SingularCity member Marie Atake, founder of Forte Animal Rescue, reminisces about the woman who influenced her singing career and her desire to help animals.
Shortly after I moved here from Tokyo in the 1980s, I wrote to the Doris Day Animal Foundation. I expressed my desire to volunteer and also appealed, to whoever received my letter, that it be given directly to Doris Day because in my letter, I had poured my heart out about how her singing influenced mine as a professional jazz singer.
A few weeks later, I received a small, single slip of paper soliciting donations without a reply letter. Not only had my heartfelt letter been summarily ignored, but there was not even an acknowledgement of my offer to volunteer.
I was despondent, to say the least, especially because it was my first attempt to connect with others in my new country.
Over the years, I had forgotten about this incident. I too eventually started an animal rescue organization, though as a fluke. I’ve also stayed at a hotel owned by Doris Day in Carmel with a friend and our dogs, and had a lovely time. Despite my disappointment over that letter, my fondness for Doris Day never waned.
I recently heard her on the radio, came home, and pulled out my favorite album of hers, “Day by Night.” As I listened, I recalled the “dismissed” feeling when I was not only brushed off, but received a cold donation solicitation.
This is probably why my rescue group’s policy states that any and all inquiries, whether to volunteer, to adopt or even to surrender an animal, shall be responded to within 72 hours.
I know that Doris Day herself probably didn’t even know what her staff was doing. But the sadness engraved in the soul of a young girl, who was new to this country with very few friends, is still felt when I’m reminded.
When we rescue dogs, we know we are saving only a fraction of the millions of dogs being killed annually, but each life matters. In the same way, I feel that each call, e-mail or letter that comes to Forte matters. There is someone who is reaching out to us; some try to help us and others need our help. But each of them has a reason and emotional involvement when they reach out to contact us.
We are often told that Forte Animal Rescue was the only group that returned their calls. In many cases, we were able to prevent an animal from being killed at the pound. Not everybody dumps an animal for selfish reasons. When we can help those few who really care about the animals and deserve help, it makes our efforts worthwhile, and at the end of the day, there is another dog’s life that is saved.
By being shunned, I’ve learned a more valuable lesson: I strive never to let another person feel the way I did. After all, I’m an animal rescuer, so why not give my compassion to all, both the two- or four-legged animals, in every way possible. The same principle should apply to every living creature.
Today, I smile as I’m listening to “Day by Night” because Doris Day not only influenced my singing career but also my rescue endeavors, as music and animals happened to be two of my passions.