Celeste Chance, Contributing Writer
Dozens of people came to Richmond Animal Care and Control Center last week to pay their respects to Tommie, the dog who died after he was burned alive at Abner Clay Park Feb. 15.
RACC held a five-day memorial for the pit bull last week in lieu of a funeral that originally had more than 6,000 people “interested” in attending on Facebook.
“It’s been overwhelming the amount of donations, the amount of visitors that have been physically here at the shelter,” said Robin Young, outreach coordinator for RACC. “The amount of people that have reached out in other ways has just been above and beyond anything we’ve ever dealt with before.”
The memorial featured tables with cards, art and paper hearts for attendees to write messages on.
“We all adopted you,” read one of the messages.
Jeff Wicker, Rebecca Wilde and Kat Simons, who work at the radio station Mix 98.1 Richmond, attended the memorial after following Tommie’s story.
“We’re trying to keep it positive. One of the things we pride ourselves on for our particular radio station is we don’t want to dwell on the negative,” Wilde said. “While it is a horrific story, we know that something good is coming out of it like this.”
Wilde, who is also a RACC volunteer, has been working in animal welfare for more than 20 years.
Simons said the station features a “pet of the day” from a local shelter each day to bring attention to animals available for adoption.
Michael Villanueva, of Maryland, and his pit bull Raina attended the memorial Saturday. Villanueva said he decided to attend because he supports pit bulls.
“Everyone portrays these dogs as aggressive and mean,” Villanueva said. “But the reality is, if you treat them right, they’re going to be as sweet as can be.”
Paiton Monocure, of Mechanicsville, said it’s taken a dog like Tommie to bring people to recognize the level of cruelty inflicted on dogs.