Sat 24, Jun, 2017
When I turned 7 years old, my father, who instilled my love of animals by taking me via stroller to the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter on a regular basis, told me he wanted to adopt a rescue dog for our family.
My dad had grown up with a menagerie of animals he had rescued from the streets of Cleveland, and had spent most of his summers visiting relatives who were farmers in rural Ohio. I was elated he thought I was responsible enough to care for a dog!
My parents contacted the Tailwaggers Club of Beverly Hills nearby and applied to adopt a beagle.
A few days later, they received a call from actress Nancy Kulp.
At the time Kulp was starring on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” a popular TV sitcom that ran on CBS from 1962 until 1971. Kulp played Miss Jane Hathaway, the irascible, snooty secretary to Mr. Drysdale, the uptight Beverly Hills banker and financial advisor who tried to “civilize” the backwoods Clampett family.
Patriarch Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) had struck oil (“Texas tea”) in their Ozarks hollow, became a millionaire, and moved his family from their shack to a mansion in Beverly Hills.
Among the show’s running gags was Mr. Drysdale’s failed attempts to keep the Clampetts from foolishly spending their newfound wealth, while usually making a fool of himself in the process.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” was built on a classic fish-out-of-water premise, the gap between unsophisticated hillbilly and sophisticated urbanite hilariously exaggerated, funny even without the canned laugh track.
I was a big fan, as if you couldn’t tell.
The ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star’s Beagles
On the phone, Kulp told my parents she was getting ready to shoot a film overseas and would be away for more than a year. She wanted someone to adopt her two beagles rather than take them with her on location.
I couldn’t wait to meet her and her dogs! My family drove to her Beverly Hills home, which looked almost like the mansion in the sitcom. She interviewed my mom and dad for almost an hour while my younger brother and I cavorted in the yard with the beagles.
Kulp insisted she did not want to separate the dogs. They were mother and daughter and had never been apart. However, my mom had reservations about taking both, mainly because the mother beagle’s name was Sydney, sounding the same as my dad’s. Mom was worried that every time she called “Sidney!” the dog would come running to her in response. And probably get there faster than Dad.
After I pleaded with my parents to take both dogs, they relented and asked Kulp if we could have a two-week trial period before making a commitment to adopt both. She agreed and we took the two dogs home. Now my brother and I were each responsible for feeding, walking and loving an animal!
Tailwaggers Club – Bette Davis Eyes for Animals
Part of that responsibility meant learning a little about The Tailwaggers Club. My dad told us it was a charity organization founded way back in the early 1900s with the mission of advancing animal welfare. The Club’s motto: “I help my pals.”
We read up more on The Tailwaggers Club. It was an early pet registry and philanthropic community founded in England in 1915 that grew quickly, especially after actress and world-famous Hollywood movie star Bette Davis was elected as president of Southern California’s branch in 1929.
Davis used her celebrity to share her passion for animals and helped raise awareness of animal welfare issues, as well as large sums of money from other famous animal lovers like Howard Hughes and Walt Disney. The Tailwaggers Club, in turn, donated large sums to worthy pet hospitals and shelters.
By 1930, Tailwaggers had almost a million human members in the U.S., the U.K., Korea, Iraq, Persia and New Zealand.
In 1960, Spiller’s Pet Food bought the club, registered it as The Tailwaggers Club Trust, and began to administer funds to support animal welfare. The current Tailwaggers Foundation carries on the tradition.
Actors and Others for Animals
Much later I learned that Tailwaggers was a precursor to Actors and Others for Animals, which was founded in 1971, and has been one of my favorite nonprofit animal welfare groups. Actor Richard Basehart and his wife Diana, Doris Day and a handful of other animal advocates founded A&O, as members call it. The organization had the early support of many well-known L.A. residents, among them Mayor Tom Bradley, Lucille Ball and Ricky Nelson.
Peabody award-winning newsman Dick Carlson became the first Actors and Others for Animals president. Through his gripping ABC documentary “Pounds of Sadness” Carlson exposed the inhumane animal shelter conditions that existed throughout greater Los Angeles.
By 1972, A&O had launched an aggressive campaign to abolish decompression chambers as a tool of the trade from all area animal shelters. A year later, the group began pushing L.A. County officials to approve setting up low-cost spay and neuter facilities as a way to help reduce the county’s pet overpopulation.
Around the same time, A&O launched a successful effort to fight animal abuse and cruelty in the film business. Members urged boycotts of movies in which animals were harmed during production. This is when you started to see the disclaimer “No animals were harmed in the production of this motion picture” in the end credits of films.
A&O also backed a successful campaign to convince L.A. County to stop supplying shelter animals to government agencies or private researchers for scientific experimentation.
Over the years the org has done much more to advocate and protect animals, and is still going strong, with Jo Anne Worley of “Laugh In” fame serving as its president.
The Story of a Rescue Dog Named Pippa
Getting back to the story of my first rescue dog, almost as soon as my parents and brother and I got home from Nancy Kulp’s house with her Beverly Hills beagles, my mother’s fear came to roost. The older dog did run to her every time she called “Sidney!” for my dad.
So Mom and Dad decided to adopt only the younger dog. Fortunately, when they contacted Kulp she graciously agreed to take Sydney back, and to let us adopt the daughter, Pippa, so everything worked out okay.
Like all pure-breed beagles, Pippa was small in stature, beautifully marked, muscular and extremely hardy. She was an active, playful, fun loving, devoted and merry hound who let her nose be her guide, and was never happier than when following an interesting scent.
The beagle is a hunting breed with the instinct to chase, in the tradition of the famous beagle packs of the 1800s. They’re known for loyalty to their human family members and do exceptionally well with children of all ages. With loads of energy and a happy personality, they can spend hours playing fetch or rolling around with young ones.
Pippa became my protector, playmate and companion. She slept in my bedroom on the floor next to my bed, lived for her daily long walks, and never left my side. She lived to be 16 and continues to visit me in my dreams.
She was my first rescue dog. Since then, I have been fortunate to rescue 10 other phenomenal dogs, including my most recent family member, Oaxaca, a gorgeous female black Lab. I have friends and acquaintances who were able to rescue many more.
It’s not surprising humans like us adopt rescue pets more than once, and often more than one at a time. It feels really good.
When you rescue any animal, it’s a double blessing: While you provide your newfound pet with hope, a home, love and companionship, you also learn very quickly that you are the one who was rescued.
Marilyn Eisenberg is a nationally exhibited fine artist, award-winning educator, published writer, art/design consultant and public relations/marketing specialist to Fortune 100 companies, nonprofit organizations and private clients. She has been rescuing Labrador Retrievers since the 1980s.
Article: ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Owned My First Rescue Dog
Category: Pet Tales
Author: Marilyn Eisenberg
‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Owned My First Rescue Dog