donna + chiquita

"During the late 1990s, Pit Bulls were facing an extreme crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area, and nobody was doing anything about it. Great dogs were being put down at shelters simply because of how they look.  So we said, “Let’s see if we can make a little bit of a difference.” We pulled our first Pit Bull, Sally, from Berkeley Animal Care Services before BADRAP had even started. We thought it shouldn’t be too terribly hard to find her a home.

It was horrific. Nobody would give her the time of day, and nobody would talk to us about her wonderful qualities. This was when the internet was just starting to take hold, and people were really using it. That’s how we found other independent Pit Bull rescuers in Oakland. They were having the same experience. So one day, a group of us had several pitchers of margaritas underneath the BART tracks in East Oakland. We came up with the plan that somehow we were going to come together and change this. It was a crazy idea.  

Tim and I had been rescuing dogs together for years, but we’d never rescued a Pit Bull. I didn’t understand the breed at that time. I thought I didn’t know enough about Pit Bulls — that they were somehow different, more difficult. I was afraid to make a mistake. It was my own fear that held me back.

But when I saw Sally at the shelter, she just got to me. She seemed like she was very happy to see me, and also like she was grieving for her former life. She was wearing her emotions on her sleeve, and I really felt for her. I understood what she was experiencing in that moment, and I wanted to change that for her.  I let go of my fear and I said. “Let’s go, let’s get out of here.” And that’s how BADRAP started 17 years ago. 

Everybody comes to the rescue world for a different reason. We’re all looking to fill different voids. Some people want companionship, some people want to be alone with an animal and away from people, and some people want to improve their dog-handling skills. These animals bring out the best in us, and they ask us to be ourselves. They want us to be ourselves. We get to shed some of our masks and simply be with them. They don’t judge us, they ask us to be playful, they ask us to be compassionate. That makes us better people, better humans. 

Tim and I both came from an art background, so we consider this work to be an art project of a sort. I’ve been working with found objects for years: things I find on the side of the road and in the trash. Taking something that people don’t see any value in and turning that into something beautiful — that really goes along with the work that we do in rescue. Whether I’m doing it with an animal or with an art piece, it’s still the same desire to bring beauty into the world, to help people to see beauty, and to help people to appreciate beauty."