Today, animal lovers around the world will celebrate Remember Me Thursday, taking a moment to light a candle and share the memories of the millions of animals who are euthanized in shelters every year. This international social media event illuminates the plight of pets whose lives have ended in shelters, and also of the adoptable animals who can still be spared that fate.
Now in its third year, Remember Me Thursday encourages participants to organize candle-lighting ceremonies, snap a picture, and spread the word on social media using the hashtag #LightForPets. Many of the ceremonies will take place in animal shelters, but the lights for pets will also be lit in some more unexpected places — like on the set of Dancing With the Stars.
“We’re going to take a photo of as many cast members as I can rally, with our candles, to celebrate Remember Me Thursday,” says DWTS judge and passionate animal advocate Carrie Ann Inaba.
As the official spokesperson of the Helen Woodward Animal Center‘s Remember Me Thursday 2015, Inaba is hoping to see the #LightForPets hashtag all over Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as more animal lovers get involved. “Last year, there was about 200 million media impressions, and we’re hoping to better that this year, because obviously the more awareness we can spread, the more animals will be saved.”
Saving animals is something Inaba is very passionate about. The dancer and television personality has two rescue cats and three rescue dogs, Peanut, Buddy, and Lola.
The segment was showcasing some of the adoptable pets at Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles. “I was holding Peanut, and as soon as they put her in my arms I fell in love,” remembers Inaba, who says that she’d never before considered herself a Chihuahua person.
“I grew up with German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Dobermans — big dogs. I always kind of thought it’s such an L.A. thing to have a little Chihuahua, but when they put her in my arms, she was just so cute and she was shaking, and I just fell in love with her.”
Inaba, who already had a dog (a senior named Cookie who later passed away), didn’t take Peanut home right away after shooting that day. Later she heard from the folks at Best Friends that the segment hadn’t resulted in a family for the little Chihuahua mix, and that black animals often don’t get adopted as quickly as others because they don’t read as well in pictures or on video.
“When they told me that these black animals have a harder time getting adopted, I said, ‘Well, I’m coming down to get her,’” Inaba recalls, adding that Peanut is now the leader of the pack in her household.
Inaba’s other two dogs, Buddy and Lola, came into her life a little later through an email seeking foster homes for each of them — even if they had to be separated.
“When I saw the picture of these two dogs, they were leaning together in a little crate,” Inaba remembers. “Something about the picture and the way they were leaning into each other, I thought, ‘If all they have in the world is each other, I don’t want to split them up’.”
Because she already had Peanut, Inaba wasn’t looking to adopt any more dogs, but she signed up to foster Buddy and Lola anyway.
“I am so glad I did it — and I am obviously a foster fail,” says Inaba, who encourages others to try fostering. “They are the most adorable twosome.”
The duo of Buddy and Lola, along with Peanut and the two cats, Blizzard and Mimi, inspired Inaba to take on her role as Remember Me Thursday spokesperson, but the animal advocate will also be honoring pets from her past when she lights her candle.
“I started a foundation three years ago when my first rescue, Shadow, passed away,” explains Inaba, who dedicates the work of her Animal Project Foundation to the departed cat. Shadow was with her for 19 years and inspired her to adopt more special needs cats and eventually dogs, too.
“I really am who I am today because of them,” says Inaba, whose Animal Project Foundation funds the LA Spay Neuter Fest. The festival provides free spaying and neutering, free microchipping, and free vaccinations. Inaba funded the first festival personally and says the feedback on the event was incredible.
“I think we did over 300 procedures that day, free of charge for everybody.”
The Animal Project Foundation also provides emergency adoption funding for the transport, medical care, training, and grooming of shelter animals at risk for euthanasia.
Inaba’s work as an animal advocate is making a huge impact, but you don’t need to start your own foundation to raise awareness about euthanasia through Remember Me Thursday.
“It’s a simple thing to do. The imagery is so beautiful with everybody and their candles,” explains Inaba, who says the #LightForPets hashtag encourages people to remember the animals who are gone and to get into the shelters to see the ones who are still here.
Inaba says, “3.4 million animals every year lose their lives in the shelters because of euthanization, because of pet overpopulation or being discarded. It’s really too many, and that’s why this campaign is so important.”
To be a part of Remember Me Thursday, spread the word on social media using #LightForPets, organize a candle ceremony, or light a virtual candle at remembermethursday.org. For more information visit www.animalcenter.org. You can follow Inaba on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.