As we say goodbye to 2020, let us remember some of the famous two- and four-legged animal advocates we said farewell to this year. Although they may no longer be with us, their love and compassion for cats and dogs in need will live on.
Known for tickling our collective funny bone, comic legend Carl Reiner touched our hearts shortly before his passing by stepping in front of the camera for a paws cause.
Along with fellow entertainment icons Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin and Bob Newhart, the 11-time Emmy Award recipient starred in a PSA for Grey Muzzle to shine a spotlight on the need to rescue senior shelter dogs and improve the lives of our elderly canine friends.
A star of the dog-themed movie Best in Show, among his many credits, actor Fred Willard was among the best in showing his compassion for animals.
A supporter of several animal welfare organizations, the Emmy Award winner stepped on stage many times for fundraisers to help Kitty Bungalow set the stage for a better tomorrow for feral kittens in need of forever families to love.
Eddie Van Halen
A rock icon in tune with the need to help our friends with fur, fins and feathers, Eddie Van Halen donated an autographed EVH Stripes Series guitar and a signed hockey jersey to a Last Chance for Animals auction.
A county music legend who rose to fame with the hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” Charlie Daniels was an angel for companion animals in need.
The Charlie Daniels Band performed to raise funds for The Espanola Humane Society, and in 2019 the musician swapped out his bow for a pen to autograph a fiddle that was auctioned off to raise funds for The Ryan Animal Rescue Foundation.
Actor Nick Cordero, who passed away after a long battle against COVID-19, co-starred in Bullets Over Broadway with Zach Braff, Vincent Pastore…and a Pomeranian who was rescued from a puppy mill.
Showing his concern for dogs and cats in need, the Tony Award-nominated thespian helped to shine a spotlight on adoptables during the 16th annual star-studded pet adoption event Broadway Barks.
While as a drummer Frankie Banali provided the heartbeat for 80s heavy metal band Quiet Riot’s biggest hits, as an animal advocate the musician tugged on our collective heartstrings.
Banali’s obituary requested that, in lieu of flowers, fans could make a donation to one of his three favorite charities– Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Children International, and FixNation, a non-profit which helps to control pet overpopulation through: free spay/neuter of community cats, low cost spay-neuter of household cats, microchip and vaccine clinics for both cats and dogs, and trap-neuter-release education and training. A statement read:
Former Bad Company frontman Brian Howe did a lot of good for animals in need during his lifetime.
A proud pet parent to several dogs, not only did he serve on the board of both Have a Heart dog rescue in Boca Raton and the Guatamalan animal welfare program AYUDA, the rocker also recorded music for animal charity fundraisers, with his single “Christmas” benefiting Beagle Freedom Project.
A year before his passing, Howe announced that he planned to sell his home at Fort Myers Beach and donate a portion of the money to Have a Heart.
Jerry Jeff Walker & Billy Joe Shaver
In 2020 the world of country music lost two troubadours who helped out our tail-wagging chums. Both Jerry Jeff Walker, who rose to the top of the charts with “Mr. Bojangles,” and Billy Joe Shaver would often raise their voice in song to help raise funds at events for Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, a non-profit founded by Kinky Friedman which offered a new lease on life for companion animals in need from 1998 to 2018.
Character actor Anthony James, who starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the Academy Award winning movie Unforgiven, will be unforgotten by fans of films and our four-legged friends.
In lieu of flowers, a request that those who wished to honor his memory make a donation to either St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or the ASPCA.
In January British fans of TV games shows and our tail-wagging chums said good-bye to Nicholas Parsons, the host of Sale of the Century and a long-time supporter of Dogs Trust.
The presenter took part in several Christmas concert fundraisers for the largest dog welfare charity in the UK, and stood in London’s Old Chelsea Church a month before his passing to help our four-legged friends in need.
Broadway star Rebecca Luker, who passed away in December, helped to set the stage for a better life for cats in need when she and her husband, actor Danny Burstein, took part in Bernadette Peters’ annual Broadway Barks pet adoption event earlier in the year.
A fan of felines, the three-time Tony Award nominee shone a spotlight on the work of Urban Cat League, a volunteer-run organization which provides care for street cats in New York City. (You can watch her Broadway Barks Across America segment starting at 1:33:06.)
Dame Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn, whose songs (“There’ll Be Bluebirds Over,” “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll Meet Again”) helped to comfort soldiers and civilians during the second World War, sang the praises of those who provide comfort and care to animals in need when she contacted the RSPCA:
We are saddened by the news of Dame Vera Lynn passing. Not long ago, she reached out to us, to say how comforting deer has been for those self-isolating and how she’d been enjoying playing with her little dog in her field. Our thoughts are with all of her loved ones!? pic.twitter.com/KQct62H7XF
— RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) June 18, 2020
Famous Cats and Dogs Who Crossed Rainbow Bridge in 2020
Even the smallest of paws can leave a big impression. Such was the case with Giggy, the ever-present Pomeranian sidekick of reality personality Lisa Vanderpump.
The petite pup inspired his famous pet parents to launch The Vanderpump Dog Foundation, a L.A.-based non-profit which:
- rescues and finds forever homes for dogs from high-kill Los Angeles shelters
- helps to curb pet overpopulation through a spay/neuter program; provides care for dogs in dire need of medical attention
- helps to pair pals with paws with veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- offers aid to pets of those who are homeless; gives a reduced adoption rate to senior citizens adopting a four-legged friend
- helps dogs in need around the world, including those in danger due to the dog meat trade
A Shih Tzu who at one time lived on the streets and in a shelter, at the age of 11 Marnie would go on to find a forever home both at the residence of her new pet parent Shirley Braha, and in the hearts of her adoring fans.
A senior when she became a social media star with a following of 115,000 Twitter followers and 1.9 million fans on Instagram, Marnie would often use her celebrity status to raise awareness and funds for senior pets.
When A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life (Amazon affiliate link) was published in 2012 fans felines fell in love with the true tale of a down on his luck street musician and the stray cat whose dogged devotion leads him to a better life, and the charming orange tabby gained even more admirers when his story was shown on the big screen (with Bob himself playing the title role!) In June, Bob’s human buddy, busker James Bowen, broke the news that the famous feline had passed.
Known throughout the world, Bob and Bowen helped to raise funds for a multitude of organizations which help both homeless people and pets. Among the many animal charities the pair championed were Cats Protection and The Blue Cross.
A purring Jean-Paul Sartre, Henri le Chat Noir‘s existential musings entertained fans of felines for years thanks to the YouTube videos of Will Braden, aka “The Thieving Filmmaker.” Adopted from the Seattle Animal Shelter, the sophisticated tuxedo cat (whose real name was Henry) was not only “filled with ennui…and Party Mix,” but also concern for his fellow felines.
Over the years he “helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for cats in need around the world. And he did it all from his couch” Will Braden relayed to fans in a Facebook post.
All of the proceeds from an upcoming book of poetry highlighting life with Henri (with an introduction from the philosophical feline himself) will be donated to help shelter animals.