LIBERTY TOWNSHIP | Pit bulls ruled at the Coast-to-Coast Bully Walk at Sunset Hill Farm County Park on Saturday.
The event promoted the positives of pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs, said event organizer Laura Bruccoleri, of Valparaiso.
The event featured former MMA fighter and animal advocate Gordon Shell; Boss, a pit bull from the Animal Planet television program "Pit Bulls and Paroles;" Everest, a 3-year-old pit bull “ambassador” from North Carolina; and Bruccoleri’s therapy pit bull, Piper.
More than 100 dogs and their people walked around the park in honor of Pit Bull Awareness Day, while microchip sales by McAfee Animal Clinic and a silent auction raised funds for the Porter County Animal Shelter. Local band Good Clean Fun entertained the human and canine participants.
Dogs also vied for top honors in a dog costume contest.
Louie, a gray pit bull mix from Crown Point, sported “doggles” and a motorcycle jacket.
“We’re going to get him on our Harley this year in a sidecar,” said Kelly Rinker, Louie’s owner.
Rinker adopted Louie two months ago “from the streets of Gary” and said he lives peaceably at home with three Chihuahuas and a Maltese.
“He’s the most wonderful dog I’ve had in my life,” said Rinker.
Seamus Sullivan, 7, of Portage, is no stranger to pit bulls. His pit bull/mastiff mix, Elvis, sleeps with him at night.
“They’re awesome,” Seamus said, accepting kisses from Louie. “My dog gets the newspaper for me every morning.”
Lili, a 3-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, was disguised as a black and white Holstein cow for the costume contest.
“She’s been real good,” said Jordan Johnston, Lili’s owner. “I don’t think I’ll ever want any other kind of dog.”
Shell, who halted his 24-year fighting career in September due to a heart condition, sold his “Fight Me, Mike Vick” T-shirts and promoted his soon-to-be released documentary, "The Dog Fighter," which chronicles his life as an MMA fighter and a champion of homeless dogs in his hometown of Detroit. Shell said a portion of proceeds from the T-shirts and the movie will be donated to animal shelters.
“I’ve always been an animal advocate,” Shell said. “All the dogs I’ve adopted have been rescues.”
Everest, a white pit bull, enjoyed hugs from his owner, Carol Whitt, of Gates, N.C.
Whitt said Everest hosts Discover Tails, a reading program in the town’s schools and public library.
“It’s the first positive interaction the kids have with a dog,” said Whitt. “They learn how to treat a dog. ...it’s a neat experience.
Bruccoleri met Whitt on Facebook and invited her to the event.
“I was so excited to come here,” Whitt said. “It was a long 20-hour haul, but worth it. I’ve met so many neat folks out here.”