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People & Pets

Couple advocates for rescues and pit bulls

5/4/2022

Gracie was rescued from a kill shelter in Oklahoma as a puppy.

The stories of how Shelease and Jesse Rittenhouse obtained their three dogs are similar. One element remains constant — their love of saving animals.

Maddie, an English bulldog, was 8 years old when they adopted her from AHeinz57 Pet Rescue. At age 12, Maddie is now a big “couch potato.” 

“Maddie is a homebody. She walks one block and lays down,” Shelease said with a laugh.

Their other dogs, Max and Gracie, are much more energic than their older sibling. The Rittenhouses rescued both of the blue-nosed pit bulls.

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It started with Gracie and Walter. The puppies, along with four others, were in a kill shelter in Oklahoma. Rescue Rehab Rehome arranged for a halfway meeting point in Kansas for the Rittenhouses to pick up the dogs. They drove five hours in a rainstorm.

The couple adopted both Gracie and Walter, a “foster fail.” Sadly, Walter died of cancer at just 18 months old.

Max was surrendered in Grinnell to Rescue Rehab Rehome before coming to the Rittenhouses.

“We could tell Shelease and Gracie needed a companion,” Jesse said. “We reached out to Rescue Rehab Rehome, and, within three days, they found us a dog.”

Max had been surrendered in Grinnell after experiencing a horrible home situation where he was kenneled 18 hours a day for the first year and a half of his life.

“Max was petrified of girls, as a girl used to beat him,” Shelease said. “Now he doesn’t leave my side.”  

Since Gracie and Max are pit bulls, strangers are hesitant to approach the dogs.

“We took the pitties to an outdoor Italian festival. Some people see them, and it’s hit or miss; they cross the street to avoid them,” Jesse said.

While some pit bulls are bred to fight, Jesse said not all owners raise their dog that way. 

Shelease and Jesse Rittenhouse adopted Maddie when she was 8 years old.

“Our biggest thing is being a voice for them. They are the greatest dog. Gracie doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s afraid of her own shadow,” Shelease said.

Jesse takes the dogs to his job, Walter Roofing and Solar. They named the business after their dog, Walter, passed away.

“Max loves to jump out of the truck. Employees are either very afraid or really love them,” Jesse said.

When they parented pups, the couple had to dog-proof everything. Admittedly, they went through a couple of couches and several random shoes.

Jesse suggested researching the breed before adopting a pit bull.

“They are a high-energy dog,” he said. “Make sure you can commit the time it takes to raise the animal.”

The couple says their dogs are like family. They all hop into bed together at night. The Rittenhouses rest easy knowing they’ve saved at least three dogs’ lives.

“A rescue dog’s love and affection is second to none,” Shelease said. “I like them more than people. They’re loyal and they live for us. They don’t hold grudges.”

Jesse said the dogs are a great stress reliever.

“At work, I have 30 employees. When we get home, we just cuddle with the dogs and not talk. It’s like an anti-anxiety and de-stress[ing] way to unwind.”

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