He's used to dealing with a wholly different breed ("Real Housewives," that is) but now talk show host and Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen is adding another title to his resume: animal advocate.
Cohen is partnering with North Shore Animal League America and Purina ONE for the Mutt-i-grees Program, which brings adoptable dogs out of the shelter and into schools to engage with students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The program aims to teach kids emotional competence and social awareness through interaction with adoptable dogs. The program also serves to prep the dogs to be brought into permanent homes through socialization with humans.
"If you know about me, you know about the love story between me and my rescue dog," Cohen said, speaking about his dog, Wacha, a 3 1/2-year-old beagle foxhound mix. While not much is known about Wacha's life before he was placed in the shelter, he was abused by someone in his life and was found roaming. Cohen, who had never before had a pet, adopted Wacha when he was about a year old. "He really opened my heart and I'm looking for ways to give back to the rescue dog community."
Cohen saw the partnership as the ideal way to get involved. As a dog-less child himself, he would have loved to have seen dogs brought into his owns schools.
"I can only imagine if I was a kid in school and I was learning about a subject that I didn't like and they brought a DOG in -- yeah, I'd be into that," Cohen said. "The kids are so curious about what the dogs are thinking, and the teachers point out how the dogs are laying and what their body language is telling the kids -- is he thirsty, is he hungry, is he shy, is he upset? The kids were really engaged in school and, by the way, I learned a lot, too. Watching how the kids are enriched by the dogs and how the dogs love the kids is a beautiful thing."
Purina ONE has already donated $15,000 to Mutt-i-grees to bring it into even more schools and now will donate $10 for every new person who signs up for its 28-Day Challenge, which aims to get consumers to switch their dog food to Purina ONE, up to a total donation of $30,000.
Cohen said he's already signed his beloved pup, Wacha, up for the challenge. "All you do is sign up and they're giving money to keep this educational program going. It's a really cool endeavor; they're making a difference and my dog is getting healthy. "