Humbled by these hearts of gold: a visit to BAD RAP

When we decided on the Bay Area as our homebase for our two weeks of travels, I knew I had to put a few dog-related visits on our agenda. BAD RAP was on the list.

Early in our work with pit bull dogs, there was a time when BAD RAP was our main (only?) source of reliable and trustworthy information on pit bull rescue, training, temperament, etc. We’ve learned volumes since then and expanded our list of good sources, mentors, and sages a lot since then, but BAD RAP is still one of our all-time favorite dog orgs. So it was with a skip in our step that we walked up the driveway to meet founders Donna and Tim and kennel manager Nancy for a sunny visit on their lawn in Oakland.

In a lot of ways the BAD RAP barn was just how I imagined it: warm, sunny, friendly, stylish, and brimming with engaging, clown-like pit bulls of all shapes and colors.

The barn, where adoptable dogs live, was built by Tim, Donna, and a team of friends.

Former BADRAP resident Teddles, Donna and Tim's Honky Tonk, and adoptable Patsy Pup

Tim with Teddles. Former Vick dog Teddles lives the good life in his forever home now, and pays occasional visits to BAD RAP to hang out with his old friends.

Adoptable Patsy Pup's personality is as big as she is tiny.

Patsy Pup clowning around.

The list of impressive things about BAD RAP is not short, but one of the programs they run that’s dearest to my heart is their compassion hold fostering. I’ve always held a special place in my heart for those who do this difficult, draining, selfless work. Occasionally — or more realistically, whenever their partner animal shelter asks — BAD RAP takes in a dog who is too old or too sick to be adopted out and is going to be euthanized. Where most others — even those with hearts of pure gold — would say no, Tim and Donna say yes. The week before we arrived, Tim and Donna said yes to this beautiful eldergal.

This sweetie was found wandering the streets, near death’s doorstep. Her initial vet check and her swollen glands suggest an illness that may not be treatable. The shelter couldn’t keep her, but BAD RAP took her in, no questions asked. When we visited, she had been with them for a few days. She had gathered a bit of strength and while we sat in the sun and chatted, she slowly investigated each grassy nook and cranny of the yard, basking in the sunshine and occasionally sauntering over for some ear scratches or to sneak us a quick tongue to the face. Possibly for the first time in her life, she was content. Last we heard, there was no word yet on the state of her health or how long she would be a guest of BAD RAP. But one thing seems clear — these last days, or weeks, or months, or years, will be golden ones.

As always, we were humbled by Donna and Tim’s depth of knowledge about policy issues. Since we visited California just before our move to Austin, we talked for a while about the political landscape in Texas for pit bull dogs. We knew that a state-wide breed ban had been proposed in the legislature last year, but since nothing moved during the once-per-two-years session, we had let our concerns dissolve. But Donna diplomatically reminded us that idly waiting for the situation to devolve would be a poor choice, and that there was plenty of proactive work that could be done to preserve — and dare I dream, improve — the status quo. We discussed some of the nuances of how socio-economic dynamics play into politics in Texas, how the strange political landscape in this unique state makes a formidable challenge for pit bull advocates, and how the steadfast discriminatory policies of one large shelter in one major city set the tone for the whole state. Such interesting stuff.

We left feeling simultaneously hopeful and discouraged. Excited for the work left to be done, but overwhelmed with the options of where to begin. It’s only fitting that we would walk up that driveway enchanted by individual dogs, and walk back down that driveway enchanted by the big picture. BAD RAP has a way of doing that to all of us.

Thanks for a great visit, Nancy, Tim, and Donna!

39 responses

  1. I dream of visiting Donna, Tim and the BadRap bunch. Thanks for sharing the experience! I can’t wait to hear about your adventures in Texas, I’m sure they’ll be Big! 🙂

  2. I’m in awe of what Donna and Tim do. I feel like they are pioneers in this work of helping to change the image of the breed. I’m so happy that you got to visit Bad Rap. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Just reading the words…walking up the driveway to BAD RAP brings tears to my eyes. I just can’t imagine what a great experience that must be. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have always wondered what Bad Rap is really like, and I was so looking forward to hearing about your experience so we can live vicariously through you. It sounds just as incredible as I thought it would be. And I agree with Skinny Fat Kid…just knowing the eldergal is living out her days out there is amazing.

