This witty warbler has been observing with jaundiced peepers the Vick-timization of part-time AZ denizen DMX, a.k.a. Earl Simmons, by the county's top K9 canoodler, Sheriff "Nickel Bag" Joe Arpaio. By Vick, this seed-eater means Michael Vick, natch, the Atlanta Falcons QB who recently pleaded guilty to federal charges resulting from his involvement in a dogfighting enterprise.

Not that this feather-bearer worries about mastiffs mauling each other any more than he sheds croc tears at the treatment of equines at horse races or the bloodthirsty way yahoos like Ted Nugent enjoy hunting wildlife with bows and arrows, ensuring a painful death for their prey. Dogfighting's a cruel sport. And Vick supposedly oversaw the merciless torture of pit bulls. But they're only dogs, people. They ain't superior critters, like us avians.

Sure is some coinkydink that just as Vick, a black gent, was being demonized in the press for his anti-dog doings, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office decided to raid black rapper/film star DMX's Cave Creek home. Hey, we all know how the sheriff feels about canine abuse. Um, unless his officers are doing the abusing. As writer John Dougherty described in New Times' "Dog Day Afternoon," (August 5, 2004), MCSO SWAT team members drove a pit bull pup back into a burning Ahwatukee home and laughed as the owner listened to the pooch getting roasted alive.

So much for Sheriff Joe, protector of mutts.

Imagine the glee of publicity-hound Arpaio and his handlers upon receiving the tip that one of the Valley's most prominent African-American entertainers supposedly had some underfed dogs at his pad. DMX is well known for showing off his snarling pit bulls in his videos. One of his albums is titled Year of the Dog . . . Again. His greatest hits CD? The Definition of X: Pick of the Litter. Arpaio henchmen like David Hendershott and Paul Chagolla must've thought their PR jackpot machine had come up all cherries as soon as somebody Googled DMX's name. Fortune had delivered them the Valley's Vick.

MCSO deputies received the tip about malnourished animals August 7 but didn't burst into DMX's home 'til August 24. If Arpaio & Company were so worried about the well-being of DMX's tail-waggers, why didn't they move more quickly? According to DMX's New York legal beagles, that was because the MCSO was on the horn to them way before warrants were issued.

"The sheriff's office was in contact with Mr. Simmons' entertainment lawyer [Scott Mason] and was trying to work things out," DMX's Bronx barrister, Murray Richman, explained to this egret. "But they decided to take the action they took."

Mason backed up Richman's account.

"I did speak with [the MCSO]," peeped Mason from Gotham. "I was trying to comply with whatever they wanted. There was no reasoning for what they did."

What did sheriff's deputies net from their DMX home invasion? Twelve pit bulls, some guns, three dead dogs, a mysterious white substance the MCSO had to go through a locked bedroom door to get — a substance Arpaio hinted was meth or coke — and a "usable amount" of Mary Jane.

Oh, and a ton of free, worldwide publicity.

The story was picked up in Ireland, France, Asia, you name it. Arpaio's still milking it, even though the MCSO has since admitted that the powdery white substance wasn't drugs. Now old Joe probably thinks it's Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

The MCSO claimed the dogs were mistreated and underfed. Kinda like the human prisoners in Joe's jails. Deputies carted the canines off to air-conditioned cells, where they were pampered and petted. And Joe's minions made certain there were plenty of TV cameras around for the raid. Heh, wonder why The Bird was never alerted?

"There was no malnourishment of dogs," squawked Richman. "The caretaker who was there let them out in the heat and did not provide sufficient water. That was the problem."

Richman says someone was hired to look after the dogs while the star of Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds was touring Europe. The guns? All legal, according to Richman. As to the small amount of ganja, "Could somebody've been smoking a joint in there?" asked Richman. "I guess so."

Arpaio and mouthpiece Chagolla initially told reporters there was no evidence of DMX being involved in dogfighting like Vick, but the media made the connection for them, segueing into the Vick story from pieces on DMX. The MCSO sent the three cur carcasses off to some facility in Atlanta (Vick's stomping ground) for doggy autopsies (called necropsies). Chagolla has yet to tell this beaker how much the fancy-pants postmortems cost.

As this osprey types, the results have hit the wire. The AP reports one of the deceased Scooby Doos had "serious bite wounds" and another had "trauma" to the abdomen. The third had been burned so badly the "exam was inconclusive."