| ANDREW JOHNSON
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. It's what drag queens Samantha Rollins, Vivian Von Brokenhymen and Hellin Bedd all agree is an amazing perk when owning a dog, and it's why they have become such strong advocates for animal rights.
"It's like having your own personal happiness machine. They never judge," Samantha said. "A dog can teach you everything you need to know about how to enjoy life."
Samantha has owned her 14(ish)-year-old Norwegian Elk mix and shelter rescue, Taylor Jean, for 12 years. She has been a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for more than a decade and encourages anyone interested in protecting animal rights to do the same.
"It is important to be involved in animal welfare because they have an inherent worth and value separate from their usefulness to humans. Every creature has the right to live free from pain and suffering," she said. "When I see, hear or read of the wretched plight of animals in the hands of humans, their pain, suffering, loneliness, innocence and death, I can't help but be angered and disgusted by the weight of evil some humans put upon these mute, powerless creatures. It is my heart, not just my head, that calls for an end to it all."
Vivian saw a piece of that wretched plight herself in 2009 when she first met Luki, her 7-year-old black Doberman . After learning from a veterinary technician that a family was looking to find a new home for Luki, Vivian made the trip to meet him. She said what she saw was heartbreaking.
Despite the fact it was a cold winter with temperatures dipping to zero degrees, Luki was kept in a wire crate with no tray or bedding. His urine was frozen to the floor, and he was fed from a paper plate. Vivian said she wasn't sure how he was getting water.
"I wanted to take him that very moment," she said. After introducing Luki to her red Doberman, Klaus, to ensure the dogs got along, she gave him a new home with Klaus and her pug, Pugsley, who has since passed. Luki is now thriving.
"He’s a sweet boy and has completely overcome his early years. His personality has changed so much. He wasn’t one for wanting affection, which is the exact opposite of the Dobe personality," she said. "He was content to eat, drink tons of water and curl up and sleep. He’s become a total lover who will sit at your feet, push back into you enough to move a chair and wants love and kisses all the time."
Hellin Bedd adopted her 1-year-old Shih Tzu, Walter Bedd, in April after losing her first dog in July 2013.
"We wanted to wait a bit of time to grieve and to honor his memory and spend quality time with our other dog (Heidi Bedd, a six-year old basset hound/Shar Pei mix) before we adopted another. In April, we felt we were ready to look again and were blessed that this little guy had been brought to the shelter the day before."
Hellin said it was bittersweet to watch her family dynamic change, as she has watched Heidi transition from being the little sister, to being the only child, to being the big sister.
"Our kids are amazing. I really can’t picture our lives without them," Hellin said.
Like her fellow drag queens, Hellin was led by her love to join the fight to defend animals.
"Animals give so much and ultimately ask for so little in return. It’s important to me to be an advocate because they are unable to advocate for themselves. If you ever look into an animal’s eyes, you know they feel and intuit things," she said.
The three animal crusaders have teamed up with Quorum Columbus and Dirty Franks–West to raise money to support Pet Promise, a local non-profit working to better that lives of pets through education, rescue, sterilization and adoption.
"I feel very strongly that it’s everyone’s responsibility to give back, to do some good for others. A 7-foot drag queen draws attention—let’s be honest—much more so than a 6’1” dude. So why not use that attention to focus on the needs that exist in our community?" Vivian said. "So I’ll paint on a face, corset to where I can barely breathe, don my heels and a dress and get out there and drum up some support. We’ll have a lot of fun in the process."
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