Updated: Jul 4
With the death of Betty White, we felt a collective gut-punch. After two highly challenging years, we all clung to the anticipation of White's 100th birthday as a symbol of resilience and strength. When she died short of hitting 100, we all felt grief. To take that feeling and turn it into something to honor her lifelong dedication to animals thru the Betty White Challenge feels like something that would make even Sue Ann Nivens blush.
If you're not familiar with the Challenge, everyone is encouraged to donate to their local animal rescue in White's honor on January 17th, her birthday. It's already being dubbed "annual," and I hope beyond hope that we continue this for many, many years. I imagine that nothing would mean more to Betty White, and there are countless animals whose lives will be instantly changed by it.
My personal story with animal rescue started when I lost both of my Siberian Huskies within months of each other, one to epilepsy and one to liver failure in old age. I was so thoroughly crushed that I told myself I could never open my heart to another dog. That's when I decided to foster rescue dogs.
My theory was that I could have a dog for a brief time, enjoy its company, but then let it go to its forever home before I'd get too attached. I volunteered with Secondhand Hounds and specifically asked to foster Siberian Huskies. I learned that a van was coming to the Twin Cities from Red Lake, MN, filled with homeless dogs. They showed me a photo of a blue-eyed puppy, and I couldn't say no.
I drove to the parking lot of a restaurant and waited. The van rolled in, and it was stuffed full of cats and dogs. I watched the volunteers unload kennel after kennel, and I began to think my little puppy wasn't included in the cargo. Finally, one of the very last kennels came out, and there she was, dirty and smelly and terrified. She scrunched herself as far back into the kennel as she could and refused to come out. We had to shake her loose until she plopped out onto the asphalt, belly freshly shaved with a very new spay incision showing.
They handed her to me, and I was officially a foster parent... for about one hour. After 20 minutes into our drive home, I adopted her in my heart. The next day I signed the paperwork. I named her Bear, and 12 years later, she is still my steadfast best friend, and our connection is stronger than any I've ever had with another dog.
I continued to foster for many years after that, and almost all of my foster dogs came from Red Lake Rosie's as Bear did. What I learned from that experience is more than what I can capture here but suffice it to say there are dogs in tremendous need. Bear was found at a local dump where many dogs gather in an attempt to survive. Most don't.
If you haven't heard of Red Lake Rosie's, please follow the link to their website and learn about their mission and founder Karen Good. She is a fantastic human who has dedicated herself to saving 1,000s of animals. That's why when I heard about the Betty White Challenge, I knew that's where I'd be sending my donation this year and for years to come.