It took Betty White’s death for many of us to realize the depth of her benevolence over her lifetime – especially when it came to animals.

White was an animal lover, lawyer and patron who cared for numerous dogs – allegedly at one point she had 26 dogs – during her 99 years. The Golden Girl had a special love for Golden Retrievers and had one named Pontiac until the last years of her life.

“[My parents] were true animal freaks, and I’m forever grateful that they passed on much of that passion to me,” she wrote in her autobiography, “Betty and Friends,” according to The Today Show.

White even talked about dogs while playing Golden Girl Rose Nylon, according to Screening.

“During one of her stories, Rose describes a forbidden romance between two people, Gretchen and Buddy. When Mr. Bigbotter found them in a ‘most indelicate situation’ in the front yard, he turned the pipe on them. Dorothy (Bea Arthur) finally gets the story, realizing that Gretchen and Buddy probably weren’t humans. Rose says, “They were dogs! Gretchen was a Dalmatian and Buddy was a Schnauzer. wasn’t too happy when he ended up with a litter of Schnalmatians!

Prior to his “Golden” years, White created a television series called “The Pet Set” in the 1970s that featured a celebrity’s pet in every episode. Guests included Mary Tyler Moore, Burt Reynolds and Carol Burnett, as well as their four-legged friends whom White always featured in front of their famous carers.

White has supported numerous animal nonprofits through donations and volunteer work, including recording animal-related public service announcements. She served on the board of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), volunteered at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, and was the recipient of the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2009.

In 2020, the Betty White Wildlife Fund donated $1 million to support the rescue, rehabilitation and release of animals from Australia’s wildfires.

Monday, Jan. 17 would have been White’s 100th birthday, and while it’s heartbreaking she didn’t hit triple digits, we can honor her legacy by supporting animal organizations. Here are some local organizations to throw some bones in honor of Betty’s birthday:

Wisconsin Humane Society – Milwaukee Campus
4500 W. Wisconsin Ave.
(414) 264-6257

Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC)
3839 W. Burnham Street
(414) 649-8640

Milwaukee County Zoo
10001 W. Bluemound Rd.
(414) 771-3040

Wisconsin Golden Retriever Rescue

Urban Cat Coalition