"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

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pittie Party Brings Cheer: Misunderstood Dogs Gather For Walks Around The City

Many are former fighting dogs or “throwaway” moms that were used for breeding.

A group of like-minded “bully breed” lovers who run blogs about the misunderstood canines have made time to put aside their laptops for real-time pack-walks around the city.

Every other weekend, Big Apple Pittie Pack Walks brings together these bully breeds, which include boxers and terriers but are most often synonymous with pit bulls.

“The goal is to not only give the dogs exercise and socialization skills, but to show off how great these dogs can be,” said Jennifer Bristol, a pit bull advocate who runs the Bully Project, which provides free pit bull training in Upper Manhattan.

Her fellow social media mavens, Alexa Jordan Silverman and Matthew Siegel, began organizing on-leash urban hikes after readers on their own blog — Two Graduate Students and a Pittie — alerted them to similar walks in other cities.

The couple became vigilant about training their own pit bull, Havi, after realizing that people on the street were scared of a dog they say is harmless.

“There is nothing innately dangerous about Havi or any other pit bull,” said Silverman, a dental student. “Unfortunately, with pit bulls, it is usually bad owners and not bad dogs.”

Silverman and Siegel joined forces with Bristol, who pens That Touch of Pit, and Doria Giles of Pretty Little Pittie.

The informal 2-mile hikes have taken them through Central Park, Riverside Park and the East Side promenade. The group’s next trek will takes place Sunday in Central Park, and is open to dogs of any breed. For info, search for Big Apple Pittie Pack Walk on Meetup.com.

The Bully Project will hold free four-week training classes beginning April 1 in Fort Tryon Park. For information, go to bullyproject.org.

The plight of pit bulls and other “bully breeds” brought two other young New York women to their rescue.

Rachel Gozman of Coney Island and Linda Montgomery of Westchester County founded Twenty Paws Rescue to seek out homes for abandoned dogs that are often deemed unadoptable because of their bad rap.

Gozman first became involved in rescue while studying psychology at Dartmouth College. After graduating, she became passionate about saving the underdogs when she was searching shelters for a sibling for her 12-year-old Bichon.

“They have the power to touch your heart like no other dogs,” said Gozman, 23, who is an NYU nursing student .

Many are former fighting dogs or “throwaway” moms that were used for breeding. The dynamic duo takes in dogs from the streets in New York City or from East Coast shelters, primarily in the South.

Gozman hope to pull dogs from the New York City Animal Care & Control shelter once the group establishes its nonprofit 5013(c) status.

Like many grassroots efforts, Twenty Paws relies on donations and a small army of volunteers, friends, transport coordinators and foster caretakers. They are always in need of additional foster homes to provide shelter for the dogs awaiting adoption, Gozman said.

Currently in its care are four dogs and a 1-year-old female cat named Layla.

The dogs are Ezzy, a social, energetic 5-month-old Labrador/pit bull mix who hails from South Carolina; Ulysses, a 7-year-old brindle pit; Kayla, a 9-year-old lapdog and Honey Bear, a gorgeous pit mix found wandering the city streets and named for her gentle bear-hug greetings.

For information, go to www.twentypawsrescue.com or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/twentypawsrescue.

By Amy Sacks / New york Daily News

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