March 28, 2005 12:00 PM

While some may see a Chihuahua and think of the Taco Bell mascot or Paris Hilton‘s Tinkerbell, Kimi Peck can’t help seeing a speck-size version of herself. “They’re intelligent, slightly neurotic and high-strung,” says Peck, a dog rescuer whose love affair with the Chihuahua began 17 years ago with a white purebred named YoYo. “They’ll take on more than they can chew. They want to have the last laugh.”

And with 204 of the dogs now on her property in Burbank, Calif., Peck, 55, doesn’t care if they use up her last dime. The former Hollywood screenwriter (she wrote the 1980 Tatum O’Neal comedy Little Darlings and was once married to Gregory Peck’s son Stephen, 58) says that over the past decade she has used up personal assets of S10 million taking in maimed, abandoned and unwanted Chihuahuas. With vet bills mounting at Chihuahua Rescue (a typical month: $14,000), she even tried producing porn to raise money, writing something called The Hunchback of Nasty Dames. “If people don’t understand, that’s too bad,” says Peck, who relies on donations and a small volunteer staff. “You have to save animals.” And when she can place a Chihuahua with new owners-Amazing Race husband-wife competitors Bolo Dartainian and Lori Harvey recently adopted-she’s fulfilled. “To get a kennel like this…it’s like winning an Oscar.”

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