One of the special perks of being an animal lover and—later in life—a paid professional animal advocate for more than a decade is that I ended up rubbing shoulders with so many of the people who made (and make) animal welfare the work of their lives.
Professional animal advocates are in a league by themselves. Although pursuing their profession wrings them out emotionally and physically, they can imagine no other line of work because their hearts are so tightly wrapped around the protection and comfort of animals.
Following are some of the people I remember with immense fondness, whether I met them briefly or knew them for years, and the reasons why they will forever remain in my heart.
Jeanne Werner, Tacoma Humane Society
Jeanne Werner was Executive Director at the Tacoma Humane Society for 33 years. I don’t recall how I met her, but possibly it was when I became the Pacific Northwest Field Services Representative for the Animal Protection Institute in 1981 or 1982, or when I was doing school presentations in 1979 and 1980 with Deaken, my “serval son”, while he was just a kitten.
I do know Jeanne and I hit it off and that I ended up writing some of the articles for the centennial edition (1998) of the Humane Society’s newsletter. Jeanne also prominently posted every animal welfare editorial I wrote for the Tacoma News Tribune that was published during my time with API, one of which she extolled to the moon and back. The topic: Truly humane people don’t carry signs that read, “Experiment on Prisoners, Not Animals”; truly humane people care about being humane to all sentient beings. She said, “Sometimes we meet animal lovers carrying signs who appear to be people haters. I want everybody to read your commentary and really think about it.”
As of this writing (2016), Jeanne is still alive. I met her daughter a few years ago when I was giving a presentation to a Tacoma Rotary Club about my animal books and about raising a serval cat as a pet. I have just located Jeanne again on LinkedIn and hope to reconnect. I want her to know she’s going into this blog as one of my heroes.
When I was brought to Sacramento from the Pacific NW by API to extend my outreach by serving as National Field Services Director from the organization’s main office, I met and worked with a number of people whose dedication to animal welfare remains, to this day, the stuff of legend.
Here are a few of them… (reminder: you met Rick Hendrickson in a earlier blog, the fellow who pulled critters out of treetops during the Yuba County flood in the 90’s).
PAWS’ Pat Derby
One day my assignment was to visit and interview Pat Derby, who would shortly have an animal sanctuary called the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in nearby Galt, California. I had known about Pat’s experience as an animal trainer and of her advocacy for humane treatment of animals in entertainment for years, so I was excited to get to meet her.
I wasn’t disappointed. She was a delightful lady whose dedication to animals knew no bounds.
Nancy Graf and I drove to her current residence (not yet Galt) and were immediately invited to meet one of her critters, Christopher the cougar (full grown) who immediately set about to suck her thumb, as he’d done every day of his life (she had hand-raised him).
We met other animals, too… including a bear. We also met her husband and partner, Ed Stewart, who was equally crazy about, and dedicated to, animal welfare.
We had a wonderful visit that lasted for hours—that usually happens with kindred spirits—and included many stories of Pat’s life and times in Hollywood and of the last few months or years of Amanda Blake’s life (she played Kitty on the TV series GUNSMOKE, for you Gen X and Millennials who are hearing her name for the first time) who died penniless and ended up staying with Pat at the end of her life.
(Until Alan Alda successfully sued to get residuals in perpetuity for series regulars appearing in TV series in 1986 or so, earlier series actors—including the original Star Trek gang—were paid residuals for only seven reruns, so many beloved TV actors died paupers while the studios continued to rake in eternal profits for the actors’ efforts.)
When we left Pat and Ed that first time, they promised they would invite us to check out their new 30-acre property in Galt when the deal closed.
Not many months later, Pat invited my coworkers Scott Vorhees and Kathy Drayer and me out to walk across the 30-acres of property they had recently bought so she could show me the beginnings of her vision for the property. At that time, it looked like a broad expense of agricultural land stretching for as far as the eye could see. There were only a few enclosures in the process of being set up.
Not long after that, I resigned from API to return to the Pacific Northwest, but Pat, Ed and I continued to stay in occasional touch via holiday newsletters and such. I was very saddened to hear of her passing in February of 2013.
I’m glad Ed continues her legacy at PAWS and I encourage you to donate to the cause. PAWS now houses lots of elephants and many other animals. It is the contributions of animal lovers like you who help keep it going.
Read more about (and from) Pat Derby here: http://www.pawsweb.org/
I interacted with handsome, friendly, driven Eric Sakach of the Humane Society of the United States several times in my roles as Executive Director of Humane Educator’s Council and Field Services Director of API in the early to mid-80s. Eric and HSUS had the training, inside (police-level) information, and the chops to actually investigate dog and cock fighting, cruelly-raised veal calves, starving livestock, and other animal-related abuse issues, so whenever I heard of anything that HSUS could tackle better than we could at HEC, I called Eric. He was uniformly effective and proactive. He always did a great job.
FUND FOR ANIMALS Cleveland Amory, Virginia Handley
Cleveland Amory was a celebrated curmudgeon (author, reporter and commentator) and animal welfare advocate.
The executive director of the Humane Society of the United States described Amory as "the founding father of the modern animal protection movement."
Bred and raised in high society settings, Amory made his name writing stories about high society airs but as the decades passed he segued to earnest renderings of animals he had known and crises facing animals (wild, domestic, barnyard and factory farms).
He is famous, too, for having left a dedicated detractor speechless (momentarily outraged and then completely silenced) after he asked Amory, “If you were rounding a curve driving on a mountain road and saw in front of you a man and a dog, and you had just seconds to decide which one you’d hit to avoid missing the other, which would it be?”
When Amory began to respond by saying, “That would all depend…” the inquirer flew into a semi-enraged lecture: “How can you state such an outlandish thing? Human life is always more precious than any animal’s life…”
Cleveland held up his hand and said, “Really? Suppose the man in the road ahead is Hitler and the dog is Lassie…”
Amory’s erudite, well-explained insights swayed a great many people, causing them to give animal treatment and suppositions another look.
I met Cleveland Amory one time when we were both in Idaho as the result of a beaver farm which had declared bankruptcy. API and Amory’s group, The Fund For Animals (FFA), arrived to make sure the beavers’ best interests were taken into account. We were there to lift beaver families out of trucks and place them along the banks of small streams on the properties of ranchers who had agreed to provide sanctuary on their properties.
Watching ranch-raised beaver families enter a stream for the first time in their lives is something I will never forget. As ranch-raised animals, the first and only “streams” they’d experienced until we released them were two feet wide (if that) and two feet deep and ran the length of the front of their small enclosures (about ten feet, as I recall), so their reactions to being free were a delight to behold. The families stayed together and moved down the stream together, hauled up on the other side, and began chewing on small trees and grasses.
I had done the research. Our initial concern was, “Would they know what to do as freed animals?” The answer was “yes.”
Although I only crossed paths with Cleveland Amory that one time in person, he continued (and continues) to influence me to this day. As Dr. McCoy said on another occasion, “He isn’t really dead as long as we remember him.”
Amory’s associates Virginia Handley continued to spread his message and extend his legacy until her passing in 2014, while the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty ranch in Murchison Texas continues to offer sanctuary to more than a thousand animals at their 1400-acre ranch.
Dr. Ned Buyukmihci (http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/ANIMAL-RIGHTS-All-Creatures-Great-and-Small-2593687.php), the founder of Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, was an API Advisor when I served there.
I first heard the surname Buyukmihci years earlier when I read Beaversprite by Dorothy Richards and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci. So when I met “Dr. Ned” my first question was, “Related?” Yes, indeed, and of course. In all likelihood, he was raised by, and developed his love of animals as a result of her deep dedication to the well-being of animals.
But what surprised me is that, when Dr. Ned read my book, Let No Day Dawn that the Animals Cannot Share, he called me at API immediately, still in tears, not to tell me, but to let me witness over the phone how deeply it had affected him. Up until that time in my world, men didn’t cry unless someone died—and rarely then! So it goes without saying that I was deeply moved by his unexpected, unabashed response.
From that moment on, he took special interest in reading everything I wrote about animals for API. (I imagine the beaver rescue adventure, mentioned above, warmed the cockles of his heart!) This came in very handy when the daughter of the founder of API came on board as my new boss/supervisor and began to question the accuracy of the content I wrote. She thought I churned out articles “too fast” to have adequately researched the matters I tackled in them. (Having absorbed into my being an entire personal animal library containing more than 600 books, I came to API armed to the teeth with animal-specific facts. She just didn’t know it. So of course I could churn out copy without having to do a lot of research.) Dr. Ned assured her that I knew about animals intimately and that what I was doing was exemplary. That’s all it took. She backed off and never questioned me again. (Soon, I’ll share the story of some of the hair-raising times I spent with this woman under the heading Never Go Critter Watching with a Bird Watcher.)
The funny (or sad) thing is that Dr. Ned probably doesn’t even remember coming to my defense. To me, it was a huge deal to have him put himself in my corner; to him, it probably just took a moment of his time and then he was on to something more vital to the attainment of all we wanted to see happen for animals.
I have never forgotten Dr. Ned’s reaction to my book (which has been expanded since then to include additional animal anecdotes) or the fact that it was he who let my boss know that I was the full meal deal when it came to knowing about animals. It meant the world to me then and continues to mean a great deal to me now. This is the first time I’ve thanked him publicly. (I’m not even sure I thanked him privately, but I’ve always cherished him and carried his kindness and advocacy in my heart.)
Dr. Ned doesn’t just have animals’ backs. He has animal peoples’ backs, too. He’s a real, flesh and blood human being who is unashamed to wear his heart on his sleeve and expose his deep feelings. I love that in a guy. It’s rare as hens’ teeth.
Joyce Tischler, co-founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is a very special lady lawyer. She’s filled to the brim with grit, grace and guile; she developed the field of animal rights law almost single-handedly, principle by principle, case by case, and I was close enough to her activities at the time to witness the evolution, and to applaud each step she took.
I have no idea how much actual time we spent together, but I developed a lifelong love of, and admiration for, her. Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of our interactions, ‘stolen’ as they were piecemeal whenever she came into or called our offices or when we ended up on the same animal issue, but that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that she has been able to turn her passion for the protection and advocacy of animals into a 40-plus year career which has her being interviewed, listened to, respected, echoed and emulated by those who have followed in her path. I love her and I hope she knows it!
In Hollywood from 1989 to 2003, I met additional animal advocates, one of whom figured hugely in my own life, and always will: actress Tippi Hedren (get her book here!), who enthusiastically welcomed Deaken and me to her Shambala Preserve in October of 1989 and housed Deaken for me during the fifteen months it took me to land a permanent job in the entertainment industry and find an animal-loving landlord who would allow me to keep a wild animal in the back yard.
(The full story has been told elsewhere in Serval Son: Spots and Stripes Forever and DeForest Kelley Up Close and Personal: A Harvest of Memories from the Fan Who Knew Him Best. Tippi wrote the Foreword for Serval Son, extolled the virtues of Let No Day Dawn that the Animals Cannot Share in an extended voice mail message that has been preserved for all time in the audio book version of the Kelley title, and has been my champion--not to mention my hero-- ever since the day she first called me on the phone in Eatonville to assure me that I could bring Deaken to her to “watch over and spoil” for as long as he and I needed her.)
I love Tippi without limit and contribute to Shambala whenever I can because I know every dime she gets goes straight to the cause of the critters in her care. (She eats like a bird so even her grocery bill is negligible!)
Unsung, Lesser-Known Heroine Bonnie Duehring
At Warner Bros. long years ago, the studio was experiencing an overwhelming rat problem. Jack Warner, an animal lover, listened to many suggestions for how to eliminate the rat infestation via mechanical devices and then decided, "No, let's get some ball-bearing rat traps."
"Ball-bearing rat traps? Never heard of them," someone said.
"Cats!" Warner said. "Get some cats!"
Thirty or forty years later, the descendants of Warner's "ball-bearing rat traps" were still in place, doing their jobs. But they needed daily feeding and watering and they needed some population control, themselves. So executive secretary Bonnie Duehring --one of my dearest friends at WB -- undertook the effort to care for and to live-trap the youngest generations and have most of them spayed and neutered.
Bonnie introduced me to her feline charges. Many, of not most, of them were wild as marsh hares, but their feeding stations were well-attended (whenever we weren't hovering over them cleaning or refilling their dishes). I often had my lunch out there to watch them from a discrete distance.
Bonnie loves animals. You should befriend her on Facebook if you do, too. She has since retired from WB, but her FB pages are always filled with critter-related goodies.
These are just the handful of animal welfare advocates I actually met during my time as a professional animal welfare advocate. There are additional heroes, people I never met: Jane Goodall, Roger Caras, Albert Schweitzer, Jacques Cousteau (although I did meet one of his sons, Phillippe, shown below) and more.