An unforgettable dog’s life in photos

Enjoy photos of Captain Cowpants, a rescued pit bull therapy dog, who helped change discriminatory laws that were unfair to dogs of certain breeds.
By Kelli Harmon

Captain Cowpants has been described as one in a million. He’s a therapy dog, an ambassador who helped change laws that discriminate against dogs based on breed, and he was adopted from a county animal shelter. For eight years he won people over with his incredible gentleness.

Cappy passed away due to cancer on Monday, but since one of his many talents was cheering up people when they’re hurting, we thought it appropriate to share just a few of the ways he made a difference during eight years with his family. Melissa Lipani, a Mountain West regional engagement manager for Best Friends, and her husband, Adam Holmes, loved Captain and shared their home with him in Salt Lake City, Utah. They also shared him with thousands of others through his therapy work, through outreach events and through efforts to change laws that discriminate against dogs who look like him.

If you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Captain Cowpants, his photos will give you an idea of who he was. And if his photos inspire you, go out and get to know a pit bull near you. Foster or adopt one. The next Captain Cowpants is sitting in a shelter right now, waiting for someone to take him home.

Read more about Captain Cowpants on the Best Friends blog.

Epic dog cuddles

Captain Cowpants was an epic cuddler. Over the years, he was happy to be on the right, left or in the middle of frequent dog piles with his brother, sister and a steady stream of foster dogs. He had the remarkable ability to help shy dogs, and his calm energy and excellent dog social skills helped other dogs let loose and play like never before.

Captain with his “siblings” Ollie and Tuggy. photo by Melissa Lipani
Captain with his “siblings” Ollie and Tuggy. photo by Melissa Lipani

Captain Cowpants the pit bull terrier posing with four other dogs
photo by Melissa Lipani

Captain Cowpants the dog lying next to a foster dog
photo by Melissa Lipani

Pit bull therapy dog

Cappy helped countless people through his therapy work at hospitals, schools and at special events. He loved being the center of attention, giving kisses to those who wanted them and sitting in people’s laps.

Captain Cowpants the dog giving a young girl a kiss
photo by Gallivan photography

Captain Cowpants the dog giving a kiss to a woman during his job as a therapy dog
photo by Melissa Lipani

Captain Cowpants working as a therapy dog, being petted by multiple people
photo by Melissa Lipani

At one event, there was a little boy who previously had been bitten by two dogs and needed help overcoming his fear. His mom and dad made a special request for him to meet Cappy, and when they met, Captain did what he does best: He sat on the boy’s lap, gave him kisses and made fast friends.

Captain Cowpants the dog sitting on a scared boy's lap

In classes on the subject of animal-assisted interventions at the University of Utah Graduate College of Social Work, Captain helped future social workers learn about how therapy animals can help people. And he stuck around to socialize between classes, too.

Captain Cowpants the pit bull terrier working at the University of Utah College of Social Work

How laws affect dogs

As an ambassador for pit bulls everywhere, Cappy often met politicians, lawyers and lawmakers to help them see that a dog’s breed has nothing to do with temperament.

Captain Cowpants the dog at the Best Friends Animal Society booth at the Utah League of Cities and Towns
Captain Cowpants at the Utah League of Cities and Towns

He went to the International Municipal Lawyers Association conference in Las Vegas and met lawmakers from around the country. While Cappy was busy making friends, his human colleagues talked to lawmakers about why breed bans don’t work and how they only hurt Captain and other good dogs like him.

Captain Cowpants the dog lying on the ground being petted by a man at the IMLA Conference
Jill Heupel Photography

Cappy went with Melissa to the state capitol to testify on HB 97, which would ultimately repeal breed discriminatory legislation statewide and prevent any future ordinances from restricting dogs because of their appearance. Since that bill passed and was signed into law, it has saved the lives of countless dogs and prevented families from having to give up their dogs.

Captain Cowpants the dog posing in front of the Utah Capitol
photo by Sarah Kichas

Captain Cowpants was so much more than any label might describe him. He wasn’t just a shelter dog or a pit bull. He was a friend whose legacy lives on in the memories many people who will never forget the time they met the sweetest and gentlest dog — who happened to be a pit bull.

Captain Cowpants the dog standing on a very shallow puddle of water with a sunset or sunrise behind him Photo by Dog Breath Photography

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