Tattoos wind their way down his arms and up his neck, visible even when he is wearing long-sleeves. At 155 pounds and 5-foot 8-inches tall, Paul Marino is not your typical model.
"I have that ‘50’s style haircut," Marino said. "I’m not very muscular."
But Pinups for Pitbulls founder Deirdre "Little Darling" Franklin selected the 27-year-old tattoo artist to be one of the three men featured alongside her in the centerfold of the nonprofit's 2015 calendar – a first for the organization that focused exclusively on females in its previous eight calendars.
"The guys are just as dedicated to the cause as the ladies," said Franklin, who founded Pinups for Pitbulls in 2005 to educate people about pit bull-type dogs.
Marino rescued his 8-year-old red-nosed pit bull, Lucy, in 2011, after friends discovered her abandoned in a South Jersey home.
"She was in there about five months by herself," he said. "She ate all the drywall she could reach and drank out of the toilet."
But he began advocating for the breed before Lucy even became a part of his family. About five years ago, Marino started volunteering with the Pennsylvania SPCA when he moved to Philadelphia from the Denver area, where breed specific legislation, or BSL, is in place.
"You don’t really hear about pit bulls [in Denver] because they aren’t allowed," Marino said.
BSL is any law that bans or restricts certain types of domesticated animals considered dangerous, with most of the legislation focusing on pit bull breeds, Rottweilers and German shepherds.
Those same laws that restricted Marino from having first-hand knowledge of pit bulls spurred Franklin into action.
"My concern was if specific legislation found its way to our front door that they could take my dog away simply because of how she looked," said Franklin about her beloved Carla Lou, who died in August 2012.
Pit bulls, along with a few other dog breeds, are often characterized as having an aggressive nature, Frankin said.
But, she says, typically careless owners, not the pets, are at the root of any of the dogs' behavioral problems.
"A dog is going to be what they are going to be as an individual," she said.
In an effort to restore the image of the pit bull-type dog, Pinups for Pitbulls launched its iconic initiative – a calendar.
"I wanted to do something that would generate interest, but in a tasteful way," said Franklin, who added that the model call is open to anyone – and their dogs – who applies on their website by midnight April 5.
Aside from the addition of men to the 2015 calendar, the nonprofit made a few other tweaks for the its 10th anniversary. Pinups for Pitbulls is accepting applications from people who use force training techniques including choke, shock or prong collars.
"It is an opportunity to explain what their perspective is and why they would use tools like that," she said.
Franklin won’t guarantee that someone who firmly believes in force training, which the nonprofit advocates against, will make the calendar. But she does promise that at least one applicant from the Philadelphia-area will.
"We are embracing our Philadelphia family," said Franklin, who relocated the organization from the Philly region to Asheville, N.C. in August 2013.
Nearly 100 people from around the country and the world have already applied to be a part of the 2015 calendar, a pace that is likely to surpass the several hundred applications they received for the 12 spots available in the 2014 Agents of Adventure calendar.
The shoot will take place in June at the Philadelphia studios of Celeste Giuliano Photography.
While a theme for the 2015 calendar has yet to be selected, Marino says he is ready and willing to support the cause.
"I don't know what will happen," he said, "but I'm really excited."
Even though it is stressful for the team of judges to whittle down the list of applicants to the finalists, Franklin encourages anyone interested to apply.
She says, “We really just want people who can talk on behalf of dogs and be their voice because they can’t speak for themselves.”
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