Because of my interest in horror movies, I attended one of
the southwest’s biggest horror genre conferences called Texas Frightmare
on May 2, 2009. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a
little time talking about purposeful travel and animal rescue with one of my
favorite horror stars who’s widely known for her stirring performance as Regan
MacNeil in the film The Exorcist – Linda Blair.
She has come a long way since she garnered much acclaim for
her role as the possessed girl whose soul needed rescue from the forces of evil,
a movie which still stands the test of time because of its suspenseful and
horrific scenes as well as a storyline that cuts right through to one’s
soul. But in real life, it’s Linda Blair
who is doing the rescuing via her WorldHeart Foundation which rehabilitates
abused, neglected and abandoned dogs (including some in shelters) back to
mental and physical wellness so they can be more ideal for new, loving owners.
Fans of her work lined up in droves so they could have a
chat with and get her autograph on posters, DVDs, etc. over the first three
days in May. They got to listen to her
talk about her rescuing of these unfortunate animals. Her signing table contained information about
her cause. The money she made from the
horror convention goes to her work on behalf of these dogs.
Those who want to travel for more than just a good time have
many options, such as helping to rebuild parts of the world that have seen natural
disasters such as New Orleans, or they can do what I’ve done several times and
participate in an English language immersion program in Spain. But one can even help Linda Blair take care of
her rescued dogs. The work is performed
some 20 miles north of Los Angeles on 2.5 acres of land. Imagine working alongside with a movie star
in a very worthwhile project for animal welfare. Because her facility is set up at her home
and has limited space (much of that going for the care of the dogs), the
volunteer project doesn’t provide housing.
So finding volunteers who’d give of their time for what she deems “an
American crisis” is a constant challenge:
“They’d have to stay in hotels (about 20 minutes away) and
have a real passion.” While a lot of
people tell her that they’re interested in coming out, she added, “They just
don’t seem to come. That’s sad.”
But it’s a cause that she wishes she’d get more support
for. Blair, with a small volunteer staff,
is responsible for taking care of, at most, only 50 dogs at once (and what
she’s currently licensed for). That’s
because if she’s short on volunteers, then she’s left doing the feeding and
cleaning chores for the dogs basically on her own. Unfortunately, this means hard decisions for
her over who she chooses for sanctuary. Knowing
how much Blair loves animals, but also knowing that her facility isn’t infinite
in its powers to save all animals who need rescuing from a bad life, I asked
her about the process of selection, and she was quite emphatic in stating:
“I’ve written articles about playing God. It’s the worst job ever, but because
somebody else didn’t have the decency
to keep the animal or couldn’t find another home when they lost their home or
they weren’t willing to move into an apartment that would take animals for a
period of time. I’ve heard every excuse
in the world, and there is no excuse good enough for me. The animals are your family and if they’re
not, then you shouldn’t have had them in the first place.”
“I understand that there are people now who can’t put food
on their own tables, let alone feed their animals, so go and ask for help. Go into a local vet, go into a feed store, go
into anywhere and say, ‘Is there anything you can do and/or think of to help me
because I’m in a bit of a difficult time?’
Some shelters are giving some food.
Other shelters are begging for people to come and volunteer.”
When I go into a shelter, I’m going for a specific animal or
I [could] walk by and I say ‘Oh, I could take 25, I could take 50 – I’m only
She knows that the tough economy is forcing people to make
tough choices but she’s still expects people to keep their commitments to their
“People are trying to survive. This is a very scary time. We will make it out. But just care and be passionate. Fear makes you make mistakes. If you have fear, you have to believe that
much harder that there’s help somewhere but you have to sometimes look for the
help and realize what’s in front of you or somebody may offer you a
suggestion. And it’s not always about,
‘We’ll just give the dog away’ or ‘I’m going to take it to the pound.’ It’s talk about it, think about it, put up
signs, ask your friends – ask for help.”
But she also suggests seeking out local groups that perform
animal care and rescue in your community, too. Yet she admonishes vets to give half-price discounts on their spaying
and neutering procedure at least once a month, charging that half the pet overpopulation
is because of the difficulty in obtaining grants for these expensive procedures.
As for the subject of travel, an acclaimed actress like
Linda Blair has seen a lot of this world because of her work in acting, so I
was curious about Linda Blair’s favorite travel spots, and not only did she
talk about her preferences, but she emphasized her feelings about the meaning
of exploring our world as she initially spoke of her fondness for Australia and
then about noticing what needs to be done to make things a little better
whenever you find yourself away from home:
“I’m sad to think of when enough people go to Australia, it’s
gonna become more like what we’ve done to America. America is a very special place,
but many people have ruined it. Many
people have said ‘What can you guys do for me?’ It’s about ‘What can I do for my country?’
Kennedy’s words were [that]. Be
proud of this country. I’ve been serving my
country and I want others to do the same.
was one of my favorite places because it’s similar to what I know America was 50
years ago. You could have a lemonade,
you could leave your doors open, you weren’t stabbed in the back and
“She continued about America, “I love driving through Alabama and Georgia —
all of the trees. It’s very beautiful
and peaceful. I’m still a big fan of
lemonade. I like the bayous. I think it’s really really interesting. Look at the West. The pioneers. Go back historically [and see] what they
went through. I have seen many places
and history is very interesting to me.
Remember how we got here. People
came over on ships and they died for us.
So give something back in our communities. Plant a tree. Do something.
But it’s not about materialism.
It isn’t. It’s about giving in
your community, and you and your family will feel better.”
“Pick what you like.
You like nature. Give back. You just don’t take from it. You must give back. Clean up.
I did a play one time, and every night in back of this hotel was so much
trash and I used to take my dog out and we’d just go clean trash at night, and
I thought if only people knew I was
cleaning the back of the hotel at night.
But somebody’s got to do it. Just
volunteer your services, whether it’s animals, children, environmentally. If you don’t have the money, give the gift
If you have some vacation time coming up and want to make a
difference, and really love working with dogs, contact the Linda Blair
WorldHeart foundation at www.lindablairworldheart.com