Pit bulls are often considered vicious dogs, because of their breed. That’s a perception Anthony Barnett, Lawrence, wants to change.
“Just like people, every dog is an individual and for safety sake and fairness sake, it’s best to judge dogs as individuals,” Barnett said.
When he’s not operating his business — Home Sweet Home Dog Resort on Haskell Avenue — Barnett is volunteering his time, to change hearts and minds.
He founded Game Dog Guardian, an organization that seeks to help dogs by helping people. According to the group’s website, “we believe a better life for dogs starts with a better life for people, and that a better life for people can be advanced through the human-canine bond.”
He regularly travels northeast Kansas to deliver the message that dogs, like people, don’t deserve to be discriminated against. He illustrates his point by taking two of his pit bulls along for the ride -- Leonidas and Liam. Leonidas suffered a tragic start to life. He was tortured. Barnett believes, as a puppy, Leonidas was dangled over a fence as dogs bit his feet. Leonidas lost two paws. One of his legs had to be amputated. He now serves as a loving pet who greets everyone he meets with licks.
“That’s his thing; he licks,” Barnett said.
On a recent Wednesday night, Barnett loaded up Leonidas and Liam in the back of his SUV and headed to Kansas City to introduce a group of children to his pit bulls.
An hour later, he arrived at practice for the Marching Cobras. The group consists of 150 school-aged children. Their performances include dancing, tumbling and drumming. The organization was founded by Willie Arthur Smith, who wanted to provide troubled youth with an alternative to street life. The children, ages 5 to 18, are surrounded by positive influences. They learn discipline, respect and a multitude of life skills.
Smith met Barnett two years ago. They share a mutual respect for bettering their communities and passion for mentoring youth.
“He (Barnett) expressed his feelings of loving children,” Smith said. “He brought his dogs over; we just loved them.”
Barnett walked Leonidas and Liam through the crowd of children, and often was met with the question, “Does he bite?” Barnett reassured each one who asked that his dogs are friendly.
“We (Barnett and his dogs) have a great bond and it’s a small thing I can share with other people,” Barnett said. “It’s fun to educate; it’s fun to take fears away.”
Smith said the Cobras receive the intended message — dogs and people deserve love and respect.
“These kids very seldom be cq in the atmosphere of animals and it’s amazing to them,” Smith said. “You see how timid they are; they’re actually afraid, so by him bringing those animals around it gives them the impression that dogs are good people too.”
For more information on Game Dog Guardian, visit www.gamedogguardian.com.