When you think “power couple,” you think lifestyles of the rich and famous. While these two may not make the Forbes list of power couples, they are rich in their love and devotion to restoring the image of pit bulls. Individually, as well as together, these two advocates work everyday to help pit bulls in need, and have dedicated their lives to raising public awareness and educating elected officials on breed specific legislation. Together they are an amazing team making huge strides for a breed they hold so dearly to their hearts.
Today’s honorees for National Pit Bull Awareness Month are Katie Bray Barnett and Anthony Barnett, and I’m thrilled to share the story of the pit bull community’s very own “power couple!”
We named our dog Leonidas after King Leonidas of the Spartans, the strategic warrior who never gave up and sacrificed everything in the face of overwhelming odds at the battle of Thermopylae. On King Leonidas’ statue at Thermopylae the inscription reads ‘Molon Labe’ in Greek. At the Battle of Thermopylae the Persians told the Spartans to lay down their swords and shields and surrender. King Leonidas responded, “Come and get them.” We couldn’t agree more.
Katie and Anthony Barnett met in 2007 at a city council meeting in Olathe, Kansas. The city was considering breed specific legislation. “I had just moved to Olathe after having been told to get out of my home or surrender my dog in another city in the area,” Katie recalls. “I couldn’t believe I was going through this all over again.” (Read Katie’s back story on her motivation to attend law school, her dog Katrina, here.
Anthony presented to city council that night as a representative of Kansas City Dog Advocates. “Anthony is one of those people who gathers a crowd in any room. When Anthony talks, people listen,” Katie says. And the Olathe city council sure did that night. The city voted down the BSL proposal with the incredible help of several advocates and veterinarians in the Johnson County Kansas community. “He was so eloquent and logical with a hint of satire; I just had to meet him,” Katie said.
“Honestly, I just thought she was smoking hot,” says Anthony. “I didn’t really know her; I had just seen her from a distance at dog events. I wasn’t sure if I even had a chance with her, but I was feeling ambitious. In the tradition of sixth grade romances everywhere, I basically passed a note through a mutual friend of ours. Katie checked ‘yes,’ we went out, I found out how smart, strong, independent, and just overall amazing she was and I ended up married.”
Soon after they met Katie was accepted to the University of Kansas School of Law and embarked on her mission to help people and dogs. At the same time, Anthony developed the idea of a small website and blog, Game Dog Guardian. http://www.gamedogguardian.com “Game Dog Guardian is inspired by people – empathy, experience, connection. I really started to feel that the story of the pit bull and the sacred nature of the human-canine bond could teach us a lot about ourselves; each other and society as a whole. I felt like this experience was about so much more than just rescue and I wanted a way to explore that notion.” Katie appreciated the unique philosophy of GDG and felt the organization could help victims of cruelty (like their dog Leonidas) through rescue. And so the philosophy took shape: Help People. Help dogs.
Today, Anthony lives with the steadfast drive he admires so much in the dogs he helps, serving on the Board of Directors of several local organizations, and visiting a myriad of locations with his two Delta Society registered therapy pit bulls, Liam and Leonidas, including the Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, KS, helping with an ethics class at Baker University in Baldwin, KS, helping with the Kansas City Marching Cobras, and the University of Kansas Collegiate Veterans Association. Anthony has made so many friends and had such an impact that he, and collectively Game Dog Guardian, was presented with an American flag that flew 38 missions over Afghanistan throughout Operation Enduring Freedom.
Anthony also recently made his modeling debut in the new GDG marketing campaign “Struggle Together. Strong Together.” where he poses bicep curling his own dog Bruce Wayne. “We are always looking for original ways to communicate ideas and interact with the world. With this campaign we wanted to emphasize the strength of the human-canine bond, but also that it’s okay to have a hard working ‘tough’ dog if you want one. Our dogs shouldn’t have to crap rainbows to be socially acceptable,” says Anthony.
Katie is the softer side of GDG, having been in the beloved Pinups for Pitbulls, Inc. calendar in 2011, along with a handful of GDG dogs and volunteers who are featured in the 2012 calendar (and rumors are flying that GDG might be represented in the 2013 Pinups for Pitbulls Norman-Rockwell inspired calendar). Katie’s volunteer work is complimented by her work with Best Friends Animal Society as an intern through law school and today, as a Legislative Attorney for its Pit Bull Terrier Initiative under the leadership of the ever-productive Ledy VanKavage. “I have been blessed to work on some of the most innovative and effective dangerous dog laws enacted in the country,” Katie says. “My favorite part about my job is presenting to law students; talking to our future leaders of change in public safety and animal welfare.”
The diversity of both Katie and Anthony advocating for our dogs makes the Barnett family a force to be reckoned with. “It’s our turn to fight for them,” Anthony says, “and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Katie concludes.
On behalf of Bless the Bullys and the National Pit Bull Awareness Campaign, thank you, Katie and Anthony, for your commitment and passion to making a difference and improving the lives of pit bulls everywhere. I am honored to know and work with you both, and I respect and admire all that you do for this incredible breed!
And as far as making the power couples list…? Forbes may not be knocking on your door, but you certainly make the very top of the Bless the Bullys’ list!