Dogs For Humanity
Karen Biehl sat down with FIDO Friendly magazine to talk about her passion for animals and her celebrity pooch Eli.
FIDO Friendly: You have raised close to $10,000 for the Bark for Life event. How many times have you done this walk?
Karen Biehl: We have done it every year since 2006, for a total of 5 times. I believe Eli’s donations are as follows:
2006 – $1101.76
2007 – $1501.76
2008 – $2076.76 (may 2176 or 2276, but not sure)
2009 – $1776.76
2010 – $3186.76
The Spirit of 76 is a family joke, so my brother – who is also an MD – always makes sure Eli’s total ends in a 76.
FIDO Friendly: What is it about this event that has you and Eli so dedicated?
Karen Biehl: It’s for a great cause, and it is a wonderful opportunity for dogs to help humans by doing what they do naturally – being cute and walking. People respond better to a dog asking for donations than they do to humans. The event itself is really fun too – Eli loves being outside where there is space, and there are always many wonderful vendors there. This is Eli’s opportunity to give back to people, since he has been blessed with good fortune, despite a rocky start.
FIDO Friendly: Do you attend other events with Eli?
Karen Biehl: All the time! We go to 2-3 events a week on average. Eli and I recently marched in the Puerto Rican Day Parade along with Inky Blue Sea Animal Rescue, to help raise awareness for the organization and what they do for homeless animals in Puerto Rico. Eli was dressed as Puerto Rican boxing champ Tito Trinidad. We also go to a variety of fundraisers for animal shelters like North Shore Animal League, Animal Haven, Inky Blue Sea Rescue, Sean Casey Rescue, Bideawee, United Action for Animals, BARC, the ASPCA, Stray from the Heart, the Humane Society etc. These are in the form of art gallery exhibits, wine tastings, red carpet events, parties at clubs, bars, boat trips, fashion shows, book signings, day trips out of the city for outdoor dog festivals, doggie ice cream socials, swim parties, and just about anything you can think of. Last year, we participated in the Pup Crawl across the Brooklyn Bridge, to support animals affected by the foreclosure crisis (through BARC). Eli has been nominated for a Dogcatemy Award at North Shore Animal League’s DogCatemy Awards several times, and has been a celebrity guest and has presented an award at the event. Eli also has attended many red carpet events for human causes, such as RedLight Children, Designers for Darfur, City Harvest, the Ronald McDonald House, Susan G. Komen and Harlem School of the Arts. We also go to a lot of small dog meetup group parties – in particular the New York City Chihuahua Meetup Group – where the dogs can run around and play while their owners socialize. Eli also enters Halloween contests every year – he won the Times Square Dog Masquerade in 2007, and has placed in Tompkins Square’s Halloween Parade several times, won “Best Mommy and Me” at the Chihuahua Halloween contest in 2008, and won the grand prize at Animal Fair Magazine’s Halloween Party in 2008. Eli also won the Macy’s Petacular Costume Contest in 2007.
FIDO Friendly: Eli’s pretty famous in his own right. Where else has he appeared?
Karen Biehl: It all started in 2006 when I entered Eli in the Barking Beauty Pageant, and he won. His prize was a full spread in New York Dog Magazine. I was so inspired that I entered him in others contests. Well, he then won New York Tails Magazine’s “Best New York Tails Contest” and as his prize was on the cover of their magazine, with an article. He then won MilkBone’s “Make You and Your Dog Famous Contest” in 2007, and his prize was being on the cover of the MilkBone small biscuit box, which he was from late 2007 to early 2008. Eli also won “Most Smoochable Pooch” in New York State in the Kibbles n’ Bits Smoochable Pooch Cover Dog Contest, and was a finalist to be on Kibbles n’ Bits. He has been in ads for Bloomingdales and Bank of America, in Harper’s Bazaar, in numerous books and calendars, modeled in “Rip the Runway” on BET while Snoop Dogg was performing, has modeled at Pet Fashion Week and at the Pre-Westminster Fashion Show, has been on Halloween costume packages and their ads on websites. Eli and I were also featured on the dating reality show “Wingman” which aired on Fine Living Network in 2009, and also were featured on “Man Bijt Hond” on Dutch TV later that year, and in 2006, we had a cameo on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. Eli has played Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua Tinkerbell in “15 Films About Madonna” which aired on A&E in late 2006, and was in the short film “Dog Run” by Francisco Valera which showed at the New York Latino Film Festival in 2009. Eli also played the role of Heather Hills in the Lorenzo Borghese (the 2006 Bachelor) web series spoof of the Bachelor for dogs – “America’s Next Top Dog: The Princess”. Eli is also currently in Little Pim language dvd’s for toddlers. He was nominated 2008 NYC Celebrity Dog at the Pre-Westminster Fashion Show in 2009. He also will be featured on an Animal Planet special this fall, but I can’t say more about that just yet. He was also “married” to Vanilla (owned by Ada Nieves) on WE’s web series “Puppy Weddings”. Other shows include Good Morning America, Martha Stewart, Animal Precinct, and numerous news shows. Eli is also listed in the imdb, which is not very common for a dog: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3023433/. Eli and I also write a column for the Examiner – the New York Celebrity Dog Examiner, where we do review of celebrity events, interviews with celebrities, give tips for aspiring dog models and do product reviews. http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-48121-New-York-Celebrity-Dog-Examiner
FIDO Friendly: Where did you and Eli first meet?
Karen Biehl: We met on a busy street in Flushing, Queens, where I met his last owner to see if t was the right fit. I found him through craigslist. Eli had already had 2 owners prior to us meeting, at only the age of 1 year and five months. The day after I got Eli, I took him to the vet for a checkup, and she commented that he seemed very attached to me already. It’s like we were meant to be. I feel that Eli had these other owners until I was ready to adopt him.
FIDO Friendly: What have you learned from Eli?
Karen Biehl: Oh, the list is endless. When I adopted Eli, he had already had several homes, had a tapeworm and needed knee surgery. He was shy at first, and his first knee surgery took him months to recover from, but once we got through it, things changed for us. During the Barking Beauty Pageant, I wasn’t sure if Eli would be able to perform his talent. Before we went on, I told him that it was up to him to decide what he wanted- whether to do it or not – and I would love him either way. When Eli aced his talents, I got chills, and had the feeling that he would win the pageant, and that this was the beginning of our mission together. That mission is to go for your dreams, regardless of your past – and that you can do whatever you want, and don’t let anybody stop you. This is what Eli has taught me. Before Eli, I had kind of given up on a lot of things and wasn’t quite sure what to do with my life – at one point I had wanted to be an opera singer, but that never panned out, and then I lost interest. Because of Eli, I get to express the creative side of myself that likes to dress up in costumes, and it is much more fun than performing opera for me. I also learned that I enjoy being on film and have since focused on that more for myself, with or without Eli. I also never did any fundraising before Eli, and through him, that became a big focus in my life. On my own, I could probably never even raise $100 for the ACS, but by using Eli’s picture – and his message – people want to donate. It’s really pretty amazing, if you think about it. Eli has opened up so many worlds for me – opportunities that I never dreamed would be available to me.
Photography Arthur Eisenberg