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Analysis: Does Vick have what it takes?

| Friday, Dec. 24, 2010

My dog is dumb as a stick, but that doesn't necessarily make him bad. He's just gifted in other areas — such as chewing himself raw or hurling himself across the dinner table in pursuit of scraps. Trust me, the guy would Fosbury Flop across the Panama Canal to acquire the dead end of a stale french fry.

I love him still, in that way you love things that need you a little more than you need them — bosses, hamsters, street mimes.

Michael Vick, former resident of the federal penal system and now a contributing member of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of those win-at-all-costs football organizations that Nietzsche could have coached, knows the value of a dog as well.

Vick wants one in his stocking come Christmas. Not this Christmas, for the courts won't let that happen. But when those pesky probation terms end ... yeah, he wants a dog again.

"I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process," he said last week.

Thing is, a lot of people don't really care about Vick, for he can take care of himself. No, what people are concerned about is this poor potential dog.

It's easy to see why Vick would like a pet. A dog offers unconditional love in a very conditional world.

A dog waits up nights for you, shares his bed, lets you sit under him on the couch.

To a dog, every place is Paris. He'll go anywhere, anytime. He doesn't gripe that the lousy seat in church is too far from the bride and groom or that the butcher is out of his favorite type of cutlet. Give a dog a cutlet, or even the remnants of one, or even the scent of one on your fingertips, and he will love you like you're Ava Gardner.

So, it seems obvious why Vick would want a puppy, for the same reason we all want puppies. For our kids, for our cold and clammy hearts. A puppy can't read the bad things they say about you in the paper.

Things got messy in this regard again this week, not on the field, where Vick can hurdle messes quite deftly (see Giants-Eagles highlights). This mess is off the field, when Vick said he'd like to have a dog, then the head of the Humane Society of the U.S. seemed to say he wouldn't mind that happening — a thunder statement that shook the pet world, though the Humane Society director says he was misquoted.

In protest, an outfit called took out an ad in The New York Times on Sunday. They say a $50,000 check from the Eagles this year essentially bought off the Humane Society honcho.

Basically, the question still comes down to this: Should Michael Vick ever have a dog?

He will, probably, no matter what we think. The courts have banned him from owning a dog through May 2012, but after that he is free to do what he likes. When that happens, the little pup will be like royalty born, his every move scrutinized. There may be surveillance cameras mounted in each ear.

In defense of Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle, Vick can do a lot to help dogs. Currently, Vick turns out twice a month with Pacelle to campaign against street fighting. It is this growing phenomenon that leaves the Humane Society feeling the most powerless.

"At the end of his prison term, (Vick) wanted to talk," Pacelle said. "I was skeptical, but I thought his story would be a great cautionary tale. I'm not promoting him having a dog. ... We're definitely not advocating that he have a dog."

Turns out this issue is not as cut-and-dried as you'd hope. There is nuance, which always requires more thought than we'd like to muster.

But still, the question will linger for the next 17 months: Should Michael Vick ever have a dog• Rest assured that Vick will not get any kind of dog this Christmas.

Because you shouldn't pay for a dog with mere money. You should pay for him out of the kindness of your soul.

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