How Oprah Showered My Senior Dog Rescue, Muttville, with Her Favorite Things

I walked into Harpo Studios hoping to get some senior pups adopted, and came home with a brand-new car for my rescue group.


These days, we all suffer from email overload. But when a subject line in your inbox says “AVAILABILITY for The Oprah Winfrey Show: PLEASE READ & RESPOND,” you have think to yourself, “What is this, spam?”

Turns out it was the real thing!

In late 2010, Muttville volunteer Patty Stanton was reading Oprah’s website when she spotted a call for entries that asked for nominations for someone who has “made a difference in your life or caused you to change.” Patty wrote about her adopted Muttville dog, the organization, its mission to save senior dogs, and, well, about me!

According to the email, Muttville would be responsible for the flights to Chicago, and we had two days to decide on attending. We contemplated the possibilities. Would Oprah call on on us from the audience? Would the plight of unwanted senior dogs get some valuable airtime?

Happily, someone gave us sage advice: “When Oprah calls, you go!”

A week later, Patty and I stood in line outside Harpo Studios for the second taping of the day and made fast friends with everyone around us. The audience from the earlier taping came out carrying giant bags of Oprah’s Favorite Things! Someone complained about missing the special giveaway show. That was okay with us; we just wanted to talk about senior dogs.

Into the studio we went, energetic and smiling. As we took our seats, Oprah’s BFF, Gayle King, came running up the steps and sat right behind us. What fun. Of course we chatted her up, asking why she was there. “You’ll see!” she said.

Onstage, Oprah was finishing up with hair and makeup, and she turned to the audience, “I bet you all were pretty disappointed to see all those people walk past you with those bags of gifts!”

Next thing you know, it was like Broadway. Lights! Camera! Action! An iPad dropped from the ceiling with angel wings and Oprah said, “I’m doing it again! And it’s my LAST. MY. FAVORITE. THINGS. SHOW. EVAHHH!”

It took a while for that to sink in. Oprah spent hours giving her hand-picked audience scores of gifts: diamond earrings, gift cards to Nordstrom, sparkly Ugg boots, Le Creuset cookware — with Josh Groban and Johnny Mathis serenading us! One time, as the set changed, Oprah said to the audience, “You all are givers to society, and you give all year long, so I want you to enjoy these gifts and do what you want with them.” Okay, so that felt pretty good.

Later in the afternoon, Oprah and Santa drove a red VW Beetle onstage, tooting the horn, as the audience went even more crazy. She said, “No, it’s not what you think. I asked Volkswagen if I could give away this car and they said no, because … you’re all getting the brand [pause] new [pause] redesigned [pause] 2012 Volkswagen Beetle!”

What a gift! Oprah gave nearly 300 cars to her audience members. Patty and I chose our colors and went to the airport to return home. Did that really just happen? What were we going to do with all this stuff? Cashmere leggings, MiracleBody Jeans, gourmet popcorn, Williams-Sonoma croissants.

In the end, we auctioned off most of the goodies to raise money for the older dogs and give more awareness to Muttville’s mission of saving senior dogs. Being touched by Oprah is gold; in the Bay Area, Muttville garnered a lot of publicity, which helped more than 30 dogs find homes quickly.

Muttville’s 2012 bright red Beetle came one year later. It’s adorable and so much fun to drive. Muttville is grateful to the Bay Area Volkswagen Dealer Group, who covered the cost of wrapping the car with “Thanks Oprah,” “Thanks VW,” and “Muttville Senior Dog Rescue” logos. It’s brought increased awareness to Muttville, along with new adopters, foster parents, and volunteers!

Muttville has rescued more than 1,300 senior dogs. We thank Oprah for choosing our seniors — and for having a tremendous heart for our mission.

Sherri Franklin is the founder and executive director of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, CA.

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