Meet Petey, a rather large white pit bull weighing in at about 100Ibs, who could only be described as a “gentle giant” by volunteer dog caretaker, Jennifer Kalash. This humble year-old giant couldn’t have a more endearing personality. Yet, it’s for that reason that Kalash doesn’t understand why, that when Petey was brought to Pitties and Pals Rescue, both of his ears had been cut off with scissors.
Although Petey has since been adopted and is now in a loving Connecticut home, he is one of the many abandoned, seized, neglected, or abused pit bulls that have come through the Pitties and Pals Rescue mission. Kalash is one of many caretakers who have taken the time out of their days to help abandoned and stray pit bulls find their “furrever home.”
Kalash has been active in the mission for a little more than a year, but the 23-year-old from Jackson, New Jersey, has already seen 15 individual pit bulls come through the program. Each one with their own distinctive personalities and temperaments. Some, like Petey, come from abusive household. For example, Bernie is a year-old pit bull who came to the mission as a puppy with his jaw broken. It’s dogs like Bernie and Petey that have kept Kalash as a staunch advocate for the long-stigmatized breed. Kalash has surrounded herself with good company, as Pitties and Pals has a secondary focus of reducing fear and debunking the myths that the pit bull breed has acquired through the year.
“They’re so misunderstood. They’re the sweetest, most-loving dogs but they get such a bad reputation. I think a lot of people can understand or relate to them, that just because they have a name or one affiliation, that doesn’t mean they’re bad or that they deserve to be treated any less than anyone else,” Kalash said.
According to Kalash, the rescue brings in pit bulls from neglectful or abusive households. These can include places such as Jackson, N.J. itself, or even Newark, N.J. Once the pit bulls are found, they are either placed in a boarding facility or in the care of a foster family. From then, active volunteers and other participants work toward finding permanent homes for these dogs. Until then, the dogs receive sincere treatment and care by those involved in Pitties and Pals.
Kalash says she has always had a fascination with pit bulls but couldn’t be as active as she wanted to be up until now. Kalash received her Bachelors in Athletic Training from Montclair State University in May last year. Becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer as well as spending time as an EMT for the Montclair area left little room for a pit bull rescue. Kalash would eventually sync up with Pitties and Pals soon after she graduated, after Kalash’s sister, Amanda, adopted a pit bull,, through the group. Since then, Kalash has lent her time and energy to the cause by walking and playing with the pit bulls that come into the rescue. She was first paired with Ace, a grey and white pit bull who Kalash described as “me in a canine body.”
Kalash gets her exercise in while walking them around the Manasquan Reservoir, as well as beaches and of course, over to the Howell First Aid and Rescue Squad building that Kalash volunteers at. Kalash also works with Pitties and Pals to get the dogs public exposure, and works with the rescue’s fundraisers throughout the year as well. Spending time in the company of these pit bulls has been a beneficial endeavor, Kalash said.
“My dog and other dogs have done more for me than I’ll ever be able to do for them. I’ve been in some dark places and always coming home or going to see a tail wagging and a tongue hanging out, it just makes you feel so good that you can do something for someone else who isn’t as fortunate as you,” Kalash said. “It doesn’t take much time to go to a shelter and walk a dog, but for that dog, getting out for a few minutes or a half-hour, is the world to them.”
Kalash’s ambition and passion for pit bulls is amplified by the fact that she is the proud owner of a stubborn 4-year-old pit bull named Nala. Describing Nala as “a fat, lazy, old lady,” Kalash laughed as she recalled a time when she had to carry Nala in her arms from the beach into her car. Kalash said Nala was too lazy to walk, and thus created quite a humorous scene on a beach where other people carried considerably smaller dogs. Although Nala has comfortably found her place in the household, Kalash said her parents were “hesitant” when she first explained to them that she wanted to get a pit bull following the loss of her beagle-mix to cancer. After extra reinforcement to persuade her parents, Kalash was brought to the local animal shelter.
“I went into the shelter looking for an older dog and we were right about to walk out. My friend was working at the shelter and she said “I have one more dog to show you” and she brought out this cute, little puppy who just ran around in circles, laid on her back, and did this little scratch thing when you rubbed her belly and me and my mom were like “she found us, this is the one,”” Kalash said.
Kalash’s experiences with Nala have reinforced her belief in how well these dogs defy stereotypes. As a breed so riddled with stigma, showing the public how these pit bulls have affected her life has become an important aspect for Kalash. It’s this aspect though, that still proves to be an uphill battle.
“I’ll be walking one of my rescue dogs or one of my personal dogs at the reservoir or at a park and I’ve had people make comments or pull their kids away from me, [and ask me] like why am I in public with them, why they’re not muzzled, or just about the breed, and It’s amazing how ignorant people still are,” Kalash said. “It’s 2017 and you see everything going on in the world, [you would think] that people would be able to put things aside and break down their stereotypical discrimination and then you wonder why; if people are hating on a breed of dog, no wonder why people can’t accept another person.”
Kalash knows that there is more to these dogs than their bad reputation, despite the criticism she has seen first-hand.
“I think because pit bulls are loyal and they are used for fighting sometimes that people get that really bad reputation for them but if you ask anyone who’s had a pit bull, they’ll say there’s no other dog like them. They’re the most love-seeking, loyal creatures,” Kalash said.
Kalash sincerely hopes that people will be able to see the good in these dogs that she sees. Being involved with Pitties and Pals has certainly strengthened her resolve to do so.
“At the end of the day, pit bulls are just another dog. I mean, you can call them whatever you want and they can look however they want to look but they’re man’s best friend just as much as a lab or a retriever or a German shepherd is,” Kalash said.
That resolve is no surprise though, as Kalash has found that 15 hearts have touched her heart just as much as she has touched theirs.
For more information on Pitties and Pals, or to get involved, check out the rescue’s Facebook page here.