We know dog rescuing is one of the hardest things you can do, do you feel like your physical and mental training in the boxing ring supports your physical and mental training to support dogs?
Absolutely! My training has provided invaluable help to my rescue work. Boxing is not only a physical sport; so much of it is mental. Believe me I know firsthand. I have lost fights I should not have because I psyched myself out, the fight was over before I even stepped in the ring. But the other side of that is you are able to push yourself to places you never thought you would be able to go. And it is always great to walk into my second home; Gleason’s Gym and hit something or someone and not get arrested for it! Boxing is pretty great for getting the frustration out. I am very motivated by goals and so training for a fight is good for me. The fact that I now put on my gloves to raise money to continue our work makes it even more compelling.
Why are you so drawn to these specific animals?
I am so inspired by these incredible dogs. What they endure on a daily basis; we are rescuing dogs that have been abused in the most heinous way. They have been shot at, limbs hacked off, eyes taken out. Yet their capacity to be brave, to keep moving forward and to love is almost unbelievable.
What drew you to Puerto Rico and the Satos?
My husband Bobby, a stuntman, was filming on the island 10 years ago. He had never been before and was spending a month there. I was going to spend a week with him and he told me before I arrived ‘that I was going to freak out when I saw the dogs there’. I remember thinking ‘oh, shit it must be bad’ and it was. What I saw changed me forever. At the end of the week I flew back to NY and spent the entire plane ride plotting how I could help. I was not sure what I could do but I knew I could not forget what I had seen. I had to do something. I volunteered for two groups for a few years and once we adopted our Sato, Boom Boom, I knew I had to do more. She was the inspiration behind the launch of The Sato Project in 2011. We started with nothing but $200 and a whole lot of determination. I am very proud of what we have achieved in such a short time. The best is yet to come!
If you had to give a general description of Satos, would that be possible?
They are a mirror image of the Puerto Rican people: resilient, smart and beautiful. One of my greatest wishes (and a mission of The Sato Project) is for Satos to become the National Dog of Puerto Rico.
We know that Marc Jacobs and Neville are big supporters of what you do. How did that come to be? How did that help you and the mission of The Sato Project?
One of The Sato Project Board members is Trainer and Behaviorist Stacy Alldredge. Stacy is Neville’s trainer (and ‘den mother’) and very generously introduced our work to Mr. Jacobs. I had a pretty nervewracking interview with the MJ team (what do you wear to that?!) and they did their due diligence on our organization and obviously liked what they learned and saw. The Sato Project was the Marc Jacobs charity of choice for holiday 2015. We had dedicated windows in 10 flagship stores and Mr. Jacobs designed a t-shirt with all proceeds from sales going to TSP.
Neville has been unbelievably supportive of our mission and our work! He loves to use his celebrity to raise awareness of those pups that are not as fortunate as he is (Marc Jacobs is his Dad!). Neville recently released his first book ‘Neville Jacobs, I’m Marc’s Dog’ by Nicolas Newbold and Marc Jacobs. Neville is very generously donating all proceeds of his book to The Sato Project.
This collaboration has obviously helped raise awareness of our work in circles that would ordinarily be difficult to break into! It’s pretty incredible to have Marc and Neville Jacobs in your corner!
Your motto is “We fight for the dogs of Puerto Rico so they don’t have to." What does that mean to you?
There are approximately 500,000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico. On an island roughly the size of the State of Connecticut. They need people to fight for them, to tell their story and to make change. If that means stepping in a ring and fighting to raise awareness and funds then I will do it. They endure so much and I am so inspired by them.
I hate to run but roadwork is an integral part of fight training. When I run, I think of them. When I cannot lift my arms to punch anymore, I think of them. When I think I cannot go one more round, I think of them. I broke my nose training for my last fight (the 8th time!) but giving up or pulling out of the fight was never an option. It was a small price to pay.
We know how hard and rewarding this work is, do you have any practices that ground you and help you get up each and everyday?
My Sato Boom Boom held me accountable each day. She very tragically died suddenly in May. The hardest thing I have ever done is to try and pick myself up and continue this work when my inspiration was gone. We started the Boom Boom Beckles Fund to help dogs at the Arecibo shelter where she was born and I can honestly say that has been a huge motivator for me to get up every morning.
My husband Bobby does his best to keep me sane and our dog Basher makes me laugh. I also have an incredible team who works tirelessly every day by my side. I do think maybe I need to try yoga!
Do you have self care practices?
I’m very open to suggestions because I really do need some!
What are your goals for The Sato Project?
How long do we have here? We would love to have our own sanctuary and I am very hopeful that is going to become a reality sometime soon.
We launched a community low cost spay/neuter/vaccine and microchip program in the Municipality of Yabucoa (where the majority of our work is concentrated on Dead Dog Beach) that we are tremendously proud of. This was done without ANY help from the Government of Puerto Rico or the Municipality of Yabucoa. We raised the funds independently and in 2016 helped over 500 animals in addition to our rescue efforts. We are expanding that program in 2017 because rescuing and flying dogs off the island is just putting a band-aid on an open, gaping wound.
The work we are doing with the Arecibo shelter has become a legacy project and one that our supporters have really embraced and gotten behind. We want to do more there.
We want to help get important legislation passed in the Senate that will help end the epidemic of stray dogs in Puerto Rico.
To rebrand the Satos: I have an incredible idea for a campaign that could run across different mediums. We need an ad agency or producer to donate their time to help make it happen!