CHESTERTON | Piper wore her best pink winter coat with faux white fur to the “party.”
The 3-year-old pit bull therapy dog greeted “guests” Sunday at the Coast-to-Coast Bully Walk at Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy Preserve.
Piper hosted the walk, with the help of the Porter County Animal Shelter, to foster awareness and understanding of her “amazing” breed, said Piper’s owner, Laura Bruccoleri, of Valparaiso.
“There are a lot of myths about this breed,” said Bruccoleri, who frequents nursing homes, hospitals and the Visiting Nurse Association hospice center in Valparaiso with Piper. “They are not inherently fighting dogs.”
Bruccoleri said similar walks took place all over the country over the weekend in conjunction with Saturday’s National Pit Bull Awareness Day.
“They’re an all-American breed,” Bruccoleri said. “There are pit bulls serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as bomb sniffers, and they make amazing K-9 dogs.”
Jessye and Zaine Robberts, of Highland, know first-hand the rewards of owning the breed. They saved Anna, an American Staffordshire terrier/corgi mix, and Miley, a pit bull/corgi mix, from “death row” at a local animal control facility.
“I saw her (Miley’s) picture at 2:30 p.m., and they were going to euthanize at 3 p.m.,” Jessye Robberts said. “We cut it really close.”
Anna probably was never anyone’s pet because at first she fearfully cowered in her crate and didn’t know “how to be a dog," Robberts said.
“She didn’t know what dog biscuits or dog toys were,” Robberts said. “Miley 'trained' Anna to come out of her crate, and now they’re best friends.”
Nearly 30 dogs and their owners braved brisk October winds to enjoy the walk through the preserve, live music and raffles. The event also featured freebies from several vendors, including McAfee Animal Hospital, Positive Experience Training School, Nina B’s Photography and Chloe’s Cookie Company.
Kate Vanderlin, Porter County Animal Shelter’s community outreach coordinator, brought her own pit bull, Skya, to the walk.
“I think half the employees at the shelter own pit bulls,” Vanderlin said. “We’re a pit-bull friendly shelter — not all shelters are.
"We want to promote responsible ownership. That’s part of why we wanted to be a part of this," Vanderlin said. "Awareness is getting better.”
Bruccoleri plans to host the walk every year to continue to highlight the breed’s overwhelmingly positive traits.
“They are very family-oriented dogs, very social dogs,” Bruccoleri said. “It’s not the dog, it’s the owners. We need responsible owners, and we have to stop breed discrimination.”