Corona del Mar Pit Bull Shows Breed's Gentle Side

Kissi lives at a home on Poinsettia Avenue with two little girls and their mom, who wants to help the community embrace well-mannered pit bulls.

Blamed for more attacks than any other breed in the country, the pit bull has a bad reputation as a dangerous breed, but two little girls in Corona del Mar consider their pit bull Kissi, just one of the girls.

Kissi, an 11-month-old American Staffordshire terrier, is arguably one of the daintiest pit bulls one will ever meet, but her owner Tonya Nicholson is committed to training her to be well-behaved. Kissi spends her days running in and out of her Poinsettia Avenue home alongside Nicholson's girls, 7-year-old Tess and 4-year-old Tate, with a pink, bedazzled collar and painted red nails, but that doesn't stop some people from being afraid of her.

According to Pit Bull Attacks.org, the breed was responsible for 726 attacks reported in news articles in 2009. Much of the bad rep pit bulls have, stems from incidents like one in Newport Beach when police shot two pit bulls after they attacked a woman and her son at the Marriott Newport Coast Villas in June.

"Contrary to what people think, Kissi is really calm and well-behaved," Tonya Nicholson, Kissi's owner, told Patch. "But she's really had to overcome the stigma of pit bulls. She has to be twice as well-behaved as any other dog because she is a 'pit bull'."

In an attempt to make sure her pit bull Kissi gets a fair chance to make a good first impression, Tonya Nicholson has enlisted the help of Newport Beach dog trainer Vladislav Roytapel.

"We are training her to respect human authority, to stay down near the floor unless she is called up for a pat or a treat and things of that nature," Roytapel said. "I believe in training dogs properly to prevent any problems from arising."

Roytapel has his work cut out for him with Kissi, not because she is aggressive but more so because Kissi has a special bond with Nicholson's little girls.

"I love when she jumps on our bed and snuggles with us," Tess said.

Roytapel says although Kissi has proven to be one of the girls' favorite playmates, she needs to be taught her place in the family.

"She is low on the totem poll in the family and that's what we need to make sure she always understands," Roytapel said.

And although Kissi isn't known to be a troublemaker in the neighborhood, she does have to follow stricter rules when the Nicholson girls have company.

"When people come over, I will put a muzzle on her to help them feel more comfortable," Tonya Nicholson explained. "But its not because of her behavior. She doesn't chew things up or snap at people. It's for their piece of mind."

Nicholson says she hopes introducing the community to Kissi one neighbor at a time will help people understand the pit bulls themselves shouldn't be typecast.

"Be afraid of how the owners' train these dogs, not of the breed as a whole," Nicholson said.

Rose T. November 15, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I have had personal experience where a dog attack was misidentified as pit bull attack in the newspaper so I have doubts when I read or hear of a "pit bull" attack in the media. I am happy to see this positive news about this breed and hope it continues. Recently, the scientific community has proven animals are more like we humans than some people might think and we owe them respect and compassion. www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRi_VIWjJCA
Chris P November 16, 2012 at 06:49 AM
I am against profiling pit bulls the same way I am against profiling drunk drivers. Judge the deed not the Drunk is what I say. I know statistically dunks kill and maim many people. But my uncle is a happy drunk and he loves everybody. He runs up to people and will just talk them to death if you let him. But society likes to fine him and toss him in jail every time he gets behind the wheel. He has never been an accident (EVER). Its all in the way drunks are raised. So please lets end DWI laws and just live by "JUDGE THE DEED AND NOT THE DRUNK".
Robert Striker November 17, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Right on, Chris. My uncle likes to wander around the neighborhood waving his 9mm in people's faces. He never pulls the trigger though, so he's got nothing to do with all those statistics that indicate pointing a gun in someone's face is dangerous. It's those "bad" gun owners who actually do pull the trigger who are responsible for giving my uncle's harmless behavior a bad reputation. Why are people are such haters?
Keith Adkins November 18, 2012 at 07:05 AM
We had a middle age women that has M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis) ask us what breed of dog would be best as a service dog as a "cane dog." The dog would need to be able to come when called and lean into her, give support, and to hold the weight of a 200 plus pound person pushing on it back. My wife said that an American Staffordshire terrier is possibly the best built breed for that kind of service. It's muscle system may support that kind of work. We were proud to know that the person got a pit bull and named it "Bear." She raised and trained it herself from a young dog to serve her well. The woman even dental flossed the dog's teeth to keep it healthy. Bear was a valuable partner for her to help her up and out on many occasions. Also she and Bear became Pet Partners with Delta Society in the early years as a Therapy dog. Bear was very well behaved. That tells us that the person or handler and environment may have more to do with the temperament of a dog than society. The dog got so old that she retired the dog and has since passed on. She now has to find another. I will say that many times people did pre-judged her dog only because of its type and not its behavior. It is too bad that some other people may mis-handle that bread to make it a bad name. It was an outstanding breed and service dog for her as long as he (Bear) lived too service that helped her and that they both enjoyed.
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