"Labs in the Surf" 48 x 54" oil/linen

I was recently invited, last minute, by my friend artist Valori Fussell to join her along with two friends, Diana and Sarah, for a birthday brunch at Sly’s in Carpinteria. I gladly joined the trio for what turned into a fun, very chatty, as well as informative and tasty, celebration.

Diana was Diana Basehart, a fascinating former actress-turned-pet-advocate, who was married to the noted actor Richard Basehart. She had also, prior to her marriage to Basehart, been involved with another noteworthy thespian, Lee J. Cobb, who appeared in the classic movie On The Waterfront with Marlon Brando.

After chatting about men, murder, and mayhem, the conversation steered around to art and animals. Birthday girl Valori is an accomplished fine artist who also teaches privately, at SBCC continuing education, and has also taught at Westmont College. Her specialty is portraiture of adults and children, as well as animals. Sarah noted that she was studying in a small private class with Valori.

The artist always has a dog companion–usually of the large variety, like Forrest, her former German Shepard and now, Stella, a very sweet standard poodle accompanying her. Pet lover and art fan Diana brought her Yorkshire terrier of the handbag-size variety that joined us for lunch–a swell little five pounder named Nell.

Diana is the founder of the Diana Basehart Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps elders and others on limited incomes care for and keep their beloved companion animals by providing support for veterinary, behavioral and nutritional needs, among other goals.

When the conversation came round to asking me if I’d write something about the foundation’s upcoming fundraiser (which is held in Adam and Penny Bianchi’s delightful Montecito abode) I admitted that as much as I loved animals (I am more cat than dog person), I really cared more about humans than animals when it came to helping out. Sarah (more about her in a moment), who volunteers with the Basehart Foundation, nodded, acknowledging my position.

But then I got to thinking about it. Pets are great company not only to families but especially to those living alone. Although studies have shown that people with human companions live longer than those with only pet companions, (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201307/why-do-human-friends-not-pets-make-people-live-longer) the one-year death rate of heart attack victims who owned pets was one fourth that of people who did not live with companion animals. So pets can save lives. My feeling is that it’s impossible to know who is the happiest (those with pets or those with mates). I guess it depends on the relationships–with one’s pet(s) or their human companion(s).

I have looked after many cats off and on over the years that have provided solace and good company in-between, as well as during, relationships. But when my last cat required $500 worth of dental work, I decided having a pet was a luxury I could not really afford.

In a way, helping people with pets with their vet bills is another way of helping people who are on their own. So I reversed my position and decided to write about Diana’s upcoming event after all, which I attended last year (to take photos for a dog-crazy friend who was covering the event for her column on animals).

If you want to have a rip roaring time, in a beautiful setting, with a group of great supporters (human companions, and more than likely a few animal pals as well, including Penny Bianchi’s chickens) grab a ticket for the fundraiser that will take place on Sunday, September 8, 1-4 p.m.

Valori Fussell will be drawing pet portraits from photographs ($100 raffle ticket) for a lucky dozen winners and there will be a silent auction. Darling Sarah Gore Lee (she’s the very pretty and super sweet daughter of former Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore) will be busy lending a hand and you can even have your handwriting analyzed by a handwriting expert.

You will not only be helping animals, but their owners whose best—and perhaps only—friend in the world could be their furry beast.

For tickets ($150 – tax deductible) and more information on the Diana Basehart Foundation go to http://basehart.org/event or call (805) 222-4576.


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