Unfortunately for Michael Vick, the man who controls his future owns a dog.
A little white fluffy dog with a cheerful disposition, the kind of dog who greets strangers like long-lost friends and who never met another dog he didn't like.
Vick never had that kind of dog. Quite the opposite. His pit bulls would have treated U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson's bichon frise as nothing more than a tasty appetizer had the animal been unfortunate enough to meet their acquaintance.
I've got joint custody of a dog myself, and like millions of Americans tend to treat her better than I do my fellow human beings. I dropped 300 bucks on Kyoko over the weekend just on the off chance her veterinarian could figure out what was causing her to suddenly go to the bathroom in places she doesn't usually go.
She couldn't, but it made my family feel better to try. And my guess is that even a judge who must harden himself nearly every day to make decisions that can make or break a person's life would have done the same sort of thing for his four-legged best friend.
That's not to say Hudson will be tougher on Vick when he sentences him Dec. 10 just because Vick and he have different ideas about how to treat dogs. But for Vick's sake he better hope Hudson's bichon frise doesn't decide to jump up in his lap and lick his face just about the time he is going over the case file and looking at pictures of maimed and bloodied dogs taken from Vick's dogfighting farm.
Vick didn't ask Hudson for mercy on Monday, because it wasn't the right time to do so. That will come at his sentencing when Vick is expected to stand before the judge and plead for leniency.
Before that happens, though, the judge will likely at some time see the video of Vick making a statement before the cameras after his court appearance. He might have seen it already because in today's world of 24-hour news cycles it's kind of hard to miss.
If you missed it, look it up on YouTube and watch. It's worth a few minutes, if only to do what Hudson himself must do and reconcile the image of a contrite and remorseful Vick against the cold, hard facts of a very ugly case.
Vick looked good in his expensive suit. He showed the proper remorse and seemed ready to accept his fate.
He didn't read from a prepared script, though it was obvious he was prepared for what he was going to say in what had to be the longest four and a half minutes of his young life. He admitted he was immature, said he had lied to almost everyone about all of this from the start, and apologized to every child who had ever worn a No. 7 jersey for his actions.
And he said he had found God, which should make him a good cellmate because prisons are full of people who found God after committing the most horrific crimes.
If you hadn't read the indictment, you might have felt sorry for him. If you didn't have 29 pounds of lazy fur sprawled out sleeping in your office, you might have found him more believable.
But I had. I did. And I'm hardly alone.
Vick's statement may have come from the heart, but if so it's a heart that has changed mightily in the four short months that the crisis that has ruined his life as he once knew it enveloped him. Until Monday he had said nothing about the dogs taken from his compound, nothing about the carcasses found of other dogs he helped electrocute, hang and choke to death.
He never came clean until he had to. He never apologized until he had to. He never condemned dogfighting until he had to.
Now he wants us to believe he's suddenly seen the light.
Vick's supporters, at least the few who remain, would argue that he is being singled out because of who he is and because of the public pressure put on by very well organized animal rights activists. They would have you believe that this was just a mistake of judgment, something that shouldn't cost him $100 million and very possibly his NFL career.
Some would even argue that it is racially motivated.
But the dogs didn't see black and white when they were being killed. And this was no one-time mistake, but an operation financed and run by Vick that has been going on for years.
No, Vick is going to prison because he deserves to go to prison, just like his three friends who also pleaded guilty deserve their punishment. Nothing they can do now, whether it's cooperating with investigators or apologizing on national television, can change that.
I hope Vick is as sincere as he now sounds. I hope he's not just saying he's sorry because it will look good to the judge. I hope he can one day become the role model he never was.
I hope all those things.
Most of all I hope Judge Hudson can look his little dog in the eye and feel good about it when he takes off his robes on Dec. 10.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org

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