Hounds and Heroes: A Likely Combination

Interview with TV Personality Bonnie-Jill Laflin

By Jordan Schaul | National Geographic | March 26, 2013

A decade ago, Nat Geo News ran a story on military working dogs trained at Lackland Airforce Base—the only military base in the country that trains dogs for combat. Although the dogs do not actually participate in direct combat they may be subjected to some very dangerous situations. Since 9/11 the number of dogs “enlisted” has risen dramatically, and so have injuries to these brave warriors.

Explosive-detection dogs represent a major contingent of the canine military dogs that graduate from the 5 month-long training program.  In the 2003 article, Major Frank W. Schaddelee (commander of the 341st Training Squadron) said, “Our goal is to eventually retire about 50 percent of working dogs. They’re good soldiers and served their country well. We want to see them get a good retirement package.”

I don’t know what happened to the dogs, but I do know that dogs continue to be used to help not only current soldiers but veterans of war—thanks to Hounds and Heroes—a national nonprofit. The organization is dedicated to lifting the spirits and morale of our active, wounded, and veteran military troops worldwide, and to increase community awareness, education and, involvement about the cruelty to animals and necessary care for animals through rescue, foster, and adoption.

Recently, the Barbi Twins—iconic pin-ups and celebrity animal activists—teamed up with other celebrity ambassadors on behalf of Hounds and Heroes, which was founded by dynamic TV personality and broadcaster Bonnie-Jill Laflin. Bonnie is a seasoned animal welfare advocate and a compassionate friend to veterans of war. We all got a chance to interview Bonnie who has worked tirelessly on behalf of companion animals as a philanthropist, founder of her own charity, and spokesperson for other organizations including the Humane Society of the United States. She has also been featured in campaigns for PETA. Actor and veteran activist Ken Wahl has awarded Bonnie-Jill Laflin for all the work she does with veterans and shelter pets. The entrepreneurial NFL cheerleader turned, broadcaster turned, NBA scout joined the Barbi Twins and me for an interview about her animal welfare interests.


The Barbi Twins: At what age did you know animals would be such a big part of your life?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: That’s an interesting question as I knew how to ride a horse before I could walk. Animals have always been a part of my life. We always had animals growing up in the Laflin home. As a kid for my birthday, I would always tell people to give me money so I could donate it to my favorite animal charity.

The Barbi Twins: What made you want to become so devoted to our Military heroes?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I grew up in an all-military family. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, where one of them received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. My uncle, a Gunnery Sgt. in the Marines, served in Vietnam and my father is a retired San Francisco police officer (undercover narcotics). So, supporting those who protect us came to me naturally at an early age. I am fortunate to be able to use my celebrity as a platform to help. 

The Barbi Twins: How many tours abroad have you taken to visit our Military? Why do you do it?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I have done 18 tours abroad to visit our Military. 8 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and 10 others around the world including Germany amongst other places.  I do it because I love the military and its my way of saying thank you for my freedom.

The Barbi Twins: Who was your first pet?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: A wonderful RESCUE dog named Goldrush, he was a Shetland Sheepdog

The Barbi Twins: Did you ever consider a career working with animals; such as a Veterinarian?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Funny you should ask that, yes for a short time I worked for a veterinarian and after the first few animals came in injured or hit by a car the veterinarian pulled me aside and said, “Bonnie-Jill, I don’t think this field is for you.” No truer words were ever spoken. I just couldn’t handle seeing the injured, hurt animals.

The Barbi Twins: If someone said to you, “Bonnie-Jill we want to get a family pet.” How would you respond?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: RESCUE RESCUE RESCUE…. there is a rescue for every breed you would be looking for. I would also make sure to EDUCATE them that before you adopt an animal make sure you have time for him/her and make sure to ALWAYS REMEMBER THEY ARE A PART OF THE FAMILY. At an early age I was taught to respect people and animals and I follow those teachings each day of my life.

The Barbi Twins: Do you currently have any companion pets? Who are they?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Yes I do my babies are Wilt Chamberlain a pug/French Bulldog mix rescued from one of the worst high kill shelters in So Cal, the Downey shelter. Johnny Cash {won’t respond to Johnny ONLY Johnny Cash} a tabby that I found in a dumpster with his siblings, sadly 2 had passed away but I got them all rescued, vaccinated and spayed/neutered and then found them homes but Johnny Cash stayed and we have been family since. Then Miss Diamond Chanel, a chi mix adopted from the SPCA. It was love at first sight for all of them.

The Barbi Twins: At what age did you make animal rescue a part of your life?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: As I previously stated animals have been a part of my life since before I could walk and talk so I guess the answer is forever.

The Barbi Twins: At what age did you rescue your first pet?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Animals have always been in my home growing up so I guess the only response was since I was a baby

The Barbi Twins: Can you tell us about your favorite Military charity? Why?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Well, that should be obvious {insert a laugh} HOUNDS AND HEROES of course. I love my charity partners as well and have been very choosy as to whom we have chosen to be a charity partner. Why, because I get to combine my love for the military and my love for animals and stay tuned as we have a great new program we will be launching very soon involving animals and our heroes. 

