Bonnie-Jill is probably best known for her modelling and work in television and radio as a sportscaster in the US and more recently, China. She was the first female player scout in the NBA and since discovering fame has used her media profile to help better the lives of animals around the world, as we discovered when we first spoke.
Working with animal welfare organisation, Together for Animals in China (who K9 Magazine profiled earlier this year) and San Francisco Animal Care & Control, Bonnie-Jill recently added two new dogs to her family.
Kim O'Meara caught up with Bonnie-Jill at home on her family's ranch find out more about her two new rescue dogs and what's next for her organisation, Hounds and Heroes.
Hi Bonnie-Jill! Thanks so much for your time. Earlier this year with the help of Grace, a former team member at Together for Animals in China (TAC) we delved deeper into the world of animal welfare in China and spotted your new family member, Jaclyn Chan (pictured left below) arriving in LA to begin her new life with you.
Photo Credit: Together for Animals in China (TAC)
Congratulations on your new addition! Tell us all about her and how she's adapted to her new, safe life with you.
Jaclyn Chan loves the heck out of being a U.S citizen. She is enjoying every smell, taste, and feeling she comes across. I honestly think she knows what she escaped from, and is going to make the absolute most of every day!
You found her through your work out in China, right?
I did. I found out about the horrible dog meat trade because of my NBA show in China. I have to travel to China about three times a year so I learned and saw a lot. It made me so angry that when the opportunity to work with Together for Animals in China (TAC) presented itself, I jumped in. They told me about the dogs they were rescuing and I immediately adopted Jaclyn Chan.
Otherwise, I would probably have tried to personally grab some of these dogs and bring them back with me (and accidentally caused an international incident of some kind).
As a result of sharing her story and raising awareness across your social media profile, she's become a symbol of hope showing the life a dog saved can have, hasn't she.
Definitely. She's become an ambassador to fight against the evil dog meat trade with even a new line of shirts coming from FTLA Apparel.
I think Jaclyn Chan is the happiest spokesdog around and shows how great her life is after the abuse she endured there. Anyone who meets her instantly feels the need to do something about the deplorable conditions dogs still face there.
From your time spent in Asia while working do you think perceptions about the dog meat trade is changing culturally from within?
Working with Together for Animals in China (TAC) we know that reaching the younger generation is what is going to impact change.
Can you see a change coming anytime soon?
The younger Chinese do not like the dog meat trade and hate the stigma it gives the country of China. So I've helped with print campaign and public service announcements for China. I'm also working with Congressman Hastings urging China to stop the dog meat trade. I believe we are making a difference!
That's great to hear, we will keep our fingers crossed change comes soon.
Jaclyn Chan isn't the only dog you've rescued this year is she. You also rescued Jo Montana from a shelter in San Francisco. Tell us all about her.
That's right, Jo Montana was one of the puppies in the Animal Planet Puppy Bowl this year, which I co-hosted. For some reason, she was the last puppy left and there was simply no way I was going to let her go unadopted.
I was able to work with the fabulous people at SF Animal Care and Control and let them know I wanted her. I had already flown back to LA because I was getting sick, so the people from Virgin America stepped up and arranged for her to fly down to me. They were amazing!
Given that she came from San Francisco, Joe Montana is my favourite player, and I got my Super Bowl ring as a cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers, the name was a total no-brainer!
It sounds like it really was a no-brainer and she looks like a little superstar in the making from the shoot photographs.
We were so sorry to hear about the loss of Diamond, your first dog-child, adopted from the SPCA when she was seven months old. How did your two other dogs, Asur and Wilt, who we met when we first spoke cope with the changes in dynamic when she sadly passed?
Thank you. Diamond was definitely my baby and I still mourn her loss. I have her ashes and pictures all over the house to remind me of her every day. The other fur babies definitely felt the loss, especially the kitties. Asur spends all of his time at my parents’ farm, so it was a little different for him, but Wilt definitely missed his big sister.
Pictured L-R with Bonnie-Jill, Asur, Wilt Chamberlain & Diamond / Photo Credit: David Parker
How did Wilt and your cats adapt when you brought Jaclyn and Jo home?
