Harris Bloom is an accountant by day and stand-up comedian by night. But whether he is crunching the numbers or making crowds laugh all around New York City, the one thing he is 24 hours a day is an animal lover and advocate. I recently sat down with Harris to discuss his unique rescue organization Stewie to the Rescue and ask where his love of all things fluffy and furry began.
Dogster: Has it always been animals with you?
Harris Bloom: Actually, no. I’m highly allergic to cats and dogs. The only reason we got Stewie was my girlfriend at the time wanted a dog. When we broke up, I kept the dog.
Stewie was supposed to be a Yorkie. We actually bought him from a breeder in Queens. I should have known better than to trust someone from Queens [laughs]. We didn’t realize he wasn’t a Yorkie until three or four months later. Stewie ended up being the most expensive mutt on the Upper West Side, but we loved him so much.
A month after I got married I was playing with him in Riverside Park. In the mornings, you can have your dogs off-leash and let them run around. For some reason, he just got spooked even though I kept calling him, and he ran off and ended up in the middle of Riverside Drive. He got hit by a car, and the car didn’t even stop.
I was in a state of shock. I got to Stewie and was down on my knees in the middle of Riverside Drive feeling for a heartbeat. I remember someone asking me if there was somebody they could call, as I didn’t have my phone on me. Someone must have called the police as a cop came by, and I said my goodbyes to Stewie.
What happened next?
Basically, the next six months was me being depressed. Eventually, I figured the only thing that might help me get over the loss was to rescue another dog.
I went on Craigslist, which is always a bad thing to do. I decided I wanted an older dog as everyone wants a puppy, and an older dog who was calm and more laidback fit my lifestyle. I found a dog, and pretty much agreed to take the dog before telling my wife. Of course the dog was anything but a calm dog. I should have known, as his name was Kilo. He was a Pit Bull, maybe nine, very strong and jumping all over the place when I went to see him, but of course I wasn’t walking out of there without him.
I thought by saving Kilo, I would also be saving myself. My wife and I ended up keeping the dog. We had him for three years, and even after taking him to a few trainers, we never really got control of him, but he was always very happy. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. He passed away last year.
Did saving Kilo help you get over the loss of Stewie?
Even though we rescued Kilo off the 24-hour euthanasia list, I was still wrecked with guilt over Stewie. I ended up getting involved with DakodaLove rescue, but I was looking to do something a little different. My wife came up with the idea for Stewie to the Rescue.
What is Stewie to the Rescue?
Because of my other obligations, we couldn’t be a typical rescue, going in to shelters and pulling out dogs and finding them homes. We decided to become more of a foundation and help low-income individuals with their pets’ medical bills.
So Stewie to the Rescue is more of an animal-welfare organization?
A lot of animals get surrendered because people can’t afford their medical bills — that’s who we want to help. I work very closely with a vet who moves around the city and works outside the shelters. He works first-come, first-serve, and he only charges $25 a visit, which is much cheaper than most vet check-ups. Some animals that he treats need surgery, which is when he calls me and Stewie to the Rescue.
I imagine your phone is ringing off the hook.
Fortunately, we haven’t had to say no yet, but word-of-mouth has gotten around, and the more exposure we get the more requests we are receive. We like to help as many people as we can, so for each case we can only give a few hundred dollars. But every little bit helps.
We hold a monthly comedy benefit at a couple of the comedy clubs in New York City. We feature some of the biggest names in comedy, and some names that aren’t as well-known. All of our performers donate their time to the cause.
Why do you think comedians are so generous with their time?
I think a lot of the headliners who donate their time genuinely love cats and dogs and like to support a good cause. Most comedians want to do their part to help out. I’ve been very pleased at how many comics have just told me, “Sign me up.” It’s very satisfying.
What message do you hope the audience takes away from a Stewie to the Rescue benefit?
That there is help out there. We want people to know that if they are going through a crisis with their pet, there are alternatives to turning him in to a shelter. We don’t want anyone to have to surrender a cat or dog because they can’t afford it. We also like to spread the message about shelter pets, and that just because animals are at a shelter it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them — they are at the shelter because their situation was wrong.
How can Dogster readers get involved with Stewie to the Rescue?
Because of the way our organization is set up, we are really donation-driven. You can make a donation by going to our website or through our Facebook page. If you are in New York City, the best way is to come to one of our comedy benefits!
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