RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Kelley Blanchard is spending time at the Church Hill overlook with her two dogs, seven-year-old Blueberry and nine-year-old Maddox. On this particular morning, photographer Kourtney Smithson is capturing every moment.
“Blue, come back over here,” Blanchard chuckles when her inquisitive pooch walks away from her to explore some shrubbery.
This is the final photo shoot of a new project in Richmond called ‘101 Pit Bulls.’ Blanchard came up with the idea of a coffee table book portraying Pitties, as they are affectionately called, in all their glory across RVA.
“They’re America’s dog, and they just don’t get the right kind of attention that they need,” Blanchard says. “I think it’s a great platform to showcase all the rescue groups, all the Pit Bulls, all the families.”
She put out a call for dog and human duos and was overwhelmed with the response.
“In the first week we had over 100 submissions of people wanting to show off their Pit,” Blanchard remembers.
Since then, she has set up photo shoots in Church Hill, along Monument Avenue and other Richmond landmarks.
“These are their neighborhoods and where they and where their moms and dads come from,” Blanchard explains.
Each photograph shows the dogs having fun with their families, but the project has a greater purpose. Local shelters are filled with the breed, and Blanchard says there is so much misunderstanding about how affectionate these pets they can be. They still need help breaking down barriers.
All 101 Pit Bulls included in the book are rescues. Some have scars from past lives, including acid burns and amputated limbs. There are also positive signs of their futures with families who have welcomed them with open arms.
“It’s really about the other side of the leash,” Blanchard says. “It’s all about how you raise your dog, and if you show them love and kindness and structure they are the best dog in the world.”
‘101 Pit Bulls’ wrapped up with Blanchard’s photo shoot with Blueberry and Maddox. Pre-ordering will begin through this link on October 20, which is Pit Bull Awareness Day.
There are already talks of a second edition in Richmond because so many families wanted to be a part of the project, and Blanchard is considering expanding the effort to other cities across the country.