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Golden Girl’s Creature Comforts

By: Cal Orey

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Born in Oak Park, Ill., on Jan. 17, 1922, Betty White (a sensitive and sympathetic Capricorn), was a pet magnet from day one. These days, the accomplished actor, comedienne (who is well-known for her work on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls"), is a devout pet lover and big fan of Morris Animal Foundation.

America's "Golden Girl" shares her Southern California home with simple pet pleasures. Her lovable menagerie consists of three four-legged friends, which include Panda, a 11-year-old female shih tzu, Kitta, a 7-year-old male golden retriever, and Bob Cat, a 10-12 year-old male Himalayan.

Read on – find out how the unique personalities of these two dogs and one cat provide love and comfort in a variety of ways to their caretaker Betty White.

Q. You adopted a dog, Panda, from SPCA. Describe Panda's characteristics or temperament. (For example, affectionate, gentle, and quiet.) What is your favorite temperament trait about her [and why] that makes her so special to you?
A. Panda invented the term "lap dog." She is loving, cuddly, and highly opinionated. She spent the first six months of her life at SPCA/LA as she had been confiscated in a cruelty case and was impounded as evidence until the trial was settled. She came to me and took no time to take over my household and my life.

Q. You embraced another animal – Kitta, from a guide dog program. Describe some of your favorite characteristics about him. How does Kitta make you feel good, loved, wanted, needed and comforted?
A. Kitta is one big throbbing heart who takes in the world. He is never more than six feet away from me and is self-employed as the announcer of everything that goes by in front of the house. His manners are impeccable, except for an occasional attack of extreme joy.

Q. Your cat, Bob Cat, was a homeless kitty until you opened up your heart and home. What unique personality traits does Bob have and how has it had an impact on your (and his) happiness?
A. Bob has no idea he is of the feline persuasion. He follows me like a dog and must be touching me or draped on me whenever I sit down. His head is on my shoulder every night and I fall asleep to gentle but rather loud purring.

Q. What special activities do you share with your pet pals?
A. Watching television consists of all four of us on the couch in the den. Answering fan mail or signing pictures is complicated as Bob Cat attacks my pen. I am writing a book and since I work in longhand, much of it is written resting on Panda's back.

Q. You have been a dedicated volunteer for Morris Animal Foundation for more than 30 years. Why is this organization (which is known to advance veterinary medicine through animal health studies) so important to you? (
A. In 32 years, my admiration and respect for this organization has only grown. Over the years we have helped develop valuable vaccines and have spread important knowledge to the entire veterinary community. I am proud to be a part of something that never lets you down.

Q. You co-hosted "The Pet Set" and wrote "Betty White's Pet Love." Can you share a mini-anecdote about the first animal companion in your life that touched your heart and soul, igniting your love for animals?
A. The fire ignited in the womb I'm sure as my folks were devoted to animals. When they brought me home from the hospital, our cat, Toby, took on the job of guarding my crib, which was lucky for me. Had he not approved, I'm sure I would have been returned to the hospital. Since then, there has never been a moment in my life that has not been shared with at least one warm, four-legged, understanding friend.

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