I guess you could call it puppy love.
If all America’s sweetheart had ever done was advocate for dogs, Betty White would still be a golden girl in my book. An outspoken animal rights activist she devoted her fame and fortune to the health and welfare of dogs.
In the dog community, she was a goddess. Betty White was our friend.
Yesterday in the Huntington dog park as the unexpected news of White’s death was whispered from dog to dog the shock and sadness were palpable. Frisbees were promptly dropped mid-air and gnarled tennis balls went unretrieved.
Frenetic jack russels stopped dead in their tracks, beagles began howling mournfully and labrador retrievers like me laid down in solidarity and whimpered. Nary a wagging tail could be seen throughout the park.
But it was the mixed breeds and rescue dogs who bonded together in a tight circle, plaintively crying for the philanthropic lady who had done so much to help homeless dogs and raise awareness to adopt them.
To them, she was a true Shero.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Betty was once asked what gifts she most loves giving. Her answer wasn’t surprising: “Money to my favorite animal charities.”
Snuggling close to my mother Sally who hugged me tight, I watched the tears roll down her cheek. I always loved how Betty could always make my mom laugh whether as Sue Ann Nivens the naughty cooking show host on The Mary Tyler Moore or sweet-natured simpleton Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.
No matter how many times she watched. Which believe me, was more times than you can possibly imagine.
A Beloved Actress
Her fans adored her. Accolades for this amazing multiple Emmy-winning actress are pouring in from celebrities today.
But it is the animal community that truly worshipped her.
Sure, her show business career spanned eight decades but Betty has been an animal lover longer than that.
As it should be.
Betty’s passion for animals goes back to her early childhood. As she once explained it: “I’ve loved animals since I was in the womb.”
“It is so embedded in me,” she once reflected. “There isn’t an animal on the planet that I don’t find fascinating and want to learn more about.”
Who wouldn’t love a woman like that?
White always said she loved animals because she grew up with pets. Her parents were big animal lovers and they always had pets around. “In our house, they were more than pets—they were members of the family, ” she wrote in her book If you Ask Me!
Well if you ask me, that’s exactly as it should be. It sure is in my house.
In the book, she explained that her father made radios and sold them. When the people he visited couldn’t afford the radio, he would accept their dogs as payment. Over time, White’s family accumulated 15 dogs. They would have shifts so that all 15 of the pups would be cared for throughout the day.
White said she felt so connected to animals that she believed she could “speak their language.” According to her, she felt such a bond with animals that she seemed to understand what they’re thinking and feeling.
“I speak better animal language than human language,” wrote White. “I can read them like a book—although not as well as they can read me.”
Humbly speaking, she’s spot on about that!
White once said she loves animals so much because they are all the things humans are not.
“Can you blame me?” asked White in her book, If You Ask Me. “Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do. Next time I’m feeling overwhelmed, I think I’m going to start channeling my dog Ponti.”
Betty White spoke for all animals and I know I speak for dogs everywhere, when I say from the bottom of my heart, that I wish I could have wagged my tail said to Betty:
“Thank you for being a friend!”
© Sally Edelstein, Stanley Katz and Envisioning The American Dream, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.