A natural connection

By Denise Lebeau

For ingénue Julie Marie Berman, two-time Emmy award winner and TV's "General Hospital" star, the daily grind of crafting her art was not enough. No, she was looking for more. And she took her search to the internet where she could look at every option available online.

Her altruistic quest led her towards the Best Friends Animal Society website where she became hooked! Hooked on animal welfare and hooked on becoming part of the solution to realizing a day of No More Homeless Pets. Her search to get involved with an animal organization that matched her philosophy had ended.

"I was just looking for groups to get involved with. I’ve always loved animals and I didn’t realize there was still such a problem with abandoned and unwanted pets. I saw the Best Friends website and then I went to the L.A. Spring Super Adoption Festival by fluke! And that was it – once you know about the organization, Best Friends is everywhere," shared Berman.

A visit to the Sanctuary

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Berman and her husband Michael Grady visited the Sanctuary to see it all firsthand. They came to see the animals, meet the people and find out if a place that sounds so good could be true. On a warm summer morning, the actress held a wiggly puppy and expounded on the joys of adoption to the small crowd that had gathered, and then for the camera! Berman had spent the morning in a puppy socialization class and was then lending her talents to help promote the awareness of adoption.

"I sought out Best Friends because I wanted to speak for a cause that is close to my heart. I need to encourage people to adopt – so many animals need loving homes, and rescued pets make the best companion animals. So many great pets are in shelters waiting to go home."

Berman understands that being an actress gives her an opportunity to make people more aware of the issues facing companion animals in shelters. She really made a point of explaining the importance of ‘the connection’ – that magical feeling when you know that an animal is right for you.

Feeling 'the connection'

"People have an idea about what that right pet for them is; it could be a breed. But many people that go to a shelter or rescue for their companion animal will fall in love with an individual animal, an animal that connects with them in a very immediate and real way. You can’t define that by breed standards; you can’t find that by buying an animal on the internet; you feel that when you meet your new family member for the first time."

She explained that ‘the connection’ was something she also felt with Best Friends as an organization. From similar beliefs in the importance of adoption and spay/neuter, to the respect and kindness all the pets-in-waiting at the Sanctuary receive, to the fact that all the animals have a home for life if their forever home doesn’t turn up, Berman felt a complete connection to the work that Best Friends does day in and day out.

Meeting Arnold the pig

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Also part of the Berman-Grady tour of the Sanctuary was a stop at Community Animal Assistance where one of the specialists, Tamara Fleck, takes her pet pig to work. Berman marveled at how Harley Arnold Ziffle – a former Sanctuary pig, seems to know basic obedience.

"I didn’t realize how smart, aware and affectionate pigs were with people! I really enjoyed my time down at Piggy Paradise and there’s more education from that department that the public should know, like there’s no such thing as a ‘teacup’ pig," Berman said emphatically, nodding towards the 150-plus pound Ziffle!

There’s so much to do, see, and learn at Best Friends that Ziffle’s tush (according to Berman, that’s ‘quite a tush’) was just hitting the ground for a second sit when it was off to Old Friends to meet some more special pets.

A complete natural

Julie Berman is a complete natural when it comes to being around dogs and lights up in her true element. Talking to her further, it becomes quickly apparent why. She grew up around pets all her life and has a soft spot for the underdog, like tri-pods, or three-legged pets.

When she traveled to Barcelona she was horrified by what she saw in the cultural tradition of bullfighting (luckily that’s a horror of the past as Catalonia has recently banned bullfighting).

The need to help animals has always been a part of who she is.

"Animals for me are creatures that don’t have a voice. The intuition that I have in my job as an actor perhaps gives me more insight and empathy for those innocent lives - the fact that I can have this opportunity to shed light on the issues and help get even one more life out of a shelter and into a home, that’s the best feeling I could ever have."

After all the visits, interviews, meeting old and new friends, it was time for Ms. Berman and Mr. Grady to head on home back to their pack, Olive and Tater Tot, two malti-poo mixes, but before they’re on their way, there was one last sentiment she enthusiastically shared.

A sleepover: the perfect ending

"We’ve had a wonderful visit at Best Friends and we had great time on a sleepover with a special older and adoptable dog named Reggie Boy." Reflecting on her time with Reggie, she continued, "I loved having a sleepover with a pet. It was such an unusual experience that I absolutely loved. I’m the type of person who wants to leave with 100 pets from adoption sites, but this situation allowed me to give full love and attention to a dog who wanted nothing more than a night out with me. It was wonderful to feel like not a moment was wasted at the Sanctuary. Even at night - resting - I was spending it with a dog who deserved that love and attention -- such a simple and memorable experience!"

Read Julie's journal entry about her time at Best Friends and her sleepover with Reggie Boy.

"Why wouldn’t you adopt a pet? So many animals need homes – if anyone thinks it’s easier to buy a dog from a pet store or online, I challenge those people to consider adoption; your perfect dog is out there in a shelter near you. It’s important to be aware of where the pet stores get their pets (puppy mills!). And adopting isn’t just better! It’s way more fun!"

Everything is way more fun if Julie Berman is involved, including getting to a time of No More Homeless Pets!

Join Julie on September 19 at the Strut Your Mutt event in Los Angeles, click here for details.

Want to know more about this knockout star?

Check out Julie Marie Berman’s website.

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Photos by Sarah Ause