A few months ago, we visited Virginia Paws for Pits and had the pleasure of meeting Page Hearn, the founder and director, plus three lovely pups (all foster-fails). Page describes Paws for Pits as a low-volume, high-maintenance rescue.
Page runs Paws for Pits out of her gym, Queen City Strength, in Staunton, Virginia. PFP is so much more than a foster-based pit bull rescue. They are advocates for the breed, educating everyone in their path. They often take in desperate cases – dogs most people would give up on because of horrendous medical issues, often human inflicted.
For instance, Page told us about Finn, a dog currently in a long-term foster home who had been hit by a car and left to die, lying for six months on a concrete surface and thrown food occasionally. All of her joints eventually locked and after Paws for Pits rescued her, she needed extensive surgery and a wheelchair.
More recently, they rescued, Hardin, a puppy who romped around us as we talked, occasionally stopping for a snuggle with Page.
Page took him in as a ‘bonus’ after she had traveled to North Carolina to pick up a female dog named Mirak. When She arrived to pick up Mirak, who had been hit by a car, the shelter asked if she might take Hardin, who was 8 weeks old at the time. His injuries were so severe and well beyond what the shelter could handle. If Page had not taken him, he would have been euthanized.
Hardin had severe lacerations and parts of the skin on his feet and legs had literally been peeled away. At the time the shelter thought he’d been hit by a car, but when a veterinarian worked on the pup, he said the wounds could only have been made by a human intent on torturing the puppy.
Between the surgeries for Mirak and Hardin, the vet bill was twelve-thousand dollars. Hardin charmed us with his antics, and other than a few scars and a funky-shaped foot, you’d never know he started out life so cruelly.
Page’s dogs, Sullivan and Minnie Mouse also hung out with us, both are elderly now but were originally rescued and rehabilitated from dog-fighting cases. Minnie Mouse is a tiny land hippo and Sullivan is a peanut butter and chocolate colored gentle soul. Now they are ambassadors for the breed, winning over converts at the gym on a daily basis.
I asked Page about the stuff piled around us in the gym lounge where were meeting. There were boxes of home goods, dishes, clothes, baby equipment, furniture, and even a piano. She explained that they help homeless dogs but they also help homeless people.
At Thanksgiving, they pack food boxes for people in need in the Staunton area, and always include food boxes for their pets. Once they deliver the Thanksgiving boxes and meet the families and understand a little about their situations, they come back and deliver Christmas the next month. In 2021 they ‘delivered Christmas’ to 36 children, 22 cats, 17 dogs, and a few random smaller pets.
One of the families who applied for help at Thanksgiving was from Dayton. Page assumed she meant Dayton, Virginia (nearby) but when they went to deliver the Thanksgiving box, they discovered the family was actually in Dayton, Ohio! It was impossible to get their Thanksgiving box to them, but they did still bring them Christmas.
Once there, they saw how desperate the situation was, so they gathered supplies, furniture, and other donations and drove a back few months later to paint, clean, repair, and help this family set up their house. We were sitting amongst the donations that came in they were unable to use (I have no doubt Page will be sure they get to someone else who desperately needs them).
Page’s dream is to create a Hotel Humanity that can be a safe place for homeless people to get back on their feet and safe place for homeless dogs to recover and find forever homes. The people who stay can help take care of the rescued animals. She’s got lots of other plans, like a big trip to Washington DC and Philadelphia to the homeless encampments to deliver supplies to the residents (and their pets).
We talked at length about ‘why pitbulls’ and Page explained that ever since she was 17 she’s been rescuing the ‘breed.’
And here I have to stop and say, what Page said (which is the same thing I said in my last book), There is no such thing as a pit bull. It’s a classification of dogs based on appearance. She prefers to call them ‘Pit bull type’ dogs.
We talked about how pit bull type dogs have been demonized in the media. How unfair the label is and just how much false information has been spread about this breed. Not long before our visit she posted a beautiful rant about the treatment of pitbulls and the responsibility of owners on Facebook. It included a picture of her husband and Hardin.
That post went viral and since then she has received all manner of hate mail and had to block people who post nastiness on her page. She told me she feels sorry for people who are filled with so much hate for dogs, people who spend so much of their time and energy spreading that hate.
I asked Page what the rescue needs most right now and it is, like most rescues, money for veterinary expenses. At the time of our visit, her bill at Virginia Veterinary Specialists was about four thousand dollars. She has a payment plan worked out and continues to rescue. In addition to her own foster home, she has about seven others. The more foster homes she has, the more dogs they can help.
If you’d like to know more about this remarkable woman and the work she does, follow the Facebook page, or visit their website (to donate). You’ll be inspired by the size of Page’s heart and the people who work with her to make the world better for Pit bulls and for people. It was such a privilege to sit with this incredible woman and her beautiful dogs and hear her story. I hope you, like me, are now a Page fan.
Until each one has a home,
The mission of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is to raise awareness and resources for homeless dogs and the heroes who fight for them.
You can learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.
Amber’s Halfway Home is our short documentary film produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for sixteen film festivals (to date), it’s won eight awards (including Best Short Doc, Best Soundtrack, Best of Fest, and Audience Choice), and was nominated for an Emmy! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring story we hope will compel viewers to work for change. Please watch it and share it far and wide.
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