This weekend the Dog Film Festival hit Los Angeles, and the fun started with a pooch party in memory of comedian and TV host Joan Rivers. Pups got dressed up and brought their owners to partake in a green carpet and dog-themed tea party, complete with cupcakes for humans and doggie biscuit hors d’oeuvres for the pups.
We caught up with a few fancy pups along with their human celebrity family members.
Melissa Rivers, who joined the tea as an honored guest and goddaughter of the film festival’s founder, Tracie Hotchner, explained to the attendees why it was such a special event to honor her mother’s memory, “We all in this room love dogs and I think that means we love all animals,” she said. “Animals add so much to our daily lives and bring us a sense of comfort and a sense of joy. … We’ve always been a big dog family. Traci is my godmother and to have her dedicate this to my mom who was such a huge dog person is great.”
Later Melissa came around and spoke to us one on one to enthuse about the Pooch Party and Dog Film Festival as social occasions you can attend with your pup. “Our pets are part of our families,” she told me. “As we [humans] become more isolated with technology and all that kind of stuff, your dogs become much more part of your life as your companions. You take your buddy with you.”
Joey, who got his name because of his resemblance to a baby kangaroo, brought his daddy, Lou Wegner, an actor, animal advocate, and founder of Kids Against Animal Cruelty, a global youth educational group that focuses on teaching kids to be compassionate about animals.
Wegner explains his take on bringing a rescued animal into your house: “There are so many animals who have been dumped in shelters who have had love and know what it’s like. I personally believe that they understand what is going on. They feel a sense of abandonment. They are a lot more loyal to you when you adopt them. You are their hero. You are literally saving a life, being a superhero and a champion for every animal you adopt.”
Adorable rescue pup Ava Gardner brought her mom, actor, director, and spokeswoman Andie MacDowell. MacDowell says that with Ava at her side she is no longer lonely, especially while busy working.
Adoption isn’t just about dogs to MacDowell: She sees it as a step to solving a bigger human problem. “I just think people live unconsciously in general,” she explains. “We don’t think. We don’t even look or see. We live in denial. We keep producing dogs but we are killing them. When that actually dawns on us what we are doing, then we we will start caring about people too.”
Asia Monet and her mom, known for their time on Lifetime’s Dance Moms and Raising Ava, left their pup at home, which gave Monet the freedom to cuddle with every pup she saw.
“Adopting dogs is kinda giving back to the dogs,” Monet told me. “Some person was very very rude to that dog and dropped him off at the shelter or the side of the road. You are giving back to that dog and giving him a better life. Trying to show that it isn’t just humans you can give back to but you can give a dog a better life.”
Wegner recruited his friend and fellow entertainer, Laci Kay, as president of the Texas chapter of Kids Against Animal Cruelty. Laci and her mom brought their adorable pup, Channel, to the party. “There is a lot of healing with being around a dog,” Laci says of Channel. “She really is my companion.”
Susanne Kogut, executive director of the Petco Foundation, the national presenting sponsor of the festival, was happy to explain why she loves pet adoption. “Love changes everything, and the love of a rescue animal is hands down going to make a difference not only in their lives but absolutely in your life.”
The Dog Film Festival is a cinematic celebration of the powerful relationship between people and their dogs. Proceeds from ticket sales will be shared with local shelters and rescue partners. The Los Angeles Pooch Party, which kicked off the festival, raised money for the Lange Foundation, a rescue group in Southern California.
Partnering with the Petco Foundation has allowed the festival to go on tour this summer. View the full film schedule (PDF) and follow the festival’s Facebook page for information about screenings in a city near you and if the theater allows pups to join the viewing fun.