Katherine Heigl, David Backes: Pets Not Adopted Matter


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“Let’s also remember the orphans who are euthanized,” says Mike Arms, CEO and president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. Arms created the annual “Remember Me Thursday” (on Sept. 25 this week) as a day to light real or virtual candles in memory of the millions of animals euthanized in America and around the world. Animal shelters across America and in 14 countries outside the U.S. will participate this year.

What’s more, a long list of celebrities is promoting and supporting “Remember Me Thursday,” including Carrie Ann Inaba, of “Dancing with the Stars,” Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton, Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming, actress Katherine Heigl and All Star St. Louis Blues forward David Backes.

Katherine Heigl

“‘Remember Me Thursday’ is a remarkable day where we take time to both recognize those animals who died in shelters alone without a home, and those who are still waiting for homes,” says Heigl in an email. “Every day, 10,000 dogs and cats are killed in America. Euthanasia is the No. 1 killer of dogs and cats. We have the means to end this by making the choice to adopt rather than to purchase an animal from a pet store.”

Heigl and her mother, Nancy, founded the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation in 2008 in memory of her brother, who was killed as a teenager in a car accident. “He was a compassionate and very kind person who loved dogs and cats and all living things,” says Heigl. “His short life inspired us to try to do more to help end the plight of homeless animals in his memory.”

Heigl and her husband, Josh, have two daughters, Naleigh, 5-years old, and Adalaide, who is 2-year old. The family shares its Utah ranch with eight dogs, four cats, nine horses, two donkeys, two pygmy goats, two miniature horses and nine chickens.

“The girls love all the animals and are learning how to be compassionate to all living creatures,” says Heigl. “They are a source of infinite joy for me; the way that they are discovering the world around them, going to school for the first time, experiencing Los Angeles while we’re here for my new TV show, State of Affairs. It’s just a revelation.”

When she’s on the road, Heigl’s never alone. She says, “I travel with Gertie, my rescue Chihuahua. Gertie came from the East Valley Los Angeles City shelter through a wonderful rescue called Kinder4Rescue. She was slated to be euthanized on the day I got her. She has no teeth and her tongue is perpetually falling out of her mouth. She went from certain death to a loving home just because I chose to adopt from a shelter.”

David Backes 

“Next to the good Lord, you won’t find a friend as loyal as a dog,” says the St. Louis Blues captain and two-time Olympian.

Backes is impressed with the “Remember Me Thursday.”

“It’s a global effort to shine a light on the animals no one talks about, those who never make it,” he says.

At a time when professional athletes are under fire for a wide variety of criminal offenses, Backes agrees with the public condemnation.  He even adds, “Look what Michael Vick did. We’re working to turn the stigma around to show that the majority of professional athletes are compassionate people. And I’m out to show that the old verse, ‘those to whom much is given, much is expected’ is very true.”

Backes and his wife, Kelly, have long been supporters of animal welfare. They were board members at Five Acres Animal Shelter, a no-kill organization in the St. Louis area. Kelly served as interim executive director and was also the vice president of the board. They helped lead the small organization through a capital campaign and the construction of a new building for adoptable dogs before founding the non-profit Athletes for Animals.

Their organization is new, so Backes is building a list of ambassadors, which so far includes Blues teammate Barret Jackman; Anže Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings; David Perron, Edmonton Oilers; Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche; Barry Enright, Los Angeles Dodgers; Brad Thompson, St. Louis Cardinals; Jake Long and James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams; and U.S. Olympic curler Jessica Schultz.

Kelly and David Backes have four dogs and two cats. “I’m no scientist, but I’d have to think that as a professional athlete, having unconditional love there for me whenever I return home is healthy,” he says. “Pets don’t care whether I had a great game or not; they just care that I’m home. It’s one reason why having pets is actually good for all of us — no matter what our job happens to be.”

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency