It's odd how pit bull news stories often seem to have themes. This week, the theme could best be described as "Celebrity Connections." A TV show about rescuing pit bulls, a children's book about an insecure pit bull who just wants to be loved, a vampire who brought a dog back from the dead, and an NFL star throwing a pit bull parade highlight this week's stories.
Pit Bulls On Parade
Most athletes involved with charity events give the impression they only show up because their publicist arranged a photo op to improve their image. Not so with pit bull aficionado Ernie Sims.
The former first round draft pick and four year NFL starter has a true passion for helping both underprivileged children and animals, especially pit bulls. This past Sunday, he hosted "Pit Bulls on Parade" in his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. The event included agility demonstrations and course tryouts, weight pull competitions, a pit bull dog show, Canine Good Citizen testing, and plenty of fun activities promoting responsible ownership.
"Pit Bulls on Parade" closed out a three day benefit for The Ernie Sims Big HITS Foundation, which has a dual mission of helping disadvantaged children and young adults, and offering support for "programs that make a more humane world for all pets and wildlife." Sims' foundation contributes directly to shelters and disaster relief, as well as to broader programs designed to educate the public about animal welfare issues.
Sims got his first pit bull during his freshman year of college and promptly fell in love with the breed. "Five years later, he is like a son to me," explains Sims, who now has five pit bulls as well as a menagerie of horses, snakes and tarantulas. The long-time animal lover has dedicated himself to increasing positive awareness of the American Pit Bull Terrier. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to fight for this breed and get people to understand ABPTs," says Sims. And when his football career ends, the linebacker has plans to pursue his lifelong passion and become a veterinarian.
Cheers to Ernie for his dedication and ongoing contributions to animal welfare in general and pit bulls in particular!
The Pit Boss
What do pit bulls and little people have in common? They're both fighting to overcome stereotypes. That is part of what led Shorty Rossi, a little person and ex-con, to create the television reality show "Pit Boss."
"As a little person, I especially can relate to snap judgments, and I know how hard it is to debunk misperceptions." explains Rossi. "Similar to little people and ex-cons, pit bulls are harshly misjudged."
Rossi's motivation for helping pit bulls goes beyond an empathy for their image problems, however. He also credits pit bulls for saving his life when he was younger. He learned early on that dogs truly can be the most loyal and devoted companions anyone could wish for. In return, he now operates a pit bull rescue organization.
The show's new season premiered at 10 pm ET this past Saturday on Animal Planet. "Pit Boss" aims to prevent cruelty by rescuing pit bulls from dangerous and neglectful situations, and by educating the public about the true nature of the breed. "I want the world to see them for the lovable, loyal companions they can be," Rossi states.
Baby, I'm a Star!
No, the title of this section doesn't refer to Mary Tyler Moore, the award-winning television and film actress. Nor does it refer to pit bull lover extraordinaire Bernadette Peters, Moore's co-host at this past weekend's 12th Annual Broadway Barks charity event for animals.
Moore may have helped revolutionize television in the 70s, and Peters may be a star of stage, screen and song, but the star we're talking about is Stella, the title character of Peters' new children's book, Stella is a Star. The book tells the story of a pit bull so discouraged by the way people cross the street when they see her that she disguises herself as a pig to gain acceptance.
"I love to change people’s perceptions about pit bulls, and to show them how naturally sweet they are," said Peters, winner of two Tony Awards. "If you just take a dog by itself, it will naturally be affectionate and love people. But anyone can take a dog and mistreat it and make it nervous."
Profits from the Broadway Barks fundraiser and Stella is a Star go to Broadway Barks, the non-profit organization started by Peters and Moore. Broadway Barks contributed to 25 different animal welfare groups last year.
Risen from the Dead
It's not often we link to an entirely true story about a pit bull brought back from the dead by a vampire. But that's exactly how actress Nikki Reed and her pit bull Sydney got together. When Reed, who plays the vampire Rosalie in the hit Twilight movies, adopted Sydney from the animal shelter where she volunteered, Sydney was not only scheduled for euthanasia, but was already listed as "deceased" in the shelter's computer.
Talk about being saved by the skin of your teeth ...