Antonio Ballatore of Animal Cribs talks design life and rescue dogs

2 of 3
Antonio Ballatore holds up his dog Edie. Photo by Animal Planet
Antonio Ballatore holds up his dog Edie. Photo by Animal Planet /

Dog O’Day – How did the show [Animal Cribs] come about?

Antonio Ballatore – “I kind of became known as the designer who would always roll with his dog, I did a lot of animal friendly stuff on HGTV, and these producers came up with the idea for the show and they looked around and they found me, and they realized that I was the guy for the job, you know? And it just worked out perfectly.

“Going back, I grew up in Manhattan, both my parents were artists, my dad, he designed all the Fifth Avenue windows, from Macy’s to Tiffany’s, and then we got a house upstate, about two hours north of Manhattan, my dad got a cowboy hat, we got some ducks, we got some goats, we got some rabbits. And every thing we did for these animals had a style to it, it had to look cool, because my dad was a designer, so it wasn’t just your ordinary rabbit coop, it wasn’t your ordinary goat house. It kind of started from there, having an eye for design, and making stuff – you know, in not the ordinary kind of setup.”

It’s a really great show, after catching a few episodes, and it’s really cool that you bring Edie along on the projects.

“[Laughter] Well, my old dog, he was Chewie, he was an 85-pound English Bulldog rescue, and he went everywhere with me. When Chewie was getting old, I rescued Edie from this rescue out of Hollywood called MaeDay Rescue, and she was found in a truck of a car, and she was in rough shape when I got her. Like, she was afraid of everything. If I answered the phone too loud she’d fall over, she’s like a little mini fainting goat.

“With a little bit of work, now she’s just like a crazy woman – like, she needs her own hair and makeup, she needs her own makeup trailer. She’s loving it, she has fun, and I bring her everywhere with me.”

And her buddies in Team Weirdo?

“Oh, yeah, Team Weirdo! [More laughter] So, since the show, we stopped filming over the holidays, me and my girlfriend did a five hour road trip to Fort Worth, Texas, and we picked up Paulo, who’s a Xolo (Hairless) mix with a terrier, and he came out of a really bad situation in Louisiana, and we got him, and he’s a character.

“And then recently, a month and a half, maybe two months ago we got Nessie, who was a street dog. They said they’d seen her in the neighborhood for like four or five years, homeless, and we got her, and she’s just like a little Loch Ness Monster, her nickname is “Drama,” cause she screams at everything. She’s still getting used to everything, like, you walk by her and she’ll scream. But she’s getting used to the good life and getting adjusted.

“That’s our team so far, but as soon as we get a bigger place we’ll probably get some more. I made a deal with my girlfriend that we had to unfollow all the dog rescues and animal rescues because every day we’re sending pictures back and forth, ‘Oh, we’ve gotta get this one!’ ‘No, we oughta get this one!’ We love the seniors, taking care of them, but we’re trying to take a break for a couple months.”

Do you have any idea what breed(s) Edie might be?

“I think she’s part Chupacabra mixed with baby goat, I’m not sure. [More laughter] I think next season we might do a DNA test on her and all of ‘em, maybe put some bets down on it. I really don’t know. But it’s funny, on social media now, I thought Edie was like her own little thing, but now every other day I get people sending me pictures of Edie lookalikes. What’s up with that? So I don’t really know. Everybody has their own opinion, but I’m gonna wait for the DNA test.”

So what do you think is the strangest, the most audacious, Animal Cribs project?

“You know, they all have their own little things that are different or challenging, but I gotta say the snake. The 20-foot python, off the bat, that’s like – you’re like, ‘Wow, a 20-foot python?!” That was at first a little scary or whatever – not that I’m afraid of snakes, that much, but you see a 20-foot long python that’s over 200 pounds, that’s a little intimidating. Once you see how bonded they are with their owners – there was a firefighter who rescued the snake over twenty years ago, and it grew with the family, so his kids grew up with it, like, this snake’s older than his kids. You see how they bonded…to me, it’s like no different than your dog, you know? The love and the bonding is there, and so the craziness of being a 20-foot python goes away real quick.”

That would take a while to get used to.

“I know, right? But it’s funny. Even my crew, they had the same reaction, but after a while, a couple days, you see how it really is a part of the family. Whether it’s chinchillas – we did an episode about bearded dragons – cats, dogs, they’re all our family in one way or another, and that’s the most important part of the show, bringing families together, people that rescue the animals, we’re saying thanks for rescuing the animals, we’re bringing enrichment into their lives, there’s a lot of cool factors to it that all come together in the end that make it pretty awesome.”