Los Angeles pet lovers.
and Random Acts of Kindness
By Lori Golden
A graduate of Yale University who also studied at Oxford University, Bellamy keeps her southern roots close to her at all times. She was raised as an only child in Asheville, North Carolina where she always had animals. “Cats and dogs mostly,” she says. “Fish, sometimes. My aunt always had birds. But it’s also a very nature-centered place so I was always near wildlife of every sort, especially up in the mountains where my Grandpa had a camper. So there would be bears, raccoons, deer, everything.”
“My very first kitty was named Blackie, and my parents had a dog when they adopted me named Tippy who I don’t remember so well. Through the years there was Corky the Yorki, and little Bon Bon who was sort of a Shitzu… they all are glorious in my mind and I loved them all.”
Bellamy was six weeks old when she was adopted which had a lasting impact on her.
“I always say when you adopt from a shelter they never forget, they’re always grateful,” she explains. “I sort of feel the same way in my life… that in 1970 someone made the choice to keep me and I’m really grateful that someone made the choice to make me their daughter – bring me into their home and their lives and their hearts. I think it’s always been a framing context for sure for me, and I don’t take things for granted.”
Bellamy has four animals living with her today but says, “I foster as often as I’m able so that number varies.”
“I have 3 cats. Sadie, the Grande Dame, is from the Lacy St. shelter. She’s a Tortie with plenty of opinions and loves to readily give them to you. Max is the shy boy who came from Kitten Rescue at a Petco in Pasadena. He’s a sweetheart but is nervous a lot, and he’s all black. My other cat is Button, who was a wild cat I saw casing my house. It took me about 6 months to TNR him through FixNation – god bless the work that FixNation does. They are such a game changer and such a terrific paradigm for what can be and what is possible. He stayed around and after about 4 months I could touch him and now it’s been around 2 1/2 years and he lives inside with me and is seriously the most loving, devoted animal ever. He’s my guard cat. If a coyote comes by he gets up into the window and growls. He’s my man. He’s the Button of my heart. It took a while for him to get along with Max because they’re both boys. You just have to let them work things out until they come to trust each other. Trust is just something that takes time, whether its humans or animals. I had to bring him in gradually and let everybody get used to everyone’s scent. First I was only bringing him in at night, in my mind to keep him safe from the coyotes, but now it’s lovely. He’s a beautiful grey, like one of those Russian grey cats with a big fist of a manly face. I have to say he is soul mates with my dog – the way they love and play and romp – they gallop and they stand on their little back legs and they box with each other and then they fall down, and they roll and they hug and they fall asleep. The best.”
“And then there’s The Bean. She’s a Chihuahua/Pug from the Carson shelter. I had just placed a one-eyed pitbull I had been fostering and felt invincible. I tend to always have black animals. I don’t know why. I like them. I was pulling a big black terrier mix when a shelter volunteer suggested I look at this little dog they were calling Pixie, because she’s sweet as they come, she doesn’t make a sound but she’s been here since October and they won’t keep her much longer. I didn’t even touch her. I looked at her and she gave me ‘cat eyes’ – like the wink of love – so I got her. I was going the next day to North Carolina for Christmas and thought she would be the perfect second dog for my mother. So this puppy who is now The Bean got on the plane with me the next morning, docile as a lamb, who was just happy to be any place that wasn’t the pound. Due to snow it took 36 hours to get to my mom’s house and by the time I showed up there I told her, ‘here’s your new dog.’ She took one look at us and said, ‘that’s your dog.’ And she was so right! She is my angel. I’ve had her for around 4 years now.”
Since getting The Bean Bellamy has only fostered one dog, but she also fosters kittens for Kitten Rescue.
