"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pit Bull Visit Lifts Police Spirits

Even tough guys with guns and badges like to play with a dog now and then.

Members of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department got the chance to do so Thursday, days after making an arrest in a dogfighting case.

Due to the case, and the images of mistreated dogs stamped into the minds of those who worked it, Capt. Andy Jackson, head of investigations, thought it would be a good idea to ask Leah Brewer to bring her registered therapy dog, “Elle,” to see his officers.

“We brought the dog over here because when officers go to a case with dogs all torn up, with cuts and injuries, on chains with no food or water, it’s a traumatic experience,” Jackson said. “Elle’s a good reminder of healthy, happy dogs.”

Roanoke Rapids narcotics investigators discovered the dogs while serving a search warrant in Brandy Creek Oct. 19. Approximately 30 dogs were on the property, some showing obvious signs of having been used in fights, according to Jackson. The dogs’ owner, Calvin Jerome Champion, is facing charges relating to dog fighting in the matter.

Elle, who happens to be a pit bull, gave the officers a chance to interact constructively with a breed many associate with negative imagery, Jackson said.

“It helps us to remember that with pit bulls getting a bad reputation, that not all pit bulls are bad,” Jackson said.

Brewer also thinks having a pit bull as a therapy dog, one trained to be around people who are sick, weak or traumatized, helps improve the breed’s image.

“It’s good we’re helping the community,” Brewer said. “But we’re helping the breed, too.”

Det. Jamie Hardy, a narcotics investigator who was there when the dogs were discovered, thought having Elle come in helped the breed’s image.

Being a pit bull owner himself, he said it is important people understand pit bulls are good dogs.

“I have a pit bull so I know how good they are,” Hardy said. “They’re not aggressive. It’s all in how you raise them.”

Hardy said he has three other dogs — an Australian shepherd, a Chihuahua and a Rottweiler — and they all get along with the pit bull. Small children have also been around the dog without any trouble.

“It’s not in their nature to be aggressive,” Brewer said. “They love people.”

Advanced Law Enforcement officer Rich Somogyi, who recalled watching a malnourished female pit bull trying to chew through a chainlink fence to feed her puppies on the other side at the scene, had a surprising twist on the visit.

“This is the first pit bull I’ve ever touched,” Somogyi said. “All the ones I’ve seen before have been used by the criminal element. She’s really a great dog.”

Those involved in the case felt Elle’s visit was good therapy, but Hardy also kept in mind the dogs he saw in Brandy Creek, and felt owners of fighting dogs need to be held accountable.

“It’s tough to see dogs treated that way,” Hardy said. “People have a choice, but these dogs, they don’t have a choice.”

By Roger Bell

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