The Barbi Twins: Can you tell us about your favorite animal rescue? Why?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: My favorite animal rescue is RESCUE ME INC. why because they are a rescue that takes in the sick, injured, abused, neglected, and special needs and senior animals that other rescues walk past in the shelters. I have worked with them for ten plus years now and they are honest and honorable so much so we have partnered up on several projects to soon be announced.

The Barbi Twins: Can you tell us why you started Hounds and Heroes?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: That’s an easy question, my passion for animals and the military. It just seemed to make sense for me to combine the two passions of my life and have an avenue to help them both.

The Barbi Twins: Can you tell us about your new PTSD service dog program?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: This is something I have wanted to do for so long as dogs are so therapeutic to our returning military. They are the best drug they could receive and as such I am teaming up with Rescue Me Inc. and we have established an amazing program in which we will be training service dogs to be PTSD dogs for our returning heroes diagnosed with PTSD. There will be NO charge to our heroes for their new BFF.  This is an opportunity for us to work together and help our military returning heroes to receive the help they need in the form of a service dog. They as well as the dog will have to complete a training program as we will have to train the human as well as the dog. With this project, we are saving two lives, the life of the dog who will be a rescue from a local shelter as well as our military angel. It’s a match made in heaven   

The Barbi Twins: Your involvement with Rescue Me Incorporated in the program?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Rescue Me Inc is the rescue org we have partnered up with after a long personal relationship and we are doing the above project as a team

The Barbi Twins: Where do the dogs come from for the program?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: ALL the dogs will be rescued dogs from local animal shelters, tested for the proper temperament, and then enter our training program and upon graduating the program will be matched up with a veteran in need. If for some reason the dog doesn’t graduate we will place he/her up for adoption and he/she will find their forever home with a wonderful family.

The Barbi Twins: What is the cost to our heroes?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: ZERO to our veterans, Rescue Me Inc and Hounds and Heroes will absorb all the costs. We will raise the funds needed to train the dogs, but there will never be any cost to our heroes. 

The Barbi Twins: Why do you feel service dogs are so important to our heroes in need?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I look at it this way, we are saving two lives, the life of the rescue animal from the shelter and then the life of our military hero.

The Barbi Twins: How have animals changed your everyday life?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Without animals, I wouldn’t enjoy my life. I wake up every morning and look at my babies and know I made a difference in their lives and they offer unconditional love 24/7. I can’t imagine my life without animals. There is no life without animals

The Barbi Twins: Tell us about the most exciting animal rescue you have ever been involved in.

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: WOW there have been so many, but one that sticks out in my mind is the rescue from the puppy mill of close to 300 animals, Min Pins and Maltese’s. I went into rescue mode when I heard about this situation, called my vet, and said doc I am bringing in 300 dogs in the worst condition, and I need your help to get them all spayed/neutered/vaccinated/microchipped/bathed/flea control then we will get them all homes. It was very rewarding.

The Barbi Twins: What would you tell people about pet overpopulation?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: One of the main reasons our shelters are so full and we kill so many adoptable animals is the lack of people doing the right thing by spaying and neutering their pets. 7-8 million animals are killed in the Nation yearly due to pet overpopulation. Spaying and neutering your pets save their lives as well as it removes the risk of testicular cancer in males and mammary cancer and ovarian cancer in females. It’s such an easy procedure as well and most animals go home the same night as the procedure is done. Every time you buy a pet from a pet store you basically kill another one in a shelter and amazingly enough there are so many purebreds in the shelter for all the people that want a purebred dog/cat.

The Barbi Twins: What would you tell someone who said, “I don’t want to spay/neuter my pet. I want my kids to see the miracle of live birth.

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I would tell them as I am clenching my teeth…It is my job as an animal rescuer to help EDUCATE you as too the importance of spay and neutering your pet. Set an example for your children and be a part of the solution, not the problem. As far as seeing a live birth, kids DON’T want to see that but if you feel it is important for your child to experience that we have the internet and you can Google anything and show them a video, again be a part of the solution and not the problem. Take them to the vet the day Fluffy goes in for surgery and explain to them why Fluffy is having surgery. I promise they will forever remember that….and pass it on to their friends and be a part of their lives forever.

The Barbi Twins: If you had one message to send to the world about our Military what would it be?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Support our military men, women, dogs, and their families. Help them transition when they get home. Offer them unconditional support. I know if I see a military person at a coffee shop I will pay for their meal, shake their hand and say thank you. It makes their day and mine.

The Barbi Twins: If you had one message to send to the world about animals what would it be?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: Show compassion to all animals, all living entities, and please remember to spay and neuter your pets.

The Barbi Twins:  How would you say your hands-on approach to working with our Military is different from other celebs?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I am a very hands-on person with people and animals. I send care packages to the troops and visit VA hospitals all the time. I can use my celebrity to open doors and help in so many ways.

The Barbi Twins: How would you say your hands-on approach to working with animals is different than other celebs?

Bonnie-Jill Laflin: I like to get in there. I will go to the shelters and save a life. I will call my vet and say I am coming with truckloads of animals from a puppy mill bust/raid and we need to get them all fixed, vaccinated, etc. …..and I will do it. I am very hands-on and I walk the walk and I talk the talk.


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Jordan Carlton SchaulWith training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife and conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska (Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (An executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition, he was an ex officio member of the council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management.