When Maple Grove resident Larry Hotchkiss was in his early twenties he got his first Rottweiler, a dog he says was a wonderful companion for eleven years. But his wife Amy needed convincing when it came time for the Hotchkisses to get a dog together. He wanted another Rottweiler. She wanted something small and fluffy. Larry got his way and Amy soon became a convert. Today the couple serve as advocates for A Rotta Love Plus, an all volunteer advocacy organization and foster-based dog rescue for Rottweilers and pit bulls.
A Rotta Love was founded in 1997 as the first non-profit Rottweiler rescue organization in Minnesota. In 2003, A Rotta Love merged with a Twin Cities pit bull rescue, Pits Plus, and became A Rotta Love Plus. The mission of A Rotta Love Plus is to provide community education outreach to repair the reputation of these breeds. It also provides dog owner education and training, spay and neuter initiatives and most importantly, it rescues and re-homes dogs in need.
The Hotchkiss’s first foster dog from A Rotta Love Plus was Ora, a white female pit bull they took in in 2006. “She was sweet,” says Larry. “But she had off the chart energy level and wanted to play all of the time.” Larry began working with Ora on basic obedience and the Hotchkisses ultimately adopted Ora. Larry’s research into techniques for building drive and focus in a dog led him to discover the Minnesota Disc Dog Club. Ora went on to win a disc dog state championship in 2008 before developing health problems that ended her disc dog competitons.
Larry admits that Rottweilers and pit bulls are not for everybody. But he believes the stigma attached to these breeds is unwarranted. He says, “Like any breed, there is a wide spectrum of personalities. Many of the problems associated with pit bulls in particular come from uncontrolled breeding, lack of exercise and dogs being kept outside.” Uncontrolled over breeding can also result in more dogs in need of saving than A Rotta Love Plus can save. But the benefit to a potential dog foster is that A Rotta Love Plus takes a quality over quantity approach to selecting dogs it brings into its program. It can choose which dogs will best represent these breeds and rehome approximately 30-40 dogs each year. A Rotta Love Plus can almost always find a compatible dog for any potential dog foster. The organization provides dog food, crates, toys, medical care and all supplies necessary for dogs placed in foster homes.
“Pit bulls can be among the most clownish and easy going dogs I know,” says Larry. “They are amazingly forgiving, exuberant and friendly.”
In addition to finding foster homes for rescued dogs, A Rotta Love Plus also attempts to help control over population by offering regular Get Your Fix Fairs for free spay and neuter, free vaccinations and low-cost microchips. It organizes a variety of school programs directed at teaching children about dog bite safety. And several of these animals have been trained as therapy dogs.
“There are two great reasons for using these dogs in therapy settings,” says Larry. “First, we want to demonstrate the trainability and sensitivity of these much maligned dogs to help overcome their bad reputation. Second, using pit bulls as therapy dogs with youth in crisis can give kids having a rough go a dog they can relate to.”
Over the years, Larry and Amy have fostered over 35 dogs for A Rotta Love Plus and have provided a permanent home to Ora and their new addition, Jasper. But their goal is to help others save the life of a dog. “We can only save as many dogs as we can find foster or adoptive homes for,” says Larry. Rotweillers and pit bulls in animal control are at risk of euthanasia without a loving foster or forever family. A Rotta Love Plus works to provide dog fosters with everything needed to be successful. They consider their volunteers to be, quite literally, lifesavers.