This Thanksgiving, after the turkey’s no longer stuffed but you are, kick back, turn on the TV and get hypnotized by puppies on “Fox’s Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular.” The show airs at 8 p.m. (ET), and two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Boys Don’t Cry”) co-hosts with Emmy Award-winner Jane Lynch (“Glee”).
The celebs on the show include Scarlett Johansson, Fergie, Pink, Betty White, Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Josh Duhamel, Sharon and Kelly Osbourne, Kristen Bell, Paula Abdul, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert, Kesha, Randy Jackson, Cesar Millan and more.
I can’t wait to see the contests, which will include cutest puppy, best celebrity/dog lookalike, best licker, funniest dog, smartest dog, most talented dog and best viral dog video. “America’s Got Talent” million-dollar winners, the Olate Dogs, will be showing off, and the cuteness factor is off the charts.
All of the dogs will be adoptable, and there are sponsorship and fostering ops, too. I reached out to the show’s co-producer Michael Levitt to find out more, and when I heard how much he loves his two rescue dogs and that he’s saved 500 dogs from shelters, his stock went way up for me.
Dorri Olds: Can you describe “Cause for Paws?”
Michael Levitt: It’s going to be a celebration of rescue dogs and what they bring to our lives when we adopt them. There’s a lot of funny, inspiring, hopeful stories and a lot of puppies! Do you have a dog?
Oh yeah. I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
We’re featuring a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy and plenty of other purebreds. Many people don’t know how easy it is to find pure breed dogs in shelters and through rescue organizations. We’ll be featuring Dalmatians, Boxers, Cavaliers.
People don’t need to go to a breeder or a pet store and spend a thousand dollars. You can find these dogs within a rescue organization. The other great thing is when you adopt a dog from a rescue, you’re saving two dogs — the dog that comes home with you makes an open spot for another dog. Viewers can go to the website fox.com/causeforpaws and see a profile for every dog we feature on the show.
I knew I needed to attach somebody great to the project to get it sold. I thought of Hilary Swank because she’s a dog lover and animal advocate. I didn’t know her, but I reached out and the next thing I knew, we were having breakfast together in Santa Monica. That was a year ago, and we became partners on the project and developed it together.
How did you land so many stars?
Hilary and I reached out to people we know and explained how groundbreaking the show is. This is the first time a network ever agreed to devote two hours during primetime for animal rescue. If people tune in, we’ll have this incredible platform to create awareness for rescue animals. We’re aiming to do this annually.
What was it like working with Hilary?
She’s a movie star who has two films out now (“Homesman” and “You’re Not You”), so she’s really busy and in the middle of promoting them, yet she finds all of the time in the world to help animals. This is a woman who walks the walk. She’s just awesome. This is not someone who just attached her name. Hilary is in it with me.
How did you get into the world of animal rescue?
In 2011, my sister was battling cancer. It was a sad time, so my partner Mark and I rescued a dog named Trooper. He’s a Pitbull mix, and this dog rocked our world. You know that saying, “Who rescued who?” Well, I learned firsthand when this dog came into my life. It was a magical experience. That led us to rescuing our second dog, Nelson.
Nelson is also a Pit mix. I saw him online and couldn’t believe this beautiful dog was going to be put to sleep just because of shelter overcrowding. I found a rescue and convinced them to save his life. I live in Los Angeles, and Nelson lived in New York, so I said, “I’m not able to take this dog, but I’ll sponsor him.” Not only did he have glaucoma, Nelson is big. Big dogs are hard to place in Manhattan because everybody has tiny apartments.
Six months went by and nobody wanted Nelson. My partner Mark and I went to visit him, and that was it. Two days later, Nelson came back to L.A. with us and became part of our family. Trooper and Nelson are our children. We live for them. They inspired me to become involved in the rescue community.
It derailed my career, but it was by choice. I took a year off just to save dogs. As a TV producer, I knew there had to be a way to bring my two worlds together. I wanted to do something on a level that would have a massive impact. So, I came up with this idea, a “dog-a-thon.”
Where did you find Trooper?
He was in Moreno Valley Shelter in California. Trooper has 12 BB pellets inside of him. When he had his first vet visit, they did X-rays, and it looked like a Christmas tree lit up. Sadly, he had a really rough past.
Were you able to get those BBs out of his stomach?
No. Scar tissue encapsulated them, so it’s safer to leave them in. But the good news is that now Trooper and Nelson get belly rubs on demand and treats, and they sleep in warm, cozy beds and go to Palm Springs with us every weekend.
“Fox’s Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” airs on Thursday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).
Watch the trailer:
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.