///One Year and So Many Lives

One Year and So Many Lives

Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center Celebrates an Amazing Anniversary

It began with an English Bulldog named Bianca, the most charming dog ever. She loved car rides and sitting lazily on our laps at the dog park watching other dogs play. She snored and tooted like none other, and she was the light of our lives for nearly 10 wonderful years. When she died on July 17, 2012, our hearts were shattered, and we wondered if we could ever heal.

Photo: Howard Stern Photo: Howard Stern

Photo: Courtesy Twitter

Howard and I both had dogs in our lives before we met. In fact, I like to say that my parents’ firstborn was a Collie mix named Suzie Dog. My two brothers and I were always around rescued animals — dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. We even had chicks for Easter one year and watched them grow up on a friend’s farm. It was the same for wildlife. Whenever we found injured wildlife, we would call the local rescue. In my family, it was important to keep animals safe and nurtured. That was a key part of growing up for me.

When Bianca died, we also had three rescue cats in our home, Walter, Apple, and Leon Bear. Since then, Apple and Leon Bear have left us, too, but Walter is alive and well and still Howard’s special little soulmate. I often think back to when Bianca and the cats were together — and how despite their differences, they showed such openness and kindness toward each other. Walter, Apple, and Leon Bear were Bianca’s original furry friends. I admired their unique relationship so much that I felt inspired to do something in Bianca’s name for homeless cats and kittens.

Walter and Howard, never far apart.

Apple and Leon Bear, never far from my heart.

Photo: Chris Appoldt Photo: Chris Appoldt

Photo: Howard Stern Photo: Howard Stern

I’ve been the national spokesperson for North Shore Animal League America for more than 16 years, and whenever I visited the campus on Long Island, I always had such mixed feelings about the cats, especially the kittens and seniors. I knew they were safe, loved, and well cared for, and I knew they’d find great homes, but that time in between when they were in cages and waiting to find homes…that broke my heart.

The idea for Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, or BFF as everyone calls it, grew from that experience. I wanted to help create a cage-free environment for cats and kittens, a place where they could relax and be themselves…and I wanted to honor Bianca and her furry friends, Walter, Apple, and Leon Bear. That dream came true in November 2019, when BFF opened its doors.

We were so thrilled to join our good friend, fellow adopter, and BFF donor in the Billy Joel Room (bottom left), dedicated to his genius and generosity.

In May 2014, Billy had graciously donated all the ticket sales from his sold-out birthday concert in Madison Square Garden to BFF. That same evening he and his wife, Alexis, adopted Jack, one of three dogs they’ve adopted from Animal League America.

Photo: Rob RIch/SocietyAllure.com Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com

Photo: BillyJoel.com Photo: BillyJoel.com

Jack and Remy Joel celebrate Remy’s third birthday on October 22.

Billy’s room features a piano that plays some of his greatest hits and “speakers” that are really cat hiding and napping places. The room also showcases cat perches and walkways in the shape of New York City landmarks like Yankee Stadium, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and even the subway! Everything is designed to put you in a “New York State of Mind.

And there’s also a special Hallmark Room (below), where every cat is treated like royalty. We dedicated this charming room to our generous and compassionate friends at Crown Media whose Kitten Bowl and Cat Bowl broadcasts, along with their Adoption Ever After programming, have generated countless happy endings and educated millions of people about the joys of adopting shelter pets. I absolutely love being part of the Hallmark family.

And I will never ever forget the fun I had surprising Rachael Ray (below) with the Rachael Ray Room, in  appreciation of her lifesaving efforts and ongoing  support that have helped save countless animals. She loved it! It’s beautiful, with a treetop canopy that has walkways for the cats to climb, move about, and play. Toys dangle from tree trunks, sisal rope scratchers are scattered here and there, and pots of cat grass decorate the windowsills. It’s a perfect cat habitat. I wanted to move in!

Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com

In addition to those unique rooms, BFF features a complete medical facility along with rooms for behaviorally and medically challenged cats, a nursery for mamas and kittens, and a room for seniors. I know the senior room is handling many adoptions, which is wonderful because believe me, it takes a special person to adopt a geriatric kitty.

But here’s the only sad part of this blog: Because of Covid-19, I haven’t been able to visit BFF nearly as often as I’d hoped to. Nevertheless, I love keeping track of adoptions, and I especially love sending Alexis Joel pictures of adoptions happening in the Billy Joel Room. It has been so rewarding to learn about the magic that is happening every day at BFF and to see the videos of the happy, healthy cats in the cage-free rooms.

Throughout the fundraising and development of BFF, I worked closely with my Animal League America colleagues, especially with Joanne Yohannan, Senior Vice President of Operations. Not long ago, she wrote to tell me how important BFF has been during the current health crisis. “Even though the pandemic has really altered so many aspects of our lives,” she wrote, “BFF has been a godsend. It’s provided a natural cage-free space that our cats and kittens are thriving in. As a result of this great atmosphere, so many adult and special-needs cats have gone home. In fact, we’ve had 300 more adoptions this year than during the same period last year.”

One cat who benefitted tremendously from BFF is Felton, (below) who is FIV+. He was very frustrated in his cage, but when he went into a room at BFF with other FIV+ cats, he flourished. He loved being able to greet people at the door and he really appreciated napping wherever and whenever he felt like it. He was adopted in February and is thriving.



Gorgeous Gizmo (above) is another BFF success story. He’d been miserable in his cage, spending all day hiding. When he moved to BFF, he gradually grew more confident. While he didn’t really like the other cats, he coexisted with them and learned to trust by observing his “roommates” interacting with people. Staff and volunteers were able to work with him and encourage socialization much better when he was out of a cage, and before long he was enjoying treats and ear rubs. He was adopted in February by a young couple who found him every bit as charming as his BFF caretakers did.

Another story that touched my heart was Nelly’s (below). She came to us via the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. She was a trauma survivor whose ordeal left her with sensitivity to overstimulation. She lived in a cage for a long time, with only short periods out, which really stressed her. It wasn’t until she experienced total freedom in BFF that we saw a full transformation. She became the door greeter and the “pack” leader in the Rachael Ray Room, keeping everyone in check. If you know cats, you know they need their space, and the design of BFF’s rooms, with their many levels, give residents valuable opportunities to get away from it all, and Nelly loved those high perches. She was adopted by a loving cat dad and is now a happy kitty in her own home. Without BFF, Nelly would have continued to live a frustrated life and probably never realized her full feline potential.


These are just three of the many cats whose lives were transformed because of BFF. I’ve heard some people call BFF a “Disneyland for cats,” and it’s true — they love it. But it’s so much more than that. From the start, my goal was to provide them with a happy stay until they went home to forever families.…a “home away from home” environment. It warms my heart to know they are out of cages, basking in the sunlight, and playing, climbing, and running around.…and not losing their sweet spirits!

I cannot wait for the pandemic to be behind us so I can spend more time at BFF watching the cats and kittens in those magical rooms getting adopted one by one! BFF is my dream come true. And it’s one of the things I’m most grateful for as Thanksgiving approaches.

This has certainly been a tragic and challenging year in so many ways, but for me, there has been one constant ray of hope throughout these months: It’s the memory of beautiful Bianca and how her life has saved and enriched so many other lives. I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped make BFF a reality, especially my wonderful colleagues at North Shore Animal League America and all the incredible volunteers there who do so much to nurture and love these deserving animals.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


P.S. My talented colleagues at Animal League America have created a fantastic virtual tour of BFF, which you can watch when you visit animalleague.org/bff. I couldn’t tell you everything about BFF in this blog, including the fact that dogs now have more room to themselves in their own spiffed-up adoption center at Animal League America! Bianca would have loved this.

By |2020-12-15T13:07:28-04:00November 5th, 2020|