others that can’t get adopted out due to the pit’s bad reputation. Many of these dogs, unadoptable, end up being euthanized, becoming yet other Vick victims.
So if you ask me what to do with Michael Vick, I just don’t know. But I do know I’m not going to be very happy with the likely ending, Michael Vick doing high fives with his teammates before an adoring crowd willing to ignore any transgression as long as he can score touchdowns.