by Brett Starr

On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, FGCU student Kylie Hawkins excitedly dolled-up her pretty, mixed-breed dog, Minnie, in a green scarf, floral lei and dillybobber shamrock headband, then headed to Fifth Avenue South to watch the big parade.

Still an adolescent, Minnie may have been pushing 40 pounds, but had no clue that her head was one of those oft-maligned square-ish ones. Anyone who has met her will swear, Minnie is as affectionate and non-threatening as any dog could ever be expected to be.

Nonetheless, as they walked up Park Street, Kylie overheard comments made by the presumptuous uninformed: “That girl should be ashamed for bringing such a dangerous dog to an event like this,” and “Look at this chick! She should know better than to take an attack dog out in public,” they sneered, while making no effort to lower their voices, and failing to consider Minnie’s obviously docile behavior, but instead, choosing to profile the dog based solely upon appearance.

Someone actually spit at Minnie (left), oblivious to the fact all this dog craved was love and attention. Minnie’s tail never stopped wagging.

If Kylie was already devoted to animal rights, she morphed into a dogged advocate against looks- and breed- specific bias after that St. Patrick’s Day encounter, even producing a Power Point slide show as part of an “A+” persuasive speech assignment in college English class.

Now, the Kylie Hawkins Memorial “For Pitz Sake” Animal Rescue Fund seeks to combat looks- and breed-specific bias through educational marketing.

Established in her memory after Kylie (left) died suddenly at just 28 in 2017, the fund will also support local nonprofit organizations in providing spay/neuter procedures, adoption fees and emergency medical services to deserving owners/would-be owners of “pit bull-type” dogs; in other words, just about every mutt out there.

Finally, it will aid emergency rescue efforts and projects for all breeds, if needed, through grants to smaller, no-kill, organizations, such as the Pitbull Crew, Brooke’s Legacy and Collier Spay Neuter, among others.

But, before it can begin awarding grants, the fund must have a $10,000 balance. That’s where Life in Naples readers come in. Your tax-deductible donations supporting this compassionate pet campaign in our own backyard can be made by check or credit card.

Make checks payable to the Community Foundation of Collier County, write “For Pitz’ Sake” on the memo line and mail to the Community Foundation, 1110 Pine Ridge Rd, #200, Naples, FL 34108 or call 239.649.5000 to make credit card donations.

“Kylie really did accomplish a great deal in her short life,” says her mom, Brenda. “From music and athletics to academics, adventure and faith, when she chose to do something, she’d pull out all the stops to do it well. But no matter what else was happening, my daughter always made time to rescue any kind of lost, unwanted or mistreated animal. Then, she’d reach out to her vast social network to find loving, safe places for the animals to live.

It was more than impressive; it was seriously amazing. “In my heart, I know my daughter would be over-the moon knowing there’s a fund, with her name on it, assisting local animal rescues and keeping her passion alive.”

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Can you “Pick the Pit?” Take the test

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