Admittedly, I don’t know much about the Housewives show franchise other than that its creator, brilliant TV impresario Andy Cohen, has turned the television world upside-down with his love-’em-or-hate-’em weeknight free-for-alls which have captive audiences clamoring for even more cities to be added to the current Bravo roster. TV snobs and critics may turn up their noses at these high camp glam slams, but Cohen must be doing something right because my most erudite of friends cop to fueling their cravings for fantastical escapism by way of binge-watching wives, ex-wives, wannabe wives, husbands of wives, ex-husbands of wives and significant others of wives living life unfiltered and sometimes oblivious to boom mikes and cameras in their boudoirs. We all know that entertainment is in the eye of the beholder and that good, light-hearted entertainment is just that – programming which provides recreational pleasure, diversion, pageantry and amusement.
Sadly, it’s the behind-the-scenes drama unfolding for one real housewife that has many of us in the rescue world dismayed as we all know that even the slightest appearance of impropriety can lead to one less dog being adopted rather than euthanized.
The backstory: Several years ago, Megan and I traveled to Los Angeles in order to meet with various producers who were interested in optioning the rights for what later became the movie, “Megan Leavey” and when we arrived on the West Coast too late to venture out for dinner, we decided to have something to eat in the hotel restaurant where we found ourselves seated at a table next to Lisa Vanderpump and her husband, Ken Todd. As our tables were close together and the restaurant was fairly crowded, we eventually started chatting with them and Lisa was fascinated by Megan’s story and was eager to offer some invaluable advice about Hollywood and the entertainment industry. She was down-to-earth, although strikingly chic – turning heads in the room with her ethereal British beauty, flowing paisley caftan and opera-length diamond necklace which caught the candlelight when she leaned over to give Megan a “good luck” hug before going home exhausted after a long day of shooting scenes for her show. Her husband Ken was equally gracious, asking about the Yankees and talking about football (soccer) and his love for all things having to do with dogs. I found him to be a gentle man who was on the mend after recovering from one orthopedic surgery and preparing for yet another. They gave us their mobile phone numbers and personal emails, which surprised us. And they repeatedly thanked Megan for her service and emphasized that she should feel free to contact them should she need advice about her film project. After they left the restaurant, the waiter and the maitre d’ came over to ask how we were doing and they told us that Lisa and Ken were amongst their very favorite customers at the restaurant and that they had been frequenting the place for years while always treating everyone they met – from busboys to nosey tourists – with the greatest of respect. The following day, Lisa Vanderpump sent out a lovely tweet about Megan and wished her success with her movie.
Fast forward: A few months ago, Randy and I traveled to Los Angeles with Megan to accompany her on her press junket for her movie. We had very little downtime as the publicists had booked Megan for numerous interviews with various media outlets and we knew that Megan could use a little break. I called ahead to Vanderpump Dogs and told them that we were in town and they relayed the message to Lisa and Ken. Although they were filming scenes across town that day and were exhausted after enduring several hours of shooting, they traveled a good distance through notoriously heavy L.A. traffic and finally arrived at Vanderpump Dogs to surprise Megan and congratulate her on the release of the movie. We were very touched that they would go to the trouble of doing so. This speaks volumes to their character – their real-life, true, not-just-made-for-TV-character. In the meantime, I had fallen in love with the sweet little former Cabo street dog beggar, Pearl V., whom I had seen via email days earlier and had been plotting her return with us to New York. While Lisa spent time with Megan, Pearl V. snoozed in my lap while I was interviewed by the very professional staff at Vanderpump Dogs and I filled out the necessary paperwork to be approved for adoption of Pearl V. I was very impressed with the staff’s dedication and attention to detail and the cleanliness of the facility as well as the hospitality they showed to each and every person who walked through that pink front door. I’ve been through many an adoption process and this one ranks at the top (along with WASA and ARFLA!) in terms of efficiency and placing the dog’s needs before the human’s wants. When Megan and I walked out of Vanderpump Dogs with Pearl V. leading the way with her fancy pink daisy leash (which Otto later chewed for breakfast) there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. This is what real rescue is. This is what real rescue should be.
With that said, the reality that doesn’t make for good TV is the internecine warfare and sniping which often takes place between rescue groups burdened with too many animals, too few dollars and emotions which have tendencies to cloud judgement. The dynamic duo of Vanderpump/Todd is relatively new to rescue as compared to some of us who have been doing this for over twenty years. (They have been successful restaurateurs and have owned businesses here and in London for several decades.) But now, they are making waves as far away as China where they accomplished more in one year than all of us have in the past ten. They put Yulin back on the map and exposed the festival for all to see. They used their celebrity to pull back the dirty curtains hiding the dog torture/consumption trade and Lisa went to Washington to testify before Congress and she left vowing to raise the funds to tackle the task-at-hand. While some initially scoffed at the notion of a Beverly Hills-based reality TV celeb getting her manicured hands dirty by documenting Yulin, everyone took notice when Lisa and Ken’s partner, filmmaker and animal advocate, Dr. John Sessa, packed a plane with veterinary/medical supplies and headed to Hong Kong and then to China to save as many dogs as he could.
Randy and I wholeheartedly support the Vanderpump Foundation’s efforts to not only save Yulin dogs and end the barbarity which takes place at this festival, but we also support their mission to find homes for dogs here in the United States. They have taken dogs like Pearl, and others from the kill shelters and back alleys in places where puppies and elderly dogs wouldn’t stand much of a chance in the already-overcrowded and underfunded city shelters. It pains me to see that another rescue group is now suing Lisa and Todd and their foundation. I am of the firm belief that EVERY DOLLAR SPENT IN LITIGATION IS ONE LESS DOLLAR SPENT SAVING A DOG. There is a very basic financial formula as it applies to rescue and it cannot be misunderstood. The more money we are able to allocate to saving dogs, the more dogs will survive. I hope that in the days ahead, the group suing Lisa and Todd and Vanderpump Dogs will come to realize that this type of litigation will not benefit the dogs desperately and immediately in-need of homes and that we are all working toward the same goal and that there is plenty of turf to go around as the numbers of homeless dogs seem to grow exponentially.
We are here on this earth but for a short time. We can spend that time trying to solve problems or we can spend that time creating problems for others to solve. I prefer to do the former. I support Lisa and Ken and I hope that you will too. I’m not soliciting contributions nor donations – just asking you to please take the time to send a few kinds words of encouragement to Vanderpump Dogs Facebook page or to their twitter so that we can all work toward relegating the drama to the TV screen and thereby eliminating it from the very real world of rescue.