  5. We’re enormous fans of Bad Rap – all they’ve done and continue to do for Pitties and BSL is so desperately needed in these days when doing the right thing comes second to political maneuvering and socioeconomic profiling. I 1st heard of them through the Michael Vick case and the dogs that were given that 2nd chance to show what they were truly made of. That chance was key in changing the idea that dogs formerly abused and expected to fight CAN be reintegrated to “normal” society through patience and respect. Cheers to Donna and Tim!
    As a Texas resident, I’d love to help in any way I can to deter any sort of prejudicial legislation. Please pass on any info you might have – Thanks!

  6. What an amazing organization. And not surprisingly, it was founded and continues to operate under these fantastic, caring, compassionate people!! I am in awe of what they do and hope that they continue for many years to come.

  7. My mom said that BAD RAP is where she got most of her pittie informations when she first adopted me. We’re both SO very glad they’re around to do what they do and to helps educate peoples.

    I’m so happy that Miss Elderbull is in a safe, warm, loving place and will be treated like the Queen she Most Obviously is for the rest of her precious days.

    Wiggles & Wags,

  8. Aw cut it out, guys. We’re just older than most of you so we’ve had more time to spin out our obsessions! Alek did such a beautiful job capturing our little universe and we were so pleased to make the connection. I’m especially grateful that she captured the skinny girl to document her beginnings and help tell her story (I couldn’t bring myself to photograph her). It’s been three ? weeks and she’s finally looking like a real dog. And she told us her name finally — She wants to be called ‘Birdy.’ Out of respect, I’ll probably have to call her *Miss* Birdy. What a character. Thanks again, Aleksandra – and all the rest of you! – You are just too kind.

    • And Birdy found a home and mom who loved her beyond description. I still cry thinking about what a sweet, gentle end-of-life Birdy had.

  9. What a beautiful post Aleksandra. When you said you were heading to Bad Rap I was so excited to hear about your visit. What an amazing organization Donna and Tim run.
    And Donna I think Miss Birdy is a perfect name for her… what a beautiful girl and thank you so much for giving her love and compassion for the first time in her life. You do such amazing work and are such an inspiration for the rest of us.

  10. Bad Rap is awesome! I currently live in the north bay and am actually moving to Austin come next summer, I was unaware of the possible breed ban. That could be a serious deal breaker considering I have two very large lovable pits! What’s the breed discrimination like there?

    • Hi Crystal, At this point there is no breed ban in Texas. The legislature met early in 2011, and the much-feared proposal (termed “Justin’s Law”) did not find a legislative sponsor, which means that it went nowhere. I am hopeful that the fact that nobody wanted to sponsor it is a good sign, since it’s such a silly idea. The leg doesn’t meet again until January 2013. Love-a-Bull in Austin has been organizing against this knuckleheaded idea, and so far the dogs are safe. Hope this helps! Aleksandra

  11. Wonderful article and great photo essay on the best organization that we all love Bad Rap. Hope more people around the country get inspired and think a little different about how beautiful the pit bull’s are
    . Have one for 8 years and not a day goes by that I don’t have a smile on my face. Adopt and rescue and you will smile too.

  12. I am in Austin, too! Love-A-Bull definitely needs people who can help. I’d love to get together for a doggy playdate when you get here.

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you – for your pictures, your words – both brave and kind – about the need for fostering pit bull type dogs. Thank you for shining a spotlight on the amazing people of rescue: yourselves, Handsome Dan’s Rescue, and the ground-breaking work of BAD RAP. You’re making the world a better place for our dogs, one post at a time. You’ve inspired me with your photos and words, and have allowed me to spread a more well-informed message for the need of people like you. I hope that I can one day put as much good into our world as you are doing right now!

    And to Sir Chick – never have I ever seen a more handsome Texan.

  14. Pingback: Things I Love Tuesday | katiebuss: goals

  15. Pingback: Dear fostering, we missed you! |

  16. It’s been a while since this post, but I’m going to the bay area and this makes me want to pay them a visit. Thanks for your write-up!

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