A combined effort

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Friday, November 29, 2018. Mosty sunny, yesterday in New York, with temperatures in the mid-to-low 40s. The leaves are mainly gone from the trees. It’s dark outside by 6 pm, and within another week, the holiday festivities will be in the clubrooms, restaurants and living rooms all over town.

Arriana and Dixon Boardman

One night earlier in the week I had dinner with Arriana and Dixon Boardman. They and I are people in New York who one knows by sight or dinner or cocktail party or on passing boats in life. I first heard of Dixon back in the ‘80s when my friend Lady Sarah Churchill would sometimes refer to him in conversation. She was his godmother, and according to her, little Dixon spent a great deal of time at her house outside of Philadelphia. Two of her four daughters, Serena and Mimi, were constant in the boy’s life.

Arriana and I have met before on the same New York social conveyor belt. She is from a well known European titled family. Her father Alfonso Hohenlohe-Langenburg built the Marbella Club in 1954, the first luxury hotel on the Costa del Sol.

Alfonso was a playboy prince from a family whose titles continued but whose fortunes had dwindled over the centuries. Besides his playboy reputation – his first wife, Ira von Furstenberg, a Fiat heiress, was 15 when they married. In the late 1940s, the then young prince (in his 20s) had the foresight to buy land in Marbella. He then began selling plots of the land off to friends with names like Rothschild and Thyssen.

For many years thereafter, the Marbella Club was host to the world’s rich, the chic and the shameless, and the titled Euros along with the most famous movie stars.

So we talked about those people we had heard of in common including a distant Hohenlohe aunt named Honeychile. A little girl from Georgia or South Carolina, Honeychile, first a Wilder, was famous in her day, 1940s through the ‘60s.

Prince Alexander and a distant Hohenlohe aunt named Honeychile.

A beauty, of course, she also had a mouth which is fairly commonplace among women and men nowadays. But back then epithets of four letter words that covered the waterfront were rarely uttered (in public anyway, and certainly not by women) except if Honeychile were in town.

When all was said and done, and there was a lot of it, Honeychile settled down to married life with an Austrian prince named Alexander Hohenlohe, and for many years the two were one of the starring couples on the international jet set. But that’s for another Diary as Honeychile was someone who was remembered.

Arriana and ASPCA rescue dog at the 2017 Bergh Ball.

However, backgrounds aside, at dinner the three of us Arriana, Dixon and I were soon talking about our dogs. I’ve had dogs and cats all my life. At this advanced age, I see them very differently from the way I saw them as a child and as a young man. For the child, the dog or cat was in some way the companion and as a young man, the dog or cat was a responsibility that often got in the way of my frenetic life. At this time I have four and the Boardmans have two.

However, backgrounds aside, at dinner the three of us — Arriana, Dixon and I — were soon talking about our dogs. I’ve had dogs and cats all my life. At this advanced age, I see them very differently from the way I saw them as a child and as a young man. For the child, the dog or cat was in some way the companion and as a young man, the dog or cat was a responsibility that often got in the way of my frenetic life. At this time I have four and the Boardmans have two.

For all my self-centeredness as the only human animal in the house (although they love any visitor who might come through the door — Dave’s a bit of a bore!), these guys are self-centered too. After all, life is life. But they are better at accommodating me/us and my stuff/their stuff, than I am. Like the rest of us, after all, a dog’s gotta eat, four legged or two legged. Their presence is always the reward, and they show respect as well as self-respect.

As I was happily pontificating to the Boardmans about me and the dogs, I was continually getting agreement from both. The nodding of the head. That led to Arriana telling me about her experience with the ASPCA of which she is now a board member.

This photo was taken in the early ’80s and it still looks like the height of the luxury of animal affection. I was dog-sitting for Lady Sarah who traveled frequently, and also had a great fondness for Jack Russells. The guy on the left with his left paw on my reclined shoulder was Sparky, the leader of the pack, a tough little guy, an excellent ratter in the landscape of Beverly Hills where the vermin population rivals NYC. Under my left arm is Sweet Pea, every bit as tough as Mr. Sparky but demure in gait and gentleness when not playing with the boys. On my lap was Polo (nicknamed Po Po) who showed up at my door one rainy day in Los Angeles complete with collar and identity. When I finally got in touch with his master he said to me: “you wanna dog?” and that was that. Polo was 8 at the time. Underneath my right foot was shy and sweet little Rum Rum, Sweet Pea’s boyfriend and constant companion. Rum eventually came to live with me and Polo.

There are two separate issues involved in rescuing an animal. The first may be empathy or sympathy. The second is the unimagined pleasure that the animal brings to your life. That is the most important because it’s good for both parties. It’s good for all children too. Children who are afraid of animals have never been properly introduced (don’t KISS or put you nose in dog’s face!)

I’ve known about the ASPCA all my life although I’ve superficially regarded it as a place that took in stray dogs and put them out for adoption. From Arriana’s experience it is “an incredible organization that has a tremendous impact in fighting animal cruelty and homelessness. And there is so much cruelty out there.”

Arianna’s little pack of cuties.

Cruelty. Available everywhere even in the lives of those around us, even though we may never hear about it. Arriana was telling me about a newer project of the ASPCA in North Carolina where they have started a “behavioral rehab” center which opened in May. This past September the board members had a tour to see how the operations work.

She was very impressed by the “skills and empathy of the behaviorists who were so kind and full of knowledge on how to bring a dog who is completely unapproachable. They don’t want any human contact.” They recoil at it, waiting for the worst, having experienced the two-legged idiots in our world.

Mrs. Fa Fa on the first night in her new home.

But “little by little,” Arriana witnessed, “with patience and tremendous know-how within six weeks they can bring a dog around to be trusting of humans and go on to be adopted into loving homes.”

There are so many rescues going on constantly. Puppy mills, hoarding cases, cruelty cases. Then there is the Disaster relief from the hurricanes, fires in California, floods, earthquakes. The ASPCA has developed a transport system throughout America which has saved thousands of lives of animals. They do a lot of work with cats, and have a kitten nursery on 91st street.

They do a lot of work lobbying to pass anti-animal cruelty initiatives. They do a lot for horses, to repurpose after their lives on the track. A horse tied to a racetrack ending up with a new purpose in life instead of the end in a slaughterhouse. Horses get adopted.

And here is Missy/Madam with Jenny whom I met at one of the ASPCA’s annual Bergh Ball galas. Next to her on the right was little Byrone, a sweet little guy whom I met at the Humane Society.
Three of my four canines currently in residence.

Arriana explained how the ASPCA helps other organizations who are all mainly in the business of saving lives. Very cautiously it makes sure these other organizations are doing a good job and the right thing by each animal, and they can then apply for a grant. “Animal rescue is a combined effort” of all of those individuals and organizations rescuing and helping animals in a combined effort. We should all be working together for the benefit of these animals.”

A couple of years ago the ASPCA made the decision to engage the NYPD in their quest in animal welfare. Now every New York police officer has been schooled, and have to pass Animal welfare training. When a police officer goes into a home that is an abuse case, if they see an abused or neglected or mistreated animal they are obliged to take it in and rescue it. This, Arriana told me, opened up the floodgates, getting access to even more animals than ever before.

Empathy is KEY in the animal world. It is also the KEY in the human animal world although it is often discarded in the miasma of the day–to-day. Arriana advises: “To acquire empathy as to what these animals go through, sit on the floor and listen to the banging sounds of doors opening and closing, think of what it smells like, as if we were an animal..”

You can help by going here. A little goes a long way.


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