Matteson native’s efforts are literally going to the dogs
BY JAIME ANGIO Correspondent September 12, 2012 2:34PM
Debbie Wilkie, of Peotone, co-founded It’s a Pittie, a rescue organization for pit bull dogs. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:15PM
For every pit bull Debbie Wilkie rescues, she believes there are thousands she cannot. That’s enough to keep her awake at night.
However, Wilkie, 54, a Matteson native, stands pretty tall with the fact that the nonprofit she co-founded and runs has rescued hundreds of the dogs. It is appropriately named It’s a Pittie Rescue.
The Peotone-based organization boasts more than 100 volunteers committed to rescuing, rehabbing and finding new homes for full pit bull and bully breeds. Wilkie beams with pride over their efforts.
“I think we have adopted out 240, and we have approximately 60 or 70 (at the shelter), which is amazing for a brand-new organization,” Wilkie said.
It’s a Pittie Rescue was formed in May 2011, but rescuing is not a new venture for Wilkie.
Growing up in Matteson, the Rich South High School graduate knew early on she had a special connection with animals.
“Being a rescuer isn’t what you do, it’s who you are,” she said. “It’s something inside of you that you can’t deny.
“I can remember as a child feeding bunnies all night long at the age of 10, and it’s just something I’ve always done. I brought stray animals to my house all the time growing up.”
Wilkie said she never really was breed-specific when it came to her love of dogs. But there was something about the pit bull breed she says she just “can’t really explain.”
“They are really, scientifically, dogs that bond the highest with human beings,” she said. “Once you’ve been around them and you’ve spent time with them, nothing else adds up.”
Wilkie has spent considerable time with pit bulls.
About 12 years ago, the married mother of three decided she wanted to get involved with a rescue because she more or less had been doing such work independently.
“There was a shelter that was open in Peotone, so when I went in there, there was quite a few pit bulls,” she said, “and I never had been around them before, and I said, ‘What’s with all the ‘pitties?’ And she said, ‘They are the best dogs ever.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ ”
But Wilkie became enamored.
“What they go through, and they are still so resilient and they are so loving of people and eager to please, I just became enthralled with them,” she said. “I just fell in love with them.”
Wilkie volunteered at the Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue for eight years, then decided to strike out on her own and “make a dream come true” by forming It’s a Pittie.
“There are so many reasons that go into that, I have such a deep love and respect for them,” she said. “There’s never been a dog that you rescue that doesn’t rescue you back.”
Wilkie considers herself on call 24/7 with It’s a Pittie, but also is an area trainer for PetSmart. Holding down both roles can be tiresome, but Wilkie eats and breathes advocacy for the often-misunderstood pit bull breed.
“The biggest misconception is aggression with human beings,” she said. “Pit bulls that are aggressive with humans are not representatives of the breeds. They love children. Everyone in my family has at least one of my dogs.”
Facebook plays a huge role in the rescue’s work, with posts in the thousands trying to match dogs with new homes.
“Just to rescue one dog, so much work goes into it.” Wilkie said.
It’s just a matter of doing a rescue right.
“It’s putting good dogs out there, healthy dogs out, sounds dogs out there and finding great homes for them,” she said.
Yet knowing she can’t rescue all dogs bothers her.
“That’s what keeps you up at night,” she said. “And the pictures of the dogs ... no one is going to help, and there are thousands of them every day that die. They’re so powerful yet so sensitive. They are so strong, but yet so loving.”
For more information, visit rescueapittie.org or search “It’s A Pittie Rescue” on Facebook.