“The animals I have fostered came to me in different ways. The first dog was running free in my neighborhood. I found his parents who didn’t want him, so I was able to place him with a family in Manhattan Beach. My next foster I found by the side of a freeway on a horribly hot day… a beautiful big sort of Mastiff/Saint Bernard staggering onto the freeway. With help we got him into the back seat of my car. I never found anyone to claim this dog, but he’s now with a dear writer friend of mine, travelling the world. I’ve fostered many animals and it’s always such an incredible and irrefutable moment when you see an animal find their person.”
So what’s Bellamy’s secret for finding homes for the animals she fosters?
“Rescue groups have their own protocols for finding homes for animals that people foster for them,” she explains. “If it’s just me, I have had great success with writing emails about the dog’s story with a good picture and networking it by sending it to 100 – 200 people and having them send it out beyond that. I think I just believe in a higher hand in these things as well as fate and it’s always turned out beautifully. You know you’re going to find someone safe, and someone you know or you know someone who knows them so you can vet them quickly and easily, and you’ll always have a connection to that animal that you can follow up on. I also made a cute bandanna that says Adopt Me and taken dogs on walks in Runyan Canyon or somewhere lovely and have had conversations about the animal, although I’ve never placed a dog with strangers.”
“I have never felt more blessed than knowing that I played a part in saving an animal’s life, which you definitely are doing when you foster an animal, especially one from a shelter system. You really feel the hand of fate working through you because it’s unmistakable when an animal meets their person… it’s such a magical moment. People often are afraid to foster because they think, ‘how will I ever be able to give the dog or kittens up?’ But you’re serving a higher purpose and you’ll see that when you see them find their true family. It’s the biggest blessing… to know that it happened because of you – you gave your time and you gave your love and you gave the tiny little bit of effort that it took to give both an animal and a family a lifetime of happiness together.”
“With the shelter I always just assume the responsibility of an animal,” she continues. “It’s cleaner for me, because I had a couple of iffy encounters fostering for rescue groups, which is not by any means endemic of all these situations. Kitten Rescue has been amazing to work with and I love them, but there are a couple that I would not work with again. So it’s cleaner for me to assume the responsibility of pulling an animal and getting it on its path. But if it’s more comfortable for people to work with a group - a few I like are Kitten Rescue, Best Friends, and Much Love – then that’s a way of wading into it with no risk at all. For instance, with Kitten Rescue you will feel supported. If you’re fostering kittens they require a different commitment because they usually need to be bottle-fed every three hours. You’re absolutely trained, and you’re never alone. The first time I did this my kittens, as they usually do, got worms, and I was a complete novice about worms. It freaked me out. I was sending pictures to Kitten Rescue of poo with worms coming out and they said, ‘it’s all good. This is what’s happening, your cats aren’t going to get them because you’re keeping the kittens separate. We’re bringing you medicine tonight.’ You feel very supported so really all you have to do is love. What they need is hands and hearts and homes so I think they make it possible in any way that they can for you to help them.”
Bellamy has been a vegan for 25 years. “It was my sophomore year at Yale, going through the food line for dinner, and I wanted a chicken breast, but the way they put it on my plate – all of a sudden it reminded me of my mom’s dog – and at that moment I was instantly on the outside of the food chain. I just couldn’t be a part of it. It was very personal to me in an instant, all because of a big breast of chicken that was oddly plated and slightly pink and I couldn’t do it. At first all I could think to eat was peanut butter and bread, so I put on a bunch of weight, but over the years it’s gotten a lot easier because people are much hipper to the fact that a plant based lifestyle is healthier for us. So it’s gotten so easy and so delicious to be vegan.”
Whenever she can, Bellamy likes to spend Thanksgiving with her family in North Carolina.
“My family is not vegan but over the years people have found that plant based eating can be delicious and is much better for you. So my mom absolutely will still have a Honey Baked Ham and Smoked Turkey because we are Southern people and that it was happens. But now she can make vegan biscuits for me, which are delicious. And I have an incredible brussel sprout hash recipe that everybody loves. My mom does her twice baked potatoes, which some years we’ve done a vegan version of, but I like a sweet potato on Thanksgiving. I can’t help it. I’ve done Tofurky but I’m not a lover. I like the gravy. Maybe I don’t cook it right. For me I have a delicious Mac and Cheese recipe that has tofu, soy milk and brewer’s yeast and so it’s incredibly nutritive.”
