I was invited to attend the first Golden Collar Awards on February 13th. This strategically timed event coincides with much of the award season drama that goes on in Los Angeles from January thru March.
It was a media frenzy with camera’s squarely pointed at the stars. Many of the same questions where asked “what are you wearing”, “what was it like to work with so and so” and “what’s your next project”? The biggest difference was those camera’s also got to focus in on how amazing rescue dogs are.
Most of the dogs spotlighted this year are rescued. Many of these dogs look just like the faces I see every week when I travel an hour outside of Los Angeles to the County Shelter in Baldwin Park.
Baldwin Park is one of the oldest shelters in Los Angeles. It is located in a lower income neighborhood where people routinely bring their unwanted pets thinking they will find a home there. The sad truth is most of them don’t make it out. The staff is wonderful and do everything they can to help these animals find homes. Their resources are limited and, although they try to keep the animals for as long as they can, they are forced to euthanize many potential movie stars.
I travel out every week to volunteer in the “Pup My Ride” program. Pup My Ride is under the umbrella of the Best Friends Animal Society but was the original brainchild of an amazing woman called Robin Harmon. Pup transports anywhere from 25 to 45 dogs each week to out of state rescue groups.
To date, over 3000 dogs lives have been saved because of Pup. In many ways this process is much like the film “Schindler’s List”. We can only take the healthiest, most adoptable characters under 30 pounds. This leaves many with minor issues unable to go.
It is heartbreaking and many a personal bank account has been depleted trying to get a dog healthy enough to “get a seat a seat on the bus”.
Robin herself works tirelessly to see that every dog who is eligible be given a chance to get out. This translates into endless hours of work off the clock and a running tab at the kindly vet willing to give discounts.
The newest Bud Lite Superbowl star, Weego, is a carbon copy of many of the dogs that show up at Baldwin in looks and temperament. A happy little chap looking only to please you. Mixed with something something.
It is routinely known that Hollywood trainers look for dogs beyond their puppy years. They want to see personality.
Cosmo, trained and owned by Mathilde De Cagney, is the soulful dog from the film “Beginners” starring Ewan Mc Gregor and Christopher Plummer. Many of Cosmo’s scenes are played out with Plummer who received an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film.
Cosmo joined a long list of “famous” dogs De Cagney has owned and trained. The most notable being “Eddie” (played by Moose) from the tv series “Frasier”. De Cagney has been an outspoke advocate of rescuing from the shelter and all her dogs have come from there.
Ewan Mc Gregor formed a strong bond with Cosmo during the filming calling him “An amazing wee man”. He was so inspired on the last day of filming he found his own shelter dog to rescue who he calls “Sid”.
The film “The Artist” has been the critics choice for best picture of the year. The Academy Award nominations have followed. No surprise a silent film would be the ultimate vehicle to propel a canine star to the forefront.
Uggie who plays the most loyal friend in the film has become the sought after photo op during this awards season.
Uggie was about to be taken to the shelter as the family who owned him found him too high energy and difficult to deal with. Omar Von Muller stepped in before he could be dumped. Von Muller tells the media at every opportunity “he is part of our family, he sleeps with us”.
The plight of homeless dogs everywhere is dire. Here in Los Angeles there is talk of repeal of the Hayden Act. This will severely cut the budget of many city and county shelters yet again and reduce the time any animal gets to stay in the shelter before euthanasia.
The misconception is you can’t find a great dog at the shelter, or it is too sad to go there.
I am here to tell you, yes it may be sad, but use the opportunity to rise above your own emotions. Be there for them. Every kind of face, shape, size and yes pure breed can be found at your local shelter. Better yet, travel out to a lower income neighborhood where the need is even greater.
Your life will be changed in a profound way. Mine was and continues to be.
Edited by Hayley Samuelson
Lisa Avebury lives in Los Angeles transplanted from NYC, is a bodyworker, healer and globe trotter who loves hanging out in stone circles, spending quality time with her dog, Douglas Fur, and sometimes just cleaning the bathtub to a brilliant shine! You can find her at www.circleseeker.com.