Bernadette Peters (Part 2): Superstar To Humans, Superhero To Dogs

Bernadette’s beloved Charlie.

By Brian Fischler

In this second installment, Bernadette Peters tells us how Broadway Barks came about.

Previously, you mentioned that you had to get a companion for Stella when Kramer passed away. How did that come about?
“I was doing a concert in Texas, and heard about this shelter in Amarillo. I went over and saw this sweet little six month old puppy. I saw Charlie and he reminded me so much of Kramer. We drove him home from Texas, and I hopped on a flight for the last part of the trip to tell Stella. When Charlie arrived, Stella was telling him, “And don’t think you’re going to sleep in my bed!’ Then the very next day, the two of them were best pals and kissing,” says Peters.

Do you know what breed Charlie is?
“He’s very smart, sweet, has long legs, and his frame is very poodle-like. We could have done a blood test, but I’m not sure how accurate they are, and didn’t want to put him through that. He’s just perfect the way he is.”

How did you come to get involved with dog causes?
“When I was looking at one of the kill sites, I called one of the rescue groups and asked if they had room for a dog. My assistant Patty and I got in her jeep and headed off to the shelter. We met this cute little six month old puppy, and took him to the vet to get his leg fixed. It just so happened the guy that does my website had just lost his dog. He ended up going to the vet, saw the dog, paid the vet bill, and said to me, ‘Now you have to rescue another dog,’” explains Peters.

“We then figured out how many dog crates could fit in the jeep and headed back to the kill shelter. We got them all filled up, and even had one dog in the jeep just lying down on his leash.”

Where did you take them all?
“To B.A.R.C., the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition. We would give all the dogs Italian names,” fondly recalls Peters. “Back in the beginning we had to do it all ourselves. Nowadays we have the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, which goes and transports the dogs.”

Is that how the Broadway Barks event was born?
“I was always concerned about the lack of support for animal shelters. Broadway does two big charitable events each year. When I was in “Annie Get Your Gun,” we raised the most money. My stage manager and I were trying to come up with other ideas of how to help. It occurred to us that my friend Mary Tyler Moore was also a huge animal lover. Why not have a benefit where everyone can come out and meet the stars of their favorite shows and their dogs?” says Peters. And I guess the rest is history. This will be the 15th year. We were even a question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Name a dog rescue cause in New York City!

“The first year we had six shelters involved; now we are up to 27. The vans with the dogs will drive down 45th Street, and we hold the benefit in Shubert Alley. We only have a certain amount of time to get it all done before the shows start. People know to come and be ready to adopt a dog. It’s very important for all the dogs to get seen.”

Where do you get all the dogs from?
“The shelters provide. We will also go on to the kill sites to find them. There’s an at risk list, a euthanasia list that you can now have emailed to you. They will give you a code and you can go to the site every day. People can view the city shelter sites online, and see what dogs are in danger. There’s also a list called Urgent. It’s all very accessible,” says Peters.

When is Broadway Barks?
“It’s always the second week of July, and starts at 5p.m. We like to give money to all of the shelters involved, but it gets tough in these financial times,” adds Peters.

Stay tuned for part three, coming up next week, and don’t miss our Bernadette Peters Interview Part One.

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