Britt Bolnick was on her honeymoon when she turned to her husband and said: “Hey, you know what would be really fun? Let’s start a pit bull rescue.”

As honeymoon conversations went, this one was unusual. Her new husband was not fazed.

“He agreed!”  she said.

Britt Bolnick, founder of the Pittie Posse dog rescue, with Baxter Bean, the dog Pittie Posse used for its logo. Submitted photo

About 4½ years later, the Pittie Posse rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in other states, finds foster and adoptive homes for dogs in need, educates the public about bully breeds, and runs a roving pet pantry that supplies food and other items to pet owners in need across the state, including those in Auburn.

While it’s called the Pittie Posse, the group rescues all bully breeds, including pit bulls, bullmastiffs, bull dogs and terriers. Its pet pantry is open to all pets, including cats.

It’s close to Bolnick’s dream, but there are a couple of things missing: More donations so she can help more people. And a building.

Now, the rescue is working through a scattered array of foster homes.

“It’s definitely a 2021 goal that we have some space to put dogs where we have a leisurely amount of time to work with them and train them,” she said. “Because a lot of the dogs that people say are exhibiting behavior issues, it’s either situational — there’s something happening in the home that’s not OK for the dog — or it’s a lack of training and understanding the dog’s needs.”

Bolnick always wanted to run a dog rescue, even as a child. But her focus became pit bulls after she rescued her first one off the streets of New York 20 years ago. His name was Boo Radley.

“I call him my gateway pit bull,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about pit bulls then. … and he just really taught me about the breed and the plight of pit bull-type dogs. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog and the perceived monster, and pit bulls are definitely that.”

Her husband, Todd Sullivan, was into the dog rescue idea but less into pit bulls. Maybe they could focus on a different breed?

“I made him watch all the stuff on Michael Vick and spent a few months educating him,” she said. “Now he’ll often say, ‘I totally get it. These dogs are amazing.'”

So amazing that they have three of their own, plus a long-term foster.

While the couple lives in Saco, the rescue works all over the state. One of its monthly pet pantry stops is at the First Universalist Church on Pleasant Street in Auburn, where a person associated with a Lewiston subsidized housing complex recently approached Bolnick.

The complex has 300 elderly residents with 200 to 250 pets that need food. Could the pantry help each month?

The pantry has mostly relied on individual donors giving a few bags of food or a bit of cash. To supply 300 families with food, the Pittie Posse would need a much bigger donor.

But still.

“I said yes,” Bolnick said. “My general philosophy in life is if I’m feeling called to do something, I say yes first and then I figure it out.”

Britt Bolnick brings food to pet owners in need across Maine, including an upcoming stop in Auburn on Feb. 13. Submitted photo

The rescue brought those families a truckload of food two weeks ago. It hopes to bring another truckload or two when it returns to Auburn for its regular open pantry on Feb. 13. Pittie Posse is now looking for a large donor to help.

“Our hearts really hurt for elderly folks,” she said. “When they’re shut in at this point, their animals are really their only source of companionship, and to have this stress and scarcity around feeding them must be intolerable.”

Bolnick also hopes to get a loan this year for a building where the rescue can house dogs in need of training. The Pittie Posse gets 10 to 15 requests for help a week from families who want to find a new home for their dog with behavioral issues, but the rescue has to say no to most of them because their foster homes can’t handle dogs with big issues. It kills Bolnick every time she has to say no.

“Most are probably fine dogs, they’re just in situations that aren’t a good fit for them,” she said. “So those dogs are either being bounced on Facebook for free or they’re winding up in shelters and they’re being put down because they’re not presenting well in a shelter environment.”

Her dream was to start a rescue. Now her dream is to help as many dogs and their families as possible.

“Supporting each other right now is more important than ever,” she said.

Animal Tales is a recurring Sun Journal feature about animals and their people. Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: