“I wish we lived in a world where caring for animals wasn’t so rare that it deserved an award.” -Ellen DeGeneres
There are innumerable ways people can show how they love animals. Of all the things I’ve learned since I’ve started blogging, this has really struck me the most. I ended up becoming a veterinarian because it seemed like a logical step for a pet lover, but I see other people serving in their own ways every day: accountants, marketing reps, artists. Everyone has a gift to contribute.
On Saturday, I attended the Petco Foundation Gala here in San Diego thanks to BlogPaws. Now in its third year, the Gala introduced a new award this year: The Hope Award, given to a person whose dedication to the human-animal bond serves to give others hope. The very first recipient was no other than Ellen DeGeneres, comedienne, Halo co-founder, and dedicated animal advocate.
I won’t lie. I would have loved to get a chance to meet her. I was sitting at a fantastic table close to the front with several Petco employees, a couple from WellPets, and my husband. The guy to my left was even more enthralled with Ellen than I. “She just walked by!” he hissed, pointing to the doorway where a slim figure in a suit and sneakers was disappearing through the arch, flanked by two minders.
He turned to me. “She’s going to the bathroom. This is your chance.”
I’m sure her stall would be easy to spot- I’m pretty sure she was the only person in the ballroom wearing sneakers, after all- but then I realized I had nothing to say. “Um, hi Ellen, you’re great and all…look, this stall is out of toilet paper, can you pass me some?” followed by me getting escorted out by security. So I demurred.
When she came back in, our guy was ready. “HEY, it’s ELLEN!” he shouted happily. She turned around and waved. “Call me,” she quipped, then scurried off to her seat. Being the persistent type, he actually tried to schmooze his way over to her table and continue the conversation, but her minders cut him off at the periphery. So we contented ourselves with talking about work and animal welfare.
When Ellen got up to accept the Hope Award, she gave a short and heartfelt acceptance. First, she said when she was growing up she wanted to be Dian Fossey (like me!). Actually I still want to be Dian Fossey, minus the whole death-by-machete thing. Then she said, “then I realized that was stupid. Too many bug bites.” At which point I pulled my sleeves self-consciously down and realized Ellen was smarter than I was.
She went on to say her second goal was to be a veterinarian, which if you know me, was never actually anything I aspired to be as a child. But when that fell short, she had to content herself with stand-up comedy (which seems to have worked out all right for her), and rescuing dogs from their frontyards or wherever she happens to find them.
I thought about that as I looked around the room. Most of these people didn’t work with animals in the same capacity as I do. They were businesspeople, by and large. That being said, there was barely a dry eye in the house when Petco’s Paul Jolly talked about the life lessons he learned from his sheltie. Love of animals is universal and certainly not limited to those who work in the field.
I really can’t get away from animal issues since that is pretty much my life right now- but for these people, who have other jobs and other things to think about every day- it speaks to their commitment that they made the choice to be there. People who could support any good cause in the whole world, choose to help animals. And that gives me hope. Especially with my trip to Peru still fresh in my head, I am so grateful to live in a place where animals are consistently valued and loved, and to be a part of a culture that celebrates that bond.
That’s how you end up at a black tie event dancing with a bunch of dogs. This one is training to work with veterans suffering from PTSD, but he got a break to come to the gala and be fawned over. That’s my kind of formal event.
A lot of money was raised that night for the Petco Foundation, which supports many animal-related causes around the country from spay-neuter programs to disaster response teams. Sure, the 5 day trip to Paris at the silent auction was out of my price range, but there were plenty of other people ready to bid. Maybe someone will take me along. 🙂 Next year, after I win the lottery, I too will bid.
Ellen expressed a bit of surprise at the idea that her actions deserved an award. “Helping animals isn’t a choice I made,” she said. “It is just what I do, as natural as breathing.” I love that. A big thank you goes out to Petco for putting on such a great event, and to BlogPaws for providing me an invitation.
You know, I would have gone just for the dessert. The rest was an added bonus.