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!

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