BETTY WHITE, an American actress, comedian and former television host with a career spanning over sixty-five years, is also a well-known advocate for animals and president emeritus and trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation). She had a Golden Retriever named Kitta, a former Guide Dog “who had bum hips”, and now has a Golden named Pontiac.
“He’s a career-change dog,” says White of her pet who was trained as a guide dog but couldn’t actually work in the field. “I lost my last fellow when he was 10 years old, and Guide Dogs for the Blind heard about it. They called and said they had another golden, so I went up to their facilities to meet him — and now he’s mine!
Here is Betty with Pontiac making a statement about our most important topic, Canine Cancer. And, what follows is the wicked funny Betty (from her debut Saturday Night Live hosting job) that we have all come to love.
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Betty is actually part of my site, at one of the most visited areas. It is where I feature those authors, TV personalities, movie actors, artists, and sports stars …. who are all owned (or previously owned) by Golden Retrievers! There are actually over 160 celebrities in this special Golden club.
Betty wrote [Nov 2001] about how her Golden boy Kitta helped her recover from hip surgery. Here is what she had to say:
“As well as we think we know the pets we live with, they still manage to surprise us now and then. It’s especially nice when the surprise turns out to be a pleasant one.
My three animal friends are my family in every sense of the word, and we are in total communication at all times. Self-appointed queen of the group is Panda, a black and white Shih Tzu, 11 years old, who came from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. She had been picked up in a cruelty case and impounded until the case came to trial. Panda has earned the right to be as spoiled as she is. Bob Cat is a beautiful Himalayan with huge blue eyes who found me seven years ago and, like the man who came to dinner, never left. He has no idea that he is of the feline persuasion and follows me everywhere with dog-like devotion. Unfortunately, his idea of “Sit-Stay” is on my chest.
Then there is my golden boy, Kitta, a 6-year-old Golden Retriever. He was puppy-raised in Alaska (kitta means “forward” in the Inuit language) but didn’t make it into the formal Guide Dogs for the Blind program because his hips didn’t quite measure up to the requirements for those hard-working dogs. Privately, I like to think it was because we were meant to be together.
Kitta is fine, but a few months ago, I was the one who needed hip replacement surgery. As someone who for 30 years has worked with the Morris Animal Foundation (an animal health organization that funds studies into specific health problems of all animals), I have seen enough canine X-rays to recognize the problem area. When my doctor showed me my pictures, my reaction was, ‘I’ve got hip dysplasia — can I go to my veterinarian?”
While hip replacement is something we would all just as soon skip, they really have it down to a routine procedure these days. However, even under optimum conditions, there is a five-day hospital stay involved and a few weeks of slightly limited activity once you get home. My bedroom was off-limits as I couldn’t go up stairs, so I arranged to set up headquarters in the playroom — separate from the house and with no steps to manage.
The day I came home from the hospital, I was walking but with the aid of a walker. I went directly out to the playroom, got safely ensconced, then had my furry friends brought out one at a time for their greeting. First Panda, then Bob, and finally Kitta — on a leash so he couldn’t get too carried away in his enthusiasm.
I took the big golden head in my hands and, nose-to-nose, proceeded to explain the situation in detail: “Sorry, Kitta dear, but Mom’s going to be real dumb company for a while . . . .” He sat motionless as he listened, just swaying slightly because of his intensely wagging tail. I unhooked the leash, and he sank down but within reach of my hand.
From that moment on, Kitta was on duty. When I would get up to move around, he was at my side but didn’t move any faster than I could go with the walker. His idea, not mine. Later, when I graduated to a cane, his pace adjusted but only up to what I could manage, and his back was within arm’s reach at all times.
The hospital sends a tool home with you called a “grabber” — a long stick with a handle that lets you pick up whatever you drop without bending over. Handy tool, that is. But I didn’t need it. All I had to say to my golden friend was “Fetch it up,” and whatever it was would be handed to me. One day, I got myself into a place in the rose garden where even with my cane I couldn’t get back to smooth ground. I reached for Kitta’s help, grabbed hold of some loose skin at his shoulders, and he literally pulled me back where I belonged.
Most animals are creatures of habit and don’t appreciate change in their routine. Surprisingly, Panda — and even Bob — adapted to the altered daily pattern without complaint, bless them, but Kitta’s reaction was something else. Remember, this was a dog that had never been trained to be a caretaker. He had only gone through puppy socialization, which simply meant being taken to various public places and learning to mind his manners. Where did this instinctive nursing behavior come from? I didn’t ask questions; I just deeply appreciated it.
Continuing to improve, I was soon driving, we all moved back upstairs, and before long, everything was back to normal. Another surprise was yet to come: The day I put the cane away for good — the very day — my nurturing helpmate changed back into my regular fun-loving playmate, and my Kitta was his old self again, begging for a tennis ball game without a care in the world.
If possible, however, we are both just a little closer than before.”
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