Things are always changing, but they became a family almost instantly. Jo Montana and Jaclyn are still puppies so they can drive everyone a bit crazy at times (laughs)! Each is spoiled rotten but they still show a little jealousy at times which is normal.
We know you're super busy at the moment and travelling a lot, where do you think the most pet friendly place you've visited is (and why)?
Well, I travel all over the world but in the U.S. I would have to say all the cities I'm from have lots going for them - Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These cities are great, they love having dogs almost anywhere. I can take my pups to the beach, hotels, restaurants, shopping and even a night on the town!
Since we've spoken before, you know what's coming with our next set of questions.
I do, this is always fun! Okay, go for it. I'm ready.
Last time we spoke we asked you what your motto was and what the mottos of Diamond, Wilt and Asur were. We don't want to leave the girls out, so what would their mottos be and why?
I would say for Jaclyn Chan it would be 'Love Me, Don't Eat Me!' And Jo Montana's would have to be 'Every day Should Feel Like I Just Scored A Touchdown!' (laughs).
And if they were sports stars who do you think they would be and why? Remember, you thought Asur would be David Robinson aka 'The Admiral' and Wilt would be Emmitt Smith from the Dallas Cowboys.
That's right, I remember. Okay, well, I think Jaclyn Chan would most definitely be Yao Ming for obvious reasons but also because he fights for animal rights. Jo Montana is easy because she's already named after one - Joe Montana (laughs).
That was nice and easy then!
For this question, you will remember we ask our celebs to match up the below celebrities who are also dog lovers with breeds of dogs based on their personalities and so sticking with the sports theme, if these sports stars were breeds of dogs what type of breed do you think they'd be...
Andy Murray (from the world of tennis) – Scottish Terrier.
Serena Williams (from the world of tennis) – Rottweiler.
David Ortiz (retired Red Sox player) – Pitbull.
Michelle Wie (winner of four LPGA Tours) – Yorkie.
David Price (from the Boston Red Sox) – Labrador.
Nicely handled, here are our quick fire questions, are you ready?
Article continues below >>
What's the one thing you can't live without? My animals!
Finish the following sentence, my dogs are…my life!
You're obviously a massive adoption advocate and have adopted at both home and abroad. With your experience of adopting Jaclyn Chan in mind, if you had to voice a 60 second commercial to speak to the world about adopting a dog from overseas, what would you say?
Your time starts...now!
If you love animals like me, you want compassion for animals all over the world. The abuse and conditions in these countries are far worst than anything we see in the states. Dogs are skinned alive for food, strays running around injured with no shelters or veterinarians to care for them, and there are countries where abuse to animals is normal.
Adopting just one dog from a state of uncertainty and suffering and giving that animal stability and comfort really makes a difference to that one dog. The existence of diverse and international efforts to rescue dogs shows that we as a nation are made up of people with empathy.
Photography by Ross Laflin
As you know we're big dog adoption advocates, Bonnie-Jill so we couldn't agree more.
Now, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….if Jo Montana and Jaclyn had the ability to speak and you could ask them one question and one question only, what would you ask them and what do you think that they'd say?
I would ask Jaclyn Chan 'How do you feel about leaving China and living in the US now' and I think she would tell me 'I'm so happy Mommy you brought me to the US. I now feel safe and loved unconditionally' and I would have to ask Montana 'What is your favourite thing to do?' and I think she'd say 'Playing ball and chasing lizards, Mom!'.
Before we finish we have to ask how things are going with Hounds and Heroes? We're big fans of the work you're doing raising awareness for animal welfare and the support you offer to veterans. Can you tell us anything about your next project?
I can! We’re really excited about partnering up with San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC). We are now expanding outside of Los Angeles and now in San Francisco. We will be doing a lot to promote this with the San Francisco Giants.
Hounds and Heroes is also breaking into equine therapy with horses we've rescued from slaughter. We are thrilled to be doing equine therapy retreats for our wounded warriors. We are always trying to help get more and more dogs placed as therapy and support animals!
We wish you lots of success, many thanks Bonnie-Jill!