On her trip to Romania this week, Hilary Swank could have spent the whole time touring castles along the Danube or soaking in thermal springs at one of the country’s famous medical spas.
Instead, the Oscar-winning actress made a point of visiting projects operated by Vier Pfoten, an international animal-welfare organization that connects rescued dogs with children, the disabled, and institutionalized people. (The nonprofit’s name means “four paws” in German.)
Romania’s capital, Bucharest, is home to some 35,000 stray animals. Swank is a renowned animal-rights advocate who adopted her Jack Russell Terrier and constant companion, Kai, from a Los Angeles shelter.
“Since animals have no voice of their own, they need a voice like mine to speak for them,” said Swank, as reported by the Romania Business Insider.
Swank said in an interview with Romanian daily Adevărul that her ongoing involvement with Vier Pfoten had brought her to the city.
“I joined them and asked them where would be the best place to go to support their efforts. They said, Romania!” Swank said. She spent a full day visiting Bucharest schools and institutions alongside Vier Pfoten personnel.
Vier Pfoten’s work “is so healing to these kids who don’t trust people anymore,” Swank said during an Associated Press interview. “The unconditional love of an animal is very healing and teaches them about not just unconditional love but about a relationship, about responsibility, about anger management.
“I’ve seen firsthand how it changes the path of the soul, for the animal and for the child.”
After visiting a retirement home, she told reporters about having watched a rescued dog interact with an elderly lady, thanks to the efforts of Vier Pfoten.
“There was a woman who didn’t get out of bed, and after a few weeks of the dog coming to visit she’s up walking,” Swank explained, as reported by ABC News. “The dog literally got her out of bed.”
In Bucharest, she urged that unwanted dogs be neutered rather than killed, as is summarily done in most countries within a few days of the dogs’ capture.
“I believe in a no-kill policy,” Swank said, according to ABC News. “Hopefully [we are] getting to a place where we have no-kill universally and just a more caring attitude in general to all animals.”
Swank told reporters that she is founding a charity of her own to bring needy children and animals together. The charity will be called Hilaroo, a blend of her name and that of her late dog, Karoo.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing that we live in such a celebrity-driven society. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to find oneself clicking headlines about actors and singers and athletes, as if anything these people did offstage or off the playing field actually counted as news. But every now and then, a celebrity does something actually valid, such as speak out for stray dogs (rather than, say, simply file for divorce or walk down the street wearing new sunglasses). Such cases justify our clicking all those headlines. In which case: Hooray for Hilary and for Vier Pfoten!