“Some of my favorite vegan restaurants in LA are Madeleine’s Bistro in Tarzana, although they seem to be in transition; Shojin, a Japanese restaurant in a strip mall in downtown LA – stupendously delicious meals; and Crossroads on Melrose is fancy. That food is heavenly and it’s really only for special occasions for me.”
Bellamy is a big supporter of the Humane Society of the United States, and was a presenter for the first time at last year’s Genesis Awards.
“It was overwhelming to actually be a part of things because they do such good work,” she exclaims. “And such tireless work. It’s really Sisyphean. They just chip away at so many issues nationally, and I was very proud to be there to lend any voice that I have to their cause. Hopefully there will be many more ways to help in the future. The more you can put light on some things, the more you can get the word out. And certainly doing it in a fancy venue is a privilege and a joy. But it matters, too, to speak up to your neighbor who maybe doesn’t understand that leaving their dog chained in the backyard all day is not in the best interest of the dog. Every little bit matters because we have voices, and they don’t have voices.”
“I’m a lifelong supporter of as many animal-related causes and groups as I can be. Since I got out of college I’ve always supported groups like Farm Sanctuary, Best Friends, the Humane Society, the Anti-Vivisection League – these are all people that are in my will and in my heart. Things that really matter to me. Animal Legal Defense Fund. It’s just really important work. I know that each of us have different things that are close to our hearts, but this is what is closest to mine.”
Bellamy has a unique philosophy to gift giving for holidays and special occasions. “I’m a big believer in doing random acts of kindness as big or small as they are able, and to send me pictures of what they’ve done. Especially for so many of us who are privileged not to be in need of a lot of things. One friend fostered a dog from the East Valley Shelter and then found it a forever home. I think it is the highest privilege to be a catalyst that sort of ripples out goodness in the world. Because I think it all matters. Whether it’s tiny little bits of kindness or large, grand acts of kindness – it matters. There are a million silent soldiers out there and everybody does what they can, when they can.”
“At least once a year I try to do a big email blast – I take pictures of the dogs at the Lacy St. shelter that I think are most adoptable in my estimation, which is a terrible thing to say because they’re all adoptable,” she continues. “I do this because so many people are afraid to go into a shelter because it’s so overwhelming emotionally. So through these email blasts I’ve gotten animals placed. I’ve found that if people can go to a shelter with a goal in mind – I always find that the shelter websites are not so user friendly – if you can make it more digestible with say 15 dogs, and then another email with 15 cats – it does work. I always do this with the Lacy St shelter because it’s near my house and I drive by it every day… so it’s always in my mind and in my heart. And whenever I can I take blankets and old towels or buy boxes of towels for $10 because the shelters always need them.”
“I think putting any sort of kindness that you are capable of into the world is why we’re here. Giving of yourself at whatever level you are able is a true privilege and right and duty, but also joy. If that means volunteering at a shelter which may seem daunting to some people because that’s emotionally heavy – but it also is so necessary and so appreciated by those little eyes and all the fur that never gets rubbed and all the tails that never wag. Or if that means you can have a foster in your home, then that’s certainly an incredible gift of heart. If it just means supporting through activism or through funds if you’re able, whatever group speaks to your heart for whatever kind of critters that you love, it all matters and it all adds up. So even the tiniest little step – if you can take one little blanket to one little blanket drive, that little blanket is going to keep a baby warm at night and that’s going to make all the difference in that being’s world. So everything matters and everything is appreciated.”
“For me animals are an infinite source of joy and inspiration and love – unconditional love. I’ve never known more devotion and I’ve never been taught more about trust because the relationship is so pure.”
Bellamy Young can be seen in Scandal, airing Thursday nights at 10pm on ABC.
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