Jesse Kelley describes her dog Odyssey as the ultimate companion — kind, caring, reassuring and trustworthy. So trustworthy, in fact, that she has no qualms about bringing Odyssey to work.
“I work at a dementia clinic, so most Saturdays I bring her along,” Kelley said. “She loves the patients, and they love her. They’re usually happier to see her than to see me.”
Based on this description, many people would be surprised that Odyssey is a pit bull — a breed often linked to violent behavior. Leanne Johnson said that’s exactly the mentality Olympia’s Love a Pit Bull Day was designed to combat.
The one-day event, hosted by animal advocacy group Covenant Creatures, celebrated its fifth anniversary Saturday, with dogs and their owners gathering at Marathon Park on Capitol Lake. Although the event is specifically designed for pit bulls, owners also brought along all kinds of dogs — retrievers, labs and even pugs.
Johnson, director of Covenant Creatures, said people have slowly become more accepting of pit bulls over the past few years, but the breed and owners still face fear and intolerance.
“That’s why we wanted to create an environment where dogs and their owners can just get together and relax,” Johnson said.
Dogs and people kicked off the event with a walk around the lake, returning to the park to take pictures and play games such as dunkin’ dogs and quicker licker.
In dunkin’ dogs, owners place treats at the bottom of a bucket and the dogs stick their heads in to retrieve them in the same way that a human would bob for apples, explained event volunteer Josh Cooley.
“So far, we’ve only had one dog who would really do it,” Cooley said. “And it wasn’t even a pit bull; it was a rottweiler.”
In quicker licker, owners dip spoons in peanut butter and the dogs lick it off.
But while much of the event focuses on fun and games, there’s also a serious side, Johnson said. She explained that many pit bull owners have a hard time finding rental properties where their dogs are allowed, and many insurance companies won’t cover families that own the dogs. Booths at the event provided information about pit bull-friendly residences and insurance companies.
The event also provided an opportunity for Misspits Rescue founder Melissa Nolan to show off one of her foster puppies, Glory, and spread the word about her Gig Harbor-based organization.
She and her volunteers rescue pit bulls from shelters in Washington, Oregon and California and look after them until they can find suitable homes. Right now, the organization is caring for 45 dogs, 19 of which are puppies.
“There are a lot of pit bulls in need, more than any other dog breed,” Nolan said. “And I think that’s the misconception, that they’re mean or they’re not family dogs. But it’s simply untrue.”
Nolan explained that many of the dogs who come through Misspits Rescue are suitable for families with children, cats and other dogs. And owners are slowly warming up to the breed. She even has a waiting list of people looking for cat-friendly dogs.
Kelley, who volunteered at the event and brought Odyssey along, said her dog isn’t just friendly toward her other dogs — she even loves guinea pigs.
“I think she’s protective of the guinea pigs,” Kelley said. “It’s pretty cute.”