After experiencing great loss in his life, Jason Flatt relocated to Georgia for a fresh start. Someone gave him a pit bull puppy, which he credits for saving his life and giving him something to live for. When Flatt went to the pound to get the pup a playmate, he noticed that all of the kennels had pit bulls. He decided to foster a few dogs, placed them in permanent homes, and then kept taking on more. In 2009, he founded an animal rescue foundation, Friends to the Forlorn, which specializes in rescuing pit bulls, but also special-needs dogs, pups in line to be euthanized, and those otherwise rejected by other organizations.

“The worse shape the dog is in, the more determined I am to fix it,” says Jason. To date, Friends to the Forlorn has saved 600 dogs and counting. At Atlanta Magazine, Candice Dyer profiles Flatt, who says he’s found exactly what he was put on earth to do: save as many dogs as possible.

“People assume I’ve been in prison,” he says with a shrug. “Women clutch their pocketbooks tighter when I walk by. Children point and stare. I get treated like a freak show.”

No matter; his unconventional presentation is a defiant statement of solidarity with his spirit animal. “Pit bulls and I both are looked down upon without people getting to know us,” he says. “We are judged by what we look like and not what we are. We both are expected to fail. I have always had to prove people wrong. So do they. I relate to them.”

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Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.