The Humane Society’s Been in my Fridge

24 Mar

Last week was an intense one.  After flying back to CA after visiting with my family and friends in Chicago for ten days, I started a contract gig with Hollywood office of The Humane Society of the United States.  They had heard about me through a fellow animal rescuer and after a meeting or two, hired me to produce the Silent Auction for their 25th Annual Genesis Awards.

Even though I was really looking forward to it because I’d always wanted to be involved with the event somehow (and now here I was—behind the scenes of it all—exciting!), I was nervous.   I had never produced a Silent Auction before, and I was really honest about that with them.  I knew I could do it, and based on my other experience, they apparently had confidence I could, too.  We all decided to take a leap and see what we could do about making this Silent Auction amazing.

Well, it worked.  Thanks to the tremendous amount of preparation they had done before I arrived and the extremely hard work the team continued to churn out while I was there, we managed to pull it off without any major catastrophes.  In fact, by all accounts, it was a great success.  Yay us!  Not to mention, our friend Lu Parker won a Genesis Award for her amazing investigative reports on puppy mills, dogfighting, and hatcheries.


Lu Parker walks the red carpet with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Lu Parker walks the red carpet with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

But what I really want to write about is what it meant to be in an animal-loving, cruelty-free environment for a week.

For starters, dogs rule the office there at the HSUS.  I met Luc and Curley, a pair of little Bichons (or maybe Poodles), who—upon arrival at the office—get to play a rousing game of fetch down the long hallways every morning.   Luc became a little buddy of mine…he’d jump up in my lap from time to time to help me do my computer work.  I felt like I was at home!  There was Charlie, the Dalmatian, who has a full-sized couch in his human’s office that he gets up from only when his human leaves the office for a bathroom or snack break.  It’s then that he stands in the doorway, staring longingly and trying to keep his heart from breaking during the two-minute separation.

There were many more…like the furry little caged creatures in someone’s office (I’m guessing they were hamsters or rats; I didn’t have the chance to visit)…and the aging Cavalier King Charles, Rosie, whose tongue can’t stay in but whose tail never stops wagging.

It was a truly wonderful environment in which to work.  When someone was looking for a fellow staffer who didn’t seem to be in her office, the answer from down the hall often came: “oh, she’s taking the dog out for a walk.”  I walked the halls greeting humans and canines alike.  I saw little under-the-desk dog beds and water bowls incorporated into the office set up.  And when someone needed to go to the vet suddenly, everyone seamlessly worked around it.

It wasn’t just the dogs; it was their office fridges, too.  At the Humane Society, you’re in the minority if you’re a vegetarian.  I’m used to that—no big deal.  But what I’m not used to is the majority being vegan.

Their mission is “to work to reduce suffering and to create meaningful social change for animals by advocating for sensible public policies, investigating cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about animal issues, joining with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies, and conducting hands-on programs that make ours a more humane world.”

I remember one of the nights that we were working late, someone passed around a menu so dinner could be ordered in.  It got halfway around the office and then was vetoed for not having enough vegan options.  Imagine!  Hallelujiah!  Even though I’m not as vegan as I once was, it was such a lovely script flip to experience.  I’m used to having “salad” or “grilled veggies” as my options for office lunches.

Because they are committed to making the world a more humane place for ALL animals, the Genesis Awards is a totally cruelty-free event.  From the menu to the gift bags, not one animal’s life is harmed.  This also held true for the Silent Auction.

Many generous donors gave so many wonderful items, including lots of beautifully wrapped gift baskets full of goodies.  While I always did a little cheer for the pre-assembled baskets because it meant that was one less our team had to put together, there was always the added step of auditing the contents to make sure they were cruelty-free.  And I have to tell you, there were a few that, unfortunately, had to be dissected.  Whether they were meant for human or pet consumption, non-vegan products had to go.  There was a little part of me that felt bad for having to cut into such lovely presentations, but there was more of me that felt proud to be part of the effort to do no harm.  To advocate for creatures great and small.

Event production means living in constant chaos and flux until the last guests go home.  It means long hours and unplanned changes and massive amounts of caffeine (well, for me, anyway).  But in the end, the feeling of achievement…of “I can’t believe we actually pulled it off…” makes it all worth it.

In this case, I went home with much more than a paycheck and a sense of accomplishment.  When I first gave up meat 12 years ago, I went all the way–hardcore vegan–for about 3 or 4 years.  Then gradually, I got looser and looser with things like dairy and eggs.  I’ve never been too judgmental about it all; we all do what makes sense for each of us.

People always ask me things like, “oh, my sister says she’s a vegetarian, but she eats eggs.  That means she’s not a real one, right?”  I always tell them that I believe that any amount of cruelty eliminated from someone’s life is real.  Period.

But for me, what working with the Humane Society did is renew my commitment to animal rights.  I haven’t gone back to being 100% vegan overnight…but I’ve definitely made some immediate changes, like switched our dairy half and half to Silk brand half and half (we already drink Silk milk instead of dairy) and told Kim I want to make sure we get a faux leather couch (we’re shopping right now for something that will hold up better to the dogs, if you have any suggestions).  It’s not much, I guess, but it feels good just to be back in the mindset and application of trying to eliminate cruelty from my life.

This past Monday was Sugar the Pit Bull’s one-year anniversary.  Some of you might remember her as the rescue dog Kim and I (along with countless others) tried to save after her life of torture.  We lost her to complications last March.  I spent so much time fighting for her and so much time since fighting for other animals’ rights for a safe and pain-free life.  It makes total sense that my Human Society gig would converge with Sugar’s anniversary—just a big ol’ reminder of the big ol’ picture.

We all do what we can…and the Humane Society reminded me I can do more–in honor of Sugar and all of the animals who need us.

Sugar's legacy lives on

This one's for you, Sugar!


3 Responses to “The Humane Society’s Been in my Fridge”

  1. Jennifer Charnofsky March 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    What a wonderful job, and what a relief to be in that kind of environment! We became vegetarians about 15 years ago (hard to remember exactly when)and do the best we can. Our eggs come from the hens next door, who are really more family pets. Their outside shelter and indoor nesting place are lovely, in fact it all blends with the Craftsman architecture, they eat only organic food, and they wander the organic garden often. I hear them every time they announce an egg.

    • sarahsypniewski March 25, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

      Yes, it really was! How great that you have neighbor hens (I love that chickens are a part of so much of LA life)…and it sounds like they are living quite the charmed life indeed! Would love to see a photo sometime…

  2. Jon Luskin March 26, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    love it

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