One Woman’s Junk is an Animal Shelter’s Treasure
Open almost any residential linen closet, and you’re sure to find them. That pile of no-longer-loved, my-sister-went-to-Maui-and-all-she-brought-me-back-was-this-towel towels. We look past them when we’re making up the guestroom bed, reaching instead for the Egyptian cotton sheets. This was not the case, however, for television personality Brandi Williams who saw in one such pile more than just ratty trash-ready fabric. What she saw—in a story that exemplifies the adage “one man’s junk, is another’s treasure”— was their potential.
Host of programs like The Ultimate Poker Challenge and Outdoor Channel’s DockDogs, Williams is getting more and more air-time as a rising star of broadcast. In the few short years of her career’s span she has already worked with, and learned from, media moguls like American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest and reality television maven Mark Burnett. While her credits include appearances on Fox, E!, MSNBC, and KTLA, not to mention her new stint on nationally syndicated show, The Daily Buzz, sightings of this go-getter aren’t relegated to on-air. An avid volunteer at shelters across the US, Williams is a frequent speaker at animal rights events. As she tells it, while her television career began virtually effortlessly after a chance bump-in, her career as a crusader began with a pile of old towels.
MJ: You are currently an LA girl, but where are you from originally?
BW: I’ve lived in LA for the last few years, and I am from originally from Pennsylvania. But this weekend I am moving to Florida, to join the team of Daily Buzz.
MJ: Congratulations! That’s quite a gig. So you found a place that would allow you to take all your dogs?
BW: Yes. We got a house, so it’s great!
MJ: You have become quite a voice on the animal rescue scene. Were you always an animal person?
BW: Well, yes and no. We had dogs when I was growing up. They were our pets, yes. But now, my dogs are my children. It’s at a whole different level now. I’ve become so involved.
MJ: So, when you were little, and you dreamed of what you’d be when you grew up, there was no way it included animals?
BW: No, the only thing that was even close to it was that, when I went into college, I was a biology major…and I had to dissect things. A worm and a frog! I don’t know how I did it. I went into college thinking I’d be an anesthesiologist. But it just wasn’t for me. I was actually getting a weak stomach. Thankfully, the opportunity to work in television just fell in my lap.
MJ: You mean the same way Lana Turner was allegedly sitting at the soda counter at Schwab’s in Hollywood when she was discovered?
BW: I was in Las Vegas, walking through the Venetian Hotel. A guy came up to me and introduced himself as a producer and told me they were hiring. I came across the card a couple of days later when I was doing laundry. I’d been very close to my grandma and my grandpa, and he always said he wanted to see two things in his lifetime. One was to see me graduate from high school and the other was to see me on TV. So I asked myself: “Is this a fate thing?” I did some research and the producer was who he said he was, so I got in touch. I did some work with an interview coach and a dialect coach, and two weeks later, I was on the news!
MJ: How did you become not only a television personality, but a dog-loving television personality?
BW: I was living in Nashville, and there was this little shelter nearby. One day, I was cleaning the house and had a bunch of old towels, and I wondered if the shelter could use them. So I went to the front desk and asked them, and they were thrilled. The lady went on to say that they were short-staffed and, before I knew it, I was in there, cleaning cages and kennels and, well, it all just hit home. They were so over-crowded. It was so sad. And there was a litter of puppies that had just been turned in; left on the shelter’s doorstep.
I went back home and thought about it and talked about it and decided I’d go back to the shelter to adopt one. Well, when I did, they had been quarantined because they’d been sick and they had all died. I was so angry. So from then on, I made animals a priority. I started fundraising, going door to door, just anything to raise awareness.
MJ: That was quite a life-change to come out of one pile of old towels. Tell us about your venture “Give Pets a Chance” on KTLA?
BW: When I first moved to LA, one thing that hit me was that within a 75-mile radius of downtown Los Angeles, there are about 230 rescue groups or shelters. That really got me, and I knew I had to do something. So I talked to our news director about having some of these animals on our show. I knew this was nothing new in terms of being a concept, but I wanted to take it a step further, to educate people. It became “Give Pets a Chance.” We’d feature different rescue groups each week, and it worked. Our animals went like hotcakes, with over 200 of them finding forever homes. 90 percent of the animals we showcased were adopted the same day.
MJ: I understand you have quite a family of dogs. Tell us about them.
BW: Pierre is a Chihuahua. He was rescued from a puppy mill. He’s coming up on 10 years old now and he’s as healthy as an ox. Then there’s Paris. She and Pierre are the grandma and grandpa of the group. She is a Chihuahua/Dachshund. She has a long body and these little legs. Then came Charlie, who was found as a puppy in a garbage can, who then grew like a bad weed. And, then came Bella, the belle of the ball. Everybody loves Bella! The vet thinks she’s a “Chug,” a Chihuahua/Pug. She came from a shelter too, of course. Then, one day, one of the shelters called me. They knew I had been looking for a black and white Chihuahua for my grandma, and one had come in, only they called her “red-listed.” She was from a very abusive situation, so she was biting everybody. As soon as I heard that, I was like “I’m on my way!” They muzzled her, and I sat in the room with her for about 20 minutes, until gradually, she was in my arms licking my face. I worked with her, potty trained her, fattened her up because she was all skin and bones, and…she became mine. She was such a little bit-bit. Just a tiny thing. So that’s what I named her: Bit-Bit.
MJ: What do you tell people who are in the market for a new dog?
BW: I always tell them: Adopt don’t shop. I tell them if they have a bit of patience, I promise they will find the breed or the dog they will fall in love with.
MJ: As host of both Hollywood 411 and Best of LA, you had an up-close look at an industry that values youth, appearance, and fame. At the end of the day, how do your dogs ground you?
BW: I am a homebody and that’s because of my dogs. I hate leaving them. No matter what kind of mood you’re in, they love you. They’re everything to me. The only pictures on my phone are of my dogs!