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When Tracy Garcia goes out for a walk, she will say "hello" to a dog being walked before greeting the owner.
“I’m more of an animal person first," says the founder of It's a Pittie Rescue, a nonprofit pit bull rescue organization serving the Chicago area. "I guess because I have been caring for animals since I was a child. I started with baby birds and after working at Forest South Animal Hospital, I developed my skills with other animals including wildlife. ...
"I can’t really pinpoint why I chose to work with pit bulls. I started about 10 years ago and haven’t stopped since."
Q. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve taken on?
A. My biggest challenge has been trying to change people’s perception of the American Pit Bull Terrier. The media has really ruined the image of the breed. Most of the newspapers rarely publish a positive story about a pit bull, they love to sensationalize the negative or even spin it into something that it never was.
Q. What inspired you to take on this challenge?
A. My inspiration for taking on this challenge is to be a voice for the voiceless. There is no happy medium involved with this breed. You tend to have people hate the breed and want them extinct. Then there are people like myself and others involved in rescue who are always trying to change people’s perception of the breed and love them unconditionally.
Q. What will you do when you succeed?
A. I’m not sure we will ever be able to achieve our goal in changing people’s minds about the breed, but we will never stop trying. It’s A Pittie Rescue takes on this challenge every day. The plea to help needy dogs is never ending.
Our voicemail, e-mail, Facebook and rescue pages are flooded every day with people looking for a pitbull in need. We recently took in a dog named Petunia who was picked up in the south suburbs after being set on fire. More than 20 percent of her body is covered in burns. A few days after being rescued she gave birth to five healthy puppies and is doing her best to take care of them in her painful state. In addition to Petunia, It’s A Pittie has several other dogs who are also in need. Maybe not in a way Petunia is, but in need nonetheless.
Eleven hours after this interview, Petunia died of her burns. To see other dogs that need a home or foster home, please visit It's a Pittie's Facebook page or the Chicago Heights-based agency's website at www.rescueapittie.org.
This post is published throughout the Chicago-area Patch network.