Pet People

Betty White: America’s Golden Girl for Pets

For more than six decades, Betty White has achieved success in her two favorite passions: a love for acting and a love for animals. This six-time Emmy winner and president emeritus of the Morris Animal Foundation, happily shares her Los Angeles home with Pontiac, a devoted golden retriever. Betty takes time to chat with Arden Moore of Pet Airways, about the golden lessons in life that pets teach her every day and the continuing role she plays in strengthening the human-animal bond.

Read about Arden Moore’s interview with Betty White.

Arden: You truly are a pal and a confidant to pets and people, Betty.

Betty: Thank you, Arden. I feel lucky that I am able to be active in the two loves of my life: animals and show business. I’ve been involved with the Los Angeles Zoo and the Morris Animal Foundation for more than 40 years and I’ve been in show business for more than 60 years. I guess you have to either sell your TV set or blow it up to get rid of me. Ha! I feel blessed.

Arden: You have mastered avoiding being stereotyped as an actor. You played the man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” the sweet-but-naïve Rose Nylund on “Golden Girls” and the get-away-with-murder Catherine Piper on “Boston Legal.” Wow. What’s the secret to your success?

Betty: After being the neighborhood nymphomaniac on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” I was originally set to play Blanche on “Golden Girls,” but that part was too much like Sue Ann. Instead, they had me play Rose and Rue McClanahan played Blanche. It was a good call. On “Boston Legal,” I got to play Catherine Piper, a woman who you saw murder a man and get away with it. My character then robbed two convenient stores and again, got away with it. I had a great time being part of all of those wonderful shows.

Arden: What’s your primary role as president emeritus of the Morris Animal Foundation?

Betty: The premise of the Morris Animal Foundation is to fund humane studies for dogs, cats, horses, zoo animals and wildlife. We are conducting two major efforts: the Canine Cancer Crusade and the Happy, Healthy Cat Campaign. Sadly, 1 in 4 dogs die from cancer and I lost one of my beloved golden retrievers to cancer. Dogs are vulnerable to the same carcinogens as people are and we are hoping to find out why and find a cure for cancer as well. Cats outnumber dogs in this country, but the problem is that fewer cats go to veterinary hospitals for care than dogs. We’re trying to educate the public and fund more feline studies.

Arden: You seem to have a special affinity for golden retrievers. Your first one was Dinah, a retired service dog from your friend, Tom Sullivan. Now, you have Pontiac. What do you enjoy most about this breed?

Betty: My golden retriever passion began when I took my blind friend Tom Sullivan’s retired guide dog named Dinah. She retired at age 11 when she came to me. She made it to age 15 by three days. Tom told me that Dinah taught him to grow up and I say that Dinah taught me to grow old. When she was a working dog, Tom as a representative for the “Good Morning, America” show and the two of them traveled all over the country. They were on and off airplanes all the time. Then she came to me with her upbeat attitude as if to convey, “Okay, what can I do to help you? She taught me that it is okay to go through life’s changes.

Arden: What’s your life like now with your dog, Pontiac?

Betty: Pontiac is my golden boy, my constant companion. I cannot go more than two steps in my home without him being right by my side. If I must go out of town, I do my best to only be gone a maximum of three days. When I’m away, my good friend, Jerry Martin comes over every single day to play with Pontiac and so does my housekeeper. My housekeeper tells me that Pontiac spends a lot of time watching out the window that overlooks my driveway looking for me. That kind of support is very special. I appreciate him with all my heart.

Arden: Any parting message you would like to embark to our readers?

Betty: To me, I feel so enriched and blessed in life, thanks in part to the special pets I’ve had. Right now, Pontiac is on the couch with me with his head resting on my lap. I love that special one-on-one connection – that’s where true companionship comes in.